It’s the middle of Ramadan and Ali is feeling horrible. He had planned to do so much this time! He’d wanted to memorize lots of Quran and make him Qiyam al-Layl nice and long every night. He had printed out thirty beautiful daily action plan sheets, one for every day of the month.
And then what did he do? Practically nothing!
Those printouts are just lying around gathering dust, almost untouched except the first few. He had only fasted and prayed the five daily prayers and read some Quran, way less than he’d meant to. For some reason, he’s started feeling exhausted without even doing much.
“I’m a loser. I’ve wasted another Ramadan.”
What should Ali do now?
Are you in a similar fix?
RAMADAN ISN’T OVER YET
One of the coolest things about our religion is that, as long as you’re alive, you can make a fresh start any time you choose. (I do it by pressing an imaginary ‘restart’ button in my head.) That’s true even for the man who’d killed a hundred people.
What’s done is done. Let it go. Criticizing what you did (or didn’t do) only makes you less productive. It eats away at your mental energy. That’s probably why you’re feeling exhausted already.
Wipe away every bit of negative thought or emotion, and start afresh right here, right now.
REPLENISH YOUR MENTAL ENERGY
Do you want to cut your losses and re-join the Ramadan race?
Start with recharging your confidence. Prove to yourself that you’re not a loser – by acknowledging the good that you’re already doing.
Don’t underestimate your good deeds, ever. Even if they look small to you, they may be enormous in the eyes of Allah.
If you’re praying the five daily salat, fasting in Ramadan and fulfilling your other obligations, then you’re already passing the minimum requirements to enter Paradise. These aren’t trivial deeds but rather the best deeds any Muslim can do.
Become aware of the little things that you do throughout the day that are pleasing to Allah. Do you cook iftar for your family? Do you feed your pets? Do you console a grieving friend on Messenger? Do you encourage someone in difficulty? Do you smile at your mother?
Realize that every little thing you do, every breath you take can become a good deed, a tree in the forest that’s your soul, if its goal is to please Allah.
Are you beating yourself up over unplanted seeds, undone deeds, whilst your forest is already lush and fruitful?
REVISE YOUR RAMADAN PLAN
Consider this: If you haven’t lived up to your own expectations this Ramadan, maybe those expectations were a bit too high?
Why not try adjusting the difficulty level of your plan?
When setting goals for Ramadan, we can take the following as a rule of thumb: I want to come out of Ramadan a better Muslim than I was before it started.
We want to be better, closer to Allah, in the month of Shawwal than we were in Sha’ban.
Assess how you used to be before Ramadan started, and adjust your goals accordingly. For example, if:
IN SHA’BAN, I WAS: Praying three times a day and IN SHAWWAL, I WANT TO: Pray all five obligatory prayers.
Even if you’re just a bit more beloved to Allah after Ramadan, a bit less vulnerable to Satan, it’s a victory, isn’t it?
THE GRAND FINALE IS STILL AHEAD
Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Decree) – It’s a power-up that enables you to jump several million steps on your path to Allah in a single night. If you want to catch it, then plan to catch all the last ten nights of Ramadan, because any one of them can be the night. (Bukhari).
But again, don’t have so high expectations of yourself that you drain your mental battery and quit the race on the very eve of Laylat al-Qadr.
One way to prevent that is to keep a plan B (and maybe C and D as well, just in case). A plan B can also come in handy if you suddenly become ill or busy with an emergency. May Allah keep us safe and well on Laylat al-Qadr.
Plan B should be an easier and less “battery-consuming” version of your main plan. The obvious option is to reduce the quantity of a good deed, but you can also try switching to a similar but less exhausting deed.
In general, passive tasks such as listening take less energy than active tasks like praying or reciting.
At the end of the day, our plans will only work if Allah allows them to. So keep making this dua from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):
O Allah, help me remember You, to be grateful to You, and to worship You in an excellent manner. (Abu Dawud and others)