Ramadan is the best month of the year. Everything you do is amplified, whether it be good or bad and everyone’s watching themselves as a result. People seem more inclined to kindness and generosity and hatred has withered. And then… Then it ends, and you swear to yourself that you’re not going to fall back into bad habits. You swear to yourself that this beauty and peace will live on in your heart for the rest of the year and in that moment, you truly mean it.
And then, despite your best efforts, things begin to slip. It may be that you cannot open the Quran to read as much as you did during Ramadan. It may be that the people around you seem to be growing crueler as the days go past or that you simply can’t find that peace again no matter how hard you try even though you’re still doing the very same things you were.
You think to yourself that you’ll simply try again next year and then, then you won’t fail. Because then you’ll be ready.
I’ve fallen into this particular trap myself many a time. We have a tendency to use Ramadan as a time to overcompensate due to the guilt we feel about neglecting our spirituality during the rest of the year (at least, I do) and that can quickly result in us being frustrated with ourselves for not being able to keep up with the no holds barred pace that we kept going for a month.
The reality is that moderation is always better. Our deen is one of moderation and our worship should reflect that. I am not saying that you shouldn’t do your best, what I am saying is that you should you the best that you can sustain.
Right now, as we bid farewell to Ramadan, we’re in this beautiful moment of potential. This is the best possible time to pick out the good habits that you’ll focus on keeping up throughout the year and In Shaa Allah throughout your life because you’re still filled with purpose and celebration and that’s always a good attitude to have when you’re affecting change.
The easiest thing to carry over from Ramadan, in my opinion, is abstinence. We abstain from so much more than food and drink during the course of this beautiful month – we also guard our tongues against falsehood and backbiting, we guard our minds against anger and vulgarity, and we guard ourselves against miserliness. The trick to continuing this is to investigate what your motivation was for abstaining during Ramadan. Was it because you feared the heavy punishment that bad deeds carry in the sacred month? Or was it because you felt more serene and at peace and so keeping away was easier than it usually is? Perhaps it was a combination of things.
From personal experience, Ramadan is easier for me not because I keep in mind the consequences of bad deeds but because in my mind, it’s the time of year when we do our best. In reality though, while you’re multiplying both reward and punishment during Ramadan, that doesn’t make up for slacking off once that time has passed. I remind myself of that unavoidable truth now during the moments when I want to fall into temptation, and that really does help.
For the ibaadah that’s been put into place over the month which you want to keep going, I highly recommend scheduling. Whether it’s blocking out time for Quran, salaah, taleem, Arabic classes, or whichever other way you’ve chosen to get closer to Allah, write it down just as you would the job interview of your dreams and think of it all as an appointment you’ve made with your Lord that you simply cannot wait to keep.
For all of it, a partner helps. Accountability partners may have become a bit of a cliché but that’s because more often than not, they work. I’d pick someone that you know inside out who has the same or similar sorts of goals to you and gently check in with one another regularly about how things are going. Spirituality is an intensely personal and intimate thing and speaking about it is very hard if you don’t feel comfortable being vulnerable with the person you’re speaking to. It doesn’t have to be detailed or prying, just a simple – you good? – every other week can do it. What you’re trying to achieve is a consistent, enduring evaluation of what state your iman and your practice of Islam is in.
Finally, mercy. Carry it with you, for your friends, colleagues, children… And for yourself. Our Lord is the most merciful of all, and you should be merciful towards yourself if you’re struggling. Scale things back if you need to, and don’t feel ashamed because Allah always sees and rewards our earnest effort. If you’re trying, you’re doing what you need to and don’t let anything convince you otherwise.