The caption of this blog entry is what grated on my nerves during most of Ramadan. I’m so ashamed to acknowledge this thought that sneaks into my mind and makes its home there towards the middle of Ramadan. Such a familiar feeling that creeps up on me when I have to get up so soon after Isha because I like to say Tahajjud. When I opt to say Taraweeh too. When I choose to read the Quran also. When I give up my sleep between Dhur and Asr to say some more dua’a. To try and appease Him more.
I long to not be overwhelmed by the feeling of Ramadan slowly passing by. I think I’m doing enough Ibadah but then why doesn’t it feel enough? Adnan performs Taraweeh every night and wouldn’t sleep without saying a full, proper Isha. Whereas I sometimes try to wake up in the last part of the night and quickly say Isha and try to stay awake for just long enough to get Fajr. Waking up or falling asleep several times makes me so cranky. I was averaging a Juz a day in the beginning of Ramadan but now I’m barely able to finish a fourth of a Juz. I’m a good Quran reader but I’m not doing that great now that it’s the fifteenth Roza. I wonder where my energy went. But more than that, I wonder where my eagerness, my enthusiasm, my fervor went.
What happened to that pact I made with myself to dedicate this month to Ibadah and control of my nafs, especially in the context of sleep and entertainment?
I had thought that this Ramadan was going to be different. I was going to break all past records of Quran reading . I was going to say Taraweeh every night. Fast everyday. Not stuff my face as soon as Maghrib came. Try to practice moderation. Control my temptations. Be my own critic. Prevent my heart and mind from wandering. Not listen to music. Or watch TV. Or yell at the kids. I was going to practice patience, forgiveness, gratitude, empathy, compassion and love.
Then why did I snap at the kids when they asked for more samosas? Why did I get annoyed with my nanny for getting here ten minutes later than her scheduled time? Why did I refuse to cook what Adnan had asked for and instead cooked something that I know he doesn’t like? Why am I becoming a passive-aggressive person in this kindest of months?
With these disturbing thoughts I went to Adnan.
Me: Adnan! My Ramadan isn’t going anything like I planned it. I’m just doing the same rote stuff that I was. Nothing glorious about my Ramadan.
Adnan: (a little taken aback at this sudden whining): What happened? Did someone say something?
Me: No! Why does anyone have to say anything? I can see it. I had planned to have my best Ramadan so far this year and look how everything is dwindling. My Quran readings are less than in the first Ashra. My prayers are rushed. My fasts are not as profound. Really I’m only literally fasting and I’m not sure if anything is even close to what Allah wants.
Adnan: Hmm. Why do you think this happened?
Me: I think I’m having a little burn out. You know I’m not so disciplined during the rest of the year. I don’t pray five times a day. I don’t read the Quran everyday and I don’t really control my tongue so much. I’m getting burned out. It’s like I’ve run out of gas.
Adnan: I believe you. You’ve run out of gas. You’ve run out of all the gas.
Me: (looking at him wistfully): I had so wanted this to be my best year so far. I thought I’d turn over a new one. Now here I am, in my thirties, with not even one good Ramadan that I can be truly proud of.
Adnan: Sonia! Do you know why Ramadan comes as a special month every year?
Me: Yes! So we can pray and wash off all the sins and get ready for the next year.
Me: And so we can have a clean slate.
Adnan: For what?
Me: For after Ramadan.
Adnan: But do you know why Ramadan comes? If the reason why Ramadan came every year was to hand us a convenient way to perform atonement then we could all pick and choose a month. If you wanna know why, I can tell you.
Me: I wanna know why.
Adnan: Ramadan is like the starting line to a marathon. The marathon is the rest of the year. Ramadan isn’t a sprint. It’s the starting line. If you don’t start well, you don’t end well. If you don’t pace yourself in the beginning, you can’t finish. Or you can’t finish as beautifully as you started. So that’s one reason for Ramadan to be a huge bookmark on the Islamic calendar. It sets the tone for the rest of the year. We cultivate and hone good, practical habits during this month to carry them forward into other months.
The other thing that this month affords us is introspection. See how you’re analyzing yourself? That’s exactly what Allah asks of us. Allah wants us to constantly analyze ourselves and make sure that we are walking the walk. Makes sense?
Me: Yes! Yes, it does. It surely does. But how does introspection help me get back on my Ibadah? Because I’m afraid to lose Ramadan.
Adnan: Consider that introspection Allah’s gift to you for your Ibadah in this month so far. He has made you acutely aware of your pace. He has built the system in you where if you deviate from the path too much, you can center yourself again without any external help. This is already a blessing of Ramadan and your Ibadah that you’re enjoying.
Me: (doubtfully) OK! So I’ve kinda become a good person?
Adnan: I don’t know about that. But you’ve become so preoccupied with judgment of your own ways that you’ve lost the useless interest that you so often have in others’. You have actually achieved some level of humility through the exercise of Ramadan that you’ve assessed yourself as the person who is lagging behind everyone else in Ibadah. This humility is part of piety. Don’t lose it. It comes from the depths of our soul and is a most elusive pearl of that deepest ocean so hold on tight to it.
Me: But everyone says that we have to do as much Ibadah as possible in Ramadan in order to get the most sawab. How’s that gonna happen if I continue to sleep between Dhur and Asr or wake up so late for Fajr or yawn twenty times while reading Quran? Tell me how to get over that. I like that I’ve achieved something but I want something tangible. Something to show for all the Ibadah. Just introspection isn’t doing it for me.
Adnan: It will have to do for now. Continue pacing your Ibadah. You are actually starting now. This Ramadan you have discovered that you need to be in the habit of Ibadah in order to make the most of Ramadan. Ramadan lays the foundation for our lifestyle for the rest of the year. It isn’t a party where we go for a short while, be on our best behavior, bring a nice present for our host and exchange niceties at the end of the night before leaving. That’s not what Ramadan is.
Me: Okay! And what if my pace is so slow that I can either do Isha or Taraweeh?
Adnan: Isha is farz so you have to do that. However, when Isha will become effortless for you, you will automatically require less effort for Taraweeh. But that can only happen when you’ve paced yourself this whole year and have actually geared up for Ramadan like most Muslims do.
Me: Wonder why I never thought about all this before! Did your Maulvi Sahab teach you all this?
Adnan: I know you think I’m an idiot but I did go to school. And while you were doodling, I was paying attention.
Me: 🙄. It was legit creative art. It wasn’t doodles. They were hena designs for eid.
Adnan: Yeah! Boys call them doodles. 😂