Don't Despair

Life Knocking The Wind Out of You This Ramadan? Don’t Despair

Do you work long hours and find yourself too exhausted to do much by way of extra worship in Ramadan? Don’t despair. You’re not alone. Ustadh Salman Younas has some advice on what to do.

This is a situation that many people find themselves in, and it is understandable to feel disheartened about spending most of your Ramadan in other than worship.
The advice I would give is to recognize what worship and obedience are in our tradition. The self (nafs) and the devil often delude us into looking towards the “big acts” – reading lots of Qur’an, performing all the Tarawih prayers at the mosque, etc. When we miss or fall short on these, we think we have missed out on everything and don’t recognize the many smaller and simpler acts we could be engaging in.
In a situation where much of one’s day is in the work place, these are some simple acts that one can engage in to benefit during Ramadan:

1. Remembrance of God (dhikr)

All this requires is your tongue to be free. You could be behind a computer typing away and still recite ‘subhanallah’, or walking in the hall uttering ‘alhamdulilah’, or commuting to the office stating ‘la ilaha illa allah’. Keep a tasbih or a counter in your hand as it will act as a reminder and facilitate your dhikr. While you may not be able to engage in dhikr the entire work-day, if you put your heart to it you can keep your tongue pretty moist with His name.

2. Supplication

Like dhikr, this can also be done at any time and virtually any where. Not only that, but the Prophet (God bless him) defined supplication as the “essence of worship”. Try to take out just a few minutes every hour or so to make a sincere supplication to God. If you can’t find a few minutes, then take out a minute or thirty seconds.

3. Prayer & “Lunch” Breaks

You might not be having lunch but you may still have a lunch break. If it is an hour, take some time out (let’s say ten or fifteen minutes) to recite some Qur’an or engage in the previous points mentioned. If you have a Dhuhr prayer break, add a few additional supererogatory (nawafil) prayers following it. An additional six, four, or even two cycles of prayer will hardly take ten minutes. It may also make you feel better about not being able to perform all the Tarawih prayers but don’t make this an excuse to not try. The same could be done for other prayers you perform, such as Asr and Maghrib.

4. Listening/Reading Qur’an

As mentioned above, if you have a break during work, you can dedicate some of it towards recitation of the Qur’an. But don’t forget that listening to the Qur’an is also an act of worship, and according to some scholars more rewarding than actual recital. If you have a commute, pop in a CD of your favorite reciter and listen away.

5. Charity

The Prophet was extremely charitable during Ramadan according to numerous traditions. Anyone of us can donate to various causes with the click of a finger. Don’t worry about the amount. Even a dollar will count for a lot. Even some loose change will gain you reward. Do not think of anything as being “small”. Rather, try to give a little every day or every other day or whenever you see the opportunity. As the Prophet (God bless him) said, “save yourself from the fire even if by half a date.” Simply make your intention next-worldly and these small acts will be weighty in the next-life.

6. Intend Good & Make Everything Rewarding

There is a famous statement in our tradition that, “the permissible becomes obedience when coupled with a lofty intention.” Remember this and transform all of your mundane actions into something rewarding and next-worldly this Ramadan. When you play with your kids, make an intention for God. When you buy groceries, make the intention to feed your family iftar (the Prophet recommended feeding people Iftar). When you call your parents, intend the maintaining of familial relations during the noble month. When you interact with colleagues, smile with the intention it is sunna and that it will give people a good image of your religion. When you work, seek God’s pleasure through the intention of supporting your family. You might not be able to do this for everything but try to choose a few things you do during the day, pause before you do them, and make a lofty intention.

7. Don’t Waste Your Weekends

You won’t be working so if you are really feeling down about not being able to pray Tarawih at the mosque, this is your opportunity to do so. Use your weekends to do the things you aren’t able to do on a work day and utilize every moment of it in a beneficial way.
These are just a few suggestions that I have. The key is to recognize that our Lord is merciful and in His infinite mercy He has laid out innumerable ways for us to earn His pleasure and draw closer to Him. Just because you are not doing what others might be doing in terms of worship, or you are not doing what people expect others to do this month, does not mean you can’t do anything or are failing. Do not think lowly of any good action. Do not demean any good act that you do. Rather, try your best, find opportunities, be as consistent as you can with what you can do, acknowledge your weakness, have a good opinion of your Lord, and leave the rest to Him.
I hope this was of some help. May God reward you and us during this month and grant us tawfiq in worshipping Him during it. May any reward God decrees for me for giving this answer in benefit of His servants go to my grandfather, father, and all deceased Muslims. Amin.

Photo by Andy Wilkes.