Every Ramadan, we set goals and resolutions, and just like New Year resolutions, these are quickly forgotten. The first week of Ramadan has now passed and this is the perfect opportunity to reevaluate and determine where we are and where we can go with our faith, character, and lifestyle. This Ramadan, use these tips (in no particular order) to get yourself back in check. Work hard at making these a reality, and insha Allah, you’ll see positive differences and changes in your relationship with yourself and with Allah. May Allah make these steps beneficial for all of us, and guide us towards that which is best for us to continue with throughout our lives here and in the Hereafter. Ameen.
1. Get out of bed and your bedroom as quickly as possible
Every morning, at least for me, it’s a challenge to get myself out of bed and get to work. I love what I do in my life, and aspire to do so much more every day, but the truth is, sleep is a luxury I would love to indulge in more. Still, with the bed and bedroom come temptations that just aren’t beneficial. For example, laziness becomes something that is so easily attainable, especially if you’re someone who doesn’t work a 9-5, like me, or if you’re a student with classes later in the day. At the time of the Prophet (SAW), they spent so much of their time during Ramadan in worship, hard work towards feeding their families, and more, to the point that many went days, weeks, or sometimes even the entire month with only a few hours of sleep per night. They are examples for us, to show us that they too were human and capable of keeping up. So, get out of bed, get dressed, and get started with your day. It’ll keep you disciplined, on point and focused, and will give you a better night’s sleep when you head to bed every night. For one month, make sacrifices and put your faith before your sleep. You’ve done it for your job, to study for exams, to take care of your kids, and sometimes even to hang out with your friends. Reducing your sleep hours during this one month won’t hurt, especially if you’re using it towards worship. (Remember, I’m not a doctor though, so this may not work for everyone. But, before you write this step off, ask yourself what your intention and reason is behind cutting down sleep.)
2. Eat clean and smart
Oh, the horrifying things Muslims do to themselves when Iftar and Suhoor come around. May Allah guide and forgive us. When you’re eating, it should be for the sake of nourishment and not gluttony. Eat to live. Don’t live to eat. This Ramadan, stick to the natural basics, and avoid anything from a wrapper. Also, avoid sugars and caffeine. Sugar because it won’t keep you nourished for the day, and caffeine because studies have shown that it leads to dehydration. Stick to proteins, fiber-rich foods, fruit, vegetables, nuts, water, and milk. And finally, remember to eat in moderation. The food isn’t going anywhere. Eat small portions, eat clean and nutritious, and eat only at Iftar and Suhoor times. Avoid eating full meals between the two times. If you feel very hungry, drink lots of water and munch on things like fruits, veggies, and nuts.
3. Stay active, but listen to your body
One of the most common things I hear before Ramadan, from others and myself is, “I’m going to work out a lot this Ramadan and just shred the fat away.” I’m going to be straight with you here: no, you’re not. It’s definitely possible for you to shred fat during Ramadan, but that won’t come through aggressive and excessive workouts. It will come through nutrition and workout consistency. Before you start doing your three 2-hour workouts every day (which can be harmful and counter-productive unless planned out with proper knowledge and application of the human body, its needs, and your own unique body’s chemistry), take it one step at a time, and pace yourself. As you get comfortable with one thing, add the next. Most importantly though, listen to your body. Don’t over exert yourself. If you need to rest, rest.
Remember, Ramadan is a time to train your body, mind, and spirit for the year to come, so don’t jump in completely without preparation and by taking on everything at once. Be patient and wise, and take small steps towards your goals.
4. Put your faith first
When you start your day, start it with faith. Work towards getting the faith-related things you had planned for the day done first, so as to avoid procrastination. It’s far too easy to get caught up in your daily activities and to forget the things you had set out to do differently this Ramadan. So, if you are hoping to finish reading the Quran during this month, make some time in the morning before work, school, or anything else, and read a few pages or even a chapter or two. Make it a point to pray as soon as the time for each Salah comes in, and take out some time out of your day to listen or watch a lecture online or at your local Masjid. The point is, indulge in your faith and make it the root of your life, and you will find yourself cleansed of stress, strife, and mental clutter. (I actually just wrote an article about this: The Seed Of All Success)
5. Make a goal list
It’s really easy to fall of course when we make a mental list of our tasks and don’t write things down. It may seem possible at first, but eventually, things pile up and you forget one or two things here or there, and the next thing you know, you’ve missed something major and fallen off track. Write down your goals for the month. If you already had done so before Ramadan began, take this as an opportunity to revise and renew those goals. This first week was the trial run – your beta phase. Reflect on the last week, think about what you’ve done, what you can do to become better, write down tasks to make it more clear, and then take action and make your goals a reality.
6. Keep a journal
This can do wonders for you when you’re working towards growth in any aspect of life. Keep a journal for each separate goal – one for working out, your career, your Deen, etc. This is a great approach to keeping yourself on track and building motivation to maintaining your goals and aspirations.
7. Give back
One of the best ways to cleanse your mind and soul, and to feel good about yourself is to help others and give back to the community. This is a great way to bring to light one of the main reasons behind why we fast: to understand and recognize that we have so much to be grateful for in our lives. When you are more aware of how privileged we are with all of the things Allah has blessed us with, we are less greedy, more calm and collected, and more patient in dealing with the struggles of life, along with the many other benefits of helping others. And personally, I also believe that giving back is one of the best ways to increase your success and gain more out of what you aspire towards.
8. Learn something new daily
Seeking knowledge is an integral part of Islamic teachings, and it would be unwise to not take advantage of this month as a time to secure a routine or habit of making an effort to learn more on a daily basis. Take out some time every day to watch or listen to a new lecture on Islam or any other beneficial topic, go to your local Masjid, have discussions with your fellow Muslim friends about different topics in Islam, read the Tafseer of the Quran, study Islamic history books, etc. Just do something to learn about your Deen and about other things that will benefit you in this life and in the Next.
9. Take time to meditate
It actually bothers me when people say that Salah is enough meditation for Muslims. It’s one of many ways we can meditate and find a center point. Take up yoga, go for a walk, go fishing, do something that is calming and takes you away from the stresses of every day life. Your faith is one thing, and taking care of your mental clarity and calm is another. They may overlap, but they are two very different things.
10. Stay close to positive friends
“You are the company you keep.” This is amongst the few phrases that holds true in every circumstance. Who and what you keep company with influences and impacts your own character, habits, and interests. Keeping yourself surrounded by those who are beneficial towards your growth as a person and as a Muslim is key to finding success in this life and the Next. It gives us the support, base of knowledge and structure, and all else we could gain from being around positive influences. Alhamdulillah, my best friend has always been by my side and it has helped immensely in shaping my character and faith.
11. BONUS: Look sharp
This is one of those things where my opinion takes lead and forces itself on to my tasks, making me go against the rules and add another tip to this list. Keep a strong image through your character, looking good while maintaining the halal and Sunnah, and staying clean and fresh are key components of what makes Islam and Muslims so amazing. Here’s the truth: because Islam is a way of life, Muslims represent it at every turn. While we are open to flaws and mistakes due to us being human, we are still capable of doing our best to look our best, holding character in our personalities and sense of style. So, take a second, read up on style, check out fashion houses and their artistic appeal, and create your own personal style (while sticking to the Sunnah as much as possible – constantly trying to grow in faith).