Beating The Ramadan blues

It’s the 15th of Ramadan and the tell-tale signs are already present. Less people are coming for Taraweeh prayers, and the ones present are standing with even less vigour. The streets of Kano are deserted with everyone preferring to stay indoors and conserve their depleted energy reserves. The population of men attending Tafseer lectures is dwindling. It’s the middle of a long month of fasting and prayers and as expected, the stamina of a lot of Muslims has begun to take a nosedive.

My fourteen-year-old son who will be fasting the entire month for first time this year asked me: ‘Mummy, will we make it?’

The poor boy battling heat, school, exams and hunger wants to know if he will make it to the end of the month. I had a good long laugh.

My child, just like many generations before you, you will make it Insha Allah.

I have always likened Ramadan to a long-distance run. Some want to beat others to the finish line, and they begin with all their intensity, sprinting from the beginning. But by the time they get to the middle, they just don’t have any more stamina to keep going. They slow down, exhausted, panting to draw in shallow breaths of air. But those who’ve trained for the marathon know the strategy. They don’t collapse because they’re able to stabilize their breathing and portion their energy.

Ramadan Blues is the term usually used to describe the period of deflation and disenchantment that follows the spiritual rush or ‘high’ we experience during Ramadan. After a month of intense supplication, nighttime prayers and daytime fasting, people are bound to feel momentary bouts of depression when the month is over. However, even though most people feel that the ‘blues’ start after Ramadan, reality is, it starts much earlier.

Generally, people start Ramadan with a lot of goals in mind. If you are like me, then these goals will be written on a piece of paper, complete with action points and tasks needed to achieve them. When time, work, emergencies and deadlines come in the way of achieving these goals, guilt rears its ugly head and the blues, sets in.

My friend once asked me- ‘If truly the devils are tied up during the Ramadan, does that mean that all along I am the one preventing myself from waking up at night to pray? Does that mean that all the bad things I am doing now is all my fault? You mean I can’t blame Shaytan anymore?’

I had no answer.

But what I do have is some practical tips of overcoming the Ramadan Blues that typically start at the middle of the month, or like Hausa people call it ‘Goma na wuya’.

Here’s what we need to do to keep up the stamina:

Firstly, give yourself a break. For those of us who are working, parenting, exhausted and barely managing—you need some ‘You-Time.’ And that, in and of itself, is worship. When you give time for yourself to feel replenished so you can feel rejuvenated in your worship and refreshed in your interactions with others—that is an act of striving in Allah’s pleasure in and of itself. Take daytime naps, meditate, put your phone on silent mode or better yet, do itikaf and forget everything else. Take time off, for you. Believe me, life will not stop.

Secondly, ditch the guilt trips. In our society, we frequently use guilt to motivate one another. Statements such as: “This great Imam read the Quran 50 times in Ramadan! Look at our sorry states! We can barely finish it once! How will our Ummah ever succeed?!” And: “If you can’t cry in Ramadan—if you can’t shed tears—then weep for the sadness of your sick, hard heart which will never soften outside of it!”

Hian! Seriously? The Quran does not use shaming tactics on believers who are struggling to strive for His pleasure. The Prophet PBUH never publicly shamed those who were striving to do things right. And yet our own use of Muslim guilt has caused our society to become cripplingly afraid and insecure in our own Îmân.

Know this:  The guilt that is eating you alive because you don’t feel you’ve done good enough in the first half of this month is a sign of your deep concern for faith! That pain in your heart making you wish you were better is a sign of your desire for Allah’s ultimate pleasure! These are all signs that you are a strong believer! A strong, struggling believer. And you’ve already made it halfway through Ramadan. The month in which Inshâ’Allah every day your sins are being wiped away, every day Inshâ’Allah your name may be written of those who will never touch the hellfire, the month where Inshâ’Allah everyday you’re basking in rewards that you cannot fathom in the hereafter, and forms of blessings in this life that will affect every part of your existence, Inshâ’Allah.

Lastly, set realistic goals. Re-examine the goals you’ve made and make them realistic for the rest of the month. If you feel like you’re drowning, then reset. Instead, plan goals that you know you will complete, even if they’re small. Allah SWT tells us He wants ease for us, and not difficulty and yet sometimes, we make things difficult for ourselves. This is the month of the Quran, and we nobly set Quran goals that we hope to accomplish—perhaps reading the blessed book cover to cover or memorizing more surahs than usual. The problem is that often, with the long fasts, our exhausted bodies and minds and our crazy work or parenting or studying schedules, we can’t seem to keep up with what we had originally hoped. But the Quran is our reviver. And we can still build an intimate relationship with it even by shifting our goals. For example, perhaps you had planned on finishing the Quran once this month. It’s the middle of the month and you are not even halfway through. Unless you know you can make up for the amount you’ve missed, re-focus your target goal. Perhaps your goal will no longer be to finish it, but instead to read a lesser amount with understanding and with slow recitation, truly savouring every word on your tongue. And be persistent. Regardless of the goals you set, remember: The Prophet PBUH taught us that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant, even if it were little (Muslim).

At the end, we should remember this: we are all worthy of Allah’s love, even as we falter in our stamina. You are worthy of His love even as you hate yourself for your mistakes. Just go back to Him. Ask for His help, His forgiveness, His guidance, His pleasure. And understand that when you ask Him, He will answer. We are halfway there and Insha’Allah we will make it through to the end successfully!