[RAMADAN] : HOW TO STAY PRODUCTIVE DURING NON-FASTING DAYS
Ramadan is a time we all prepare for in anticipation for all the extra rewards and closeness to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) we can gain during this precious month. Although we may be fasting, Ramadan should be the most productive time of the year, spiritually, socially and personally. However, sisters face a different productivity challenge due to menstruation or post-natal bleeding. As we are unable to fast, pray taraweeh or qiyam or read Qur’an from the mushaf, the non-praying period can often lead to a feeling of distance and spiritual loss from the benefits of Ramadan. Think about it: you have started Ramadan in full swing, with good habits and ibadah, enjoying fasting and the spirit that comes with it. Then all of a sudden, you can’t pray and fast for the next week! How do you proceed? How can we continue to feel the spiritual high, instead of slacking and becoming lazy? In this article, I will share practical tips and advice on how you can use the non-fasting days to sustain your spirituality during Ramadan, and make the most of the short, invaluable time that we have. Realise the blessing of Ramadan When we realise the value of the month of Ramadan, we see that not one second can go to waste, as every second can be spent in gaining reward, by both intention and physical action. It is difficult enough for sisters to maintain ihsan (excellence) in all the roles we have during a normal month in the year, let alone Ramadan, and the non-praying period adds yet another productivity challenge! So, this is an ideal time to remind ourselves of the virtues of Ramadan: Allah’s Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.” [Sahih al Bukhari] What we must remember is that praying salah, reading Qur’an from the mushaf and fasting are not the only ways to worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). This is especially important for women who are in their post-natal period, as they have a much longer time without obligatory acts of worship. As Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has granted this concession Himself, we do not lose out on the reward when we are unable to fast or pray! However, we will be held accountable for any time wasted during the non-praying period, especially if it is not spent with the intention of worshipping Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Ramadan does not unfortunately make us immune to committing sinful acts; just as in the rest of the year, the non-praying period can often lead sisters to slipping into bad habits and laziness, due to the the sudden break we get from our obligatory duties. This has a domino effect as it can make it twice as hard to return to good ibadah when the menstrual or post-natal period is over. When we remind ourselves of the blessings attached to worship in Ramadan, it provides more motivation to fill our non-praying days with other acts of ibadah. Additionally, overall productivity and barakah in other areas of our lives – professional, social and personal – are dependent on how we worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). When we invest time into actions to worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) during the non-praying period, we ensure that we not only sustain our spiritual productivity, but our worldly productivity too, and this is especially important during Ramadan. When you can start fasting and praying again, you will find it so much easier to get back into the flow of Ramadan, and you won’t feel detached from that ‘Ramadan feeling’. Three women, different challenges Muslim women face a number of productivity challenges due to the number of different roles they play on a day-to-day basis. Have a look at the challenges faced by three fictional women and think of ways they can make the best of their non-fasting days. Case 1: Salmah Mahmood – The Overtime Mother Salmah is a stay-at-home mother to Abdullah and 9-year-old Hafsah. Abdullah was born a few days before Ramadan, so Salmah is not fasting or praying due to post-natal bleeding. Between breastfeeding her new son, homeschooling Hafsah and cooking iftar for her husband, Salmah barely has time to think about ibadah during Ramadan, let alone schedule in more acts of worship! Case 2: Fatima Omar – The Pregnancy Dilemma Fatima is pregnant for the first time and is due to have her baby in the third week of Ramadan. So far, her pregnancy has been normal but coming to the end of her pregnancy, Fatima is beginning to feel more tired and is looking forward to the start of her maternity leave from her office job. Having done lots of research and after speaking to medical professionals, Fatima has decided to fast on alternate days to keep her energy up, especially with long hours of fasting in hot weather. She still wants to keep up her ibadah until the birth of her baby, but is finding it difficult to be fully productive both spiritually and professionally between her job and the fatigue she is feeling from being heavily pregnant. Case 3: Zahra Ali – The Working Muslimah Zahra is a midwife at a nearby hospital where she works long hours, both during the day and at night. Zahra is fasting but she is due to start her menstrual period around 15th Ramadan, during which she is hoping to get extra sleep and rest as she won’t be going for taraweeh prayers or wake up at Fajr time for suhoor. However, she doesn’t want to lose the ‘Ramadan feeling’ and get lazy during her non-praying period. What advice would you give to these women to sustain their spiritual productivity during non-fasting days? Let’s take a look at the following actions and see how these busy women can implement some of them when they are not fasting or praying. Alternative ways to worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) The key to sustaining productivity when you are not praying is to realise the innumerable ways we can worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) aside from fasting and salah. An important thing to remember is that with all the roles that we play, whether you are a mother, wife, student or a professional (or all of the above!), fulfilling these roles with ihsan (excellence) and with the intention to please Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) makes it worship! For example, in the case of Salmah Mahmood who cannot fast and pray due to post-natal bleeding, when she feeds her baby, changes nappies and generally supports her child, she is being rewarded for those acts. Even if you can only fit in one of the following acts of ibadah, whatever you do out of longing for the pleasure of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is a form of worship. It may not be possible to do all of the following actions, but have the intention to do a few select ones that are easy for you, and focus on those this Ramadan. 1. Purify your intention Everything begins with intention, whether you are fasting or not. The greatest deed could be rejected by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) if we did not have the correct intention to begin with. When I feel like my intention is not pure, I say out loud “my intention is solely for the pleasure of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)” and repeat this until the doubt is removed. All three of the women above can gain reward using this method as much as they can during Ramadan, to make sure every deed has a refined intention behind it. 2. Block out time for ibadah It may not be easy for Salmah, Fatima or Zahra to plan a comprehensive schedule for the second half of Ramadan. To optimise your non-praying days, block out a certain amount of time (it doesn’t have to be at the same time everyday) to fulfill at least one of the actions listed here and make a firm intention to complete this everyday. This will keep the spirit of Ramadan alive even when you cannot pray and fast, In sha Allah. 3. Make a dua list Write two dua lists: one that contains personal desires and wants, and another with duas from the Qur’an and sunnah (all the ‘Rabbana’ duas from the Qur’an, for example). Make these duas at the recommended times, like during the last third of the night, at iftar time and during rainfall. 4. Engage in constant dhikr Dhikr is a beautiful way to remain connected to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) at a time when it is so easy to feel distant. Try and complete your morning and evening adkhar, increase salawat upon Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and fill your minutes with precious istighfar. Dhikr is an especially effective tool for busy mums like Salmah, as you can feel connected to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even when you are running around after your kids. 5. Stay connected to the Qur’an Stay connected to the Book revealed during this month by listening to your favourite reciters and/or reading easy translations and tafseer. Ponder the meaning of the Qur’an and aim to implement one ayah every day or to the best of your ability. Listening to a good, medium-paced recitation is a fantastic way to aid with memorisation too. This is a great action for all three busy women in our case studies above, as Salmah can listen to Qur’an while breastfeeding, Fatima can read an easy translation when she is resting, and Zahra can read tafseer from an app on her phone during her commute to and from work. 6. Seek knowledge Fatima, who isn’t fasting due to pregnancy, can select a book or watch a series of lectures to gain and apply as much knowledge as possible. She can do this while lying down and relaxing, or when she is heading home after work. Even Salmah and Zahra can watch one of many YouTube Ramadan series and podcasts by renowned scholars at their convenience. 7. Earn the reward of fasting! When Zahra Ali returns from a long shift at the hospital, all she can think about is putting up her feet and relaxing! However, she remembers that there is a huge reward in giving iftar to the one who is fasting. So make the most of the extra time and energy you have during non-fasting days to help your family prepare iftar, send iftar over to the neighbors or to those breaking their fast at the local mosque as Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Whoever gives food for a fasting person to break his fast, he will have a reward like theirs, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest.” [Sunan Ibn Majah] Similarly, Fatima and Salmah can plan to make simple iftars, and Salmah can enlist the help of her daughter when preparing food or doing household chores. 8. Get socially productive Contributing on a social level is often neglected during Ramadan as we all focus on personal actions, but Ramadan is an ideal time to invest back into the community, especially with the extra energy and time you have during your non-praying days. Getting socially productive may be easier for working sisters to make the best out of their non-praying days. Have spiritual boosters sessions at work. For example, when Zahra is working at the hospital, she can gather Muslim and non-Muslim women on her lunch break and have short 10-minute iman boosters about the virtues of Ramadan. Fundraise for a charity that is close to your heart. This can be done so easily with social media and websites like JustGiving, or you can organise a productive iftar party to raise money. Offer some iftar food to your neighbours or work colleagues. If they are non-Muslim, take the opportunity to give them information about Ramadan. All three of the women in the case studies, especially Fatima and Zahra, can make the most of this sunnah during their non-fasting days. Making up missed fasts Once Ramadan is over, we have to organise how we will make up the fasts we missed. Use a simple method to count missed fasts from previous Ramadan months. Begin making them up in small chunks soon after Ramadan, rather than waiting for the winter months; you will feel less overwhelmed as you check off your missed fasts during the year. There you have it sisters! Follow these tips to invest in having a spiritually uplifting Ramadan even whilst you are not praying or fasting. Ensure you plan your time as effectively as you can and up your game on these days by doing more iman-boosting activities to remain connected to the spirit of Ramadan. May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) fill your Ramadan with blessings and make it the most productive Ramadan yet! Ameen!
By Iqbal Nasim