Posted on May 17, 2019
This Ramadan has not been what I expected, but judging by the Ramadan I had last year, (I spent the first week at our product photography studio breaking fast with Gizelle and not getting home until past 10 p.m. every night) maybe this is just my new normal. I spent the first week of Ramadan in Dubai - which don't get me wrong, I loved being back in Dubai during Ramadan - but because we were there on work, I spent my days in meetings and my nights in hot, stuffy warehouses surrounded by thousands and thousands of rolls of fabric. Hardly the Ramadan I envisioned.
I managed to make it to tarawih twice. And, that's about where my Ramadan ibadah starts and ends.
Since coming home, I've been so jet lagged that I drowsily eat a few bites for iftar with one eye open and immediately fall asleep after praying a very sluggish maghrib. Ahmed wakes me up as soon as isha comes in - I drag myself out of bed for another lackluster prayer and get back to bed. Again, hardly the Ramadan I envisioned.
Now, all of this is coming from a person who takes Ramadan incredibly seriously. I cut out all music and TV this month (although, who am I kidding, I don't watch TV anyway, lol), I pray tarawih almost every night - usually at home, with my Quran in hand to get my chapter a day in - in order to complete the entire Quran. I incorporate tahajjud into my routine, listen to daily lectures and in the last ten days, I spend the odd nights in qiyam. This (or some version of this) has been my routine for the past ten years if not more.
So, you can see the position I find myself in. Feeling down. Feeling disconnected and most of all, feeling guilty.
As I reflected on this, I couldn't help but remember the hadith of the Prophet (S), "Take advantage of five before five: Your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free time before you are preoccupied, and your life before your death."
Despite always being a busy person, the "free time before you are preoccupied" part never phased me. Now health, old age, poverty - those are things to take heed of. But free time? Anyone can make time - it's just a matter of priorities. Right? Well as it turns out, time truly is the greatest luxury.
We know this from Surah Al-Asr where Allah (S) states, "Wa'l Asr," swearing by the decline of time. "Verily, mankind is at a loss." The loss Allah (S) refers to is the loss of our very existence. Hours turn into days and months turn into years so quickly that every day, a piece of us and our ultimate potential is taken away. This is the nature of life - continual and perpetual loss.
To say this bums me out is an understatement because it only furthers my humdrum feelings about my inadequacy this month.
But being the positive, cup-half-full person I am, all is not lost. To start, we're only in the second ten days of Ramadan, and I will get over my jet lag and be able to stay up past maghrib and get my tarawih prayers and so much more in. My Quran reading ... now that's a different story, as I don't see any way of catching up, (my time of the month hasn't arrived yet so I'll be out of commission for another ten days, womp womp) but that's ok! And here's why: sometimes it be like that.
We all go through different seasons of life - and if I was able to go ten years with intense ibadah during Ramadan, I count myself incredibly blessed. It's possible all those years gave me the training I needed to have a lackluster Ramadan like this and not get thrown off-track spiritually.
What gives me the most solace as I think about my circumstances however, is the actual thing I'm filling my time with. My preoccupation comes from doing what I confidently believe is God's work. I work tirelessly to build a brand that serves our community and ultimately, serves God. That's got to count for something. And while that doesn't replace formal ibadah in Ramadan, for the time being, it is my ibadah.
So, if you're in a similar situation, take comfort in knowing that nothing is permanent and while this may be a difficult season for you, it won't always be that way. For those of you who do have the luxury of time, take advantage of it. Take seriously the hadith and take advantage of your time before you're preoccupied. You'll thank your future self ;)