Jul 9, 2013

Balancing Dunya and Deen in the Month of Mercy

By Sabina Giado


Ramadan is here!
We all rejoice at the sight of the new moon that signals the beginning of the month of mercy. But many of us come to its end feeling guilty, aware that we could have done so much more. InshaAllah, as the blessed month approaches again, let us make a sincere intention to put that feeling away for good and strive to make the very most of the holy month this year and every year.

There are a few simple steps you can take to make the most of the blessed month. Mash Allah, the skills you use in planning Ramadan can be used to address any problem area in your life.

Go into the Natural Planning Mode
The Natural Planning Mode is a method of time management espoused by efficiency expert David Allen. It encourages you to get creative with your problems, identifying all resources you could possibly mobilize to solve it. The Natural Planning Mode requires you to ask yourself some simple questions. It helps to get a little quiet time to yourself when doing this exercise as constant interruptions will break your train of thought. Insha Allah, try to be as honest as possible when answering these questions. Truly confront your nafs and the pleasures of this world that it really clings to.

What is the purpose of my fast?
Ramadan is a bootcamp for our nafs. In this month, we check our egos at the door. In this month, we purify the intention of our existences. In this month, we retrain ourselves to submit our will to Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala because all of our deeds are for ourselves, except fasting, which is for Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala.

Narrated by Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "Allah said, 'All the deeds of Adam's sons (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.'

Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid sexual relations with his wife and quarreling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, 'I am fasting.

By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, the unpleasant smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. 

There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting."

(Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book 31, Hadith no. 128)

What would it be like to have a truly successful Ramadan? How would I know?
When it comes to our faith, we cannot know how truly successful we have been in this life until the Last Day, where the ultimate reward is meeting our Lord.

In the same hadith mentioned above, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 128: Narrated by Abu Huraira:
"...There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting."

There are however material and spiritual benefits that are sure-fire markers of a successful Ramadan.

It takes 30 days to form a habit. If your main goal this Ramadan is to get into the habit of reading a page of Qur’an every day or praying your Sunnah prayers, if by the end of the month of Shabaan, you still have that habit, you know your Ramadan has been successful.

What is my current reality?
When aiming for a truly successful Ramadan, we should always keep in mind the elements that are likely to distract us from our objective. Do we have a house full of toddlers? Friends who are not necessarily the best company? A gruelling schedule at work with a project deadline smack dab in the middle of the last ten days?

When we recognize your likely stressors, we can better prepare to reduce or eliminate them in the blessed month.

It is equally important however to recognize the resources Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala has blessed us with as well – resources like youth, time, energy, money, knowledge, books, understanding colleagues, a healthy body, a loving Deen-tastic husband and family, a circle of loving friends we can rely on, etc. Of course, the most important resource is a pure intention and Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala as our Wali’.

What needs to happen to bring this project together?
This is where you break things down into action items. If something seems like too big a task, that’s probably because it is. We should try and break most of our tasks into as tiny chunks as possible so that the elephant can be eaten inshaAllah before we need to stop eating for Ramadan.

At this point, we should start to think how we can mobilize your resources to deal with our stressors. For example, if you have a huge deadline at work and you know that your colleague is relatively free in the month of Ramadan, you could ask him or her to help you with the research for that project or to handle the smaller tasks to leave you free for the smaller ones.

What are the next steps and who will carry them out?
Last but not least, assign each task to either yourself or someone you trust.

A word on work
Ask any professional in the Middle East what Ramadan is like for business and they will say that the whole region seems to go to sleep for a month.

SubhanAllah, fasting in the workplace is a visible act of worship, like performing your five daily prayers, observing hijab or growing a beard. Suddenly your co-workers notice that you are not eating lunch and you are not taking a cookie when a box is being passed around. Just imagine – more than a billion people the world over are partaking of this beautiful act of faith with you, waking up before dawn to eat and pray tahajjud, staying awake to pray and read Qur’an, extending their night prayers and their hands to Allah  subhaana wa ta'aala in du’a, waiting with bated breath for the gift of the Night of Power to cleanse their sins, and afterwards, for the true celebration of Eid. And the world watches as we go through these phases, perhaps wondering about the significance of these practices.

However, many in the Muslim world completely waste this excellent opportunity for Dawah. The pace of business slows to a crawl as we struggle to keep up our energy levels. We snap at our co-workers as hunger and thirst makes us irritable. When asked questions, we do not have satisfactory answers. All in all, not a great statement to make about our beautiful religion.

Insha Allah, it is up to us to be armed with the right answers and the right attitude to combat the mischief of our nafs.

How to ace Ramadan in the workplace:
  1. We should educate ourselves on the reasons and the rewards of Ramadan – not simply to answer our curious colleagues, but to uplift our own spirit in struggling against our desires this month.
  2. We should maintain watchfulness of our tongues. As one should in all months, we should avoid backbiting, foul speech and anger. However, as we are strained physically, this consciousness becomes even more important in the blessed month.
  3. Go into the Natural Planning Mode for projects at work in order to balance one’s work commitments with spiritual commitments, such as taraweeh and itikaf.
  4. Remember the countless ajr we are earning in our daily struggles and strive to maintain an attitude of focus and consistent industry.


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