Jul 18, 2013

This Ramadan - take it easy - advice for Muslim professionals

By Khadeejah Islam


As Ramadan approaches, most of us are planning to “increase our acts of worship.” However, Muslim professionals may find this idea impractical. After hours of manual work, meetings, presentations, research, and training in the workplace, and chores at home, where is the time really to devote oneself to worship?

In my case, being enrolled in a degree program, during Ramadan, I will have to attend classes, sit for exams, submit assignments, undertake research, listen to lectures, and read a lot of books. In addition, I will be working diligently for Habibi Halaqas and Productive Muslim, and doing my share of household chores, such as tidying my room and helping to prepare iftaar.

Is Ramadan really about increasing the quantity of good deeds? In general, yes, we should do as many good deeds as possible. However, does that mean we will compromise on the quality of our deeds? Does that mean we will over-burden ourselves to a point where we will not be able to achieve the desired results that we expected to see in ourselves and in the community?

“Stress can cause sleep deprivation, which can lead to an interruption in insulin regulation and weight gain. High stress levels can also have adverse effects on memory and can compromise your immune system. Decision-making, common respect, and collaboration go out the window. If you’re stressed out because you’re not managing your day properly, you won’t sleep well. When you’re sleep deprived, negative events and emotions are magnified and recalled with ease, while positive event recall is decreased” (Scott Halford, Top Tips for Managing Stress).[i]

This Ramadan, I would advise Muslim professionals to take it easy and to focus on the following aspects to enhance the quality of their deeds:

Train yourself during the month of Sha’ban. If you cannot allocate a month for developing a Ramadan routine, then dedicate the last 10-15 days. Within that period, you can make a plan, test what works for you, and make changes to the plan accordingly. That way, most of Ramadan will not be spent in a trial mode. Instead, you will have a smooth routine. In the plan, include:

· The number of projects you can handle without adversely affecting your spiritual obligations. Add or reduce the number of projects accordingly.
· The number of hours that you will dedicate to each project / action. Put them in specific time-slots.

“The better you plan your activities in advance, the easier it will be to get the results you desire. Bring together all the people and resources you determined you will need in the planning process. Set specific, measurable standards for the results you require” (Brian Tracy. Million Dollar Habits: Practical, Proven Power Practices to Double and Triple Your Income).[ii]

Many people are satisfied with minimum efforts and average results. Although we are imperfect, we must aim to be the best in everything that we do. Therefore, whatever you do, do it with excellence. For instance, while fasting, refrain from food, drink, and intimacy, as well as idle talk, lying, cheating, and vain arguments.

Excellence also means giving your utmost attention to the task in hand. For instance, if you are offering your obligatory prayers, concentrate on your invocations, and do not think of anything else, such as a meeting. If you are attending to guests, do not think of voluntary acts of worship, such as charity or voluntary prayers. If you are spending time with your family, put aside work-related documents. If you are in a meeting, focus on the meeting’s objectives, contents, presentations, etc. Performing one deed with excellence is better than performing several deeds in a rush, with poor or average outcomes.

Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “All actions are judged by motives, and each person will be rewarded according to their intention.”[iii]

Furthermore, he sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “If he is working to support his small children, then it is for the sake of God. If he is working to support his elderly parents, then it is for the sake of God. If he is working to occupy himself and keep his desires in check, then it is for the sake of God. If, on the other hand, he is doing so to show off and earn fame, then he is working for the sake of Satan.”[iv]

“Work ethic is defined by the Quran itself, which mentions the word ‘amal in 360 verses. A closely related concept of fi’l (also translated as work) is mentioned in an additional 109 verses. All these verses stress the need for work and action by human beings. Man is called upon to utilize time in pursuit of work by declaring that God has made the day as means of seeking sustenance. A person who through hard work seeks God’s bounty – which includes all appropriate means of earning one’s livelihood – is most highly praised. All able-bodied persons are exhorted to work in order to earn their living.” [v]

Therefore, deeds in the workplace (which are usually excluded from the list of acts of worship) may actually earn you rewards, if you have the correct intention of pleasing Allah.

There you go! Muslim professionals, you need to worry about three aspects only. You do not need to overwhelm yourselves so much that you get either exhausted or frustrated, and then, end up doing absolutely nothing! Whether you do a few good deeds, or many, you will be entitled to rewards depending on your intentions and efforts.

Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Everybody has his time of energy, and every time of energy is followed by a time of lethargy. But if a person tries to follow a moderate path, then I have hope for him, but if he becomes one who is pointed out (in the street), then do not think anything of him.”[vi]

“But if he becomes one who is pointed out (in the street)” means if he strives hard and goes to extremes in doing good deeds so that he will become famous and people point him out to one another for his worship and asceticism.[vii]

[i] Scott Halford. Top Tips for Managing Stress. Retrieved: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/217583
[ii] Brian Tracy. Million Dollar Habits: Practical, Proven Power Practices to Double and Triple Your Income. Retrieved: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/69238
[iii] Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim
[iv] Narrated by al-Mundhiri and as-Suyuti
[v] Work and Wealth, Retrieved: http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/295/
[vi] Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 2453
[vii] Retrieved: http://islamqa.com/en/ref/22877/moderation

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)


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