“I don’t feel Ramadan,” she vented. She, working night shifts and feeling exhausted throughout her days, expressed the same sentiment many others have during this Ramadan of long fasting days and short nights.
“I’m a mom of three small kids,” a sister explained. “I have health problems and can’t fast. If I can just get my prayers in on time, I’m grateful. I’m starting to get depressed because Ramadan is almost over and I haven’t felt it at all.”
“I’m taking care of my elderly parents and working long hours,” he sighed. “Work is hard and being there for my parents is stressful, even though I love them. I was looking forward to Ramadan because I so badly needed the spiritual boost. But now it’s here, and I feel worse because I haven’t felt any spiritual highs. I feel guilty because I should do more acts of worship, but I’m just too tired.”
Many of us have felt inadequate this Ramadan. Long hours of fasting with short nights have made it hard for those of us with life responsibilities or those of us who are unable to fast due to our health “feel” Ramadan. We have not been able to do the extra worship we used to and even when we get in our extra Qur’an or pray in the mosque we have trouble concentrating, so we end up just feeling lame.
But what we really need is a perspective shift.
We need to recognize that taking care of our loved ones, providing financial support for our families and taking care of our health are some of the highest forms of worship in and of themselves. We just need to make the intention and internally shift our perspectives.
Here are three action items for those of us feeling low eman (faith) this Ramadan:
- Change your perspective.
You are rewarded for your intention. Would have gone to taraweeh (Ramadan night prayers) but couldn’t make it because of work hours and needing to get some sleep in? Couldn’t read your planned Qur’an because of the kids who won’t let up on your time for even five minutes? Couldn’t fast because of your health situation?
Your life circumstances simply do not allow even the small amount of worship you so desperately wish you could partake in. Even if you do have the time, you do not have the energy to focus internally and feel the drive. You are exhausted. You feel depleted.
And that is where your intention comes in. You would be doing all you could to rake up the spiritual vibes if it were possible. So, instead of lamenting your lameness, think of God’s greatness, subhanahu wa ta’ala, exhalted is He. In His mercy, He will reward you anyway for all of what you planned to do but could not. Think of the powerful words of the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him), comforting all of us in this exact situation:
“God ordered (the appointed angels over you) that the good and the bad deeds be written, and He then showed (the way) how (to write): If somebody intends to do a good deed and he does not do it, then God will write for him a full good deed (in his account with Him); and if he intends to do a good deed and actually did it, then God will write for him (in his account) with Him (its reward equal) from ten to seven hundred times to many more times: and if somebody intended to do a bad deed and he does not do it, then God will write a full good deed (in his account) with Him, and if he intended to do it (a bad deed) and actually did it, then God will write one bad deed (in his account).”1
And if there was ever something you used to do but could no longer do it because of health or your life situations, recognize that you are still being rewarded for it. The Prophet ﷺ comfortingly told us,
“When a slave of Allah falls ill or goes on a journey, he is credited with the same amount of recompense as he used to do in his state of health or when he was at home.”2
And that is why it is so important to take advantage of your time and health when you have it. Because once they are gone, you will still be rewarded for all of what you would be doing if you could. But that is the key—doing it when you can.
- Drawing nearer to God happens through actions, not through feelings.
God tells us in a holy hadith (narration): “My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it…”3
We want that “Ramadan feeling” because we get the spiritual high of feeling close to Him. That is essentially what we are craving for.
But here He is telling us that the way we draw close to Him is through the religious duties He has made obligatory on us and then through anything extra. He does not say: “You draw close to Me through a feeling you get and that’s how you know you’re actually close to Me.”
We are so blessed that He did not require us to experience “a feeling”, an emotion, something we have little to no control over, in order to be close to Him. He does not demand we cry out of love for Him everyday, even if that is what we want to do. He does not ask us to weep for our sins every minute, even though that is what we probably deserve to do.
He is empowering us to take action in managing our side of our relationship with Him. If we are taking those actions, we are already near to Him, God willing.
- Take a moment and speak to Him.
Give yourself five minutes, just you and Allah. Sit and raise your hands and share what is in your heart with Him in your own words, even though He is well aware of it. Allow the burden of your frustration with yourself to be lifted off your shoulders and into His Hands.
“Dear God, I feel distant from you and it hurts especially because it’s Ramadan and I want to feel close to You in this month. Please, accept all my sacrifices for Your Sake and let me taste the sweetness of our relationship together through what I’m doing. As much as I wish I could be in the masjid and concentrate when reading Qur’an like I used to do to get that emanhigh, I can’t. But I’m doing whatever I can to fulfill the responsibilities You’ve given me in this phase of my life. So please, write me amongst the highest in Paradise, pour blessings into my life and let me taste the sweetness of my relationship with You through what I’m doing.”
As our responsibilities pile up, so do our inabilities to focus on the spirituality we were banking on to experience in Ramadan. In the weeks prior, we were so anxious for this opportunity just to get spiritually tuned.
And then once Ramadan gets here and we do not feel it, it is easy for us to sink into even more serious depression because what we thought would give us the boost did not work, so then we blame ourselves. We see ourselves as failures, so we assume that is the way He views us too. But our perception of our own selves is not a reflection of who we are in His eyes. His mercy overcomes any shortcomings of a believer who sincerely struggles to be close to Him, even when we fall.
Be Easy on Yourself
So be easy on ourselves, as Allah (swt) is easy on us. As you speak to Him, remind yourself that everything you do can be an act of worship in which to draw nearer to Him.
Even the mundane can be worship. You brushing your teeth to follow the Prophetic tradition, to maintain the health of your body, to have great smelling breath for your loved ones and the angels who surround you, is an act of worship in and of itself. You smiling at your parents, kissing your spouse, texting a friend to brighten their day; all of those are acts of worship in and of themselves. Your entire life, your entire day, is filled with actions which could all be acts of worship, simply through your intention.
The beauty of Islam is that it does not restrict worshiping God to praying, fasting and reading Qur’an. It can encompass your daily actions simply through your intention.
As the great scholar, Abdullah ibn Mubarak, is reported to have said: “Perhaps a great deed is belittled by an intention. And perhaps a small deed, by a sincere intention, is made great.”
You may not have felt that “Ramadan feeling,” but you may have been doing the actions of someone close to God, someone successful both in and outside of Ramadan, simply through re-framing your perspective, remembering God through the actions you are doing, and renewing your intention through even the mundane.
There is still time. Renew your intention. Reframe your perspective. In these blessed nights, make your Ramadan worship something transformational. Choose to understand your relationship with God as one that will continue even when your life changes. Choose to magnify your intention.