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We are often encouraged to divide Ramadan into blocks of ten-days to focus our efforts on a particular aspect, specifically mercy, forgiveness and relief from Hellfire.1 However Allah is Ar-Raheem, The Most Merciful, Al-Ghaffaar and Al-Ghafur, The Ever-Forgiving and The All-Forgiving. He is Al-Wadud, The Loving, the Kind One. So why go into the most blessed month almost depriving ourselves of the unlimited bounty of Allah? His Kindness and Mercy and Love cannot be limited to a span of time. The entire month is a time for us to reap benefit from His infinite Love, Mercy and Kindness.
Instead, why not divide the month into phases, like that of a work project? From Planning to Execution and then a Post-Project Evaluation & Maintenance.
If our efforts in setting our goals and writing up our dua lists are part of planning, then the actual month becomes the execution phase.For this phase there are two key areas to focus on:
1) Perform the right tasks
2) Monitor and control performance
Dividing your main goals into daily/weekly goals and then making sure you're doing those things can get overwhelming. So make sure to keep it simple and consistent and build on the various acts based on priority and attainability. Here are some key things to remember:
● Focus on Fasting: The act of worship that is central to Ramadan is fasting, and yet often we forget what that entails. We limit it to simply abstaining from food and drink, and while working on all the goals outside of our actual fast, we fall short in perfecting this act. Fasting is an act of worship, that unlike many is for Allah.1 Think about your pitfalls when it comes to this act of worship, and work on those a day at a time.
● Prioritize the Quran: As the month in which the Quran was revealed, recitation and reflection during this month not only has a special meaning but a special reward.3 It is also logical to prioritize the Book of Divine Guidance because only through Allah's Words can we seek meaningful direction.
● Stick to a plan: We all want to be at peak performance by the last ten nights of Ramadan, not depleted and unable to keep up.Make sure you are slowly working towards that based on your individual plan and try to stick to it the best you can. And remember, the quality of our efforts matter more than the quantity.
Ensure you have a system for checking your progress and one for feedback. Here are few ways you can achieve this:
●Partner Up: It will boost your progress and keep the door open to feedback from someone you trust and are comfortable with.As a bonus, it also allows you to develop (or strengthen) your relationship with that someone in this blessed month by working together to please Allah.
●Keep a diary: Often times we experience things and may not view them a certain way until we reflect on them later. Ramadan is not just a month of doing all the extras, it is an opportunity to change ourselves for the better. A diary where we can talk to ourselves and look back on, is a great way to ensure we are growing and ultimately working towards closeness to Allah.
●Track your progress: You definitely don't want to fall behind submitting everything you want (and need) to submit for this particular life project. So make sure you're tracking your progress and making amends where needed, because not everything will work out the way you plan. That's okay, as long as you have a system to monitor and control, you will feel motivated to stay on the path to your endgame inshAllah. At the end of day, we are rewarded for our efforts not the outcome.
With all your good deeds multiplied, the month of Ramadan is truly a gift; the project with greatest chance of promotion. It's an opportunity to make-up for, say, your less productive and profitable deliverables. It is above all an opportunity to refresh and refocus on our purpose, because as humans we are victims to shiny-object-syndrome. In a world full of distraction, it is integral we approach this month with a focused mind and healthy body.
1 This is based on a Hadith that has been deemed weak by Shaikh Al-Albaani and other muhaditheen.
2 Al-Bukhaari (1761) and Muslim (1946) narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "Allaah said: 'Every deed of the son of Adam is for him except fasting; it is for Me and I shall reward for it…"
3 The Prophet saw said "Whoever reads a letter from the Book of Allah, he will have a reward. And that reward will be multiplied by ten. I am not saying that "Alif, Laam, Meem" is a letter, rather I am saying that "Alif" is a letter, "laam" is a letter and "meem" is a letter." Reported by al-Tirmidhi and al-Hakim – Sahih al-Jami' (6469)