As we are spiritually preparing for the month of Ramadan, I would like to suggest the following program to help everyone—including those who go to work early in the morning or to school—have an enjoyable, organized, and well-spent month.
Many people hold the perception that fasting in Ramadan demands a tremendous amount of energy, and therefore many activities should be reduced and many projects should be postponed until Ramadan is over. I would like to suggest in the following lines a simple schedule, as I was asked by some brothers and sisters on how to organize life during this blessed month. This schedule can also be applied outside Ramadan.
- Sleep well
If you come back from Tarawih at 10:00 every night, try to sleep at 11:00 in order to wake up for sahur (pre-dawn meal), as it was the sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to eat something before Fajr. You can go back to sleep after Fajr if you wish. Otherwise, it is better to try to close your eyes even for a few minutes after Zhuhr and take a power nap even for 15 or 20 minutes during lunch time. The afternoon nap is very neglected by people although it was widely taken in the past. Any fasting person will benefit from fasting not only spiritually; but if one has a healthy and rested body, there can also be many medical and physical benefits.
- Manage your time wisely
Make a “to do” list every day. Review your to do list and refresh your memory about scheduled meetings or classes. Put things that are most important at the top and do them first. If it’s easier, use a planner to track all of your tasks. Make your most important phone calls early, as you’re more likely to catch people at their desks at the beginning of the day. Then use your paper or electronic calendar to divide the rest of the day into project segments. Even if your time estimates are approximate, they help you focus on how much you can realistically expect to get done. Attack the most important projects when your personal energy is highest. For you who are fasting, this may be first thing in the morning.
Check your e-mail and messages throughout the day, again sorting them immediately. Read and respond to urgent items, but file the rest away for the time you’ve already scheduled to handle them.
Wrap up the day and prepare for tomorrow. Review your checklist and cross off completed items. Move any pending items to a fresh list for tomorrow.
On another note, count your hours. If you sleep for six or seven hours and work for eight hours plus the traffic—which can be on average one to two hours—you are left with seven to nine hours for other things. Shopping, meals, and time with the family will take an average of four to five hours, and the time in the mosque at night for religious lessons, `Ishaa’ and Tarawih will take a maximum of two to three hours. You will be left with another two hours that you can use for either more learning about Islam or for school homework or extra business or work from your job.
- Manage your energy wisely
The best fasting is the one that makes a person cooler and less angry and excited in a negative way. Fasting teaches discipline and self-control. It constantly reminds the individual of continuous abstinence and observance. Therefore, since the body stores different components of energy, it needs to be functioning according to what it can take during the hours from Fajr till Maghrib. While managing your time, make sure that you do the most demanding jobs or activities early in the morning without exhausting yourself. Rest in between different tasks and breathe in enough oxygen at all times. Most of the stress is caused by less breathing and more worry and unrest. Try to understand where you’re losing time the most and cut it down. This way you will also save energy.
- Make your rest the daily Prayer
Prayer rests the mind, the body, and the spirit. Use your break time for Prayer in congregation if you can. Since many of us want to finish the Qur’an at least once in Ramadan, try to read a small portion—two to four pages—before or after Prayer.
- Eat and drink well
Allah the Almighty ordered us to eat and drink between Maghrib and Fajr in a way that shows continuity. This is medically proven to be the best eating habit. It means you should eat small portions every 3 or 4 hours instead of having a long interval of 10 hours between the 2 meals (iftar and sahur). This also applies to drinking, since the body needs to store a minimum of 2 liters of liquid a day.
- Watch less TV
Unfortunately, it is widely practiced in many Muslim countries to stay up all night, or spend most of the night watching TV and movies for hours instead of doing useful things. Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an. It is an intensive season of worship and spiritual elevation. It is not the month of entertainment and comedy shows. We all like to laugh and have fun and balance things, but if the entertainment becomes the mood of the nights of Ramadan, then we are missing the point of fasting.
- Complete a project
Try to set some goals in the beginning of Ramadan and plan for the whole month in a way you will achieve by the end of the month what you intend to achieve. For instance, commit yourself to collect for your mosque, orphanage, or school, etc., a certain amount of money by contacting your close ones and friends. If you achieve more than half, then it will be a success and it will encourage you to do better the next year, in sha’ Allah.
By Imam Hamid Slimi**