Many of us set the best intentions for Ramadan. But oftentimes, when responsibilities pile on (be it for work, school, or daily duties at home), it can sometimes feel like we're balancing too many spinning plates at once. Hands up if you've ever had those long days at work during Ramadan where you come home exhausted and too tired to do much beyond eat, do the compulsory prayers and attend to your daily chores before crash-landing into bed? And when that happens, we may often find ourselves asking the question: how do we strive to make the most out of Ramadan, when work or other responsibilities keep us busy? Well, it's no easy task, but hopefully, we can help out! We've compiled some handy tips for making the most out of Ramadan as a busy Muslim.
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1. Know your priorities, and set boundaries
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We asked our followers on Instagram how they balanced being busy and pursuing a fulfilling Ramadan and many of them kindly responded and mentioned one fundamental principle: to prioritise your ibadah and fit the rest of your schedule around it.
While putting your worship first is super important, many of us also know that it's easier said than done! I think the difference between trying to prioritise our worship and actually succeeding when we have a busy schedule is the ability to set boundaries. By boundaries, this means having the discipline to carve out and protect the time devoted to Ramadan-related activities, even when you'd rather do other things.
An easy example of this is leaving work on time in order to be home to have an iftar with the family and do special prayers such as Tarawih. This has always been a struggle of mine (and many other people I'm sure!) when I have a lot of work on my plate. I would tell myself taking another 15 minutes to get a bit more work out of the way wouldn't hurt and would end up spending an hour instead.
Another example is sleeping late - how many of us have slept late, even though we know it would come back to haunt us the next they when we're snoozing through sahur or nodding off at work? So think of setting boundaries as building the discipline to do what you know will protect your ability to devote time to Allah SWT.
2. Manage your time wisely
This is the perfect place to segue into tip number two. Building the discipline to enforce your boundaries will require a lot of time management, as you'll need to allocate the time you have each day to the different responsibilities you have, and stick to your plan. Good time management can differ from person to person depending on their needs, but a few general suggestions are as follows:
- Have a good grasp of your schedule and your major workloads - be aware of upcoming deadlines, busy periods and events, and plan your workload.
- Use a planning tool of your choice (and there are so many nowadays! From the calendar on your phone, to bullet journals, daily planners, an Excel sheet, or a myriad of apps) to plan out your schedule, so it's easy for you to refer to and see how much time you have scheduled for a task and work accordingly.
- Prioritise the tasks that are urgent and time-sensitive. I have had many occasions where I started on a task that doesn't fall into these categories just because it felt easier but then regretted it because I had too little time to focus on the tasks that were actually urgent.
- Have firm cutoff times for your tasks. For example, if your priority is to be home in time for iftar and prayers, set a cut-off time to leave the office that's sufficient and stick to it.
- Make full use of the time dedicated to your work - restrict distractions or the temptation to multitask different things, so you can hunker down and work efficiently.
- Limit activities that are not a beneficial use of your time.
3. Maximise and improve on the worship and deeds that you already do
Credit: Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) on Facebook
Often times we are focused on doing extra acts of worship during Ramadan, which can get a bit overwhelming when we have a lot going on during the month. So instead of focusing on the additional deeds, one way to make the most out of Ramadan is to concentrate our efforts to improve on the acts of worship that we already do on a day-to-day basis.
An example of this is our prayers. If we are pressed for time and are unable to do extra prayers such as Tarawih, try and improve on the fundamentals of our obligatory prayers. Whether it's making sure to pray on time, being more careful with our recitations during prayer or striving to be more present and focused when praying, these are all incredibly important and worthy deeds.
They strengthen what is essentially the backbone of our faith and the first thing we are asked about on the Day of Judgement so their benefits cannot be understated. Another way to practice this is with our fast itself. From making sure we have our sahur meals in the morning, to adopting sunnah practices such as breaking fast with dates and doing it on time, these are also ways to improve on our current act of worship that can be wonderfully fulfilling.
4. Remember that work and other daily responsibilities are ibadah too
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While many of us strive to do acts of worship during Ramadan, it's also important to remember that our daily tasks can be ibadah too! Set your intentions to do your work and responsibilities for Allah SWT. Doing so, not only helps us remember that everything, even the pursuit of our work or rezeki, leads back to Allah SWT but it also psychologically helps us remember our ultimate priority is meant to be seeking His pleasure.
I think it also helps to remember that when things get busy, that is all the more reason to turn to Allah. In the thick of work, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and sacrifice our time and connection with Him because we want to clear our workload (which I've done unfortunately one too many times) when in fact this is exactly when we should seek His help.
Pray for guidance and the ability to do your work with the right intentions. Pray for Him to ease your path and be able to complete your work, and complete it well. Pray that the work you do is accepted as good deeds and will bring you closer to Him.
In addition to setting the right intentions, and seeking Allah's help, don't forget to place care and effort into carrying out your duties responsibly. Take pride in the work that you do, and don't cut corners just for the sake of completing it.
5. Find opportunities for worship throughout the day
Credit: Masjid Al-Falah Learning & Information Centre on Facebook
Extra acts of worship during Ramadan do not necessarily have to equate to staying up nightly to do special prayers or completing a reading of the Quran during the month. While these are commendable goals, the fact of the matter is, not everyone will have the capacity to do so.
And rather than forcing yourself to do it at the expense of your well-being, it is far better to simply try your best within your means and do what you can. Remember that incremental improvements are just as important, perhaps even more so if they mean we are able to do them more consistently! Here are some ideas for adopting extra acts of worship throughout your day:
- Devote 10 - 15 minutes before or after any of your prayers to read 1- 2 pages of the Qur'an. Alternatively, you can also read one verse a day! Apps like Muslim Pro (available on Apple and Android) come in great handy for this, as they often have a verse of the day that you'll receive through push notifications so you can do quick read any time of the day.
- Zikir during your spare moments, be it while commuting to work, waiting for the elevator, queuing up to buy food for iftar or anything at all!
- If you can't make it to the mosque for Tarawih, don't forget that you can also do it on your own at home (check out our handy Tarawih guide that has all you need to know on this special prayer!).
- Try to always be in a state of wudhu'
- Read books or listen to podcasts that help you increase your knowledge of Islam (P.S. if you're looking for a spot in Singapore to stock up on Islamic books, check our Wardah Books on Bussorah Street!).
- Reflect on your blessings and express gratitude to Allah, even if it's a simple 'Alhamdulillah'.
- Do charitable deeds where you can, even if it's something as simple as helping to lay out prayer mats when you attend prayers at the mosque or donating iftar meals for the needy.
6. Take care of your health
Credit: Masjid Al-Falah - Islamic Learning & Information Centre on Facebook
As mentioned in tip number five, it's better to do the best that you can, rather than forcing acts of worship during Ramadan, especially when it comes to the detriment of your health and well-being. Taking care of your health is a factor that shouldn't be underestimated in its importance, especially during the month of Ramadan when we're fasting and have a busy schedule to boot.
To get the most out of Ramadan, make sure to take care of your health - practice eating in moderation, and remember to drink plenty of water so you don't get dehydrated. Enforce your boundaries (tip 1!) and sleep on time, so you get adequate rest and can power through the day or the extra time devoted to prayer at night.
Be smart with your choices - if you're overworked and lacking sleep, it may make more sense to get a good night's sleep and carry out your other daily worship and responsibilities properly, rather than forcing yourself to stay up to do extra prayers.
Take a nap during the day if you need a break - sometimes a power nap is just the boost you need to gain productivity and work better. Remember that your health is a blessing, and you should strive to care for and protect it.
That wraps up our tips for how to make the most out of Ramadan as a busy Muslim! May we all strive to do our best, and may our deeds be accepted by Him, Amin! Do share with us any tips that you may have in the comments so that we can hopefully all benefit and improve together.