Divorce from the stresses and rigours of life, with an escape to the true reality of existence.
Moments that are so rare, yet so precious.
Moments that you need to force yourself into, because if you don’t push for them, you simply won’t get them.
I speak, here, of i’tikaaf – the voluntary seclusion in the masjid, which is most common (but not limited to) the final 10 days and nights of Ramadaan. Personally, I don’t yet have the courage to embark on this blessed sojourn for the full period. The opportunities are there, but internally, I’m not yet ready.
So instead, on rare occasions, I take a mini-version of it – spending a few hours at a time in the masjid, alone, during spiritually significant periods of the year. It usually comes during the days of Hajj, but this year, I took a few days off to do it in these last 10 days of Ramadaan.
I’ve always been a loner, so this kind of excercise comes naturally to me. Yet, since my life moved on to marriage and fatherhood, these opportunities have become extremely rare. For me, it’s not enough to simply be at home – free of responsibilities. I can’t be in my home environment. And I need to have nobody around me – not even those closest to me. Because there’s a certain feeling – a spiritual openness – that comes to me when I know that I’m completely alone. Not a soul around. Just me and my Maker.
Those are times when it’s easier for my heart to open up – not just in dua, but in true internal remembrance of the One Who made me. Who’s been with me through every millisecond, every moment, even before this heart of mine started beating as a foetus in the womb.
For me, one of the greatest blessings of my Hajj journey was the extended periods in the masjid while waiting for salaah. Because of the large crowds, it’s necessary to get there early if you want a spot inside. And so, you plan ahead, and take with you all that you’ll need to take maximum benefit from your time away from the outside world.
And it’s amazing how much you can get done in those hours, or minutes – because you’re separated from schedules, pressures, and the general day-to-day activities of life. For me, it’s not about packing in as much as you can in that period…but rather, it’s about quieting the mind and sincerely connecting to the One Who deserves all of your attention, yet is often simply relegated to ritualistic acts of remembrance which are most often void of sincerity. At least, that’s how it is for me.
And so over the last couple of days, I spent my time in mini-i’tikaaf – having earlier prepared myself with what I would need for those moments. From Quran to a pre-written dua list, reading material, lectures, and even something to do some writing with – alhamdullilah, I had it all. All conveniently packed onto small electronic devices.
The same devices which, most often, consumes my time with information overloads, daily schedules, emails, messages, media, and so much else….devices of productivity, at times, but most often, distraction.
Yet, when they are utilised for the right purposes – dedicated exclusively to good – they are amazing blessings that we can use to elevate ourselves spiritually.
I was fortunate to find a masjid that was quiet, in a period in which there was no activity going on. Given that many masjids host i’tikaaf programmes in these days, it was amazing that I could get in a few hours alone like that – with just one or two people in the main area (engaged in their own ibadah).
And so, I settled down and just did whatever felt good – I let it flow naturally, rather than having a pre-planned programme of what I wanted to do.
And for the first time in so long, I felt an extended period of inner calm. Peace within. Where the spiritual tide of Ramadaan gently washed over me, and every action was an act of worship.
There were no pressures from work or family. There was no expectation to be in a certain place by a certain time. I was completely free to do what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted.
And that….that was bliss.
Because, as explained in a previous post, we are made up of two elements: body and soul. And while we most often feed and nourish our physical beings, we too often neglect the spirit inside. That spirit which is the real place of happiness. That spirit which is nourished by nothing other than acts of worship.
Ramadaan, by default, flips our routines. We suppress our physical desires, and in doing so, our spiritual selves are nourished and grow naturally. Even more so when we completely divorce ourselves from our normal lives, and isolate ourselves in solitude – connecting with our Maker and disconnecting from everything else.
And without the constant enemy of Shaytaan around (for the devils are chained up this month), it’s easier to push aside that which distracted us. It’s easier to see things as they really are. The veils dissipate more easily, and our hearts are fertile for the planting of beautiful seeds.
Seeds that, we hope, will take root in this month, then grow into beautiful new habits, actions, mindsets, and character – in the rest of the year to follow.
But that growth doesn’t come without nourishment. And the sad reality is that, once Eid day comes, many of us simply fall flat. All that we’ve built up disappears – either instantly, or gradually over the days and weeks that follow.
So now – while we have just days left – it’s critical to put in the work and build the foundations we’ll need to carry our newfound goodness beyond Ramadaan. Not only do we need to want to retain some of that goodness after Ramadaan, but we need to plan how we will do this too.
Everyone is on a different level, and everyone’s strengths and challenges are different. Take some time to look at your own life, and see how you can make your post-Ramadaan period a time of continuing goodness. For some help with this, see the previous Looking Forward series (part 1 | part 2 | part 3) – which dealt with this exact notion.
May these last few days and nights be your best of the month thus far. Keep pushing to the end, and savour as much of it as you can – because you never know if you’ll see this blessed visitor again. And please don’t fall victim to that infamous 27th night syndrome – because even though the masses may relax and assume that the month is already over, the true believer does not fall under such delusion. Yes – Eid is a happy occassion, but it’s not here yet. And the end of Ramadaan is a sad loss because it really is the greatest month of each year.
So even if it’s been a month of disappointment and underachievement, don’t give up now. There’s still time. All you need to do is a little – with sincerity – and insha-Allah you’ll still take immense benefit from the dying moments of Ramadaan.
JazakAllah khair for reading, and if it’s not too much trouble, please try to remember me and my family in one of your duas.