This month is usually one of great inspiration for me. In previous years, the words have overflowed on these pages each Ramadan – both in reflective postings as well as practical advices. But this year is different. I find myself being stifled by both time and circumstance; unable to bring forth even a shadow of the writing effort I exerted in years gone by.
Still, though, the spirit – and habit – can’t be buried any longer, and I find myself writing this post not so much out of inspiration, but more because I need to write. I can’t let another night go by taking the great benefits of the month (which I am enjoying), without expressing something from within.
So here I sit. I’ll probably stay awake far later than I would like, with the sole intent of pouring forth something that I hope will result in some benefit for both myself and you, the reader.
Planning to not plan
So, we’re more than a week into Ramadan, and for the most part, I’m very pleased with the spiritual revival it’s brought me personally. Due to circumstances that I’ve mentioned later on, I totally abandoned my usually-detailed Ramadan planning this year. My only plan was to ‘do a little more – consistently’, because I knew that any grand plans would be bound to fail given the impending events (again, read on to find out what I’m talking about).
So far, mostly, I’ve managed to stick to the vague plan – doing a little extra each day. And it’s been beautiful because the very concept that I always harp on – i.e. doing small and consistent deeds (which is from a hadith of the Prophet s.a.w.) – is what’s kept me spiritually ‘inflated’ so far. Prior to this, I felt like I’d been in spiritual ICU for far too long.
Work – spiritual life balance
I think probably a big contributing factor to that state was my job. I’ve been in a new job for nearly a year, and it’s been hands-down the most demanding position I’ve ever had. Compared to my previous job – which was actually quite easy – this one is really the answer to what I was seeking in a professional position. It’s filled with good challenges that help me grow, while still being something I can just manage – if I apply myself and look at it positively.
I’ve already taken precious lessons from an incident earlier this year, which was the biggest professional disaster I’ve ever faced. And as the weeks pass, I realise that that situation wasn’t necessarily an isolated example of pressure. By my standards (which are based on a relatively easy career path up to now), it is a really high pressure job, and I can see why the department I’m in has a reputation for having one of the highest sick rates in the overall institution.
Still though, my pressures are still small compared to others. (Though to be fair, the same can probably be said of my salary – so it works out in the end :) ).
Anyway, my point here is that being under this much pressure for such an extended period has taken its toll on my spiritual state. And I realise now that, since this is now the permanent state of my professional life, I need to work harder on my spiritual side – to balance out the harder work and bigger focus that my work has demanded.
Without pushing myself spiritually, the worldly matters are going to continue to eat up more and more of me, until there’s nothing left but a superficial shell.
So there’s lesson number one for this post: When worldly pressures compromise your spiritual state, push harder on the spiritual side to maintain the balance.
The never-ending story
Aside from that, another big thing occupying me is home-related maintenance. We’ve just come through a few very challenging months of home maintenance related disasters. The biggest culprit was a leaking pipe, which in turn spawned hectic plumbing repairs, tiling, painting, and 2 rounds of re-flooring. Add to that separate electrical problems, a not-so-water-resistant window, and geyser issues, and you get many weeks of frustration.
These things just dragged on and on and on, and it was actually funny at times to think that when one thing was finished, you could pretty much expect something else would come up soon after.
Alhamdullilah – as of today, it seems that it’s finally over.
Mind you, we’ll need to get a few compliance certificates soon, so there’s a chance that the inspections will uncover even more work to be done….but by now, I really don’t care anymore. We’ll just have to deal with whatever comes up if it does.
Is there a lesson from this? Well, nothing deeply insightful. Just practical: when you move into a house (or before that, actually), get good, trustworthy people to check out your plumbing and electrical stuff. The previous resident isn’t necessarily going to tell you about all the flaws (or they may not even know), but it’s better for you to spend the money upfront, find out potential issues, and deal with it at the start – so that once you’re settled in, you don’t have to turn your house upside down with repairs.
Of course, you can never anticipate all the things that could go wrong – so it’s best to still expect trouble.
Actually, one other lesson for me in all this was to remember to be grateful for what I have. If you look at a home, there are so many wires and pipes running all over the place – in hard to reach places like walls and floors. Sure, one or two things may go wrong and become a headache. But what about the hundred other things that could have gone wrong but didn’t?
Bear patience in the things that do go wrong, and thank Allah for all the things that didn’t go wrong. And if you’re grateful, insha-Allah He will give you more (see Surah Ibrahim, verse 7).
The big event
And that brings me to the impending events mentioned earlier. What should have been my biggest focus for this last while, but hasn’t been: baby number 2 is due near the end of the month, insha-Allah.
Four years ago, before the birth of our first child, I wrote these reflections on this blog. I read through it again last night, and have picked up a recurring pattern: back then, I could barely remember the period before marriage – which was odd since that was the most emotionally intense period of my life. As life moved from one stage to the next, the old stage was forgotten.
Now, the almost-2-years of marriage before our daughter was born seems like a hundred years ago. Again, as I moved from one stage of life to the next, the old stage faded tremendously in my memory.
Chances are, this current stage I’m in is going to suffer that same fate in a few years. I’ll probably look back on tonight, and this post, and not remember much about how it was to be married with just one child.
Such is life: it moves on. What was once so important to us, and so immediate in our minds, becomes a vague memory, as we have new things to focus on.
And on and on the pattern continues.
I guess the lesson from this segment is: appreciate what you have in the moment, and take what benefit you can from it now, because in time, it’ll become nothing more than a memory. Related to that, if your current situation is one of extreme challenges, remember that in one year, five years, or ten years, it’ll probably meet the same fate – becoming just a memory. You just need to get through it now, be patient, try to take whatever benefit you can from it, and know that it’ll pass. Life moves on. And so will you, insha-Allah.
So there we have it. The Ramadan magic strikes again – inspiring lessons through the process of writing, and I hope that – first and foremost – I will remember and apply these lessons going forward.
As for this blog for the rest of the month, you’ll have to forgive me if I write nothing else after this. It’s looking like the baby will be arriving in 2 weeks’ time, so hopefully I’ll get something else up here before that – but after that, I’m going to have my hands full.
As mentioned before, though, you can expect the Hajj Chronicles series to continue roughly every 2 weeks – finishing in late September insha-Allah (which is just before this year’s Hajj). For those wanting to read the rest before then, though, I’m hoping to have the complete e-book version ready by the end of Ramadan, and make that my Eid gift to you.
There are about three weeks remaining, and we’re heading into the mid-month slump in which our efforts usually wane. If that’s the case for you, remember that this month is a very precious and extremely limited opportunity – just a few days and nights, which you may not live to see again next year. Even if you start slacking now, keep striving to some degree – even if it’s only a little extra you do. Just do it consistently, and with the right intention.
If you can, check out Mufti Menk’s daily 30 minute tafseer from Cape Town – Pearls of Peace from the Noble Quran. These kinds of reminders are especially beautiful in this month, when our hearts are softened.
Remember to make dua for all those suffering across the globe – especially in Syria, Burma, Palestine, Guantanamo, and Egypt; as well as the Uighur Muslims in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, and everywhere else where Muslims are deprived of Ramadan by the authorities.
Also, when the final 10 nights come around, don’t fall victim to 27th night syndrome. Keep pushing until the end, and insha-Allah you’ll see the benefits stretching far into the year ahead.
Wherever you are in the world, enjoy the rest of your Ramadan. May it be the best month of your life, and one which will inspire in you the greatest spirituality that will bring you ever closer to Allah both now and in the months and years to come.