“The month of Ramadan has come, a blessed month in which Allah Almighty has obligated you to fast. In it the gates of the heavens are opened, and in it the gates of Hellfire are closed, and in it the devils are chained, and in it is a night that is better than a thousand months. Thus, whoever is deprived of its good is truly deprived.”
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him
Every year, when the month of Ramadan draws to a close, we are left with mixed emotions. With its parting, we often experience feelings of grief, failure, and guilt. We feel sad because the month of mercy is gone, we feel like we failed because we did not carry out everything as planned, and we feel guilty because we did not take full advantage of its many opportunities to do good. In addition, we may find ourselves defeated because the devils are no longer chained, and thus, they have the full ability to derail us for the remainder of the year (as if we need the extra “help,” :::sigh:::). The last words of the abovementioned hadith echo in the back of our minds – “whoever has been deprived of its good is truly deprived.” In many circles, we call this phenomenon the “post-Ramadan blues.”
Are you feeling deprived? If you can relate, I want you to know that you are not alone. I am right there with you. For busy mothers especially, earning the rewards of Ramadan can seem like an unachievable goal. I cried at the adhan of Maghrib this year. While my children cheered and celebrated that it signaled the beginning of the Eid holiday, I sank into a squat on my kitchen floor grasping onto the last date of Ramadan. I was not ready for it to end. Each intonation of the call to prayer was a jagged knife plunging into my heart. I felt so much remorse for the time I lost, the pages of Quran that I did not read, the taraweeh prayers I did not attend, the iftar dinners I did not cook, and the heartfelt tahajjud duas I never made. I wept over the last ten nights in which I could not stay awake or in which I did not wake up on time to pray anything before fajr, missing valuable moments for supplication and even the suhur meal. With an active, breastfeeding toddler in tow and three older children fasting, this year felt like I was busier and more distracted than ever.
It took me some time to collect myself and think positively, but admittedly, it is a difficult thing to do when we are experiencing the post-Ramadan blues and that is compounded by our usual mom guilt.
Here are five things to help you overcome these negative feelings and plan for the next time.
1. Our deeds are judged by our intentions.
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said,
“Actions are according to intentions, and everyone will get (the reward for) what was intended….”
I don’t think any practicing Muslim in their right mind approaches Ramadan half-heartedly. The majority of us intend to make the most out of this special time through fasting and extra worship. We understand its importance and we know that not everyone gets to experience it due to illness or death. As parents, we put even more effort to make it special for our children by decorating our homes, getting them used to waking up for suhur, encouraging them to fast, etc. Hence, we should acknowledge that we went into the month with good intentions and hope that Allah will reward us for it.
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, explained this concept thoroughly when he said,
“Verily, Allah has recorded good and bad deeds and He made them clear. Whoever intends to perform a good deed but does not do it, then Allah will record it as a complete good deed. If he intends to do it and does so, then Allah the Exalted will record it as ten good deeds up to seven hundred times as much or even more. If he intends to do a bad deed and does not do it, then Allah will record for him one complete good deed. If he does it, then Allah will record for him a single bad deed.”
2. Even if we did the minimum, it is a lot!
Take an inventory of your deeds during the month. Create a list and check off what you accomplished. Here are some examples of things you may have achieved:
- Did you fast? Check.
- Did you pray all your five daily prayers? Check.
- Did you wake up for suhur? Check.
- Did you add any extra prayers at any time? Check.
- Did you feed any fasting person (even your spouse, parent, or child)? Check.
- Did you read at least some Quran (in any language)? Check.
Realize that even what you think is nothing is still better than what most of the global population was doing. We should be proud and grateful that fasting was made easy for us; that is the spirit of Ramadan. When speaking about the month, Allah says in the Quran,
“… Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.”
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:185)
3. Allah loves small deeds that are consistent.
What were you able to do consistently this Ramadan? Can you think back and point out one thing that you did every day, even if it was seemingly insignificant?
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, used to encourage his followers to take things easy and work according to their limits. He said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.”
As I reflected on my own Ramadan experience, I began to think about what, if anything, I may have done consistently. One simple thing I remember is that this Ramadan, I did not sit down for a full meal, until I prayed maghrib. In previous years, there were occasions where I delayed the prayer and ate dinner first. This year, I would have a date and some water, pray maghrib, and eat after. It may not sound like a big deal, but at least it was something good that was consistent. I pray that Allah accepts it as an extra special good deed. You may have done something similar and even better. Trust that Allah knows and sees all, and that He knows what is in your heart.
4. Follow up Ramadan with the six days of Shawwal and other good deeds.
If a person only does good during Ramadan, what good is that? No doubt that some worship is better than none. However, Ramadan should serve to recharge our faith batteries to keep us active all year-round. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said,
“Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of fasting in the month of Shawwal, it will be as if he has fasted for the entire year.”
Notice that this enormous reward is for those who just do the minimum of fasting plus the six days. There is no mention of extra acts of worship like reading the Quran, dhikr, and dua.
Feeling terrible about how lousy we think we did during Ramadan should also motivate us to do better outside of Ramadan. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said,
“Have taqwa (fear) of Allah wherever you may be, and follow up a bad deed with a good deed which will wipe it out, and behave well towards the people.”
We should get into the habit of performing acts of righteousness after we repent from any wrongdoing. If we truly feel like we failed, then we should do our best to make up for that by doing good. As mentioned in this hadith, even being polite counts towards cancelling out our bad deeds.
Maybe we did not read as much Quran as we wanted to, so we can make it a habit to read at least a page or two a day. Perhaps we did not give in charity during the month – put a few dollars in the sadaqa box every time you visit the masjid. Fast the six days of Shawwal, the three white days, and/or even take up Mondays and Thursdays to fast if you can. As a motivator to fast outside of Ramadan, the Prophet once mentioned,
“Fasting the month of patience, Ramadan, and three days from every month is like fasting the entire year.”
If fasting is too difficult, we can try something else. Choose an action that is easy for you and stick with it to make it consistent throughout the year.
5. Mercy does not end with the end of Ramadan.
The month of Ramadan may be known as the Month of Mercy, but our Lord is the Most Merciful. So much so, that human beings cannot even begin to fathom just how Merciful He is. In a hadith, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, explained,
“Allah made mercy into one hundred parts. He kept 99 parts with Himself and sent down one part to the earth. From that one part, the creation is merciful to each other, such that a horse raises its hoof over its child for fear of trampling it.”
This mercy does not only encompass pious people, but also sinners and those of us who think we are falling short. Allah says in the Quran,
“Say, ‘O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.’”
(Surah Az-Zumar, 39:53)
If we acknowledge this quality and name of Allah of the Most Merciful, then we should expect nothing but mercy from Him. If we think good of Allah, we will find goodness and forgiveness.
In a hadith qudsi, Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace be and blessings on him, said,
“Allah Almighty says: I am as My servant expects of Me and I am with him as he remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I will remember him in Myself. If he mentions Me in a gathering, I will mention him in a greater gathering. When he draws near Me by the span of his hand, I draw near him by the length of a cubit. When he draws near Me by the length of a cubit, I draw near him by the length of a fathom. When he comes to Me walking, I come to him running.”
This narration teaches us to think positively about Allah. We should remain optimistic that He will accept our good deeds and intentions. Even our Ramadan regrets can be a form of remembering Allah, and thus, will be rewarded accordingly.
We should continuously remind ourselves that Allah has made this religion easy, and He does not want to overburden us. We may not have won the Ramadan marathon, but we crossed the finish line. That is noteworthy in itself! In the following beautiful verses of the Quran, Allah says:
“And strive for Allah with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty... So, establish prayer and give zakah and hold fast to Allah. He is your protector; and excellent is the protector, and excellent is the helper.”
(Surah Al-Hajj, 22:78)
Just imagine - even though our worship is for Allah, it is He who aids us in performing these acts of worship. We should never despair as long as we are trying. Let us turn our grief into gratitude to prepare for the next Ramadan. Insha’Allah, it will be even better.
May Allah preserve us, allow us to reach Ramadan, and accept it from us. Ameen.
Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, award-winning poet, translator, and mother of six (ages ranging from infant to teen). She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in Spanish (hablamosislam.org). She has written, illustrated, and published over a dozen children’s books and currently lives with her family in Maryland. Follow Wendy Díaz on social media @authorwendydiaz and @hablamosislam.