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Ramadan Marathon! Are You Ready? Psychological Approach to Achieving Your Goals


Most people slack off all year religiously and wait for Ramadan to get a new boost of spiritual energy.

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Haleh Banani holds a Master's degree in Clinical Psychology. A faith-based counselor, life coach, and mental health professional who has served the community since 1998 by saving hundreds of marriages and helping thousands of people around the world overcome their challenges and become the most amazing version of themselves. The host of "With Haleh" on Al-Fajr TV and was a featured expert on Al-Jazeera international and other media outlets. She is an international speaker and writer.



  1. Amad

    June 13, 2011 at 5:25 AM

    jazakillahkhair for this great article… getting us prep’d for the big one!
    I have tried fasting on a weekly basis but unlike Ramadan when your body gets in tune with the schedule, one-off fasts give me a splitting headache… so I have essentially given up. Perhaps folks have found a way to get over the body-shock (1-2/week) issue?

    Also, maybe we should think of some good goals to go on the “objectives list”?

    • Ab Yusuf

      June 14, 2011 at 5:06 PM

      There are 2 main possible reasons for the splitting headaches:
      1) caffeine withdrawal if you are used to drinking a lot of coffee or tea in the mornings
      2) dehydration – drinking lots of water at suhoor time will prevent headaches

      • @modestgrrl

        July 11, 2011 at 11:07 PM

        This week I am drinking only 1 cup of half-caf, and I will do this until 1 week before Ramadan inshallah when I will switch over to 100% decaf. It’s the only way I can survive the headaches…. nip the addiction in the bud before the fasting begins.

  2. abu Abdullah

    June 13, 2011 at 7:13 AM

    jazaki Allah khayr, may Allah reward you immensely for the reminders.

    We mentioned in the article the following quote,
    To start with the end in mind means to have a clear understanding of the destination.

    I am narrowing it down on to, Decision making.. What steps or ideas would you suggest to build up towards effective decision making and most importantly for staying on the course (istiqama) once we take the idea, with an end goal in mind. Please advise on the same with some objective list.

    @Amad Bhai, Drinking more water in non fasting days will keep up your hydration level during those 1/2 days insh Allah, wallahu ‘alam. If you don’t know (cause of your headaches), consult the one who knows (doctor).

    • Mariam

      June 14, 2011 at 6:12 PM

      1- Brainstorm: Make a list of all the available options. Ask people you trust for help in coming up with more options.

      2- Decide the pros and cons of each option.

      3- Be very clear as to what your goals are so as to narrow down and eventually choose only one

      4- Do not announce the decision right away because you may have overlooked core principles affecting your decision, which won’t come to you until some time later.

      5- Make salatul istikharah and make the resolve to stick to your decision.

      6- Change the decision ONLY if the benefit FAR FAR outweighs the harm. Changing decisions too often is very harmful.

      There are many online resources available on how to make good decisions but there is no substitute for trial and error and deep reflection on the outcome of each choice.


      • abu Abdullah

        June 14, 2011 at 10:46 PM

        Thank you so much for responding to my naive looking but genuine concern of decision making. jazaki Allah khayr. May Allah reward you fro the naseeha. I had lost hope getting any response about it (but see the homie here has so much attention on his query who brags openly he didn’t get any :) but I am sure at least you don’t charge 100$ an hour for the opinion. :)

        Now you are at it, When we said that be very clear of the goals, isn’t it ironical that if you are having difficulty in setting those goals in the first place is a clear sign that you are not able to ‘decide’ on them. Making Istikhara, insh Allah often comes after you make a decision, right? and we seek good in that decision from Allah. Please elaborate more on solutions for not sticking to a decision and wavering it.

        barak Allah feeki.

        • Mariam

          June 17, 2011 at 6:16 PM

          Setting goals and making decisions go hand in hand, but they are not the same.

          One may be very clear as to what his goals are – getting to Jannah, for example – and his goals may never change.

          Howvever, the world around him continuously changes (his health, the environment, family responsibility, etc) and he must be able to take all these factors into consideration when deciding how to go about acheiving his goals. A good decision maker can plan out his future and adapt to varying situations without straying too far from the original plan. This requires that the original plan be made only after one gets to know himself and what his own strengths and weaknesses are, his likes and dislikes, and how flexible he is willing or capable of being.

          One who does stray very far from the plan may do so become the situation has become extreme and requires drastic action or because the plan itself was unrealistic.

          It is important to remember that no one is born knowing how to do this, rather it is Allah who guides us only after we do our best:

          وَمَن يُؤۡمِنۢ بِٱللَّهِ يَہۡدِ قَلۡبَهُ

  3. Ayesha

    June 13, 2011 at 7:56 AM

    My mom mash a Allah has been fasting regularly for an entire year for a couple of years now, only taking weekend breaks etc. At one point she did start having splitting headaches and body aches which went away after she started taking a good multivitamin with sahur.
    I’m guessing a vitamin during the week and also on when you fast will make sure you don’t get a biddy shock during the 2/week fasting days. Jazakallah for a very inspirational post.

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  5. nyla

    June 13, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    Assalamualaikum! JazakAllah khair for this very informative and useful article.

    Headaches are a common complaint during Ramadan and there are many factors that make most of us prone to them. Here are some of the triggers and how we could tackle them:

    – Dehydration.
    Be sure to hydrate your body well during the non fasting hours. I know this isn’t easy especially for people living in Northern Europe and Canada and most of the northern parts of the US as the sun sets very late and we only get a small window of time in which we aren’t fasting.

    – Eating foods high in sugar content, especially at the time of Suhur.
    Foods high in sugar content should be avoided or minimized as they cause the blood sugar levels to shoot up rapidly which then leads to a quick drop of these levels which triggers headaches and makes one feel low on energy.

    – Not getting enough sleep.
    With all the changes the body is going through as a result of the new routine and increased ibadah, it’s not always easy to get enough shut-eye. Not sleeping for 6 to 7 hours at a stretch and taking a nap for shorter periods instead could also trigger headaches.

    – Being heavily dependent on caffeine outside of Ramadan.
    Not getting enough of your regular caffeine dosage during Ramadan (caffeine withdrawal) can trigger these nasty headaches. Try getting your body used to not having your regular mid-morning latte a few weeks before the start of the holy month. Or skip the late afternoon chai around 3 times a week during Sha’ban. This should make it easier for your body to adjust, inshaAllah.

    – Not eating healthy/eating too much or too little/lack of exercise.
    Enough has been said about this almost everywhere. Yes, we all know the drill. :)

    Don’t forget to make dua (ofcourse)
    Ask Allah to make this transition physically, mentally and spiritually easy for us so that we make the best use of Ramadan and are able to reap the rewards it brings with it, iA.,42098.asp

    • Haleh

      June 13, 2011 at 5:32 PM

      wa iyyaki – you have provided useful information yourself masha’Allah. I generally try to wean myself off the caffeine a few weeks before Ramadan in order to avoid negative symptoms while fasting. Another suggestion is having a dosage of caffeine at suhur time – this may be easier than giving it up completely.

      @Brother Amad give nafl fasting another try with a shot of caffeine at suhur and see if the headache goes away.

      If we apply all these pointers we can transcend the physical challenges and embrace the spiritual high that comes from fasting with sincere intentions.


  6. UmmSarah

    June 13, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    I get very severe migraines. Despite of all these tips, I end up getting really sick by inftar time. I wish I knew some better way to cope with it.

    • Haleh

      June 13, 2011 at 5:40 PM

      Make sure you eat a full meal at suhur – it really makes a big difference. There are many people that treat suhur like snack time or light breakfast and that’s just fine if their body accepts it, but if you are getting sick then try having a complete meal (salad, complex carbohydrates with some protein & a few dates) It may not be what you feel like having but it’s what your body may need. If you just simply can’t eat something heavy in the morning try having a milkshake with bananas and honey – it’s really filling.

      Also, pray tahajud and ask Allah to make it easier for you to fast so you can reap the spiritual benefits without being debilated with the migranes.

      insha’Allah you will be better this Ramadan! :)


      • UmmSarah

        June 14, 2011 at 2:07 PM

        You are right, I sometimes treat suhur like snack time but usually, I do try to eat full meal and also take my vitamins or a healthy smoothie. I will try banana shake, see how it goes.

    • Sebkha

      June 13, 2011 at 6:33 PM

      I get them too-splitting headaches, nausea, and cold sweats sometimes. Even when I’m out of the initial shock of the first couple days, and hitting my Ramadan stride, they can still come on and knock me out. The only thing keeping me going then is my faith, and they do finally subside, alhamdulillah. Haleh’s tips are great though, I plan on trying them in the next couple weeks to see how I do. We eat lots of avocados at suhoor too, with whole grain toast and protein shakes, and it definitely keeps you full longer. I’m going to start now with the caffeine detox too-I hope it helps. I’m a coffee fiend unfortunately. :-/

    • Rifaie

      June 13, 2011 at 10:54 PM

      It might be that you are losing too much water and not replenishing it to the required level once your fasting is over.In my case, I break fast with just a date or 2 , and a couple big glasses of water.I barely notice the water then. I take a heavier meal after Salah. Maybe if you could make sure that you are , at least at the beginning of the fast at Suhoor time, hydrated enough.
      I usually gauge this for myself by whether I need to go to bathroom after a given level of water intake – if i don’t , then I know that I can use a bit more water.And of course , your issue may well be altogether different, may Allah (SWT) make it easy for you in any case.

  7. Sakina

    June 13, 2011 at 5:05 PM

    AA sister Haleh,
    I am a sister who would like to pursue islamic studies abroad insha’allah, although in a couple of months I have to apply for my chosen university course(s) and currenty I am considering doing pyschology as a degree – it appears to complement islamic studies quite well
    As a sister who writes in a balance between psychology and islamic issues, I’d love it if I could get in contact with you, through email or something
    Sakina Fletcher

    • Haleh

      June 13, 2011 at 5:43 PM

      Salam Sakina,
      It’s great that you are considering to pursue psychology!
      You can contact me at:


  8. Hena Zuberi

    June 14, 2011 at 4:27 AM

    Jazakillah Khair for the reminder and tips Haleh- it was such an easy read and relevant that even my teen-aged cousins were sharing it with their friends on Facebook (the types who never post ‘religious’ stuff on their newsfeeds :))

    For some Ramadan is the finish line to a blessed year and for others it is the start to a blessed year- how amazing our deen is, accommodating either perspective !

    • Haleh

      June 16, 2011 at 3:43 PM

      Wa iyyaki… I’m thrilled that the teenagers enjoyed it. They are the most impressionable and it’s great when we can can have a positive impact on them!

  9. R

    June 15, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    I LOVE this. Thank you for whoever complied it! I allahamdillah have created a plan, my task is to stick with it. May Allah swt grant us all the ability to make this the best Ramadan EVER! All aboard :) Remember fail to plan, plan to fail.

  10. Sister

    June 16, 2011 at 1:11 AM

    Asalamualaikum jazakumullahu khair for the wonderful advice sister! May Allah guide us all to act upoun it! With all due to respect and love, i would kindly like to point out that the pitcure that u used at the outset of the article, while being very relevant and motivating; is a little inappropriate in that it has pitcures of men that are inapporopriately dressed. Muslim matters is a site, which thousands of people look up to and trust, and i feel it would do more good insha’Allah if everything we use in our posts is according to the guidelines of Quran and Sunnah.

    • Siraaj

      June 17, 2011 at 3:26 PM

      Walaykum as salaam Sister,

      Jzk for your feedback, it’s greatly appreciated. You’re correct, the picture was inappropriate and should have not been published, and so we apologize to you and our readers for this oversight, and we ask Allah to forgive us this mistake. We’ve changed it out for a new picture (all I could find on short notice!), if anyone has another one to add to this most excellent article by Dr. Haleh, I’d greatly appreciate it.


  11. shamim khan

    June 27, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    I get them too-splitting headaches, nausea, and cold sweats sometimes. Even when I’m out of the initial shock of the first couple days, and hitting my Ramadan stride, they can still come on and knock me out. The only thing keeping me going then is my faith, and they do finally subside, alhamdulillah. Haleh’s tips are great though, I plan on trying them in the next couple weeks to see how I do. We eat lots of avocados at suhoor too, with whole grain toast and protein shakes.

    • Haleh

      June 30, 2011 at 2:31 AM

      Alhamdulillah …happy to hear that you will try it out before Ramadan. It’s essential to develop healthy coping skills while fasting so you can have the strength to do the worship with vigor and concentration which is the essence of the blessed month of Ramadan!


  12. kanwal

    June 29, 2011 at 4:36 AM

    JazakAllah Khair….its really helpful

  13. radwa

    July 1, 2011 at 8:15 AM

    great tips
    jazakom allah kol khayr

  14. Erfan

    July 5, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    As salaamu alaikum

    Shaykh Dr. Bilal Philips had three extremely beneficial sessions at his Masjid in Qatar last year uploaded on Youtube. He went over goals, the time frame and how to go about achieving the goals and etc. I had not seen a Ramadan prep session unlike that before. Highly recommended. Pen and paper will come in handy:

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  17. Hafsa Tariq

    July 20, 2011 at 1:13 AM

    بارك الله فيك

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