The countdown has begun and we have less than one and half months left until the greatest month of the year, Ramadan! I’m sure by now most of you are stock-piling the goodies for iftar and downloading as many resources as possible for Ramadan preparation but the question remains “How can I manage my time well enough to get it all done?”
That is what this series of articles is going to assist you with, insha Allah. Without any further intro, let’s jump right into our Time Management Tips for Ramadan:
1. Plan in Advance
Time Management is divided between planning and application. Without adequate planning, there isn’t anything much to apply and the result is another Ramadan that just flies by. Don’t allow this to be such a Ramadan. You have a few weeks to plan this properly, so let’s start working on our plans now.
To plan for Ramadan, we need to be clear regarding the goals (Maqasid) of Ramadan. As per the Qur’an, we know that fasting has been obligated on us to increase our Taqwa (God-consciousness) and that the Qur’an was revealed in Ramadan as a guidance for mankind. (See Surah Al-Baqarah, verses 183 and 185)
This means our overall objective of Ramadan should be an increase in Guidance and Taqwa. Every goal you formulate must work towards these two ends. With this end goal being clear, let’s move on to the next step.
2. Calculate how much Ibaadah time you will have daily
Ideally, we all want to spend Ramadan performing acts of worship 24/7, but this isn’t realistic and most of us have other obligations that we need to take care of as well. As the zeal dies down towards the middle of Ramadan, many people get caught up in their work, family responsibilities and rest, resulting in less Ibadah (acts of worship) being done than initially desired.
This can be avoided by working out in advance how much time you will have daily for Ibadah, then setting goals to get that much Ibadah done minimum daily. The formula is simple: 24 Hours – (Sleep time, Work Time, Family Responsibility) = Ibadah time.
For example, if you need six hours sleep daily, work an eight hour job every day and spent at least an hour helping the children with their homework, add in time for eating Suhoor and Iftar, time spent in traffic and rest time after eating. The average person can free up between four to six hours a day for Ibadah in Ramadan. (Makes me wonder why we can’t do the same outside Ramadan)
Let’s work with a smaller number though, as many people have other responsibilities like preparing meals and visiting relatives. Let’s bring it down to a minimum three hours Ibaadah daily. If you work out that you just have three hours for extra Ibadah everyday in Ramadan, that is still enough time to accomplish some major goals. Multiply three by 29 and you get 87 hours of Ibadah. 87 hours of optional Ibadah in one month can transform your life and increase your Taqwa dramatically.
This means if you just schedule in an hour of Qur’an reciting, an hour of studying Islam and an hour for dua and dhikr, you can really get a lot done if you stick with that for the entire month. This brings us to point number three.
3. Set Clear Goals
Now that you know the overall goals of Ramadan and how much time you have available daily to chase these goals, the next step is to set S.M.A.R.T goals to dedicate this time to. S.M.A.R.T means that the goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Let me give you an example.
If you make it a goal to study some Tafsir this Ramadan, the problem with this goal is that it is too vague (which Tafsir), not measurable (How many pages), and not attainable or realistic (does one page of Tafsir fulfil the goal or five books of Tafisr?)
A S.M.A.R.T goal would be: I want to complete studying this 800-page book of Tafsir this Ramadan. In order to complete 800 pages in 29 days, I need to read an average of 28 pages a day. This goal is:
Specific – It is a specific book of Tafsir you plan to read
Measurable – It is easy to measure and keep track of 28 pages daily
Attainable – It is possible to read 28 pages of Tafsir every day if you dedicate an hour to reading daily
Realistic – The book is at your level so it won’t be too difficult to read
Time-Bound – Ramadan takes care of this naturally as all Ramadan goals are time-bound to 29 days
4. Allocate time to each goal
Now that your goals for Ramadan are clearly defined and you know how much time you have daily for Ibaadah, the next step is to combine this by allocating specific times daily for chasing each goal. Eg: If you have the goal of reading 30 pages of Tafsir daily and that will take you an hour, and you know that you have an hour a day free every evening before Tarawih, then allocate that time to be your Tafsir time.
Likewise, allocate specific times of each day things for each important act of worship. This means that you will set a specific time of the day for reciting Qur’an (perhaps before or after Fajr), making dua (before Iftar), having a family Halaqa (perhaps after Asr or after Tarawih) and any other goals you are working towards. Be specific as possible and stick to your times.
There may be days when you are unable to stick to the times completely due to elements beyond your control, but at least by having such a schedule, even on such days, you will make time to get these things done. If you are having an unusually busy day, instead of abandoning these goals completely, try halving them. So instead of not reading Tafsir at all for a day, try reading for half an hour or at least twenty minutes. In this way, you stay on track, even on your busiest days.
5. Utilize the early hours of the morning
Depending on whether Ramadan falls in Summer and Winter in your country, this would refer to the time before or after Suhoor. In Summer countries, Suhoor is quite early and many people can’t wake up too early before it. In that case, I recommend utilizing an hour after Suhoor for Ibadah.
In Winter countries, Suhoor is quite late so waking up an hour before it is easier. In such countries, I recommend waking up an hour earlier (or at least half an hour early) and dedicating that time to Qiyam Al-Layl (Tahajjud), dua and reciting Qur’an.
The reason I emphasize the early mornings is because it is a time known for having Barakah (blessings) and it is a time when we are not pre-occupied with work and family obligations. Making it the best time of the day to dedicate to intense ibadah, a private time alone with Allah.
6. Schedule in a family Halaqa
If this is not already one of your established habits, I recommend starting it this year. Ramadan is the perfect time for the family to bond and grow in Iman together. The devils are locked up and everybody is more spiritual. This spirituality needs to be nurtured so that we can benefit from it after Ramadan. One way to do this is to establish a family Halaqah (study circle).
This can be done by getting to together before Iftar or after Taraweeh, reading a chapter of an Islamic book (or listening to a lecture) then discussing its contents with each other. Involve every member of the family in the discussion, this will train the younger minds of the family to think and reflect, helping them grow into practicing thinking Muslims. The habit of having a family Halaqah is one that should continue after Ramadan.
7. Dedicate time daily for Qur’an
Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an and so it is obvious that time must be dedicated daily to the Qur’an. In some communities, the practice exists of reciting the Qur’an very quickly each Ramadan to get it over with or to complete as many Qur’an recitals as possible. Instead of doing this, focus on reciting properly, studying the Tafsir and reflecting on its meanings. This will have a longer lasting effect on one’s Iman and Taqwa.
8. Avoid Multi-Tasking
This is a general time management tip that applies outside Ramadan as well. In my book “Getting the Barakah” I have the following to say about multi-tasking:
Recent studies have proven that multi-tasking actually slows down productivity and causes sloppy work. When we multi-task, our brains are unable to give any task full attention and as a result, we end up with not much to show for it.
Modern time management experts all agree that focusing on one task at a time gets the task done faster with better quality than multi-tasking. If you are talking to someone, stop everything else you are doing and give them your full attention. If you are writing a book, close everything else and focus on the book and nothing else. If you are preparing for a meeting, focus on that alone and nothing else.
Do this and you fill find yourself accomplishing the task in record time and producing really high quality work too. Then you will still have plenty of time for all the other things you were supposed to do while multi-tasking. (Getting The Barakah, p. 84)
The way this applies to Ramadan is that for each goal, take out time to focus on it and devote proper attention to it. Don’t try to recite Qur’an, while browsing through Facebook and taking care of a child all at the same time. You are unlikely to benefit from a Qur’anic recital unless you are giving it your full attention. The same applies to studying Tafsir or making dua. Choose a place, time and situation in which you will have the least distractions and give the act of worship your undivided focus. This is why I recommend doing the acts of worship during the early parts of the morning, as it is the time when life is least busy and the mind less cluttered.
9. Fast from excessive socializing
This includes both social media and physical socialization. Ramadan is the month of Itikaf, one of the goals of Itikaf is to take a break from our social lives so that we can focus on our relationship with Allah. Even if you are unable to make Itikaf, you can still get this benefit in Ramadan by cutting down on socializing and dedicating more time to Ibaadah. Attend a few less Iftar parties, log into Facebook and Twitter for shorter durations and excuse yourself from unnecessary gatherings. Doing this will free up more time for worshiping Allah.
10. Stay Healthy
You cannot accomplish your goals if you are feeling lazy, weak, agitated or sleep-deprived. Some of us do too much during the first few days of Ramadan and end up without any energy to push on for the remainder of Ramadan. Don’t let this happen to you this year. Pace yourself and take care of your body by getting enough sleep, eating healthy and staying hydrated.
The average person needs between 6-8 hours sleep a night, so make sure you are getting it, even if it means going to bed a bit earlier. Avoid sugary and oily foods and eat wholesome foods for both Suhoor and Iftaar. Research the types of food that give more energy and consume more of those. Drink a lot of water at night before bed as that will keep you hydrated during the day.
Staying healthy includes taking care of our emotional health, but I will tackle that topic in details in a separate article insha Allah.
Netflix released Season 1 of a new thriller series called “Messiah”. The series imagines the emergence of a character claiming to be sent by God, the Messiah, or Al-masih (messiah in Arabic) as he is referred to in the television series.
This so-called Al-masih first emerges in Damascus at a time when ISIS is about to storm the city. He then appears in Palestine, Jordan and ultimately America. Along the way, he performs miracles and dumbfounds the Israeli and American intelligence officers charged with tracking him and figuring out who is enabling him. The season ends with a suggestion that he is truly a divine man, with the ultimate miracle of reviving the dead.
The entertainment value here is quite limited. Some stretches of the series are just flat or straight out boring, and the acting is not all that great. However, the series does create an opportunity for discussion about Muslim eschatology (the knowledge of the end of times), response to fitnah (faith testing tribulations) and Muslims portrayal in and consumption of entertainment media.
The series shows some sophistication in the portrayal of Muslim characters relative to what people have been accustomed to with Hollywood. Characters that are situated in the Middle East are performed by actors from that region who speak authentic regional Arabic (including Levantine and North African dialects). The scenes appear authentic.While this is progress, it is limited, and the series falls into oversimplification and caters to typical stereotypes. While several Muslim characters draw the viewers’ empathy, they are not used to provide context or nuance for issues that the series touches on: ISIS, refugees, the Israeli occupation and suicide bombings. The two American Muslim characters are never really developed. In fact, all Muslim characters tend to be “flat” and one dimensional. This is in contrast, for example, to American and Israeli characters which appear multi-dimensional and complex, often dealing with personal challenges that a Western audience is likely to identify with (caring for an aging parent, mourning the loss of a spouse, balancing career and life, dealing with family separation, abortion, etc.). While Muslim characters are shown as hapless refugees, terrorists, religious followers, political activists, a university professor and student, their stories are never developed.
Orthodox Muslims affirm a belief in “the signs of the End of Times, including the appearance of the Antichrist, and the Descent of Jesus the son of Mary , from the celestial realm. We also believe in the sun’s rising from the west and the appearance of the “Beast of the Earth from its appointed place” . Dr. Omar Al-Ashqar gives a detailed review of the authentic narrations regarding the signs of the end of times in his book Al-Qiyamah Al-Sughra . When it comes to actual figures who will emerge in the end of times, Sunni scholars generally affirm the following:
Imam Mahdi, who is a just ruler who will share the Prophet’s name.
The False Messiah (Antichrist), or Al-Masjih Al-Dajjal, who will be the greatest fitna to ever to afflict this Ummah.
The True Messiah, Isa ibn Maryam, who returns in the end of days, kills the Antichrist and rules for 40 years and establishes justice and prosperity – close to the time of the day of judgement.
The Prophet Muhammad warned that the fitna of Al-Dajjal will be the most severe ever. In a hadith narrated by Ibn Majah and others, the Prophet is reported to have said, “Oh people, there has not been a fitna on the face of the earth, since God dispersed the progeny of Adam, greater than the fitna of Al-Dajjal. Every prophet of God warned his people from Al-Dajjal. I am the last prophet. You are the last Ummah. He will appear amongst you no doubt!”
Al-Dajjal comes after a period of famine and drought. He will be one-eyed and will claim to be God. Believers will recognized a mark or word of disbelief on his forehead. He will perform many miracles. He will endow those who follow him with material prosperity and luxury, and those who deny him will be inflicted with deprivation and suffering. He will travel at high speeds, androam the whole world, except Makkah and Madinah, which he will not be able to enter. He will create a heaven and hell, command rain, the earth, animals, and resurrect the dead – all supernatural occurrences that he has been afforded as a trial and test for others. The Prophet Muhammad went as far as encouraging us to flee from confronting him, because it will be a test of faith like no other.
Reflections on the series and lessons to be learned
The Prophets and the righteous are not tricksters and riddlers.
The Netflix series portrays the character ‘al-masih’ as someone who speaks cryptically; it is never clear what he is teaching and why. He leads his followers on long physical journeys without telling them where they are going or why. He speaks in riddles and tortures his followers with mental gymnastics and rhetorical questions.
On the other hand, a true prophet of God offers real guidance and brings clear teachings and instructions – the Prophet Muhammad spoke clearly to his followers, he taught them how to worship Allah alone, to be just, to uphold the ties of kinship, to look after one’s neighbour, and so on. He did not abandon them in a state of confusion to fend for themselves. Moreover, “al-masih” deceives his followers by concealing his true name (“Payam Golshiri”) and background – something a righteous person would never do, let alone a prophet.
What Netflix got right and what it got wrong
The Al-masih character initially emerges in Damascus (and the Islamic tradition mentions Isa ibn Mariam will descend in Damascus). However, the character is eventually revealed to hail from Iran. A number of ahadith refer to Al-Dajjal first appearing in Khurasan, which is part of modern-day Iran. He poses as a righteous person, but it is revealed that he doesn’t pray at all. He quotes religious scripture, but only to service his cryptic speeches. That Al-Dajjal would pose as a religious person would not surprise Muslims, since some hadith mention he will emerge from the remnants of the Khawarij, a heterodox group known for overzealousness and fanaticism . Al-Dajjal travels the world at fast speeds, disappearing from one land and appearing in another, just as the character in the series does.
photo credit: IMDb
However, numerous features of Dajjal would make his identity obvious to believers, not the least of which is that the word ‘disbeliever’ will be written – whether literally or metaphorically (scholars differ) – on his forehead in such a manner which even those unlettered would be able to read. Physically, Dajjal is a short man, with a deformity of his legs, and one of his eyes is likened to a “floating grape”, sightless, and “green like glass”. The Prophet is said to have focused on these physical features because they are so manifest and eliminate any confusion.
Al-Dajjal’s time overlaps with that of two other eschatological figures – Imam Mahdi and Esa ibn Maryam . Imam Mahdi is prophesized to fill the world with justice and rule for seven years, after which Dajjal will emerge. While the Muslims following al-Mahdi are taking shelter in Damascus, Prophet Esa will descend and eventually slay the Dajjal. Therefore, according to the Islamic eschatological tradition, things will get better before they get worse before they get better again – Imam Mahdi precedes Dajjal and Dajjal precedes Prophet Esa .
Safeguarding against tribulations
The best safeguard is to have sound knowledge of theology and law, and to have our iman rooted in revelation and reason. For example, the most basic understanding of Islamic theology would lead us to reject any man who claims to be God, as Al-Dajjal will claim. With basic Islamic knowledge and reasoning, we would know that Allah does not manifest in human-like form, much less one that is deformed, as Allah is the all Powerful and Perfect. Could it be that at the end of times even such essential Islamic knowledge is lacking?
Al-Dajjal deceives people by his miracles and supernatural abilities. Our iman should not be swayed by supernatural events and miracles. We should measure people and ideas according to their standing with the Shari’ah. We must keep our heads level and not be manipulated because we cannot explain an occurrence.
Al-Dajjal also lures people by his miracles and by his ability to give them material prosperity, comfort and luxury. We must tie our happiness and sense of satisfaction to eternal spiritual truths, not to the comforts of this life, and be willing to give up what we have for what we believe. We should live simply and not follow into the path of excessive consumerism and materialism.
Another important consideration is not to base our connection to Allah on another human being (except the Prophet Muhammad . Scholars, celebrity preachers, imams and teachers are all prone to error and sin. We must use the Shariah and the Prophet Muhamamd’s character and teaching as the filter by which we evaluate them, not the other way around. Despite his obvious deformities, the Antichrist will be a mesmerizing blinding celebrity, but whose falsehood will be uncovered by believers who make judgements based on loyalty to principle, not personality.
Is it time to live on a remote mountain?
The clearest indication of the nearness of the Day of Judgement is the prophethood of Muhammad . The Prophet likened the difference between his time and the Day of Judgement as the difference in length between the index and middle fingers. However, before we sell everything and move to a remote mountain, let’s exercise care in projecting Islamic eschatology on the political events of our times. The reality is that no one knows when these things will happen. Explaining the current phase in our history away by end of times theories or conspiracy theories, are simpleton intellectual copouts that lead our Ummah away from actively working towards its destiny. Anyone who has claimed that this event (remember Y2K) or that event is a major sign of the Day of Judgement has been wrong, so far. There were scholarly guesses in the early centuries of Muslims that expected the Hour 500 years after the Prophet’s death. Yet, here we are. No one knows.
The best you can do is stay calm and make salat!
Muslims and the entertainment media
This increased sophistication and the apparent familiarity with Islamic sources exhibited by Messiah producers should lead us to value the importance of producing accurate, authentic and polished material and content about Islam and Muslims and our community’s role as a source of information.
It is also important for Muslims to produce works for the mass media and entertainment industries. This is no longer the era of the sole MSA Da’wah table. Sophisticated, entertaining and authentic media production is an imperative for modern Muslims.When we don’t tell the story, someone else will.
Make it a Netflix Night?
We may refer to it as Fitnaflix, but let’s all admit that we cannot avoid television and the entertainment industry, for better or for worse. We can however moderate, guide and channel its use. Start breaking the isolation in which many of our children and young adults consume media. Families should watch TV together and use it as an opportunity to model how we select appropriate material and to create teaching and discussion moments. Parents should know what is influencing their kids even if they don’t like it.
Some parts of the series Messiah, despite its flaws (and an explicit sexual scene in episode 9, not to mention profanity), could be used as a teaching moment about trials and tribulations, the end of times and the importance of Muslims engaging in the entertainment industry in a principled and professional manner.
Ed’s note: Much of the series’ content is R-rated. Besides depictions of terrorism and other mayhem, sexual activity and brief rear nudity are shown. Mature themes include abortion, adultery, infertility and alcoholism.
T. C. o. I. Al-Tahawi, Hamza Yusuf (trans), Zaytuna Institute, 2007.
O. Al-Ashqar, Al-Qiyamah Al-Sughra, Dar Al-Nafa’is, 1991.
One of the things that happens with historical figures who continue to remain well-known and influential years after they can continue to speak for themselves is that others seek to speak for them. Attempts are made to co-opt their legacy, either in sincere efforts for good or in selfish efforts for ideological or even commercial gain. This is especially true of Malcolm X, who is not only a historical and political icon but in many ways a “celebrity” remembered by many primarily for his style and attitude.
Once, while in class at college, an Arab girl I was sitting next to said quite loudly to another, “Hey, give this paper to the ‘abdah” referring to a black girl in the class. I wondered if she was even aware of what she was saying in English. Did she think that ‘abdah translates to “black girl” and never thought of its true meaning? Did she think that I didn’t understand?