With Ramadan just days away, we’ve all been taking steps that we hope will allow us to reap the most of the most rewarding month of the Islamic calendar; be it through gradual caffeine withdrawal to help ease the fogginess of the first few days, Iftar meal prepping to free up more time for actual ‘ibaadah, or waking up for Tahajjud to ease the transition into rising for Qiyam and Suhoor – whatever floats that proverbial boat to help achieve our own personal Ramadan goals. Ah, but what of our biggest vulnerability – our Achilles heel(s), so to speak? Our phones. Aside from required usage –be it for work, school, or daily needs-, the average user spends 2-3 hours a day on social networking sites without even realizing it. That’s a good 60-90 hours a month –more specifically this month- which could most certainly be put to better, and more rewarding use. So how should one go about getting their phone Ramadan ready?

We can’t deny however, that it was social media that stepped up to the plate at the start of the first pandemic Ramadan two years ago, in helping us cope during what would otherwise have been a stripped-bare Ramadan; an inconsolable time for the ummah bereft of community spaces, motivational khutbahs and talks, and congregational prayers. It comes as no surprise then, that we have only increased our reliance on social media over the past two years alone. For the Muslim community, social media has now evolved into a vital source and catalyst of Islamic learning, remembrance, encouragement, and for a sense of community.

So, while a decade ago ‘social media fasts’ were a very achievable Ramadan goal (back when the only social media site of value was Facebook), a complete withdrawal has now become a game plan only for the strongest in resolve. And that’s okay.

Here are a few tips from us here on MM, on how you and your devices can band together to at least lessen the many distractions that come with them –selective detox, if you will-, and in turn free up more time and focus for your Ramadan inshaAllah.

  1.  Identify and acknowledge your key distractions.

    Is it Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or all three, that has the strongest grip on your spare time? Is YouTube or TikTok that has the greatest potential to suck you into that bottomless vortex of unproductivity? If you’re not really sure (or in blissful denial even), take a day or two to monitor your social media habits, with the aim to first diagnose, and then come to terms with your personal social media weaknesses. (Recommend reading Fiqh of Social Media by Omar Usman to learn more about our dependence on technology, and how to root our digital activity to sincerity and God-consciousness)

  2. Set a time limit for unessential screen time.

    We’re all aware of what happens when we oh-so—innocently pick up our phone in between tasks. One minute you’re checking messages, and the next, an hour’s gone by with nothing to show for it but an earworm that just won’t leave, or a comments section that only served to get your anxiety levels up. At the same time, it is healthy to check in on current events, discussions, and keep in touch with friends and family. An attempt at managing this would be to reduce your ‘spare’ screen usage to a considerably smaller amount of time each day. Depending on how much you’ve committed to, you can choose to either dedicate one block of time for it all (perhaps a time slot between Dhuhr and Asr?), or split it into smaller time fragments throughout the day. If you don’t trust your own resolve (which is the case for most of us, really), your greatest ally would be a screen time tracker app – which will help you curb screen time addiction by holding you accountable for how much valuable time you let go waste.

  3. Change your device settings.

    Here’s where #1 plays in best. Proactively choose to unsubscribe from YouTube channels and unfollow social media accounts which you have (most likely reluctantly) identified as the ones you could not just do without, but more importantly those that serve the exact opposite purpose of bringing in goodness to your life. Change up your social media home feed preferences to primarily display beneficial accounts and content. Additionally, turn off notification alerts completely, so that you’re less inclined to open up the app(s) in question and get sucked in again. Bring forward only the good stuff to your device landing page.
  4.  Make accessibility a real pain.

    Move your key apps (read weapons) of mindless distraction to a folder within a folder within another folder (you get the gist), and as far away from your landing page/home screen as possible. Keep yourself signed out of your accounts even, so that by the time you actually get to the app, you’ll be questioning the need to do so in the first place.

  5. Establish rewarding alternatives to social media time.

    Less time (hopefully) being spent on socials, frees up more time space for fulfilling, productive experiences. This translates into more time for Quran, ‘ibaadah, family, and community involvement, and with greater enthusiasm and focus.

  6. Download/subscribe to beneficial material.

    Everyone has that Quran and prayer reminder app that they turn to for ease of worship. Similarly, there is a wealth of Islamic -or even Ramadan-specific- apps, podcasts, and newsletters to sign up for to fill up that void once reserved for doomscrolling, and to also help keep those Ramadan blinders on.

Here‘s what we at MuslimMatters are signing up or are our must haves for this Ramadan:

Apps:

–  iSubha – a dhikr app that you can use to set up your daily wird

Pillars – an ad-free privacy guaranteed Salah app with a daily tracker

– Qariah: Women Quran Reciters app by Shaykha Maryam Amir (launching Ramadan)

–  Quranle Quranic Arabic word game

Miraj Stories (kids)

Video/Audio series:

– Shaykh Yahya Ibrahim’s “Best Ramadan Ever” and “Small Deeds, Massive Rewards” series right here on MuslimMatters!

– Yaqeen’s ‘Ramadan Dua’s on Repeat’ and  ‘Judgement Day: Deeds the Light the Way

– Shaykh Husan Abdul Sattar’s Ramadan Classroom

– The many programs offer by Qalam Scholars

Visionaire Ramadan 2022 with Muhammad Al Shareef

– ‘A Year with The Prophet’ audio series by The Quantum Chronicles (older kids)

Books:

When the Stars Prostrated: Meditations on Surat Yusuf by Sh. Mohammad Elshinawy

Reflecting on the Names of Allah by  Jinan Yousef

The Prophet of Mercy by Sh. Mohammad ElShinawy and Omar Suleiman

The Simple Seerah by Ustadh Asim Khan (older kids)

 

The short term goal of the Ramadan phone detox plan is to eradicate the distractions we know come with a smart phone and a decent internet connection, so as to serve the purpose of achieving the taqwa Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) promises the fasting believer. However, we also hope that through this, we come out of Ramadan learning more about our own social media consumption habits (i.e what distractions we’ve realized we can do without, or what we have learned we could do more with in terms of strengthening our relationship with Our Creator) going forward in our lives.

Related reading:

 – Naseehah: The Art Of Giving Islamic Advice And Dawah Online #FiqhOfSocialMedia

Naseehah: The Art Of Giving Islamic Advice And Dawah Online #FiqhOfSocialMedia

 – The MM Edit: Ramadan Reads 2022

The MM Edit: Ramadan Reads 2022