AFTER RAMADAN… 

Overcoming

Post-Ramadan Struggles: How to Stay Consistent in Ibadah AFTER Ramadan

What is your biggest post-Ramadan struggle?

When I asked that question from MYP readers, the responses were quite different yet, very similar.

Some wanted to continue praying on-time, others missed the way they did zhikr in Ramadan. There were those that wanted to carry the habit of reading Quran every day and then the ones that wanted to control sins of their tongue.

Very different goals.

Yet, all of the responses had one thing in common- the desire to CONTINUE what they were doing in Ramadan.

It’s not unusual to feel inadequate after Ramadan. To feel unaccomplished when you look back at the way you spent it- “I wish I had done MORE Ibadah. I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time.”

To feel depressed when you look at your post-Ramadan “situation”- “Wow, it didn’t even take a SINGLE day after Ramadan ended, before I went back to my old bad habits. I really am a horrible Muslim.”

As if all of your “disciplining efforts during Ramadan” were wasted the moment you committed the first post-Ramadan sin.

There’s no denying the fact that after Ramadan things begin to change. Our carefully constructed self-discipline begins to crumble.

But why?

Why is it much more difficult to stay consistent after Ramadan?

The most obvious answer is: Shaytan is BACK in the picture…

“[Satan] said, ‘Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful [to You].’” (Qur’an, 7:16-17) 

On the other hand, something LEAVES us too; the extra blessings and special barakah effects of Ramadan go away with it (from fasting, praying Taraweeh, Qiyyam, reading more Quran etc)

So that strange spiritual energy that you used to feel in Ramadan… You don’t feel it anymore.

Hadith says that our sins bog us down spiritually. But in Ramadan, Allah S.W.T is especially Merciful and forgives all of our previous sins so we feel spiritually “elevated”.

“Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan due to faith and seeking reward, his previous sins will be forgiven.” [Sahih Muslim] 

But the presence of Shaytaan and a decrease in Barakah are not the ONLY reasons why it’s so hard for us to stay consistent post-Ramadan.

You’ll find it MUCH more difficult to keep up with your Ibadah and self-improvement goals after Ramadan because possibly the BIGGEST source of motivation is gone.

Can you guess what it is?

Community spirit. 

There’s a reason why Islam puts such a heavy emphasis on sticking together, motivating each other, forming a strong brotherhood etc.

“Hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. Remember the favor of Allah upon you, when you were enemies and he brought your hearts together and you became brothers by his favor.” (Quran, 3:103). 

Going to the Masjid for prayer is another great example of staying connected with other Muslims through spirituality.

Notice how easy it is to fast and stay disciplined enough not to BREAK your fast in Ramadan. Notice how effortless it becomes to do more Ibadah than you usually do. Notice how doable praying Tahajjud becomes in Ramadan.

That’s because we have a powerful source of constant motivation in Ramadan- each other.

But as soon as Ramadan ends, everyone begins following their own schedules… no more sitting together at Aftaar… or going to the Taraweeh together… or waking each other up for Qiyyam.

No wonder we don’t feel the same when Ramadan ends.

And that’s normal.

I feel it. You feel it. We all do.

To be truthful- it can’t be any other way. Because if you feel the same way for the rest of the 11 months, as you do in Ramadan, then Ramadan won’t be special. Makes sense?

Another reason for the post-Ramadan dip, quite apparent but often missed, is fasting itself. 

Fasting is one of the best ways for a Muslim to practice self-discipline. Compare your regular day to one of the days when you fasted… how were they different? You had a better control over your tongue while fasting? Stayed away from sins more consciously? Maybe even let go of some of your bad habits?

Why the massive difference?

Because the entire structure of SAWM teaches us self-discipline. To push us to discover our limits. To help us say NO to the desires of our Nafs repeatedly.

Knowing the reasons for the steep difference in our spirituality between Ramadan and regular days can help us come up with an action plan for staying consistent on our goals after Ramadan.

So here’s my process of getting out of the post-Ramadan slump and moving forward…

First, you start with the mindset: 

 

MINDSET SHIFT: Control how you think and you’ll control how you act

 

One little thought can change everything inside you. 

Work on your mind and your mind will work on everything else for you.

Here are some healthy ways to think in your post-Ramadan situation: 

1. Be grateful for whatever you were able to accomplish in ramadan.

 The Prophet S.A.W said: “(The value of) an action depends on the intention behind it. A man will be rewarded only for what he intended.” [Muslim]

Maybe you tried really hard to make the best use of every second in Ramadan but your efforts fell short and you weren’t able to accomplish your goals. Or maybe you didn’t try too hard.

Either way, be grateful for whatever you DID manage to accomplish.

Know that it’s not our efforts and deeds that will take us to Jannah.

It’s the Mercy of Allah S.W.T.

Whatever time, health and energy you were blessed with to do Ibadah in Ramadan- it was because of the Mercy of Allah S.W.T.

Some people could not even fast because of their health. Others had to work too hard for a living that they did not have the luxury of free time to do Ibadah with khushoo. Be grateful for what you were able to accomplish. Alhamdulilah.

And know that if, for some reason, you weren’t able to fully accomplish your goals but you intended to, you’re good. You intentions were duly noted.

2. Keep a check on your expectations.

Now that Ramadan is over, maybe you’ve started sinning more often.

You see others sin more often.

You lose control over your Nafs quicker.

You miss the meal times of Ramadan. You miss the nights spent in Ibadah. You miss the feeling of praying Taraweeh in congregation in the Masjid.

You have started to lose the amazing habits you developed in Ramadan. You find it much harder to stay consistent in Ibadah and self-development goals.

You, my friend, have made room for post-Ramadan depression to settle in.

And possibly the biggest reason for post-Ramadan depression is setting unrealistic and disproportionate expectations. From yourself. From others. From your environment.

You need to set realistic goals and expectations. Or else you’re bound to suffer from depression that will not only eat away at you from inside but also keep you from continuing your good habits from Ramadan!

Set goals according to your situation NOW, not according to your “Ramadan routine”.

Which means you might have to make some alterations to your Ramadan goals. You can’t expect yourself to follow through on your goals the same way as you would in Ramadan.

And besides, think of your life as a battle field and Ramadan as your training period.

No matter how hard you practiced in the training field, you are bound to face some REAL challenges in the battle field that you didn’t face in the “safe” zone of training.

A fighter thinks that nothing could be harder than the training period he’s going through. Until he enters the battle ground. 

Keep a check on your expectations or else you’ll be taking 10 steps backwards instead of moving forwards.

 

3. All-Or-None Thinking Helps NONE.

Ramadan ends, you commit a sin that you had managed to stay away from in Ramadan- you say to yourself “What’s the point? I tried so hard but I did it again. I’m not even going to try now!”

All it takes for you is a SINGLE fall to go back to step zero. And from that point, moving forward gets overtly difficult for you.

For example, you try to continue the habit of reading Quran after Ramadan. You skip reading it once or twice for some reason and then wonder “What’s the point of trying if I’m not reading it every day? I might as well not bother with it right now. I’ll come back to it when I can make time to read Quran EVERYDAY.”

Get this grasshopper- Islam is NOT All-or-None. That’s not how it works in our Deen. We are not the people of either do EVERYTHING or do NOTHING.

That’s Shaytan. Period.

His oldest trick in the book is to convince you to DROP EVERYTHING on the first mistake. (I don’t wear hijab… might as well not bother praying as my prayers won’t be accepted. I’ll do “everything” later.)

This All-or-None thinking is not helping ANYONE.

You have some REALLY BAD habits? Don’t leave your good ones because of them!

You made a mistake? GET UP. Keep working on your discipline.

You skipped reading Quran once? Don’t let that one-time slip make you drop your efforts altogether.

“All the sons of Adam are sinners, but the best of sinners are those who repent often.” [At·Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah]

Don’t let your present sins define your next move. Don’t let your slip-ups keep you from moving forward.

Because what’s the alternative? You go back to step zero, do NOTHING for now… and then what?

Do you seriously believe there will come a time when you’ll NEVER slip up? Or that you’ll be a 100% consistent in your habits? If you do, you’re being naïve.

Shaytan will never give up on trying to sway you.

And Allah S.W.T will never give up on being Merciful towards you. So hang on to the Mercy of Allah S.W.T.

If you go back to step zero- know that it will MANY times harder for you to come back to where you are now. And you will want to come back at some point.

Our beloved Prophet S.A.W said:

“The most beloved deed to Allah’s is the most regular and constant even though it were little.” [Bukhari]

After giving your brain a thought-wash, it’s time to put that re-engineered thinking into action. 

 

A 7-Step Post-Ramadan Action Plan:

 

Here’s a step-by-step action plan for you to carry your efforts from Ramadan forward.

 

1) RECOMMIT.

Recommit yourself to the prayer. The Quran. And Dhikr.

Just like you spent some time in Shaban/ beginning of Ramadan to commit to making the most of Ramadan, it’s time to repeat the commitment process. But a little differently this time.

Commit to making these 3 a part of your daily lifestyle.

To hang on to them no matter how “sinful” you think you are.

At this point, we’re not setting “in-the-air” goals for Ibadah that have 0% probability of becoming a reality.

We’re only COMMITTING to staying in touch with prayer, Quran and Dhikr on a regular basis.

2) DON’T START NEW… CONTINUE.

Recall your goals for this Ramadan. What did you achieve from them?

Work around the SAME goals because it’s easier to work on something that you’ve already laid the foundation for.

  • Ask yourself: What is it that you want to continue working on from your Ramadan goals?

For example; say you got into the habit of reciting Quran daily and you want to stay consistent in that habit.

  • Now, reduce your Ramadan goals into smaller goals– something so small that it becomes ridiculously easy for you to follow, and very hard to say no to.

So if your goal in Ramadan was to read 1 Juz of Quran every day, a smaller goal could be reciting 1 page every day or reciting Quran for 5mins daily.

First, get regular with the easiest, smallest step before you go bigger.

And yes, EVEN IF you had been reading a complete Juz every day in Ramadan.

I know cutting down on the goal might be hard for those who were doing a LOT during Ramadan.

But trust me, if you haven’t been reciting a Juz daily after Ramadan, chances are- the burden of doing so much is what’s keeping you from getting started.

The way you grow in the remaining 11 months of the year is different than the way you grow in Ramadan.

Ramadan is intense, fast, strict and very rewarding in a short period of time.

We can’t stay in an INTENSE Ibadah mode all throughout the year, especially if we were doing almost nothing intense BEFORE Ramadan.

  • Now, if you want to continue the habits you had developed in Ramadan, the best way to do so is to practice them in the same time-pockets that you used to do in Ramadan.

For example, when would you read Quran in Ramadan? Was it after Maghrib? After Fajr? Before Maghrib? If multiple times, pick one time that’s easiest for you to maintain regularly and continue reading Quran in that time.

In Shawwal, your body is most likely still in the Ramadan-habit-mode. So even if you haven’t been keeping up with your good habits since Ramadan or slacking, it’s not too late to continue them. But we can’t say the same for after Shawwal. :/ 

 

 

3) FIX YOUR SLEEP-WAKE SCHEDULE.

If your sleep schedule is all messed up since Ramadan, make it a priority to fix it before it becomes long-term.

If you’re staying up all night and sleeping in the day even after Ramadan is over, it will mess up everything else for you.

Your productivity will suffer in the work-hours, you won’t be able to avail your early mornings, not to mention your eating habits will be all “confused”. 😀

 

4) PRAY “ON TIME”.

Tell you what? When you delay your prayer, you are most likely to procrastinate on everything else in your life.

If you are a chronic procrastinator, check your prayers. Are you used to praying Salah when it’s about to be Qada?

I can personally attest to this myself. When I’d delay prayer till the last hour or the last 40 mins, I’d feel lazy and sloppy all day.

I’ve seen what delaying prayer can do to the you. Praying immediately after Adhaan or shortly after brings the most barakah in your life.

BTW, what’s the point of delaying prayer anyway? It’s not like you’re NOT going to pray. You definitely intend to pray. You know you’re going to… But maybe not now.

But why? You’re going to pray later anyway. Why not just get up and pray right after Adhaan and feel super-accomplished? Think smart. 😉

5) MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH DHIKR.

We got so used to doing intense, meaningful Dhikr in Ramadan. But now? Raise your hand if you feel like you just can’t seem to find ANY TIME to do meaningful Dhikr.

I can see your hand.

In Ramadan, we were in constant communication with Allah S.W.T. And now it’s like we’ve stopped calling Allah S.W.T.

Listen, young grasshopper, you can’t expect yourself to do deep, spiritual, meaningful Dhikr all day every day like a Sufi, especially if you weren’t doing so BEFORE Ramadan. You get what I mean?

Ramadan lays the foundation for us. It strengthens us. But when it ends, most of us go back to our OLD deep-rooted habits that we’ve been practicing for years. Which is a shame. But it’s also true.

That brings us to the question of HOW to fix that problem?

Like I said earlier, lower your expectations.

Make continuing your good habits from Ramadan SUPER-EASY for yourself. So easy that it becomes effortless for you to continue them.

In the post-Ramadan period, make it your mission to STICK to the acts of Ibadah you started practicing in Ramadan, not doing MORE.

You don’t even have to do as much Ibadah as you were doing in Ramadan… but you do have to STICK to the habit or else you’ll lose them.

Make daily appointments with Dhikr and Quran. Even if they’re for 5 mins. Or 15 mins.

And your appointments should be at the same time-pockets as in Ramadan. That way, your internal clock will remind you to get up on cue (the cue being the “appointed time”). And what happens when you get up on cue? You WILL do the deed.

6) HAVE IN-BETWEEN PERIODS OF INTENSE TRAINING.

Like we learned, Ramadan is also a period of intense training. You can relive a part of that experience by setting monthly “INTENSE TRAINING PERIODS” for yourself.

The idea is the same- fast, keep your tongue under control, stay away from sins, sleep and eat less and do more Ibadah as well as good deeds.

Go out of your way in those training days. Test your limits. Get out of your comfort zone. Go ALL IN.

These smaller “intense training periods” can be your monthly spiritual “detox”. They will keep you disciplined for the rest of the month Insha’Allah and keep your system “updated.”

The ideal days to practice your intense training sessions are the days when it’s also Sunnah to fast.  13, 14 and 15 of every month according to the Lunar calendar.

Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-Aas said: The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W) said to me: “It is sufficient for you to fast three days every month, because for every good deed you will have (the reward of) ten like it, so that will be like fasting for a lifetime” [Bukhari and Muslim].

The 3 days referred to in this hadith are called the White DaysAyyam Al-Beedh.

If you think you can do more, then do hold weekly training sessions on Mondays and Thursdays when it’s Sunnah to fast.

Aishah R.A. narrated: “The Prophet (S.A.W) used to try to fast on Mondays and Thursdays” [Tirmidhi, Nasai, and Ibn Majah].

For this month of Shawwal, you also have a special opportunity from Sunnah to reboot your system by training hard for six days of shawwal.

Abu Ayyoob reported that the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) said: “Whoever fasts Ramadan and follows it with six days of Shawal, it will be as if he fasted for a lifetime” [Muslim].

7) SERVE OTHERS FIRST AND FOREMOST BY PROTECTING THEM FROM YOUR TONGUE.

So many times, we go out of our way to help others but our tongue washes away all of our good deeds.

The biggest service most of us can do for others is to not hurt them with our tongue.

Think of how you used to bite back your anger and hurtful words because of your fasts in Ramadan. Recall the hadith…

Abu Hurayrah R.A., narrated that the Prophet S.A.W, said: “When anyone of you is observing fast, he should neither indulge in obscene language nor should he raise his voice; and if anyone reviles him or tries to quarrel with him, he should say: “I am fasting.’”

Why do you think the Prophet S.A.W mentioned “controlling the tongue” as a separate topic especially for Ramadan?

Because your training is incomplete if you don’t practice controlling your speech.

Ramadan was sufficient time to put mini-locks on the tongue.

Continue the same practice, only this time instead of saying “I’m fasting”, repeat after this quote:

“I have never regretted my silence, as for my speech I’ve regretted it many times.” [Umar ibn Al-Khattab]

And Allah S.W.T knows best!

I pray you stay consistent on all the amazing habits you developed in Ramadan. Ameen.

And now, I’d love to know which one of the steps above did you find most helpful? Share it with me in the comments below Insha’Allah! 🙂

 

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FOUNDER & AUTHOR | Muslim Youth Programme
Aimen is a Medical Doctor who teaches self-development to young Muslims struggling with the fitnah of this century. Her aim is to educate and empower Muslims with practical advice on self-development, productivity, studies and health, with insights on Islamic psychology. Jumpstart your productivity and take action on your goals by signing up to her latest FREE productivity Bootcamp for Muslims.
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