With a few weeks to Ramadan, I often find myself in deep reflection. I’m eagerly looking forward to the opportunity for increased worship, renewal of faith and the buzz Ramadan brings. I remember my most productive and transformational as well as my most challenging. As I reflect on my post Ramadan habits, what went well and what needed improving in my spiritual life, the saying comes to mind; “if you did what you always did, you get what you always got” (author unknown).
Despite my excitement for the special month, somehow I felt I had fallen into a predictable ritual consisting of a long checklist of acts of worship. The past few years, I had unknowingly adopted a boot camp approach to Ramadan. I push myself to achieve my daily Ramadan targets; read designated portions of the Quran, read commentary of the Quran, and pray multiple units of prayers during the night. With my bootcamp approach, one significant thing was missing- closeness to my Lord. As I travelled back in time and visualised myself last Ramadan, I was in a race against time to complete my daily target before sunset which would mark the end of that days fast. Skim reading the words of my Lord, praying mutiple units of night prayers without being fully present.
I was craving a transformation that would bring the intimacy and closeness I needed to my Lord. I yearned to be in awe of my Lord, fully present in my acts of worship which are more than a checklist of things to do or empty rituals. I imagined many moments where I escaped into a different world and talked to Allah- my heart and soul feeling tranquil. I was ready to expand my horizon and let go of the familiar boot camp routine.
As a confessed personal development addict, my curiosity led me to participate in the ‘prepare to evolve during Ramadan’ workshop. The idea and possibility of evolving during Ramadan gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. The workshop exceeded my expectations and completely transformed my approach to seeking nearness to my Lord during Ramadan. I gained a new perspective and had many “wow” and light bulb moments as we talked about the importance of the internal preparation which would organically manifest itself externally. It dawned on me that to be fully conscious and in awe of my Lord, I had to prioritise quality over quantity. I had been so absorbed with going beyond my targets the previous Ramadan that I had completely disconnected with the real meaning of Ramadan- to gain God consciousness. This year would be different; I was committed to prioritising contemplation to build a deep relationship with the Quran and a lasting internal relationship with my Lord.
Equipped with a clear spiritual focus, I felt calm, inspired and driven. Although my Ramadan list of goals are shorter than in previous years, I scheduled in time to contemplate the words of Allah as I read the Quran to allow the words to penetrate my inner core. Incorporating contemplation in worship will provide the space to ponder the names and attributes of my Lord and how they manifest themselves in my life. After all, being close to Allah is more than a box to tick on a long Ramadan to-do list.