Welcome to day 5 of the Ramadan Countdown. That’s right, ladies (and gentlemen). 5 more days until the best month of the year is upon us once again!
Today I want to talk about another really important thing to do before we begin the month of fasting and that is to ask for forgiveness. This is a simple one but so important to a successful Ramadan. Take time to ask forgiveness from Allah (SWT) for any bad deeds you’ve done throughout the years. And as painful as it may be, reach out to people whom you’ve wronged in even the smallest ways and ask for forgiveness. If you have beef with someone, be the first to put your sword down and own up to your part in the issue.
This doesn’t mean that you have to resume toxic relationships or let people walk all over you, though. If someone has wronged you and the relationship has been rightfully severed, then there is no need for you to ask for forgiveness. But this is also a time to forgive others or at least work on getting to the point where we can.
Being a Muslim isn’t just about doing good deeds on the outside. It’s also about doing the work to make sure our hearts are in the right place as well. Starting off Ramadan with a heart that is forgiving and compassionate towards others, as well as one that is humble is a really great start. It takes courage to face someone and say that you were wrong. It’s embarrassing but it’s also really freeing. Be honest, be genuine, and resolve to grow and leave that deed behind.
For more on asking forgiveness, check out this article out on IslamQA!
It is day 6 of the Ramadan Countdown and today we’re talking about social media.
I know that there has been a barrage of articles lately on the evils of social media and how it is ruining our lives. I apologize in advance for contributing to the witchhunt. Well actually, I’m not here to completely put social media down. It makes for a really great tool and most businesses today couldn’t succeed with out it. But while it has many benefits, there are also as many, if not more, pitfalls. It’s no mystery that social media has contributed to a number of mental health problems in its avid users. I mean, who can blame them? Consistently exposing yourself to carefully curated images that make it seem like everyone else is more beautiful, wealthy, successful, and smart than you is bound to have negative effects.
Following certain people can start off with good intentions but very quickly end in us feeling inspired to indulge in a lifestyle that is contrary to who we are and what we believe. Seeing beautiful women my age living their best lives in cute outfits with their hair like a crown shining through the screen is tempting. I could be one of those women, I kind of want to be one of those women. The more I look, the more I start to see the hijab as a burden and not a blessing. Why can’t I live my best life with my hair covered? In fact, my life should be even better because it takes me that much less time to get ready in the mornings. Also see, no bad hair days.
What about following people who post about doing haram things (partying, drinking, drugs, smoking, sex outside of marriage, etc.)? People who perform inconsiderate pranks? People who post crude humour (yeah, I know it’s funny but it’s Ramadan. Keep it halal, bro.)? I could keep going on, but I think another good way to prepare for focusing on deen is to go through our social media and curate who we follow. In other words, unfollow anyone who isn’t motivating you to be your true best self. And this best self means being the best Muslim you can be, the best daughter, the best sister, the best friend, the best wife, the best mother, the best employee, the best student, and/or whatever other role you fill.
If following someone is motivating you to be anything less than that or if following them makes you feel jealous or bad about yourself, then unfollow them.
In the past week I’ve had to ask myself, do I really need to follow a fashion blogger who has an enviable walk in closet and who’s style is the exact opposite of mine? Probably not. Do I need to follow a secular singer who also happens to be a Fashion Nova babe? Yeah, nah. These people live their lives, do what they want to do and that’s cool. But their lifestyle doesn’t match up with mine and social media doesn’t have many boundaries after you hit that follow button. I love seeing my feed full of other Muslim women, especially ones who have the same values as me. It’s encouraging and inspiring and that’s definitely something I need this Ramadan.
And if you want to go even further, delete all of the apps! Go crazy! Social media free for Ramadan 2020. For real, deleting it for a bit is so nice..but that’s up to you.
What are some pages you like to follow? Or are you social media free? Let me know in the comments below!
Today, we’re going to talk about the fantasy self.
What’s a fantasy self, Nahlah?
I’m glad you asked! A fantasy self as I’ve come to understand it (aka can’t be bothered to Google it) is a version of ourselves that we create based off of who we think or who others think we should be. This can look like you wanting to be a doctor because your parents want you to. It can also look like you trying to get into painting because you like the idea of yourself as an artist. It could also be that you force yourself to be the life of the party because that’s what your friends expect of you.
What is the reality behind all of this? You don’t really want to be a doctor, you want to go into cosmetology. You get so bored with painting and would rather spend that time playing ball. You’re not the life of the party at all, but a homebody who’s idea of a real good time is spoken word poetry night. These are just a few examples, but this idea of the fantasy self can apply to literally everything down to the clothes in your closet. You know you aren’t going to wear that jumper because it’s not you, but someone complimented it once and you see yourself being the type to wear it.
The problem with the fantasy self is that we waste time stressing out and trying to be someone that we’re not. Instead, we can own up to who we really are, what we really like, what we really want to do and be so much more fulfilled; not to mention successful.
So, how do you even distinguish between your fantasy self and the authentic you?
There is no magic process. I did it by sitting myself down with a notebook and writing out basic questions to answer. I won’t say to put the first answer that comes to mind because a lot of times, we’ve conditioned ourselves to give the replies our fantasy selves would give instead of what we really want to say. I like to start with simple questions. It’s kind of cringey, but I will ask myself what my favourite colour is, what kind of movies I like, what my favourite food is, etc. It’s like playing 20 questions with yourself, you’ll feel like you’re on a first date. Starting out with the basics helps you get into the habit of being honest with yourself because there’s not much to lose. It’s a lot easier to admit that your favourite colour has been yellow all along and not blue, as opposed to you realizing that you want to style hair 5 years into attending medical school. This sounds silly but trust me, it gets you where you need to go.
You have to come to a place where 1) you own up to who you are and 2) you’re in tune with your feelings. I used to have this thing where I wanted to be a really artistic intellectual person through the types of movies I watched and the books I read. So I would force myself to watch independent films and I would buy all these classic books to read. The reality was that I was so bored trying to get into independent films and I never picked up those classic books. At my core, I was fighting against that version of myself and it was obvious if I paid attention to the feeling in the pit of my stomach (best described as bored nausea).
Where did this side of myself come from? It came from growing up as a creative child. I was always making stuff and writing things and painting. My parents ran with it and I was always described as artistic and was close friends with many artists in school. Am I still an artist? Yes, but in a different way. And you don’t have to be into obscure films or literature to be an artist. I like cartoons, okay? Let me live.
It’s time to confront this fantasy version of ourselves. If we can fully realize who we really are, we will be a lot happier Insha’Allah. We won’t be wasting any more time and energy trying to run in the wrong direction. This is also a topic that has become a pretty popular discussion within the YouTube community, so if you want to know more you can find plenty of videos on the topic over there!
It is day 7, my lovelies! Assalaamu alaikum and welcome back to the Ramadan Countdown! Today I want to talk about creating a Ramadan routine.
If you’ve fasted before, you know how difficult it is to stay productive on an empty stomach and slightly dehydrated. I know that last year, doing anything outside of the necessities and going to work was such a chore and often times I would be so zoned out and just ready to eat that I would end up not accomplishing anything; or I would forget to do things I wanted to do.
Looking back, I can honestly say that it would have helped tremendously if I had created a stable routine and habits in advance and stuck to them. So today’s advice is to create your daily Ramadan routine now. This applies whether you are off work, going to work, a stay-at-home mom/housewife, working from home, etc. You know your schedule best, so what kind of days do you want to have this Ramadan? This lines up with my earlier post on creating goals for Ramadan. In order to achieve these goals, we need a game plan.
I know that I want to learn how to read Quran, memorize a few duas, strengthen my deen, stay in shape, do more self-development, and stay on top of this blog and my coursework. When I look at this list, it feels like I’m biting off more than I can chew. But if I map what a day accomplishing all of this would look like, it feels achievable. The foundation of my routine for this upcoming month are prayers and the meals to open and break my fast. A balanced, healthy suhoor and fajr prayer combined with reading the Quran in English is my solid start to the day. Also, I won’t include them all in this list, but obviously I will be praying throughout the day and on time as well, Insha’Allah.
1) Wake up for suhoor, pray fajr, read Quran, back to sleep until 7/8 am.
2) Tidy room; do laundry and any other chores that need doing; create a calm and clean space for the day.
3) Go for a light, slow walk before the sun gets too strong. Just chill, enjoy moving, and breathe in the fresh air. Reflect.
4) Focus on completing coursework and any other jobs I have. Do this until 12/1pm.
5) Light nap (if needed).
6) Quran practice, dua and surah memorization, blogging.
7) Journal or talk to friends/family for 30 minutes.
8) Light exercise before iftar prep. Only exercising to maintain, not make progress.
9) Iftar prep, break fast, pray, eat more food, tarawih at home.
10) Enjoy evening with family but don’t stay up too late (you know how you get).
At the moment I’m not working so, alhamdulillah, I have lots of time to focus on deen, family, and working on my own personal projects. My daily routine this year is so much different from what I would have been doing last year (if I had thought to make one). Last year I was staying alone and working full time, often late into the evening. This year I’m with family and desperately trying my hand at housewifery. Things are different but a solid routine still works!
You don’t have to have a crazy long routine, especially not if you’re working. But even having a routine for suhoor and fajr can make a big difference. Or maybe just focus on your evening routine. Of course, it’s completely customizable so you do what works for you!
Long time no see! I’m bringing you the second post of the day (my bad) on what to do to prepare for Ramadan.
Today’s second tip is on spring cleaning the house. Now is the time to really do a deep clean of your living space. And when I say deep clean, I mean deep clean. Go through your wardrobe and set aside any clothes, accessories, other physical items to be donated. Go through boxes/drawers of old stuff; this can look like papers, mail, unused chargers, unread books, expired cosmetics, holiday cards, and other miscellaneous items. Dust; move furniture and clean underneath; delete emails; delete old files on your computer; sort through photos and delete all of the bad/unnecessary ones; throw away/recycle/donate unused or expired food items; clean the limescale off of any appliances/showers/sinks/etc.; repaint if you have the resources and the time (and desire to); and really any other major cleaning tasks that you’ve been putting off for ages.
If you’re bored from being in lockdown, this is such a great way to pass the time and will leave your home looking all sparkly and brand new. If you need motivation, YouTube has countless videos with ethereal music playing in the background, every shade of beige and baby pink splashed everywhere and impossibly beautiful people KonMari-ing their way to internet stardom. Are they realistic? No. Will it make you feel like you’ve magically transformed your life one trash bag at a time? Yes.
So, that is it for today, lovelies! We’re all caught up on the countdown and I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow for day 7, Insha’Allah!
Oh my gosh, you guys. I messed up. So, yesterday’s countdown was not posted and I am sorry. Weirdly enough, I’ve managed to be unnaturally busy during the lockdown and yesterday was a combination of running around trying to get things done and also coming down with a massive headache. Also I woke up too late for suhoor, but still fasted to make up for days missed last year. Not a good idea! So, to make up for my negligence, you guys get two posts today!
Ok, here we go! Day 9 of the Ramadan Countdown! I’ve touched on this in a previous post but today is the day to map out what foods you need to buy to make for iftar and suhoor. Trust me when I say that you will have no energy to go grocery shopping (especially now with the long ques) or make complicated dishes that take ages to prepare. If you can buy items in bulk now to save yourself the hassle, do it! Now, what you buy is entirely dependent on what your staple diet is. I know that a lot of people will go all out and eat all kinds of delicious things for iftar but a lot of times these things are not healthy at all. I’m not saying you should avoid them at all costs, but for the sake your health and your digestion, I’ve found that it’s better to eat your normal foods and save the treats for once a week at most.
I’m currently staying with family and my mother-in-law rules the kitchen so I’m just there to help. Thankfully, she already has her meals planned out and her ingredients ready. What a woman. Since staying with them, I’ve started eating a lot more simply. The diet staples that we eat are things that I would now buy and make if I were observing Ramadan back in my own house.
This is all that we’ve bought:
Bulk bags of rice, bulk bags of atta flour, daal, canned chickpeas, frozen veggies, bulk chicken (frozen), condiments from the Asian isle (they come in huge containers), turmeric, garam masala, chili powder, onions, garlic, ginger, potatoes, dates, oats/cereal, milk, fruit, nuts.
It’s boring but delicious and easy. My MIL can cook all of this with her eyes closed and I help as much as I can so the cooking is done much quicker. There’s nothing special about any of the foods but on the bright side: no one is stressed about the cooking, we don’t gain unnecessary weight, clean up is quick, cost is inexpensive, we don’t feel sick after eating, and we don’t have to expend energy we don’t have to get it all done. Overall, it’s an enjoyable and efficient experience. Also, it’s best to choose the easiest most filling thing to eat for suhoor. I’ve realized that for me, that is cereal. You don’t have to cook it, it’s enriched with vitamins, and it’s filling. I also eat whatever fruit is easy and if I have any nuts like cashews on hand, I eat those as well.
Ok, lovelies, that is it for this post! With most cities being under lockdown most likely well into Ramadan, it’s definitely a good time to get what we need before the month starts. Those ques are no joke! See you in the next post!
It is now 10 more days to Ramadan, insha’Allah! Today’s topic is going to be a short one.
Learn and memorize what to say for opening and breaking your fast (if you don’t already know them). You recite to yourself:
There we go, that’s it. Nothing complicated or drawn out today. These are super simple to memorize, but you can save this photo to read from as well. This is also a good time to memorize any other duas that you would like to learn! There are so many and for every situation in life, so I won’t get into that today. May Allah (SWT) make it easy for you and I will see you all tomorrow for day 9, insha’Allah!
It is once again a beautiful day here in London and I am so happy! This weather really does make you feel like a superhero or a normally functioning adult. Love it.
Today is day 11 of our Ramadan Countdown and I’m back it again with the health advice. Today, I want to remind all of you out there with nutritional deficiencies and/or who rely on medication, to make sure that you stock up on what you need and have a game plan. I’m not going to pretend that I am a health expert, because I most certainly am not. I’m not even going to try and give you specific advice when it comes to any ailment outside of iron deficiency. Because, I just don’t know. Now is the time to speak to your doctor about appropriate measures to take to ensure that you can fast safely this Ramadan.
With iron-deficiency (a topic I know one thing about), it’s important to make sure that you keep your levels up during this time. I know for some of us, it can be such a struggle to get through the day normally. Iron deficiency, like any other, is no joke. Some of us have a minor case while others are more severe. If you get iron injections, speak to your doctor first before taking on any extreme physical challenge such as fasting. If you’ve been struggling with feelings of extreme exhaustion, apathy, lack of sex drive, weakness, dizziness, etc. you may have low iron. I’d like to redirect you to this amazing website started by a wonderful friend-of-a-friend. She has a powerful story and her website is full of helpful resources to get you the answers you need.
For suhoor, I’ve found that it works for me to take my iron, then eat fruit (oranges/tangerines especially), and cereal. The fruit aids in absorption of the iron and the cereal is fortified with iron as well. For iftar, I try to get as many greens in my meals along with a solid form of protein. You can try to incorporate spinach into all of your meals and beef/chicken, if you eat meat. For foods to eat, I recommend doing your own research to find what works for you and then coming up with basic meal plans to make sure you’re getting enough of what you need. Floradix is recommended to be taken twice a day, so I’ll usually take it before I begin eating at this time as well.
This is a time where I’ll also take multivitamins and/or moringa tablets as well to aid with nutrients. If this is something you’re into, you can jump on the bandwagon as well!
So the basics of this are: speak to your doctor, come up with a game plan, come up with a meal plan, stock up on supplements/medications if you need them, and try to schedule any invasive appointments before Ramadan begins if you can. Please please please do not try to fast without making sure your body is in good physical health. We are told that it is okay to not fast if it is physically impossible for us. It’s frustrating to not be able to participate as normal, but there are so many other things we can do during this time to strengthen our deen and encourage our Ummah.
Do you meal plan for Ramadan? Are there any health measures you follow to make sure you’re ready for fasting? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
Today is day 12 which means that we are getting closer and closer to the most wonderful time of the year! Are you ready? I’m ready! And if you’re not ready, I’ve got another tip for you so that you can get a little bit more prepared! Beware, this is about to get a little serious.
This morning I watched a really good speech by Yasmin Mogahed on the topic of love. I know that it’s showing 40 minutes but you only need to watch the first 20. If you want the short version: there are different types of love and there is a space in our hearts that is reserved only for our love for Allah (SWT). Now, love can turn into a form of worship very easily. A love of money or power can very quickly grow into an obsession that results in hurting ourselves and/or others.
If we don’t put Allah (SWT) first, that love that should be reserved for Him is directed at other things. And inevitably those other things bring us misery and pain because they aren’t supposed to be in that place in our hearts. This includes our children, our spouses, and our parents. If we try to replace our relationship with Allah (SWT) with our relationship with our spouse, that love will grow bitter very quickly. Allah (SWT) must always come first.
So all of that to say, take time today to reflect on what is at the center of your heart. What do you love most? If you have noticed that you’re dealing with resistance and emotional pain in your relationships, analyze that relationship. Do you put spending time with your loved ones over praying your salat on time? As Yasmin mentioned in her video, are you doing tawaf around your children? Is their football practice more important than dhuhr? And what about material things? Love for money can quickly turn into a desire to do whatever it takes and sacrifice one’s Deen in order to get it. Are you still making time to stay on deen while on your grind?
As I and everyone else has said: Ramadan is about worshipping Allah (SWT) and focusing on one’s deen. To get the most out of this, we need to have Him at the center of our hearts. When He occupies that space within us, it means that we are doing what is necessary to be good Muslims. It means that we are praying our salat on time regardless of what else is going on and what other people think. I means that we are reading the Quran, memorising it, and reflecting on it throughout the day. It means that we embrace halal and turn away completely from haram. I could go on and on, but you get the gist. Taking time to recenter your heart as Yasmin talks about, is essential.
Is there something that you love so much, it’s become painful for you? Has it distracted you from what truly matters and given you nothing in return? If so, I encourage you to take a quick peek at the video linked above. It’s worth the watch and will definitely change your perspective on what love is.
Today is day 13 of our Ramadan Countdown and today we are going to talk about getting ourselves in a grateful mindset. This may already come naturally to you or you may have been practicing gratitude already so this will just be a refresher. Or maybe you need some motivation, maybe you’ve felt yourself getting stuck in a negative cycle and are trying to find a way out. Whatever your situation is now, gratitude is a sure way to start with having the best attitude you can have.
Gratitude sometimes needs to be forced. It’s difficult to feel grateful when it seems almost impossible to see the good in our lives. So like every lifestyle blogger will tell you, start your day off by making a list of things you are grateful for. Yay! Isn’t this fun?
But for real, that’s actually a decent way to start and sometimes the only way to start. You can write about shallow things that you’re grateful for, like warm weather or food. Or you can get even deeper with it. Pick something or someone that’s really been frustrating you lately and find something about it/them that you can admire. Let’s say your spouse/parents/roommate is driving you nuts since they’ve been home during the lockdown. It’s pretty difficult to see the positive in the situation if they’ve brought in a negative “vibe” and are always complaining. If you let yourself stew on these details, it will produce a snowball effect until you’ve convinced yourself you hate them and they are the worst person on the planet. Now, take a few minutes to write a list about all of the things you love about that person and what they do. An example could be: they work hard, they look after me, they cook really good food and share it with me, they cuddle me at night, we have really good conversations, they know how to have fun, etc. Etc.
Now how do you see this person? They’re pretty great, right? So if that works for one person, imagine how well it could work for everything else in your life. I know gratitude isn’t going to pay your bills or make you healthy, or take away concrete issues but it can at least take away any unnecessary mental grief and put you in a more growth-oriented state of mind.
So, what does this have to do with Ramadan? Ramadan is a real struggle and often when we’re in the midst of stuff like this, it’s easy to lose sight of all the good around us. Instead we often focus on the negative like how hungry we are, which makes us annoyed at our loved ones, which plants anger in our hearts. This leads to ill thoughts and maybe even wrong actions or words towards someone. This takes away from the focus on our Deen and on Allah (SWT) which is the true meaning of Ramadan. To get the most out of it, it’s best to start with a greatful heart and mind so that we can make progress.
What are you greatful for? Let me know in the comments below!