In the many years I’ve been lucky enough to spend fasting, I’ve had the same approach to Ramadan. I tend to set myself huge goals for the month ahead, sometimes without realising. It’s the month I love most and actively look forward to each year. A time to devote myself to my faith, build a stronger relationship with Allah, and gain mental clarity.
When the sacred month nears, my Instagram feed is filled with Ramadan content. In between the Iftar recipes and Eid fits are daily challenges and infographics on how to make the absolute most of every day. I save them all, grab a pen, and scribble my goals for the month.
Ramadan always starts off strong. I plan to read ten surahs of the Qu’ran every morning, and learn a new du’a every day. Not only will I listen to an Islamic podcast on my commute, I’ll pray Tahajuud every night, Taraweeh on weekends. I’ll learn Allah’s beautiful 99 names by heart, recite hadiths to understand their meaning, start a journal with my favourite stories about the Prophet Muhammed (SWT). I’ll find tons of Islamic books to devour every night, and study the tafseer of all my favourite surahs, starting with Al-Fatihah.
In a nutshell, I plan to be the Best Muslim Ever in my sight and thinking about it, my behaviour isn’t surprising.
We live in an age that glorifies never-ending self-improvement, where we chase productivity and encourage ourselves to do more — be better, always. Why not become my best self in Ramadan, the month where good deeds are multiplied by 70?
I glide through the first week, slipping into an easy rhythm, reading the Qu’ran whilst fasting feels like second nature, as does reciting hadiths and listening to Islamic podcasts.
But what comes next is unofficially known as the “Ramadan slump”, I have a steep drop in enthusiasm and find myself struggling to keep up with the massive goals I set. Suddenly they feel unrealistic and once one goal slips, everything tends to topple with it — fast.
One of the most difficult things is going through the final 10 days is hitting the Ramadan slump means I’m gradually doing less and less when I should be doing much more, especially as Laylatul Qadr nears. I’ve run into this brick wall every Ramadan over the past few years, and whilst I do manage to eventually get out of it, I’ve never managed to avoid it entirely.
This Ramadan, however, I decided to reframe my approach and It started when I found a hadith. Allah’s Messenger said:
“Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little.”
To say it hit home is an understatement, It made me realise my Ramadan goals were a series of unrealistic checklists to complete, that just setting myself huge tasks wasn’t the right thing to do. Although I’d understood the importance of each one, my ultimate goal was to tick them all off, and when I couldn’t do that, I stopped.
I was setting myself up to fail by thinking of Ramadan as a sprint.
For the first time, this year’s Ramadan started a little differently — more slowly. Instead of scribbling a million and one things to do and achieve over the next 30 days, I focused on three key ones revolving around my prayers:
Reading the Qu’ran daily, and making the time to remember Allah whenever I can and wherever I am.
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection.”
Because I have fewer goals than ever, my instinct tells me I’m doing something wrong.
Ramadan is such a sacred month, and no one is guaranteed to see the next one — surely, I should be aiming for more. It’s so easy to feel like you aren’t doing as much, or as well, as those around you. But being deliberately slow and precise with my goals feels disruptive.
My Deen, our deen has never been a competition or a race and Islam is never about rushing.
The best thing about having smaller goals is I’m much more likely to continue these habits out of Ramadan, past Eid, and into the year, simply because they’re so much more manageable. Being consistent is incredibly valuable. Gradually, it creates ihsān.
Abu Dharr reported: The Prophet said, “Do not disdain a good deed, (no matter how small it may seem).
Now that we’re in the final week, I can confidently say I’ve dodged the mid- Ramadan slump. On paper, I’m doing so much less this year, but instead of taking abrupt, giant strides towards making myself the best Muslim I can be, I’m going to focus on the small baby steps I can do regularly. I’ve learnt that maintaining the consistency of a good deed is evidence of its sincerity. And for every tiny goal I keep going with, I maintain the love of Allah in my life.
Binta Jallow is a writer and book editor, born and bred in London. She is particularly passionate about Muslim voices, intersectionality, and the Black British perspective.