Ramadan's Final Round: Seeking Solitude at its End
Freelance Writer- Pakistan
The adrenaline is pumping as the athlete's feet pound the turf.
His breath comes in gasps; his charging body is tired but, by now, is in
perfect harmony with the added strain and muscular stress of running many
By now he is running effortlessly, his limbs no longer protesting to the
As the last lap starts, the feeling of excitement builds up inside, and his
mind becomes even more alert, despite the physical fatigue.
As soon as he spots the finishing line in the distance, his heart skips a
beat, giving him the incentive to push himself even harder to achieve
fruition. By now, when the end of his toils is near and in sight, his whole
being - physical, mental, emotional, psychological - has been disciplined and
taxed by the persistent, forced physical activity to harmonize as one entity
charging in unison towards a coveted goal - the final destination.
The end is insight. The excitement is intense.
Olympics & Ramadan Analogy
The analogy above has less to do with the ongoing Olympic games and more to do
with the ''last lap'' of the blessed month of Ramadan that is commencing for
us Muslims. I have described the physical, mental and emotional condition of
an athlete running the last lap of the marathon in order to draw some
I'd like to compare such an athlete to the penitent, humbled Muslim who has
been diligently observing the diverse rituals of worship in Ramadan since 20
days viz. fasting from dawn to dusk, sleeping little during the night,
controlling anger and quelling hatred, standing in prayer at night, speaking
less, giving food, money and better social etiquette in charity, and last but
not least: reading, reciting and pondering upon a portion of the Quran every
day - all in the hope of getting closer to God and seeking forgiveness for
When Ramadan starts, most Muslims are not in the habit of fasting numerous
consecutive days. Hence, their body initially ''protests'' i.e. they
experience some symptoms of food withdrawal for the first week or so, such as
headaches, nausea and stomach upsets (mostly due to overeating at Iftar and
Suhoor), sleep pattern disturbances and slight emotional irritability.
As the days of Ramadan progress, however, the Muslim's body and soul quickly
adapt to the new, different routine of eating, sleeping, work and worship
imposed upon it according to a strict, disciplined schedule.
By the time Ramadan hits the half-mark, most Muslims have comfortably settled
into their unique fasting and worship rituals. I personally do not feel any
more the mid-afternoon hunger pangs that I felt during the first 10 days of
By this phase of the month, when the last third is starting, I am actually
experiencing a gradual loss of appetite that makes me want to, instead,
actually reduce my food portion-size at both, suhoor as well as iftar. The
body has got the message by now: it has been disciplined to let go of its
clinginess to frequent doses of food nutrition and sleep, and is instead now
''feeding'' more on the spiritual nutrition of taqwa (consciousness of God),
selfless empathy (giving food and money to others in a state of hunger and
thirst), and the recitation of Quran.
By the time the last ten days of Ramadan roll around, the Muslim is in this
prime state of spiritual ''inertia'' - all set for the ''last lap'' of the
Ramadan marathon. This lap is the most ''strenuous'' phase of the whole month,
yet oddly enough, by the time it rolls around, the fasting Muslim has been
prepared well for it. The sunnah of Prophet Muhammad indicates that Muslims
should buck up for some more intense worship now:
"When the last ten days of Ramadan began, the Prophet would tighten his
waist-wrapper (meaning he would stay away from marital relations), spend his
nights in prayer, and wake his family." (Muslim)
How can we garner for ourselves some exclusivity with God during the last ten
days of Ramadan, to focus on worship?
Unplug the 'Cord': Block or Restrict Online Social Media Access
Tapping, clicking, and typing away on our phones, notebooks, tablet PC's and
desktop computers has become second nature for most of us. Many Muslims are
online on social media websites and apps almost 24/7 nowadays, either by
choice or due to work. Thanks to the short nights of Ramadan, most of which
are spent awake due to prayer and meals, connectivity is even more ''real
Try to ''switch off'' - literally - after 20th. Ramadan. Tell yourself that
these last 10 nights of Ramadan come just once a year, whereas our distractive
online conversations, comments, status updates and information sharing go on
for the rest of it. Snap yourself away from your latest online friends'
updates, photos, and tweets. Even avoid articles, over-sensationalized
breaking news, and random television viewing. Also try not to get attracted by
commercial advertisements of sales, coupons, discounts and shopping deals in
magazines, newspapers and brochures to avail them for Eid!
Resist the Urge to Host or Attend Suhoor or Iftar Banquets at Homes or
It is wise to reserve all our energies during the last ten nights of Ramadan
for worshipping God at night. This will not be possible if we go out of the
house earlier in the day to attend a banquet for iftar, or if we spend hours
in the kitchen preparing to host one at our own home.
Many Muslims attend late night qiyam al layl prayers in congregation during
the last odd nights of Qadr (Power) which culminate with lavish suhoor
banquets. Though well-intentioned, some of these gatherings end up having a
festive, 'party-like' atmosphere and turn into social events, with some
attendees breaking away from prayer to sit together in cliques at the back,
eating and chatting away about worldly matters, while their children run
around playing even as congregational qiyam al layl prayers are going on. This
is quite uncalled for during the precious last nights of Ramadan.
Resist the Desire to Go Eid Shopping
I don't know about others, but the special Eid sale and discount-deal
advertisements displaying couture and fashion accessories that started
cropping up on screens and billboards in my cosmopolitan city ever since
Ramadan started, strike me as extremely dichotomous!
Eid is all about celebrating the fact that we, the Muslim ummah, spent a whole
month in devout worship, doing righteous deeds and remembering God more than
we normally do. Eid preparations should therefore never become the cause of
distracting us from worship during Ramadan!
We should thus make a conscious effort to keep our discussions, actions and
attentions focused on worship and repentance during the last few nights that
Ramadan is still with us; instead of on what to buy, what to cook, what gifts
to give, and what to wear on Eid day.
Spend Less Time in the Kitchen
Even if you are not attending or hosting banquets, you can still end up
spending more time in the kitchen than in devout worship, if you cling to 'old
school' methods of cooking and insist on needless culinary perfectionism. Try
to rely on healthy 'readymade' foods for suhoor and iftar, such as dates,
fruit, milk, nuts, and packaged breads. Try availing affordable takeout or
simple, one-stop, one-pot, easy-prep baked or simmered meals to do the work
for you, such as slow-cooker or oven-bake recipes, stews, casseroles and
grilled meats that do not require much chopping, kneading, frying, sautéing or
Exclusiveness Even From Your Spouse
The Prophet was the most pious amongst us, yet even he abstained from having
sexual relations with his wives (which is halal) during the last ten nights of
Ramadan. He would isolate himself from social interactions in the masjid for a
ten-day exclusive period in solitary communion with his lord, a praiseworthy,
Ramadan-related social isolation known as i'tikaf. During this time, he would
review Quran as usual with Archangel Gabriel, as was his routine during
Ramadan every year, in addition to praying qiyam al layl. As the above-quoted
hadith states, he would also encourage and involve his family members to pray
If the tired but exhilarated athlete who is approaching the finishing line of
this marathon, having spent the last many laps physically disciplining his
body into optimum performance and unswerving mental focus on achieving his
goal, allowed himself to get distracted by the hordes of awaiting, cheering,
waving, and applauding fans gathered in the sidelines to witness his ''win'',
would he not lose focus and end up spoiling his whole previous preparatory
effort to achieve a record-breaking sprint, at the very last minute?
It is time for us to get cracking on night prayers, Quran recitation, tearful
repentance and intense, deep, dua'!
First published in July 2013.
Sadaf Farooqi is a freelance writer based in Karachi, Pakistan. She has a
postgraduate master degree in Computer Science and a diploma in Islamic
education. She has seven years of experience as a teacher of Islamic education
courses for women and girls. She has an award winning blog called Sadaf's
Space, and has written for Hiba Magazine, SISTERS Magazine, Saudi Gazette and
MuslimMatters.org. Sadaf has also authored a book titled Traversing the Highs
and Lows of Muslim Marriage.