Ramadan is over. The excitement of `Eid is over. You are a revert Muslim and maybe it was your first `Eid. There were times when you were not sure you were going to make it and even times when you were not sure of anything much at all. It was 30 days of extreme physical and mental tests, long nights of prayer and lonely hours (at least in my case) of a dry throat.
Now on completion you will never forget those 30 days; every year from now on will mean something more than you ever could have imagined. They will forever be embedded in your heart and mind as a testimony to your resolve and unshaking belief in the Shahadah, which you know beyond a doubt that you now firmly believe in.
And then in that joy comes the ‘crash’ – the sense of emptiness, of abyss. You climbed so high to achieve the long fasts and Tarawih of Ramadan and now everywhere you look is down. At the top, the climb seems nowhere near as bad as the descent. And if you are feeling like that, trust me I was the same in 2012 in China, knowing I would go back to Spain, which isn’t the most Muslim-friendly place. This thought then filled my heart with a little bit of dread and then the desperation set in.
What do I do now? What does Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) want from me? What do I do at iftar (not fasting)? How do I maintain that sense of community?
With the end of Ramadan, it was like my ‘Muslimness’ was draining away and no sense of scrambling would get it back. That sense of knowing Allah when refusing a cup of tea until the final bowel of Maghrib (sunset) because you’re a Muslim, or the near militant avoidance of the use of bad language or the refusal to listen to non-Muslim worship during Ramadan was gone. Even the wearing of the prayer hat (all Muslims in China wear it as part of their identity), at least not until next year.
And in that desperation, I did the only thing I could do. I turned to Allah (Exalted be He) once more. Not because I was a ‘good Muslim’ but because I didn’t know what else to do. I could not ask my family and within a short time the Muslims I had come to know in China were literally going to be on the other side of the world.
At this moment I knelt in my long prayer clothing with my hood up on my pink prayer mat and opened my ears wide. What did Allah need to say to me? It was my first Ramadan and it was all over. How could I fill the emptiness? The answers did not come all at once. One did but the others come later, some even during my second Ramadan.
First thing to remember is that you are not chasing a spiritual high but you are running after Allah, the One true God.
Any Muslim looking to emulate a spiritual high will be highly disappointed and will only be drunk in it. The ‘high’ is the blessing one gets for seeking Allah. The minute you stop seeking Him is the minute the food spoils and makes you sick. The blessing fades and turns abruptly into a nightmare because as writer Yasmin Mogahed says:
“You can only run in one direction. So you are either running to God, or you are running to something else…”
So with that in mind, how does one stay in the blessing of Ramadan?
1- Remind yourself why you felt blessed during Ramadan and why you did it in the first place. In my case I did not do it because it was a pillar of Islam, but I did it to feel closer to Allah and to understand my path better. So I read the Qur’an more comprehensively, prayed more frequently, actively bought Islamic books on family life and marriage (seeing as it is the other half of the deen) to read in Ramadan and after it.
In other words I surrounded myself with things that would allow me to have a better relationship with Allah and the Ummah. In doing so, I received Allah’s blessing and actively felt blessed. If I had to give one piece of advice this post-Ramadan I would say: write down or talk to a brother or sister about your blessings and how you wish to walk in them in the coming year. This means, at least it did in my case, a brainstorming session (or two or three) with your best friends or family.
2- Reflect on Allah’s greatness every time you say “Allahu Akbar” and what He inspired you to achieve. I am not one to write things down but rather a person who ‘meditates’ on such things. Doing my quiet times on the bus (which were not actually quiet, given how crowded a place China is), I made it part of my worship.
In this worship, I processed what had happened to me doing Ramadan and was happening to me now, after `Eid. I asked friends of mine what they thought of ‘my Ramadan’, which was a rather revealing though a not too comfortable experience that told me a lot about myself and my relationship with Islam (my good and bad attitudes).
If you are a revert or even a born Muslim it is actually very worthwhile to ask a non-Muslim person you trust to give their honest opinion as they see things that Muslims may not always notice, given that they are themselves focusing on prayer and fasting themselves! Allah’s greatness can be reflected everywhere (unless it is strictly haram) and in every person (obviously to a varying degree) so don’t make the mistake of only asking the holiest person you meet!
3- Ask Allah what He wants you to do with your new found skills of post-Ramadan (in my case more patience and a greater awareness of poverty and physical hardship). I did a lot of du`aa’ following Ramadan and asked Allah about the things I had read, the people I had meet and the skills I had learned. I also went out and actively did something about it.
Du`aa’ is only the beginning and changes little if you do not act on it. Du`aa’ is participatory; it is not a monologue and involves interaction with Allah and subsequently other people, in order that Allah can show you how to make your pure heartfelt desires a reality. Think Action Plan, in blocks or a series of steps (I prefer not to have a timeframe as I lose motivation.)
4- Remember your brothers and sisters are exactly that and did not just adopt you doing Ramadan. Invest time in building and maintaining halal (permitted by Allah) relationships with them. Frequent halal shops, buying only what you need that day so you have to return the next one. Make time, not excuses, no matter how far the mosque is, (trust me all of mine are far) to get there on a daily basis. Actively look for opportunities to interact or offer your support to someone.
5- Continue to frequently consult the new websites from where you obtained Qur’anic insights to live a highly productive and spiritual Ramadan.
6- Keep up any one of the routines you established during Ramadan – continuity is key. If you made it your goal in Ramadan 2012 to pray all five prayers no matter where you were or to pray at the mosque daily in Ramadan 2013, keep up the habit! If you found time during Ramadan to go the gym and work a full-time job, you will still have that time when after Ramadan. It might mean, as it did in my case, that you make it your business to know every mosque in the city or that you book appointments and work schedule (or even leisure activities) around prayer times but believe me, it is worth it. I just think of all the exercise and fat I burn cycling to the masjid and the less time I have to sit wasting time on my computer.
7- Ask Allah what you need to work on after Ramadan which you didn’t have time to perfect during Ramadan. In my first Ramadan the focus was more physical, given the shock my body had. The focus of my second one was consistent masjid attendance. I am sure the next thing I must work on is patience. In this year’s post-Ramadan I will, in sha’ Allah, be looking at what frustrates me and how I can avoid that feeling of frustration. In my case prayer is the number solution and actually my best non-Muslim friend gives me my prayer mat when I am annoyed! Attack what you need to work on from two angles, find out the source or the reason behind the need to change, develop and/or grow and facilitate the solution.
O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient. (Al-Baqarah 2:153)
In your post-Ramadan, there will be times where you don’t feel spiritual at all. You might even feel fed-up and irritable, having slipped up and lost your newly created habits, be it gym attendance, masjid attendance, reduction in the number of swear words you allow to pass your lips etc. Pray about it, commit the issue to Allah. Make yourself accountable to a Muslim of the same sex (i.e. not your wife or husband though they should know you are doing it and who with), not to revel in it but to genuinely seek Allah’s Will on the matter. Ask him/her to commit to doing du`aa’ for you too and be patient and steadfast.
Lastly, remember if you forget to take prescribed medicine it normally says on the instruction leaflet, not to take a double dose but rather resume the medicine again as soon as you remember or as soon as you can. This is what I encourage you to do when and if you should slip up. Commit to prayer, be patient with yourself and as soon as you can resume your normal ‘Ramadan’ behavior. For this is now you, not the man or woman before Ramadan but the one after!
So with these tips, prepare yourself to have a different but equally enriching post-Ramadan experience until the next one, in sha’ Allah.
This article was written by Kai Ibrahim, a British revert who observed Ramadan on his own in Spain and Poland in 2013, and in Spain and China 2012, in the hope to inspire and encourage reverts and other Muslims to keep up the spirituality post-Ramadan until the next one. He also hopes that the article will encourage Muslim families to adopt a revert Muslim now that Ramadan is over and keep them smiling into the next one!