Archive for August, 2012

Ramadan Part 2


Eid party food 2011

Ok, so technically Ramadan is over. Except that for a lot of Muslims it isn’t. Muslims like me who have days to fast, making up for when we couldn’t fast in Ramadan. As those days are rewarded as days of Ramadan, and the fact that it is encouraged to fast the six days the month after Ramadan also, Shawwal – to me – feels like a bit of a lacklustre sequel to Ramadan. A sequel, because of all the fasting left, and lacklustre because often you fast by yourself, there’s no Tarawih in the mosque, no atmosphere. Ramadan is easy. This is the month that a lot of people find hard.

So as it’s the following on from Ramadan (when I set some goals for myself to achieve) I’d like to set some goals for myself for this month. In fact I’d like to start setting goals for myself on a monthly basis. Why monthly? Because according to studies, monthly goals work better over the long-haul than either short-term (which are too much effort) or long-term (which are easy to forget) ones. I’m also continuing with my division of priorities for goals. So here goes:

 Things I will do Inshallah:

1) Finish reading the Qur’an. I was reading it before Ramadan and then stopped so that I could restart it for the new month. I read 41 hizbs, so I only have another 19 to go Inshallah.

2)   Perform 4 Rakat of voluntary prayer a day 4 times a week. This may include Duha’ prayer, Qiyam or anything, so long as it’s 4 extra rakat.

3)   Morning and evening Dua. I need to keep this up. To make it a bit more challenging I might learn a few new ones. Might.

4)   Work on my thesis for 2 hours a day, 4 days a week for starters. (My thesis is about Islamic Fundamentalism in Western writing, so it qualifies as an Islamic goal, methinks.)

 Things I’d like to do, but might not:

1)   Blog twice a week. This is doable. Especially if one post is an update on my goals.

2)   Read the Qur’an again in its entirety. (At the beginning of the year I set myself the goal of reading the Qur’an 3 times this year, excluding Ramadan. I read it once and started on the second time, and I hope that seeing as I have built the momentum and habit I can complete this one this month too.)

3)   Revise three hizbs from the end of the Qur’an.

4)  Keep a food diary. I’d also like to keep distinct meals, so that they don’t become a continuous graze, but I think keeping a food diary will help that, so it’s really part of the main goal.

These are just my Islamic goals, and don’t include all the things that I’ll be doing over the next 5 weeks anyway, such as:

–    Making up my days from Ramadan.

–    Fasting the six days of Shawwal.

–    Getting back to teaching again.

–    Getting back to exercising regularly when I’m done fasting.

–    Reading more (especially the Hunger Games trilogy) and listening to audio books (always non-fiction).

–    Phoning my friends and staying in touch more.

Obviously a lot of my goals for the coming weeks are a rinse-and-repeat of my goals from Ramadan, and that’s mainly because I’ll be fasting for two of these weeks and I don’t want to set any goals that will be hard to achieve when my energy levels – and therefore self-control (seriously, the lower your energy levels the worse your self-control) – will be depleted.

Do you have any goals for September? Islamic or otherwise? How are you going to achieve them?


Ramadan 1433 Review

The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.
[Surah Al-Baqarah: 185]

Alhamdulillah I feel pretty good overall about this Ramadan. Of course, it could always have gone better (I could have prayed more, read more, revised more, etc) but as they say, the perfect is the enemy of the good. And it was a good Ramadan.

This Ramadan I divided my goals into what I intended to accomplish, what I’d like to accomplish, if possible, and what I wouldn’t do. This took the pressure off me and made it easy to see my priorities. Also, it should be known, I chose things that wouldn’t be too taxing for my main goals, and used them to build some momentum. So here’s how it all went:

Things I was determined to do:

1)  Read the Qur’an.

Alhamdulillah I finished this on 5th of August – which was the 17th day of Ramadan. I don’t think I’ve ever finished the Qur’an that quick, Subhanallah, but as it was my main goal that I could work on during the day, I gave it more effort, especially at the beginning.

2)   Pray Tarawih.

Alhamdulillah I prayed Tarawih 15 or 16 times. At face value, it’s a little demoralising to think that all that effort and I only prayed half the month, but in reality it is pretty good considering I obviously wasn’t praying the entire month AND we had more guests than we’ve had before during Ramadan. (And therefore WAAAAYYY more washing up.)

3)   Pray a minimum of 2 rakahs of Qiyam ul-layl, two or three times a week.

I knocked this one out of the park, mashallah. I deliberately chose something super easy – 2 rakahs in which I could recite any surah, however short or long, and only a couple of times a week. I don’t think I ever prayed only 2 rakat, and I frequently prayed more than two or three times a week – in the last ten days I prayed Qiyam every night.

4)   Make my dua in the morning and evening.

Alhamdulillah, I did good on this one, too. It helps that I stuck to a VERY short list of dua/adhkar that took me less than five minutes to get through, and they were basically the same every morning and night.

Things I wanted to do, but wasn’t focused on:

1)   Finish memorising Surah Yunus.

Alhamdulillah I finished this the day before Eid. Honestly, I feel like this is my biggest accomplishment this Ramadan, as I didn’t really think I’d do it, especially given that I’ve been meaning to finish it for a couple of years now, Subhanallah. I think it helped that I was in the habit of reading Qur’an at this stage, and spending half an hour on it, so it wasn’t a truly new behaviour. Plus, I started this just before the last ten days, when I was motivated to make the most of what was left.

2)   Publish one post every day on this blog.

This one only really lasted while I wasn’t praying and therefore wasn’t fasting. I think it’s the combination of the change in routine (no meals to prepare/serve in the middle of the day, and no snacks to bake – and snacks are my job), and the fact that my focus was more Islamic than it is at other times. Outside of Ramadan I definitely think that posting every day is far too ambitious for me. However, I think I can manage to blog more than once a week (which I did during Ramadan).

3)   Revise some Qur’an. Maybe the last 4 hizbs.

I actually thought I’d choose this one over finishing Surah Yunus, because I knew it’d be quite easy and fun. I memorised most of these Surahs as a kid, and I didn’t always understand what I was saying, so going back over the verses I once struggled with and realising how easy they actually are in terms of meaning does give me a chuckle at my little girl self. Also, it’s sooooooo much easier to revise surahs I learnt when I was little than the ones I’ve learnt as an adult. Anyways, I only revised one hizb (the last and easiest one), and I’ve started to incorporate the surahs I have a kiddie hang-up on in my prayers, so that they’ll become like Al-Fatiha Inshallah.

4)   Exercise 4 times a week Inshallah.

Yeah, ok this sooo didn’t happen. I knew it was going to be tough in Ramadan because I could only do it at night, when I could guzzle water throughout and afterwards, but I really didn’t want to lose my fitness. Hah! Lose it I did. I think I should have aimed for three times a week – it would have felt more manageable. Four was just too hard. Also, I tried doing cardio the first week: bad idea. Strength was definitely the way to go, but I needed more rest in between workouts.

Things I was determined NOT to do:

1)   Watch any of my usual TV programmes / films.

Totally nailed this one. There were a few times when I was tempted to watch an episode of something, but it wasn’t all that strong, and by the end of the month, I’d gotten in the habit of not watching stuff. So now, when I’ve got the time and there’s a lull in my energy levels, I forget that there’s always TV. 🙂 I guess this is a good thing though.

2)   Overeat.

Alhamdulillah, I think I managed this one. I ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full, so it went well. The only thing is the quality of food I ate. Normally I track my food (to ensure a 40% carb, 40% fat, 20% protein ratio – or to keep me mindful of it at any rate) using an app on my iphone, but not having normal mealtimes made it kinda hard.

In addition to this I also listened to 2 audio books:

–      The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life & Business – Charles Duhigg

–      Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength – Roy F. Baumeister & John Tierney

I picked these two books because I really wanted to have a chance at both completing my Ramadan habits and continuing them outside of Ramadan. They were fabulously motivational, insightful and informative and I learned A LOT about habits, habit formation and self-control from these two books. Some of the habits, I’ve applied, others have changed my approach to trying to do things.

I also read a book called ‘Watching the English’ by Kate Fox, an anthropologist who decided to study English culture. It’s very interesting, and actually helped me to understand why I find some things in Algerian culture a bit OTT, such as the obsession with cooking and the amazing dramatics people come out with at certain times. I know it’s not just Algerians that do these things, but realising that I’m uncomfortable, not because it necessarily is over the top, but because I come from a culture where gushing earnestness (food) is frowned upon and restraint is demanded. As interesting as the book was, the fact that it wasn’t a great gripping novel gave it the added advantage of being perfect to send me to sleep on those occasions after Fajr when I couldn’t doze off. A half hour of this book and it was definitely lights out!

Some overall observations:

–   Every Ramadan I rediscover something about myself that I always forget afterwards: my biggest incentive for getting out of bed in the morning – the thing I always look forward to – is a cup of tea (more even than the rest of my breakfast). I have a terrible time getting up in Ramadan because I know I can’t have my tea. It’s a really big problem, subhanallah. And it’s not the addiction to caffeine – during the day, when I have to do something I don’t like, I can usually motivate myself by telling myself I’ll have a cuppa afterwards.

–   I have grossly underestimated the number of Islamic blogs there are floating around. It’s nice to have a little reminder pop up in my reader, as well as a good laugh at some of the Islamic humour stuff. Of course, I wasted hours online going from one good blog to the next, but at least it was Islamic.

–   Now this might just be me, but I’ve noticed that praying at night with hijab in the middle of a North African summer with an incandescent lightbulb makes the room way hotter. Fluorescent bulbs just don’t seem to radiate the same heat. And this is with a fan pointed straight at me. Anyone else agree that incandescent are HOT?

–   The more I pray at night, the easier it is to concentrate in my prayers during the day. Not total concentration, mind you, but a definite improvement on the norm. I think it’s one of those cases of practice makes perfect. Hmmm. Of course, it helped that I was doing a lot of Ibadah anyway and avoiding sins, so my heart (and head) weren’t exposed to so much crap, which probably strengthened my heart a bit.

All in all, I’m declaring Ramadan 1433 a success. My priority was Ibadah, and I did good. My only concern now is how to incorporate these new habits after Ramadan. There’s no point in just saying I hope to continue with them – I have to figure out how I’m going to do that, as well as what exactly I intend to accomplish.

What can you take from Ramadan this year to help you improve yourself in your deen?

Here are my reviews for week one , week two and week three.

One more day left, and Ramadan 1433 is over! 😦 Here’s this week’s review!

Things I will do Inshallah:

1)  Read the Qur’an. – DONE!!

2)   Pray Tarawih.

I prayed Tarawih every night except Saturday (we were out) and tonight (that time o’the month. again.), so I’m very happy with this one, Alhamdulillah.

3) Pray a minimum of 2 rakahs of Qiyam ul-layl, two or three times a week.

DONE!! You may remember that last week I stated that I wanted to pray Qiyam every night during the last ten nights, and Alhamdulillah I did, praying a minimum of 4 rakahs every night.

4) Make my dua in the morning and evening.

DONE!! Alhamudlillah, I think this one has really started to become a habit.

5)  Finish memorising Surah Yunus.

I have made good progress with this one, even though I had to slow my pace as I’ve reached the pages that I haven’t memorised before, and I can only memorise a maximum of one page a day. I still have 2.5 pages left, and I’m determined to finish them before Maghrib tomorrow, Inshallah.

Things I’d like to do, but might not:

1)  Publish one post every day on this blog.

Another week, another no show. Hey, at least I’m publishing once a week – it’s more than I’ve done over the year!

2)  Revise some Qur’an. Maybe the last 4 hizbs.

I have only really truly revised the last hizb completely and properly, inside out. The second last is coming along nicely, but I don’t know if I’ll get it all revised by tomorrow evening.

3)  Exercise 4 times a week Inshallah.

I only exercised once this week. Unfortunately my knees started to act up and my right knee got swollen (probably from standing for so long) and they hurt way too much for exercise to be a reasonable activity. Oh well.

Things I will not do Inshallah:

1)   Watch any of my usual TV programmes / films.

DONE!! I ain’t watched nuffin’!

2)   Overeat.

DONE!! Alhamdulillah.

Overall, I think this week went quite well. I had serious problems with my willpower early on in the week, but I’ve made progress on most of my goals, Alhamdulillah, so I’m happy with it.

Inshallah I’ll put up a full review of the whole month either tomorrow or some time after Eid, with some of my thoughts / musings about this year’s Ramadan.

How was your last week of Ramadan? How did the last ten days go for you?

Here are my reviews for week one and week two.

This Ramadan is whizzing by! I can’t believe that we’ve only got one more week left, Subhanallah. Alhamdulillah I feel like I’ve had a good week – better than last – so I’m hoping to finish Ramadan strong Inshallah. I always do my best when the deadline is imminent! 🙂

Things I will do Inshallah:

1)  Read the Qur’an. – DONE!!

2)   Pray Tarawih.

I’m ok with this one. I didn’t pray every night this week, as we had guests, but I did manage to pray it 4 times this week.

3) Pray a minimum of 2 rakahs of Qiyam ul-layl, two or three times a week.

DONE!! Alhamdulillah I prayed 5 times this week. Now that we’re in the last ten days I intend to pray Qiyam every night – especially as I’m up all night anyway.

4) Make my dua in the morning and evening.

DONE!! Alhamudlillah, just about. Sometimes there’s only a few hours between the two, but hey! I remembered them all!

5)  Finish memorising Surah Yunus.

Alhamdulillah I’ve made some progress on this. It’s 13.5 pages long, and I’ve revised/memorised 8 so far. This goal is actually easier than it sounds as I have memorised over half of it and am very familiar with the rest. So inshallah I’ll finish this before the week is out.

Things I’d like to do, but might not:

1)  Publish one post every day on this blog.

Ummm. No. Despite some wonderful encouragement this week, the lack of leccy/crappy connection has just left me not bovvered. Inshallah I’ll be better next week.

2)  Revise some Qur’an. Maybe the last 4 hizbs.

I haven’t started this properly, except that I have been reading the last hizb in Qiyam and Alhamdulillah, seem to be reaching for the Mus’haff a lot less.

3)  Exercise 4 times a week Inshallah.

DONE!! Yay! Alhamdulillah, I read this article about exercising during Ramadan and focusing on strength training so as not to lose muscle toning/strength, while devoting this month to Ibadah instead of health, and it really helped. Also, putting on my workout clothes before praying Tarawih definintely helped me to exercise afterwards. Alhamdulillah I worked out 4 times, doing strength workouts from the Nike Training Club for women.

Things I will not do Inshallah:

1)   Watch any of my usual TV programmes / films.

DONE!! Although I did do some channel – flicking earlier this week at half-past midnight, all I really got to watch was 15 mins of the Omar film series (I wasn’t impressed and won’t be trying to watch it afterwards. On a side note, it had the actor who played Salahudin Al-Ayyubi in Kingdom of Heaven playing Abu Bakr – which I liked, because somehow it made me realise that maybe I need to learn more about this companion in order to be better able to relate to him). This was followed by some interviews with Arnold Schwarzennegar, so it was very easy to switch off.

2)   Overeat.

DONE!! If anything I might have undereaten. Except that the weighing scales is daring to imply that I’m lying on this – it’s the lack of cardio people!

Alhamdulillah, a good week overall, and very iman-boosting with the sisters we’ve had over for Iftar. I just can’t believe we only have ONE week left! BOO!

This coming week Inshallah I’d like to focus on praying Qiyam every night, finishing Surah Yunus (seriously this has been on my to-do list for nearly 2 years!), blog at least 3 more times after this post, make more of an effort to revise the last hizb of Quran (maybe 2) and keep up the exercise.

How are your Ramadan goals going? Do you have any special goals for the last ten days?

Subhanallah, an entire week of Ramadan has gone by already! According to the tradition I started last year, this means it’s time for a review of my goals and plans for the month to see what I’ve done well, what needs working on and what may need to be abandoned.

This year, I decided to divide my goals according to the things that I will do, the things I might do, and the things that I won’t do, so I’ll be reviewing them in those categories Inshallah.

Things I will do Inshallah:

1)  Read the Qur’an.

DONE!! Alhamdulillah I finished this goal about 2 hours ago.

2)   Pray Tarawih.

Hmmmm. This one is going well, but I just feel like it could have gone better. I don’t really know why, I guess that since I missed a few nights because we went out/had guests that I just feel behind. I also realised in the middle of the week that what I wrote last time about not getting to finish reading all the Qur’an I’ve memorised was wrong – I recite one juz’ every night, but was counting the Hizbs (half a Juz’): DUH!!

3) Pray a minimum of 2 rakahs of Qiyam ul-layl, two or three times a week.

This past week I prayed 4 rakahs twice. It seems like 4 rakahs is my go to number (a nice even hizb) so Inshallah I keep it up and pray more often.

4) Make my dua in the morning and evening.

This, like last week has gone very well, Alhamdulillah, bar the one morning when I didn’t make dua. I’m changing my pattern again (who said routine was important?) so that I say my morning duas after fajr before I go back to bed and the afternoon ones after Asr/Maghrib ish.

Things I’d like to do, but might not:

1)  Finish memorising Surah Yunus.

Again, I still haven’t started this goal, because I was focused on reading the Qur’an. But now that I’ve finished reading I will move this up to the above category. I have enough time to finish it before the end of the month, so Inshallah I can do it.

2)  Publish one post every day on this blog.

Hah hah! Yeah… right… umm… Inshallah it’ll be better this week.

3)  Revise some Qur’an. Maybe the last 4 hizbs.

Umm, I haven’t actually started this one properly – I was reading the Qur’an and next I’ll be finishing Surah Yunus Inshallah – but I have been reading the last hizb in my Qiyam at night. I know most of it, but there are surahs I just don’t read much in my salat. I kinda forget they’re there. Alhamdulillah, it’s nice to refamiliarise myself with this section.

4)  Exercise 4 times a week Inshallah.

I exercised once, but I’ve already done one workout for this week too. I think the key is to putting on my workout clothes before I pray Tarawih and wearing them under my hijab. Both times I’ve done it has resulted in a workout.

Things I will not do Inshallah:

1)   Watch any of my usual TV programmes / films.

This week I watched two documentaries: Koran By Heart (which followed three kids taking part in the annual international Qur’an competition held in Egypt every year, and their stories. Mashallah very interesting. Made by and for a US audience – HBO – so some of the translation was out of wack, but it was good, mashallah.) and Starsuckers (which was about how and why the media created and focused on fame and celebrity gossip so much. The premise was good, but the format kinda made it hard to figure out what the point was. It also made it feel a bit conspiratorial – and I had conspiracy theories – even though I think there were valid points made.)

2)   Overeat.

Alhamdulillah I did good on this all week – YAY!

Ok, so for this week that means I need to focus on praying Tarawih / Qiyam, Revising and then memorising Surah Yunus and exercising. I’m also aiming for 100% on my goals of saying my dua and not overeating.

How are your Ramadan goals going?