Ramadan has always been my favourite time of the year. It is the time when communities get together in worship and in celebrating the blessings of the month of Ramadan. I really love the communal aspect of Ramadan: going to Taraweeh with your entire family and catching up with friends at the mosque after the prayers end, attending special Ramadan classes, hosting iftar parties are all the activities that I really enjoy. But this year, it is going to be vastly different. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, masajid are either closed or operating limited occupancy, iftar dinners are off, and most classes have shifted to online mediums. And while this does not lessen the bond between the community during Ramadan, (one could even argue that this Ramadan is in fact all about taking care of our community), a different mindset is needed to breeze through Ramadan 2020.
With no work, no school, and no exams this Ramadan, most of us will stay home. While it is never okay to sleep and laze about all day while fasting, it is especially not okay this year. This year, Ramadan is a remarkable opportunity to really savour the month and its spirit.
“Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety and righteousness”(Surah Baqarah, 2:183)
The spirit of Ramadan for me is introspection. Reflecting on my own self and my own relationship with Allah (SWT) is what all my goals tends to try to achieve. I suspect this is the same for most of us out there who want to come out of Ramadan, feeling stronger in their faith. Indeed, I envy those of us who have had the opportunity to do I’tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan because I imagine the singular focus on worship, faith, and oneself does wonders for their relationships with Allah (SWT). I have never done Itikaf and have always looked forward to finding an ideal Ramadan to do it.
That got me thinking about this Ramadan and the objectives of I’tikaf.
I’tikaf is a practice that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to do in the last ten days. He would go to the mosque, away from his family, and devote those ten days solely to Allah’s ibadah (worship).
Aisha RA narrated: “The Messenger of Allah would stay in I’tikaf during the last ten nights of Ramadan and he said: ‘Seek the Night of Al-Qadr during the last ten nights of Ramadan’.” (Tirmidhi, 792).
I’tikaf requires a mindset of discipline and focus. A person doing I’tikaf is required to stay away from their personal desires and their family and friends for a limited period of time in a mosque, and devote themselves exclusively to ibadah. What this achieves is the attachment of the heart to Allah (SWT) and a deeper insight into ourselves as Muslims.
Thinking about the conditions required for I’tikaf led me to draw parallels between our current situation. While we cannot do I’tikaf in a mosque near us this year, we are shut away from much of our external lives. So though we cannot accomplish I’tikaf properly, we can still take the I’tikaf mindset of intense reflection on ourselves and improvement of our connection with Allah (SWT) while staying away from worldly affairs and apply it during the entirety of this Ramadan.
For me this means shutting down my social and digital media for this month. I have a bad habit of going down the Youtube rabbit-hole. So I am going to be trying to stay away from all online sources of entertainment and news.
Another step I am planning to take to keep in step with my Itikaf mindset is to subscribe to an online Islamic class. There are so many this month, offered by so many organisations, speakers, and on numerous topics. I find if you pick the right class, you can get a daily dose of knowledge as well as motivation to keep striving to be your best during (and after) Ramadan.
I am also re-thinking my goals for this Ramadan. Last Ramadan, my goal was to read through the entire Quran with the translation and alhamdulillah, I managed to do that. That is again my goal this year, but I am also going to try memorizing a few Surahs alongside. A new goal for me is to learn more about the Seerah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the first Islamic community.
My ultimate objective this Ramadan is to solely focus on developing a strong connection with Allah SWT and becoming a better Muslim. I want to highlight the shortcomings in my worship and discipline myself to overcome them this month.
I am pretty excited to get started!
Comment below with your goals to maintain an I’tikaf mindset in Ramadan 2020!