Woman in hijab and graduation robe throws mortarboard at the beach. Getty Images/Putra Kurniawan / EyeEm
It’s graduation season in the US, and every college student is aspiring to a bright future ahead of their big day. It’s also halfway through the month of Ramadan, this spiritual school for our soul, and Eid (our own “graduation day”) is almost around the corner.
How do you prepare for such a spiritual graduation? And how do you ensure that you acquire the necessary lessons from Ramadan to succeed in life after graduation?
Just like any degree, there’s usually a pass, fail or graduation with distinction. For Ramadan, this translates into the following:
- Fail: You are spiritually neglectful during the month of Ramadan and do not engage spiritually with your fasting, night prayers and charity. You’re simply going through the motions because you have to, and you’re dragging your feet through each day of Ramadan waiting for the month to end. You come out of the month of Ramadan precisely as you went into it (if not worse).
- Pass: You fulfill the surface rituals of Ramadan to your best of your ability. You start to enjoy the rituals and resolve to continue one or two rituals after Ramadan (e.g., reciting the Quran often or fasting every once in a while).
- Pass with Distinction: You fulfill the surface and deeper rituals of Ramadan and achieve a level of God-consciousness (taqwah) that makes a rooted difference in your being, affecting every aspect of your life beyond Ramadan.
All of us would love to graduate from the month of Ramadan, hopefully with distinction. So how does one do it? Every successful alumnus will tell you that you need five things to graduate from any college:
- Be Organized: If you don’t maintain a schedule and don’t organize around your deadlines, you’ll fail college. Similarly, if you don’t have a plan about what you’ll do each day, what you’ll eat, when you’ll sleep, when you’ll pray and which iftar invitations you’ll accept or decline, you might end up failing Ramadan.
- Stay Focused: College is all about staying focused despite all the distractions happening around you (events, parties, friends, etc.). Ramadan is all about focus too. Concentrate inwards on developing taqwa (God consciousness), focus on your words and deeds, concentrate on developing emotional intelligence, and focus on your relationships and the poor around you.
- Pick the right subjects: One of my old regrets about college life is that I didn’t switch my major when I realized I didn’t like it, and this made my college years quite dreary. Picking the subjects that are aligned with your interests and passions helps you stay curious and engaged. Similarly, with Ramadan, choose the good deeds and areas of your life that you know you’ll excel at and focus on maximizing them during Ramadan. If you love reciting the Quran, go all out during the month. If charity is your thing, don’t hold back.
- Stay Curious: In addition to picking the right subjects, in order to make the most of college life, you need to explore other topics and areas of interest. It was at college that I found my passion for writing, for example. During Ramadan, be curious and explore areas of spirituality that you usually don't engage with. It could be anything from extra prayers at night to performing the sunnah of I'tikaaf (seclusion in a mosque for a set period).
- Get Involved: Don’t be a hermit during college. College is the best time to have new experiences, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Don’t be a hermit during Ramadan either. Ramadan is a great time to get involved in the community, volunteer for and support charitable causes, and be part of something bigger than yourself.
Imagine that you’ve been selected as valedictorian for your Ramadan graduation class of 2018. What would you say to yourself and your fellow brothers and sisters in faith? What accomplishments or experiences will you share? What lessons will you take for life after Ramadan? Write down your speech and see what you can come up with. The results might surprise you.
Mohammed Faris is an international coach, author, and speaker who helps executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs rebalance their lives spiritually, physically and socially to achieve peak performance and live meaningful lives. He’s the founder of ProductiveMuslim.com and author of The Productive Muslim: Where Faith Meets Productivity.
(Writing by Mohammed Faris; Editing by Seban Scaria)
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