photo of Umm Zakiyyah overlooking the Indian Ocean at sunrise

Ramadan Is Coming and I’m Scared

“Jannah (Paradise) is not for perfect people. It is for the sinful who, in the end, didn’t give up on themselves or their Lord.” 

—from the journal of Umm Zakiyyah 

Ramadan is coming and I’m scared. I know many speak of Ramadan as a month they look forward to and are welcoming with eagerness and excitement. It’s not like that for me. Each year that I witness the blessed month, I discover a new unknown terrain being uncovered in my soul, and it terrifies me. What I see there isn’t something that I like, and I don’t look forward to uncovering yet one more dark crevice of my spirit-soul. It’s difficult to feel excitement about my heart shedding light on confusing, unchartered battlefields within.

But don’t get me wrong. I cherish the blessed month. It is like a thirty-day spiritual boot camp for my soul. And I need it. God knows I need it. The pensive reflection I feel during the day as I recite Qur’an, the humbling tranquility I feel during the night as I stand in Qiyaam. By Allah, nothing compares to it. The tears flow more easily. The regret comes more effortlessly. And my willingness to make the necessary changes in my life path is met with only minimal resistance. The hardening of my heart that had built almost imperceptibly earlier in the year softens, even if just a bit, day by day. Then I begin to feel unfettered. The suffocating anxiety begins to lift. And my heart begins to soar in hope and determination. I’ll be better. I’ll do better. I can do this, bi’idhnillaah. I will not give up.

And then, just like that, it’s gone.

Then the moon sighting wars begin. The incessant chatter about Eid and clothes and where to pray the Salaah and what festivities are going on where. Then my head begins to spin. What just happened? At that moment, it feels like something precious has been snatched from me. Just as I began to cherish her like she deserved, just when I began to imbibe her immeasurable benefit in my life, that Rahmah—that limitless Mercy that comes only once a year—is gone.

Then my heart falls in realization that, yet again, I didn’t take full advantage of all the Month of Mercy offered. I didn’t do everything I’d set out to do. I didn’t even do everything I was supposed to do. What does that say about me as a person? What does that say about me as a Muslim? Then the regret and shame set in, and I wonder what hope there is for me at all, no matter what month it is.

But then I stop myself. I remind my soul of the powerful spiritual lesson that I share in my book And Then I Gave Up about what Allah taught me during the Ramadan of 2008 when my younger brother died of cancer, may Allah have mercy on him. I remind my soul of the powerful spiritual lessons that I share in my book and video series I Almost Left Islam about how Allah saved me from myself when I was on the verge of giving up everything that mattered most for my life and soul.

Most importantly, I remind myself that ultimately, spiritual salvation isn’t about being perfect. It’s about earning Allah’s mercy and forgiveness. It’s about not giving up, no matter how far you have fallen from the path. It’s about realizing that Allah is here, always here, ready and willing to accept your repentance, no matter how imperfect your spiritual efforts seem to you. If you can hold on to this truth—despite the dark unknown terrain continuously being uncovered in your soul—then Paradise is yours.

It was this epiphany that led me on a path to approaching Ramadan from a point of self-compassion instead of self-blame, hence the birth of the interactive Ramadan journal: The Month of Mercy, Not Perfection:

Are you READY? For the “imperfect Muslim,” Ramadan can be overwhelming, as we feel so much pressure to perfect our lives overnight. In this full color, interactive journal, we are encouraged toward self-compassion instead of self-blame. With inspiring quotes and journal prompts on the backdrop of beautiful abstract art, we take it one day at a time, trusting that Allah’s mercy and forgiveness are for us too, no matter how many faults and sins we have—and will continue to have long after the month of mercy is over.

I know I am not perfect, but no matter how many mistakes I make, I will not give up, bi’idhnillaah. I know my Lord’s Mercy is greater than any of my faults or sins, so I place my trust in Him. I will strive each day to be a better person than I was before. If I should fall short in any of my goals, I will keep going, trusting in Allah’s Mercy over my efforts. And I’ll get right back up, having full faith that my Lord is Forgiving and Merciful.

—“My Pledge” from The Month of Mercy, Not Perfection (Ramadan Journal)

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Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of twenty books, including the If I Should Speak trilogy, Muslim Girl, and His Other Wife. Join UZ University to learn how you too can find your writing voice and share inspirational stories with the world:

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