First of all, I want to wish everyone reading this post a blessed Ramadan full of prosperity and happiness.
Ever since I was a student, my friends and I would get together and plan a special schedule for Ramadan. We would lay out an intensive spiritual schedule or a boot camp that would help us make the most of this holy month.
A few days ago, I took a moment to consider what I really wanted to achieve during this holy month, and it dawned on me that I wanted to perform a comprehensive life detox!
The term detox is used to describe a period of time during which we abstain from allowing harmful -- sometimes even toxic -- substances into our bodies. Ideally, at the end of a detox, the body completely rids itself of these harmful toxins. But besides detoxing in the literal, physical sense, there are various forms of ridding your life of different types of toxins.
Ramadan is usually a very social month. My advice to you is this: Filter out those unnecessary relationships in your life. (Of course, I don't meant family relationships, since maintaining those is a duty in Islam). I am referring to those meaningless relationships that bring more harm than good, and those that lack genuine affection. I am talking about the relationships you maintain with people you have nothing in common with, and which ultimately bring you nothing but sadness and distress.
I believe that there is no need to maintain forced relationships and courtesies in your life. Treasure your time by spending it with people you truly love, respect, and enjoy being with. Instead of spending money on expensive dinners with people you don't actually enjoy being with, invest your money in feeding people in need. Or you could use that money to buy new toys and clothes for the children in your family during Eid Al-Fitr.
Social Media Detox
During Ramadan, some people might decide to completely boycott social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, while others may do the complete opposite and spend all their time on them.
Personally, I believe that there is a lot to be learned from such platforms, so I will not completely boycott them. Honestly, before Ramadan, I would visit these websites for a short period of time every day. I would share my ideas whenever I had something useful to say, but I would mostly stay silent as I read the things people shared. I would also use websites like YouTube to follow programs that I couldn't watch elsewhere; since we don't have Arabic TV channels in my home in the U.S.
I actually believe that no harm can come from handling things in moderation. After all, you have the option of following those who share positive energy and post wise and useful things. Similarly, you can always unfollow those acquaintances or even friends who spread their negative energy or hatred. It all comes down to one click -- you can keep all the negativity away and stay charged with positive energy.
We all have certain habits that we do not really like and that we wish we could change. Ramadan presents us with an excellent opportunity to do just that. It is actually the month of disciplining and improving oneself. Those 30 days present us with the perfect opportunity to dispose of those bad habits and replace them with better ones.
I would recommend reading a book called "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business," or even a brief summary of it. The author, Charles Duhigg, explains the psychology of habits, and details how we acquire and dispose of them. Briefly, you cannot completely dispose of a bad habit, but you can actually replace a bad habit with a good one. For instance, you will not be able to successfully stop drinking soda with your meals by not drinking anything at all. You might have some success, however, with replacing soda with sparkling water.
Detox of the Heart
Since one of the prayers we make frequently during this holy month is: "O Allah, you are the forgiver and You love to forgive, so forgive us," why don't we try to forgive those who have hurt or harmed us?
That does not necessarily mean walking up to those people and telling them that you have forgiven them or even patching things up with them. In some cases, it is actually better not to bring those toxic relationships back into your life. I am a fan of filtering and selecting one's relationships carefully. Also, those people may not care about your forgiveness; they may not even believe they did anything that needs forgiveness. What you need to do is purge and cleanse your heart by seeking the forgiveness of the forgiver, and actually forgiving those people and keeping it between Allah and yourself.
Our goal during this holy month should be to cleanse our hearts from all toxins. Hatred harms its beholder before anyone else. Do not hold any grudges. If you ever fear their harm just say "O Allah, protect me from them with what You choose and how You choose, for You have power over all things." If they ever inflict injustice upon you, just say with certainty: "Allah is sufficient for me, and how fine a trustee He is."
Ramadan is not the month of eating Qatayef (a Ramadan pastry) and Mahshi (stuffed vegetables) and growing big bellies. It is rather the month of rising above our physical needs to fulfill our spiritual needs. I do not really have anything new to add to what nutrition experts have been saying over and over about the benefits of fasting during the month of Ramadan. Yet, I would actually like to remind you of the following hadith by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): ""No man fills a container worse than his stomach. A few morsels that keep his back upright are sufficient for him. If he has to, then he should keep one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for his breathing.''
I actually have non-Muslim friends here in the U.S. who fast every year during the month of Ramadan only for its health benefits.
I also think that we should try to get some light exercise an hour or two before Iftar, twice or three times a week. Personally, in the past few years, I tried several types of sports during that final hour of fasting, and I was surprised to discover that the human body can endure much more than what we expect. Hence, I recommend you try the 7-Minute Workout App. I guarantee you won't stop using it after you try it.
Some of you might have expected me to start this post with this -- since it should be our first priority during Ramadan. Well, I personally cannot really embark upon a spiritual detox before going through the types of detox mentioned above. When your surroundings, mind, heart and body are all free of toxins, only then can you rid your soul of any illnesses, worries or toxins and reach a point where you feel closer to Allah.
We all choose different ways to worship during Ramadan. Some of us perform prayers and spend time reading the holy Quran more often and try to understand it. Others strengthen their family ties or even worship Allah through performing Tasbih and Dhikr (remembrance of Allah) and Duaa (supplications). Some people choose to donate to charity or help those in need, such as oppressed people in Syria, Palestine and other conflict-stricken countries. Some people do all of those things at the same time.
Personally, I would like to focus on two things during this month. The first is achieving a state of reverence during prayer, and the second is communicating with Allah more frequently.
So now I've told you about my six-part detox plan for Ramadan. I invite you all to share this experience with me, if you like the idea. May you all enjoy a blessed Ramadan, full of health, well-being, piety and happiness.
This post first appeared on HuffPost Arabi. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.