Friendship, faith and devotion behind creation of new Ramadan planner

A million people in 24 hours downloaded guide to making the most of the holy month. Now, it's been turned into a book

Dina Aziz designed the planner so it could be tailored to suit individual spiritual progress and different worship styles regardless of background or previous experience of Ramadan. Photo: Penguin Random House
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When Dina Aziz put together a Ramadan planner to guide an overwhelmed friend through her first holy month after returning to Islam, she did not expect it to go viral.

Compelled to share her knowledge, Aziz had set about creating a tool that would help with organisation and focus, to ultimately make the experience more meaningful.

After she messaged across the final copy, the friend shared the document with some of her friends, who in turn shared it with theirs ... and the popularity of the guide snowballed.

Prompted by family members, the British-Bangladeshi overcame her initial nerves and posted the planner online for the wider Muslim community. Her X, formerly Twitter, account soon gained more and more followers from around the world wanting to gain access.

Demand was such that the link crashed – but even so, she says, the PDF was downloaded more than a million times in 24 hours.

“I posted it on social media and it began getting a lot of traction," Aziz, 25, tells The National. "Schools were downloading and printing it out, and I think that's when I really realised the benefit of the resource.”

Now, Ramadan Planner: A guide to Reflection and Growth During the Holy Month, which encourages users to contemplate past experiences, set intentions and develop a strategy for a successful 30 days, has been published by an imprint of Penguin.

I used to pop into the shop for diaries for Ramadan back in the day and now my diary is on the shelf
Dina Aziz

At the time of completing the first edition in 2019, Aziz, now a data analyst by day, was studying computer science at Goldsmiths, the University of London, and went on to add more content to each new version of the guide in the ensuing years.

“Before I knew it, Penguin had reached out to me to publish the book. It was all really fast," she says.

“I just walked into the supermarket, literally saw it on the shelves and I thought 'this is so weird'. It’s crazy I did that. It’s like a full-circle moment – I used to pop into the shop for diaries for Ramadan back in the day and now my diary is on the shelf.”

Since childhood, when the young Dina would write a regular record and rip pages from magazines to make a niche planner for herself during Ramadan, she has found that keeping a diary deepens her religious connection throughout the holiest month in the Islamic calendar.

The insight into how each person's journey is unique made her want to offer something that could be tailored to suit individual spiritual progress and different styles of worship regardless of background or previous experience of Ramadan.

"I think that's what has made it work," Aziz says. “We have a lot of resources that are black and white, and very traditional, but everyone I have met has told me they make their own notes. People interpret Ramadan in their own way.

"So I took this on board. I have tried to keep the planner as simple and digestible as possible so it touches on all parts of our religion from the beginning. It means anyone can pick up the book and understand it, whether Muslim or not, and be able to use it.

"It 100 per cent helps me during Ramadan."

Ramadan planner helps keep track of goals

The planner enables people to set and monitor progress made on goals, fast mindfully and plan suhoor and iftar meals, keep track of prayers for each day, make lists of du'as, record good deeds and check in on their mood and mental health.

“Yes, we are abstaining from food and drink but then that’s what makes the time more special. The planner helps you focus what you are dedicating your energy towards.

"When you have given up the basics, then everything else becomes really enormous. So planning your time and not losing energy on things that do not matter is important. It helps you prioritise."

Prayers at the heart

Perhaps the most special feature is the inclusion of carefully selected Quranic verses to reflect the themes and events within each section of the book, especially as Aziz has shared those that resonate strongly with her.

The prayers are my favourite part,” she says.

“I put in my own ones and then left space on the next page so people can put in theirs. It breaks the tradition of having a uniform list of prayers that you need to read and changes it up.

“I wanted to make sure that whatever I implemented would be reflected in a general way so it would give creative freedom to whoever is using the journal.

“The latest planner I did was dedicated to what is happening in Palestine, so there are prayers for everyone who is suffering during the war and there are other day-to-day prayers concerning issues like grief."

People with ADHD have embraced planner

From the moment that the planner was first posted online until the recently published printed version became available, Aziz has received a wave of grateful messages from users. Many wanted to pass on that they had come to understand Islam better through the guidance she has collated.

“One of the biggest things to touch my heart was that a lot of people with ADHD made contact.

“They said they would struggle to manage their time and that they loved the planner as it had helped them with organisation. It really got me."

Even though hundreds of thousands of people have downloaded copies, Aziz says that many have also bought the new hardback, partly to limit potential distractions from venturing online and engaging with social media during Ramadan.

"One of the biggest compliments was when a teacher from Malaysia messaged to show me her school had 30 copies of the book, for all the students," she says. "I thought it was so cute. I didn’t really expect that at all.”

Hajj journal is next challenge

The Ramadan planner is merely the start for Aziz, who wants to continue working on projects that inspire and support people intent on deepening their faith.

She has set herself the goal of creating a journal for Hajj to prepare those performing the pilgrimage for the emotional, spiritual, physical and logistical challenges that lie ahead.

"Every time someone goes to Hajj, they always say the same thing, which is make sure you prepare as much as you can.

I’ll be using my planner through Ramadan and I'm hoping it will help guide others, too

“I plan on making a modern version, a timeless copy, with illustrations on how to do it, and see where that goes. Since Covid, everything has changed on the pilgrimage.

"I have a couple of other ideas for the future as well. I love projects and my brain is just sparking off ever since my first planner.”

In her spare time, as well as sharing thoughts on Ramadan, Aziz posts modest fashion and lifestyle tips to her almost 80,000 social media followers.

She hopes the growing number of those connecting with her online will provide a platform to reach and inspire even more people this Ramadan, which begins early next week, and in the years that follow.

“I’ll be using my planner through Ramadan and I'm hoping it will help others, too,” Aziz says.

“I would just encourage people to give it a go and create their own unique guide using it.”

'Ramadan Planner: A Guide to Reflection and Growth during the Holy Month', by Dina Aziz (Century, £12.99), is available in hardback now.

Updated: March 08, 2024, 2:15 PM