Ramadan 2021: How journaling during the holy month can help promote self-reflection and spirituality

Ramadan journals contain sections that track the five mandatory prayers, recommend supplications to recite and list good deeds to fulfil each day

5ive Pillars is offering its Ramadan journals free of charge in keeping with the spirit of the holy month in 2021. Courtesy 5ive Pillars
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Dates, rosaries and the Quran are traditional symbols of Islam that Muslims across the globe post on Instagram during the holy month. This year, there’s another product that’s increasingly appearing on social media feeds, cementing itself as a 21st-century tradition: the Ramadan journal.

Riding the hype of the rising journaling trend, which encourages users to jot down notes of self-reflection and gratitude, a number of entrepreneurs have begun offering Ramadan-themed renditions.

What are Ramadan journals?

Sarah Dee, an Indonesian illustrator with a passion for writing, has been noting down her Ramadan experiences since elementary school and, this year, created a journal packed with illustrations and inspirational quotes.

“I had a workbook that had to be filled out during Ramadan. It tracked every activity and ibadah [act of worship],” she says. “It's so fun to do, and I got addicted to journaling. It helps me to prepare for the day, build a positive mindset, track my path, fix my failures and do better the next day.”

Most Ramadan journals contain sections that track the five mandatory prayers, optional prayers and Quran progress (many Muslims strive to read the entire Quran in Arabic during this month). Some also feature recommended supplications to recite, list good deeds to fulfil each day and include prompts to boost mindfulness and self-reflection.

The more mindful we are of our thoughts, the more mindful we are of Allah

Luxe, hardback Ramadan journals available through UAE e-store Overbooked at M’s feature letter-writing sections titled “Dear Allah”, where users are encouraged to write what they are grateful for and what their goals are for the next day.

These journals also include sections for tracking menstruation (Muslim women do not fast while menstruating), discussing mindful eating and memorising the 99 divine names of God.

Many gifting businesses in the UAE have also begun incorporating journals in their boxes for Ramadan. Book subscription box company Habibi Kutb, for example, includes Ramadan planner notepads in its themed packages, which also feature a Quran, bookmarks, prayer beads and candles.

Fulfilling and interesting

Fashion blogger Raya Shaikh  from Dubai is trying out journaling for the first time this month. "I wish I had done it before, because I feel it would have made my Ramadan more organised and fulfilling," she says.

“I think writing down and planning your days make it more efficient and therapeutic because you can track your goals.”

Some Ramadan journals are aimed younger Muslims, helping to instil religious principles in ways that engage their creativity and critical thinking. "I think children learn best when they find fun and interesting activities," says Shaikh, who has launched her Ramadan journal on Amazon, and says it is a great tool for children who are 8 and above.

“It will process a sense of spirituality and help them understand that the month of Ramadan is about more than just abstaining from eating and drinking.”

Spiritual stationery

Journaling, by nature, is self-reflective, and purifying one's heart and soul is encouraged during the holy month, explains Farrukh Ershad, founder and creative director of 5ivepillars, a fashion label that infuses Islamic culture into streetwear. In April, the brand released a minimalist journal for Ramadan.

"Journaling is so underrated and something that people don't utilise enough," Ershad says. "It's a great exercise that helps your mind and soul be in one place while you write, while offering mental clarity. The more mindful we are of our thoughts, the more mindful we are of Allah."

While many Ramadan journals are available for sale, 5ivepillars is offering them free of charge, celebrating the charitable spirit of Ramadan. "I wanted to make this journal free for everyone so no that matter where anyone is from, they have access to this resource," says Ershad, who first listed physical copies of the free journal online and, when they sold out, sent customers digital versions.

“I offer the digital file so you can print it out or use it in any kind of digital planner,” says Dee, who sells the PDF of her journal online through Etsy, and says she wanted to make it accessible to users worldwide since some countries face shipping restrictions or delays caused by the pandemic. “I think journaling, in general, has become more popular as people need ways to cope during this stressful time,” she says.

Shaikh also believes that Covid-19 has led to more people taking up journaling. “The pandemic has slowed down our lives. We got so used to running with the time that we never really had the chance to reflect deeply, and we finally have got the time to sit and check in with ourselves."

She believes writing about our religious life has the potential to extend beyond the parameters of Ramadan. “Now that people have acquired the idea of journaling, I don’t think there will be any turning back from it. I feel we will move from simple journaling to more in-depth, guided spiritual journaling.”