I remember reading blog posts written by Tarbiya and Ilm Camp attendees a few years ago; they describe the Camp as hard, intense, uncomfortable, and one of the most powerful experiences of their lives. One particular reflection stood out to me; I encourage you to check it out and really sit with the ideas the writer is sharing about discomfort and intensity: A Shift in Perspective. Many of us left Project 100 feeling similar feelings: it was intense and hard, but ultimately profoundly growing. In fact, organizers stated bluntly that they knew this program was intense.

There’s a reason we leave programs like Tarbiya and Ilm Camp and Project 100 feeling renewed and inspired, with our hearts overflowing. There’s a reason Allah gave us intensive experiences in our deen such as the focus on Jihad – the internal struggle, Qiyam Ul-Layl, or even Hajj. It’s only through discomfort that we grow and in intensive moments such as these, we actually not only grow but completely transform. 

Ramadan is meant to be one such intensive experience for us. It’s intended to be a month-long journey of rushing like we never before rushed towards the good, running like we never before ran from the bad, and turning to Allah longer, more often, and with more sincerity and humility. It’s a time of deep purification and contemplation. It’s an opportunity for dramatic growth and transformation. 

The last 10 days of Ramadan are the intensity within the intensity; they’re the ones we’re meant to thrust ourselves in full-force, push ourselves harder than we already had been, and exert every last effort we have – and then exert more. On the last ten nights, Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawzi said: 

“When the race horse knows that it is nearing the end of the track it exerts all of its effort to win the race. Do not allow the race horse to be more clever than you. For verily, deeds are judged by their conclusions. So if you didn’t do well with welcoming Ramadan then perhaps you will do better bidding it farewell.” 

In social isolation, this theme of intensity is magnified. We’ve been removed from the tendency of social spaces to distract us. We’ve also had our crutch of our community members, events, and taraweeh taken away; we’re on our own this time, which is harder than ever. What an incredible opportunity subhanAllah! These 10 days, then, are even more uncomfortable and intense than usual, which means the potential for transformation is even greater. 

To some, this is exhilarating and inspiring. To others, it makes us weak in our knees. I confess I feel a little of both. But I hold onto the reality I know from both personal experiences and from the advice of my mentors that intensity yields transformation. I ask myself: What am I doing in the last few days of Ramadan to grasp the intensity and, inshallah, reach transformation? What could I be doing better? What is my plan to continue to transform post-intense Ramadan experience inshaAllah? Just as with Project 100, Tarbiya & Ilm Camp, or any other intensive tarbiya (development) experience, the work and growth should not end when the program – and in this case, Ramadan – does.

May Allah empower us to push ourselves harder than we believed we could, allow us to reach the potential we didn’t know we had, and completely transform from this Ramadan. May this Ramadan be the one we look back on as the month that changed us forever. I ask Allah to accept from us this blessed month and allow us to benefit to the fullest extent from His Mercy, Forgiveness, and Blessing especially placed for us in Ramadan. Ameen.