Don’t fast from your phone

Ramadan is the month of the Holy Book, not Facebook. And the ironic thing about any Muslim with a social media account is that they’re all posting a variant of the same thing: “Be careful that you don’t spend a month of taqwa on TikTok.

I don’t deny that we need to cut down on our screen time. That goes for professionals, too. The excuse that we’re “working” or “researching” ends up turning our downtime into simply wasted time.

That’s the illusion of “free time” on social media. It comes with a cost that you can’t take back. 

That’s the illusion of “free time” on social media. It comes with a cost that you can’t take back. Click To Tweet

Hours that you could spend on memorizing the Quran get lost on a song that got stuck in your head from scrolling through Reels. The dhikr that used to be on your mind is replaced with whatever the trending sound or meme is. Many times, when we sit down to scroll on our phones… our musḥaf is right next to us. It reminds me of a verse from Surah al-Furqan:

وَقَالَ ٱلرَّسُولُ يَـٰرَبِّ إِنَّ قَوْمِى ٱتَّخَذُوا۟ هَـٰذَا ٱلْقُرْءَانَ مَهْجُورًۭا

And the Messenger will say, “O my Lord, my people have taken this Quran as a thing to be deserted.”

We know that our own limbs will testify for or against us. The Quran, too.

And yet… 

I argue that you don’t have to fast completely from your phone. Islam is balanced. Just like how we have certain hours where we can’t eat, so too, there can be certain hours where we don’t tweet.

  1. Focus on adding, not just taking away.

One dietician I follow always says to focus on what you can add to your plate, even if you’re in the process of losing weight. One example that she gives is that it’s possible to enjoy a bowl of rice—just add some protein, like salmon, and veggies, like carrots and cucumbers.

(It’s fine, we’re not fasting yet, are we?)

We can apply the same thing to our phones. These are just a few apps that I’ve added to my phone’s repertoire.

Quranic: The foundation to any language are its bricks—vocabulary! What I loved about Quranic was how it used the lessons and stories of the Quran to communicate grammar concepts and new words. It’s specifically designed for busy people and working professionals, and can’t recommend it to new Arabic learners enough.

Tarteel: Another favorite of mine, and one that I’m currently using in the lifelong pursuit of memorizing the Quran. You can hide a page as you’re revising it, listen to a qari before you prepare to recite, or have your own recitation corrected (often the most humbling). Keep the translation of the Quran close by. Even an Arab like me considers Arabic my second language (my first word was “Baba,” so, it doesn’t really count) and most of us in the West work, communicate, and think in English. Another beautiful feature of is that they have a place on their website where you can read and reflect on verses.

Forest: This app gamifies productivity. You can turn over a new leaf this Ramadan with Forest, an app that rewards time spent off the app with an array of trees, bushes, and other plants. Once you decide to grow something for a certain amount of time, if you try to use your phone or certain apps, the greenery will perish.

  1. Khayr can be social media shared.

Meta reported that Facebook and Instagram fundraising tools have raised over $5 billion—and this statistic was from 2021! Youtube and TikTok don’t just provide to content creators, they allow nonprofits to raise money as well. Social media platforms are only continuing to increase in their userbases, which means more potential donors… including you!

This is why I never recommend a total shutdown of your accounts. Many Muslim organizations choose to devote a majority of their fundraising efforts during Ramadan, when people are so fasting-brain-dead that they start scrolling to distract themselves before iftar. Social media inevitably keeps us connected. If we completely wall ourselves off from our community, we have no idea what’s going on in the ummah. A few minutes to “check in” on the world—make duʿa or even donate—can go a a long way.

If you haven’t signed up for Launchgood’s Ramadan Challenge with automatic giving, or even if you have, you can set a simple goal every time you scroll. For example, if you come by an ad or an invite from a friend to donate, just promise them $1-$5. That’s a cup of coffee that you’re saving anyway from a lack of breakfast!

  1. Start small in your cuts for longer-term gains.

There are still a few Mondays and Thursdays before Ramadan begins. The White Days (the 13th, 14th, and 15th of the lunar month) start this Sunday (at the time of this blog post, March 5, 2023). Both of these fasts are sunnah and are great ways to prepare for the month-long marathon that is Ramadan.

Another way to train yourself is with screen time. If you don’t have Forest or a similar app, look within your phone settings to set limits on your social media activity. Alhamdulillah, I’ve set a five-minute limit for every single social media app on my phone, and I’m happy to say that most days, I never go past that. My new goal this Ramadan is to set each one to a one-minute limit.

If you truly can’t resist, or if you feel like you need a total cleanse, then you can delete the apps completely from your phone. Be mindful, though, that you may be tempted to check the desktop version instead. In which case, you can give the password to a friend or accountability buddy.

As we close off the month of Sha’ban, I’ll be doing my best to open my phone with intention, say “bismillah” every time I unlock it, and insha’Allah, have a productive and blessed Ramadan. I pray and hope that you do the same. Now…

The social media and marketing advice on Hannah Alkadi’s blog is “free sabil illah.” Please share with business owners, nonprofit board members, and your local masjid uncle. Leave a comment to let me know what you’d like to learn about social media.