Gearing up for Ramadan- Fahmida Mehreen
Ramadan is one of the most important times in a Muslim’s life that comes once in every year. It is a chance for a believing Muslim to replenish his or her soul by practicing the norms of Islam more repetitively, more accurately, and more sacredly. In that holy month all good deeds, even the pettiest ones, gets rewarded by at least 7 times! Ideally, Muslims fast or abstain from any food or drink from the break of the dawn till sunset. It is among the 5 pillars of Islam and is obligatory upon all Muslims, except children below the age of 14 (even though they should be encouraged to practice), the elderly people, the sick and the traveller.
Now, Ramadan is not just about giving up on food and drink. It is has a deeper insight. For a Muslim, Ramadan brings in ideal practices which are expected to be carried out for the rest of the year. Thus, it involves saying obligatory prayers more attentively, increasing non-obligatory prayers i.e. nafl prayers like Tahajjud, reciting, understanding and reflecting upon the Holy Qur’an, learning the Sunnahs of our beloved Prophet (PBUH), giving charity in the form of zakat and ‘sadaqah’, behaving well with people, refraining from any wrong deed, and many more actions that are pleasing in the eyes of Allah.
All of these cannot just start from the evening after the moon of Ramadan has been sighted and then expected to be carried out all through Ramadan, let apart all year round! Like every other perfect task, the endeavors of Ramadan require practice and preparation. According to many scholars, it takes at least 2 to 3 months’ preparation to outperform in Ramadan. Some even say that keeping a lead time of 6 months is even better for the best outcome. Considering all the different opinions, we may come to the conclusion that starting from the month of Rajab, which is 2 months prior to Ramadan, the preparation should kick-start.
Here are some of the things that you can practice and make certain in gearing up for Ramadan:
Prepare your body:
For all the rituals of Ramadan, starting from waking up for Suhoor till preparing Iftar and prayer Taraweeh, our body needs to endure a lot; that too, going on for a long time without any food or drink. Thus, it is important that our body remain fit and sound during Ramadan. In preparation, you start off with some light exercises for 5-10 minutes a day, or go for a walk in the morning or in the evening. It doesn’t have to be something very laborious at all. It is only to ensure that your body is prepared for the tasks in Ramadan and give you added energy during the days of Ramadan. If you have children, you can engage them with you too. Besides physically working out, try to work on your diet. Start to eat healthy with appropriate sized meals. It is best to avoid foods high in sugar, salt and fat. Add more fruits, vegetables, rice and grains to your plates. Start drinking plenty of liquids that will lead up to Ramadan and continue henceforth. If you have any physical condition like diabetes, migraine, ulcer, or such like consult your doctor and get checked up so that your body is ready to combat any odds that may hit during Ramadan.
Before the obligatory fasting starts, start to fast voluntarily intermittently. The month of Shabaan is a key time to start fasting extra fasts or making up for your missed fasts from last Ramadan.
It has been repoted by Usamah ibn Zayd (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said:
‘Oh Messenger of Allah, I do not see you fasting in any other month like you fast in Shabaan.’ He said, ‘That is a month to which people do not pay attention, between Rajab and Ramadan, and it is a month in which deeds are lifted up to the Lord of the Worlds. I like for my deeds to be lifted up when I am fasting.’” (Narrated by al-Nasaai)
You may choose to fast on Mondays and Thursdays of each week or on the 13th, 14th and 15th of the Arabic months i.e. the white days, the performance of which is also a Sunnah.
Recite and reflect upon the Holy Quran:
During Ramadan, many of us will shift our regular attention more towards Allah and His book. This is an opportunity to reconnect and get closer to our Lord. Ramadan is the month when the Holy Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). As the Holy book says:
“Ramadan is the month in which the Qur’an was sent down as a guide for humanity with clear proofs of guidance and to tell apart between right and wrong.” [Al Qur’an; 2:185]
Start reciting the Qur’an before the commencement of Ramadan. Build a habit of reciting the Qur’an for at least 10-15 minutes every day and emphasize on understanding its meaning and implementing it in your daily lives. Run-through brings perfection. If you struggle reciting Qur’an in Arabic, choose smaller Surahs and try to focus on its pronunciations and other linguistic factors. Watch videos of different scholars on YouTube. If you can spare some extra time, you may also sign up for short online courses on Qur’an recitation.
Make a list of Dua:
There are so many things that we have to ask from Allah, both worldly and for the hereafter. Take one day at a time and gradually start adding up to the list of your Dua. It is a good idea to brainstorm and start to pen down what Duas you would like to make throughout the month of Ramadan. This way, there is lesser chances of missing out on any of your Duas during Ramadan. Keep the list handy. You can add it to your daily journal, keep it on your phone or tablet. Try to make sure that you have the list with you during Suhoor, Iftar, after completing recitation of Qur’an, and other prime times when Duas are most likely to be responded to. In order to involve your kids in this process, give them a jar and ask them to put 1-2 Duas written on a chit every day for a month. That way, by the time Ramadan comes they will have a list of Dua of their own. At the same time, to more Dhikr in the remembrance of Allah.
Repent and make Dua:
None of us can claim that we are free of sins and mistakes. But, Allah the Most Merciful and Most Forgiving, is always there to accept our repentance and forgive us as we turn to him.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
“All the children of Adam constantly err, but the best of those who constantly err are those who constantly repent.” (Tirmidhi)
Ramadan is the best time for repentance but in order to get into the flow, start early. It is never really a loss to repent sooner than later.
Calculate your Zakat and give charity:
Zakat is a religious obligation that orders all Muslims who meet the necessary criteria to donate a certain percentage of their wealth each year to generous causes. In order to save time in Ramadan, calculate your Zakat well in advance. There are many online applications and resources that will help you and guide you to calculate your Zakat to the most accurate numbers. You may also take help from your local Imaam or learned men to assist you. Plan your funds accordingly so that you will not have to face a crisis during Ramadan. Although any form of charity is best if given in Ramadan, do not make it burdensome on yourself. Plan as per your convenience and create a zakat fund to be given out in Ramadan. At the same time, prior to Ramadan, give some extra charity so that by the time Ramadan comes you are already well ahead in the process by the grace of Almighty.
The Messenger (pbuh) said:
“Allah is in the aid of His servant as long as His aide is in the assistances of others.” (Muslim)
“Who is it that would loan Allah a goodly loan so He will multiply it for him and he will have a noble reward?” [Al Qur’an;57:11]
“Give charity without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
Be more virtuous:
Be kind and patient. Most of us have the tendency of losing patience and temper. Practice adherence and renounce from doing anything immoral or offensive. Show generosity to all. Maintain good rapport with your friends, family, coworkers, and anyone you come across. No matter what religion they come from, treat them with respect and do not harm them, actively or passively. If you have any bad habit that you have been thinking of giving up on, pre-Ramadan time is preeminent. Start it as soon as it gets to you. Do not delay. Do not wait for Ramadan.
Besides all these rudimentary chores, there are many other things that you can do in preparation for Ramadan. You can clean your house, make a separate space for prayers, read more Hadith to your children, spend more time in spiritual activities than in worldly activities like Facebook-ing and scrolling pointlessly on instagram, do your Ramadan grocery shopping, practice remembering Allah in isolation, and so much more. Every person thinks differently, and so there Ramadan goals will vary. But make sure that you have a Ramadan goal. Do not enter the month like a man, astray. Seek help from your Lord to guide you and make the best use of Ramadan. Remember, even if you can accomplish any one good deed in the Holy month, your reward will be multiplied by several times. And, what is more important to keep in mind that you can never be sure that you will be able to catch the next Ramadan. So come what may, buckle up and prepare yourself for the upcoming Ramadan. May Allah bless you with the greatest reward.
Fahmida Mehreen is a young aspiring writer.