Ramadan is the most promising month of the year for Muslims. Around the globe, we aim to use the month to enhance our connection with Allah (SWT). This the reason why the month is of extreme importance. As narrated by Abu Huraira (RA), the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said:
“When Ramadan begins, the gates of Paradise are opened.”
This Hadith is just one of the many that outline the importance of Ramadan. The Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) used to prepare for Ramadan six months in advance. Thus, if we really want to make the best of Ramadan, then we need to prepare for it in advance also. Here are my ways of preparation so that I can fully benefit from Ramadan, a time when deeds are multiplied.
I have divided the article into three sections in order to explain my preparations simply. Those are making an intention and preparing spiritually, the second is preparing my mind and making mental notes of what needs to be done and the third is preparing myself practically and organizing myself better.
1.Starting by making an Intention and preparing spiritually.
The intention is the starting place of all that we do as ‘actions are judged by intentions’ (Bukhari) so as I prepare for Ramadan, I make the intention to do everything for the sake of pleasing Allah. Ramadan is all about worship, but I personally believe that we should not click into worship as soon as the first day of Ramadan instead we should start in advance and reap the rewards right away. Here are a few things that I personally practice:
- Revising and regularly reading Qur’an, even if it is just 1 ayat a day. We can start now to reflect on portions of the Qur’an to get closer to Allah and understand our responsibilities. Every single time we read the Qur’an, we will uncover more depths of meaning and benefit in this world and the hereafter.
- Fasting voluntarily: My family and I try to fast on Mondays and Thursday to follow Prophet’s (PBUH) sunnah and to prepare ourselves for the 30 days of fasting. The best way to prepare for fasting for a whole month is to start fasting often, in order to gain control over our actions, stomach and desires.
The Prophet said, “(Allah said),
‘Every good deed of Adam’s son is for him except fasting; it is for Me, and I shall reward (the fasting person) for it.’ Verily, the smell of the mouth of a fasting person is better to Allah than the smell of musk.”
- Following the Sunnah: We can learn more about the Prophet (PBUH) and follow him by emulating his actions.
“Say, [Oh Muhammad], If you should love Allah, then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”
- Practicing gratitude: Allah tells us if we thank Him, He will give us more. A practice that I have established is the following. Every night before going to bed, I think about all the things that Allah has blessed me with and thank Him for all his immense blessings.
- Asking Allah for forgiveness: We all make mistakes, but we can always repent, and Allah is the most forgiving. This is something I tend to practice in my daily routine where I say astaghfar and plead to Allah to forgive my sins and to guide me towards the rightful path.
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
“All the children of Adam constantly err, but the best of those who constantly err are those who constantly repent.”
- Making Dua: lots of it. I believe that we should not underestimate the power of praying to Allah (SWT). He knows our deepest desires and wishes and only He has the power to grant us all that we ask.
And your Lord says, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.”
2.Preparing my mind
Fasting is about refraining from so much more than just what we consume in our mouth. It’s the time to start working on our patience, our attitude, our conversations and our entire self.
- I am doing this by decluttering myself physically, mentally, electronically (and emotionally) to make space for change – this space will allow me to add in beneficial worship during Ramadan.
- Personal Assessment; through this I reflect on my life and my deeds and think about what I would like to change, what is holding me back and areas that I want to work on – After an assessment, I make those changes, one small step at a time.
- Evaluating my previous Ramadan and setting goals for this year; I think about what I could have done better last year and then set goals for this year. Also, I make mental notes about what mistakes I made and then actively plan to avoid repeating those mistakes.
- Identifying time wasters is an important one; Is it an addictive computer game, the TV or surfing the Internet? I try to stay away from these things in Ramadan so I can spend time in a more productive manner.
- Stocking our Mind; this refers to seeking knowledge. Reading and gathering information on the sunnah practices to be observed during Ramadan, researching about how to enhance rewards in this blessed month, how to purify ourselves, how to please Allah (SWT) and so on.
3.Preparing myself practically
- I plan to make daily/weekly tasks that include at least one Islam oriented activity – nafl fasts, nafl salaah, dhikr, Qur’an recitation, reading an Islamic book/article, listening to a lecture, charity and so on and work to complete that task.
- I believe in small steps as that is how we can achieve things realistically; there are many ways in which we can make small beginnings. For me this includes sunnah salaah to my daily prayers, reading one-page Qur’an daily, including the daily adhkaar before eating, leaving the house, entering the washroom, etc, listening to a lecture-based on Islam and so on. I plan to take baby steps and do things that I can easily fit into my schedule so I can be consistent.
- Getting my kitchen prepared; My family members and I plan our meals in advance every Ramadan, so we can cut back loads of prep and cooking time. We cook and freeze, prep spices and sauces in advance, so we spend minimum time in the kitchen. We also get the necessary groceries before the month starts so we are prepared.
- Household duties: if there is any cleaning, or tidying up of the house required, I complete all these tasks before Ramadan so time can be utilized in a more productive manner. I pack unnecessary stuff and put them away keeping only things that are needed. Hence, there is less clutter and less time spent on cleaning and organizing.
- I also do my Eid shopping before the holy month. And I have decided that if I really do need to go to the shops in Ramadan, I will quickly get what I need and go back home instead of loitering around and wasting time.
- And finally. allocating some ME time for myself before Ramadan starts. Taking time off so that I can be rejuvenated, recharged and ready for the blessed month.
As I get ready for Ramadan, and in everything I do, I remember that’s it is about progress, NOT perfection.
I don’t need to be hard on myself and give myself permission to take everything slowly, do what is within my resources and be easy on myself. Let’s all make the Niyah to recharge our batteries and make this the best Ramadan yet.
So even if for some valid reason, we are unable to do all that we have planned, we can get a reward for our intention, Insha’Allah.