Everywhere around the world, we anticipate welcoming the holy month of Ramadan. We eagerly await the tremendous and countless blessings and rewards it brings along with it. We desire to earn these blessings through acts of worship and good deeds such as fasting, praying, reciting the Qur’an, giving charity and showing kindness.
When Ramadan comes, it is known that the door of mercy is open and rewards are multiplied. While the gates of Jahannam are shut and the gates of Jannah are open and the Shaytans are chained, we strive to discipline our soul and seek forgiveness from our Creator in order to grow closer to Him (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى).
We seek to witness and observe Laylat al-Qadr during this holy month which is known to be equivalent, if not better, than a thousand months of worship as revealed in Surah Al-Qadr (The Night of Glory):
“We have indeed sent it (the Qur’an) down on the Night of Qadr. Would that you knew what the Night of Qadr is like! The Night of Qadr is better than a thousand months. On that night angels and the Spirit come down by their Lord’s leave, with all His decrees. (That night is) Peace, until the rising of the dawn.” (97:1-5)
As much as we joyfully welcome Ramadan, due to our life styles and work loads, adjusting to Ramadan’s fast paced nature may take time and leave us with a month of unfulfilled rewards and enjoyment. Without barakah in our time, it may seem that Ramadan comes and goes very quickly. If we do not take initiative to plan and prepare for a successful Ramadan, sadly, we might miss yet another opportunity of spiritual benefits and growth.
In Surah Ar-Ra’d (The Thunder) Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) says: “..Allah never changes the condition of a people unless they themselves change what is in their souls…” (13:11)
As Ramadan comes closer, we are bombarded with so many different strategy articles on how to grow spiritually closer to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى). A common e-mail headline may be “10 Great Goals to Set for This Ramadan” or “7 Ways to Prepare for Ramadan”. Yes, the tools are out there to help us get ready. However, by the time these articles make it to our inbox, Ramadan is often already at our doorsteps and we find ourselves overwhelmed.
Timely preparation and planning the steps we need to take for a successful Ramadan can help physically prepare our bodies for fasting, focus our minds on what is important and bring tranquility to our souls. The start of the three blessed months -Rajab, Sha’ban, and Ramadan, should be considered the beginning of a spiritual development season and a time of opportunity to build good habits and relationships with our Creator.
Below are 7 suggestions for entering Ramadan on the right foot:
• Make salah a priority.
Surah Al-Baqara (The Cow): “Establish Salat, and pay Zakat, and bow with those who bow down.” (2:43)
Abu Huraira (رضي الله عنه) said: ‘I heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) say: “Indeed the first deed by which a servant will be called to account on the Day of Resurrection is his Salat. If it is complete, he is successful and saved, but if it is defective, he has failed and lost..” [Jami` at-Tirmidhi 413]
Embellish your fard prayers with sunnah and nafl prayers. Build your life around your prayers, not your prayers around your life. This will prepare you for the taraweeh prayers to come.
• Practice Monday and Thursday fasting along with Ayyam al-Bidh (fasting on the 13, 14, and 15th of each Islamic month).
It was narrated from Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه) that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Deeds are presented on Monday and Thursday, and I love that my deeds be presented while I am fasting.” [Jami` at-Tirmidhi 747]
Performing these fasts will ease the transition into Ramadan.
• Increase the remembrance of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) by making dhikr.
Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) has revealed in Surah Al-Ahzab (The Clans): “..and men who remember Allah much and women who remember, Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward.” (33:35)
And in Surah Ar-Ra’d (The Thunder): “Those who believe, and whose hearts find tranquility in the remembrance of Allah. Assuredly in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find tranquility.” (13:28)
This form of ‘ibadah can be done anytime and anywhere. Remembrance of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) will remind us of the important things in life and help us gain spiritual enlightenment. Keep your dhikr beads with you at all times.
• Read the Qur’an, its translation and tafseer.
Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) says in Surah Al-Muzzammil (The Enshrouded One): “Or a little more, and recite the Qur’an in slow, measured rhythmic tones.” (73:4)
• Learn and implement new sunnahs into daily life.
Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) says in Surah Al-‘Imran (The Family Of ‘Imran): “Say (O Muhammad): ‘If you love Allah, then follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful” (3:31)
“And obey Allah and the Messenger, that you may find mercy.” (3:132)
The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “That indeed whoever revives a Sunnah from my Sunnah which has died after me, then for him is a reward similar to whoever acts upon it without diminishing anything from their rewards..” [Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2677]
Reading the Seerah increases our love for the Prophet (ﷺ). It also helps us understand the Qur’an and better worship our Creator.
• Learn about Allah’s (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) attributes.
Surah Al-A’raf (The Heights): “Allah’s are the most beautiful Names; so call on Him by them!..” (7:180)
Narrated by Abu Huraira (رضي الله عنه) Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: “Allah has ninety-nine names, i.e. one-hundred minus one, and whoever knows them will go to Paradise.” [Sahih al-Bukhari 2736]
The 99 names of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) can easily be learned throughout the three holy months by studying one to two names a day. In order to achieve this goal, using flash cards can be helpful. Learning about the attributes of our Creator will increase our imaan and love of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى).
• Perform daily reflection.
Reflecting 10-15 minutes a day can increase self-awareness, patience and tolerance in daily life. Tafakkur, an important activity of the mind, is to think and reflect deeply upon Allah’s (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) signs. We are reminded and inspired a great number of times throughout the Qur’an:
Surah al-An’am (The Cattle): “…Will you not then think?” (6:50)
Surah Yunus (Jonah): “…Thus We make plain Our revelations for a people who reflect.” (10:24)
Surah Ar-Ra’d (The Thunder): “..Behold, assuredly in these things are signs for those who consider.” (13:3)
With all of the above in mind, likeminded friends with similar goals can provide a great support system and accountability on this journey. It becomes less of an effort to establish new habits when we have someone to lean on in times of difficulty and struggle. This way, we will be less likely to fall off the straight path and will be able to finish Ramadan strong.
Abu Huraira (رضي الله عنه) reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: “Verily Allah does not look to your faces and your wealth but He looks to your heart and to your deeds. [Sahih Muslim 2564c]
Intentions are the foundation of every action. Let us straighten our niyyah and start planning for this fast approaching Ramadan. Make the objectives and expectations of this month clear in your mind. Find your own purpose. “Why” are your actions important and significant to you? This will provide you with clarity, meaning, and direction and also allow you to discover your core values. Lastly, aid your niyyah with sincere dua.
Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه) reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), “The supplication of every one of you will be granted if he does not get impatient and say (for example): ‘I supplicated my Rubb but my prayer has not been granted’.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] [Riyad as-Salihin 1499]
Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) has revealed in Surah Al-Mu’min (The Believer): “Your Lord has said: “Call on Me, and I will answer your prayers..” (40:60)
Surah Al-Baqara (The Cow): “When My servants question you about Me, (tell them) I am surely near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me; therefore let them hear My call and put their trust in Me, that they may be rightly guided.” (2:186)
You are now on the verge of transformation. Roll up your sleeves and set realistic and achievable goals that will help you stretch just a little bit each day to bring you closer to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى). Start this journey from where you are, not where you want to be.
It’s never about perfection, it’s always about progress. Try to be better today than you were yesterday. When you reach the end of Ramadan, do not stop making progress. Set goals that will carry you over even after the month is gone. Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) loves small deeds done constantly.
Surah Al-An’am (The Cattle): “He it is who has placed you as vicegerents of the earth and has exalted some of you in rank above others, that He may try you by (the test of) that which He has given you. Assuredly, your Lord is swift in punishment, and assuredly, He is Forgiving, Merciful.” (6:165)
Failures are due to timidity and fear; disappointments are due to bashfulness; hours of leisure pass away like summer clouds, therefore do not waste the opportunities for performing good deeds. [Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib]
Let this be an uplifting, enlightening, motivating, inspiring and rejuvenating Ramadan.
May Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) strengthen our will and grant us success.