By Qari Muhammad Asim (Senior Editor)
Senior Imam – Makkah Mosque, Leeds
The month of Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection, prayer, recitation of the Qur’ân, doing Zikr, remembrance of Allah, endurance and self-discipline. It is a month of training the soul and body- to be able to exercise self-restraint.
In order to gain the benefits of Ramadan, a Muslim must be fully prepared to embrace the blessed month. Here are some tips to make this Ramadan your best one ever!
Step 1 – Be in “Ramadan Mode”
By planning for Ramadan before it arrives, you put your mind in “Ramadan mode”.Counting down for Ramadan (whether it is done mentally or by keeping physical signs around the home or office) will help create a buzz in your mind and amongst the people around you. In the month proceeding Ramadan, the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to pray (dua’) with his companions that they may live long enough to see the blessed month of Ramadan. In other words, they would count-down the days and look forward to Ramadan. When you and others are counting down, you will emotionally connect with Ramadan, and it will help you to see it as the special month it is outside of your regular routine the rest of the year.
Step 2 – Refresh your memory about Ramadan
We tend to be aware that Ramadan is about abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations during fasting. To plan for Ramadan, we need to be aware about the higher purpose (maqaasid) of Ramadan. Learning about the objectives behind Ramadan will help you do things correctly and perfectly for Ramadan to benefit from it. Knowledge about the reward and blessings for actions in Ramadan will incentivize and motivate you do more and more during Ramadan. The more you know about Ramadan the more you can apply, hence multiplying your rewards and fully benefitting from the mercy of Allah.
Step 3 – Prepare Yourself & Start Early
Before the arrival of Ramadan, prepare yourself spiritually, physically and mentally to fully benefit from Ramadan. Do not expect to just click into fasting, praying, reciting the Glorious Quran and giving in charity from the first day of Ramadan. Many of us have this ‘light-switch’ approach, where we turn on the switch on day one of Ramadan and go into ‘Ramadan mode.’ This is similar to sprinting during the first legs of a marathon. You will have a lot of energy and motivation at the very beginning, but after a few days you will realize that this pace is not sustainable.
Although, you may be able to carry on, with or without much enthusiasm, during Ramadan as a matter of routine but will not be able to fully reap the benefit and absorb the blessings that descend in this blessed month. Before the month of Ramadan, start the acts of worship early to prepare your body and soul:
- Start to pray regularly, if you do not already do so
- start doing additional prayers well before Ramadan
- start reciting the Glorious Qur’an regularly and reflecting on its meanings,
- start healthy and notorious diet well before Ramadan so that the body gets used to it
- start to be extra vigilant with your conversation so that there is no gossiping, backbiting, slandering early
- start to control your emotions and actions, such as anger, cheating and being abusive
- start fasting during Sha’baan in accordance with the of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Step 4 – Make a Ramadan plan
In order to maximize the benefits of anything, it is very important to plan, as failing to plan is planning to fail. Planning is a Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah . He meticulously planned everything and relied on Allah for guidance and accomplishment of his goals. For example, he planned his hijra to Medina from asking Sayyiduna Imam Ali to sleep in his place to choosing Sayyiduna Abu Bakr Siddique as his companion for the trip to packing supplies and finding the right guide.
Make a list of things you would like to achieve in Ramadan and then think about how you plan on achieving these goals. It is important that goals are realistic and practical. Do not be over-ambitious and think that somehow everything will change in a week, rather take gradual steps to change your direction and turn to Allah Almighty so that you may continue to do these deeds after Ramadan. For instance,
- having a goal to read the translation and commentary of one page of the Noble Qur’an;
- spending 30-60 minutes with your family every day and doing a family activity together;
- at least praying two salahs/ namaz in a mosque with jam’at;
- picking up a new ‘good’ habit and giving up an old ‘bad’ habit every week
- learning something about Islam – whether be a major or minor- on a daily basis
- Giving some charity on a daily/weekly basis.
The list can be as long or as short as you want but the point is that you are consistent with it. Assess yourself at the end of every day so see how well you have done in achieving some of those goals.
Ensure that your ‘Ramadan Plan’ does not start and end with Ramadan rather it should be at least 40-60 day plan as the real ‘test’ starts after Ramadan to see whether or not the life-style changes that you made in your life during Ramadan are still with you after Ramadan when the devil has been released back into the world!
Step 4 – Replace ‘Distractions’ with more productive ‘Alternatives’
In order to achieve the goals that you may have set yourself during Ramadan, changes in life-style will have to be made; such changes in daily routines will most certainly have to come with sacrifices and trade-offs.
Distractions consume our time and take us away from living a more productive and fulfilling life. During the month of Ramadan our time is at a premium. Our eating and sleeping patterns are altered with early morning suhoor, the occasional nap during the day and late night prayers. If we allow our everyday distractions to continue throughout Ramadan, we risk depriving ourselves from the immense blessings that are available.
This includes minimizing and managing our social media (WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) presence, usage and consumption, minmising our viewing of the television or playing of video games.
We will only be able to stay away from such distraction if we have built-in ‘alternatives’ in our lives. For instance, replace an ‘entertaining’ App on your smart-phone with a more beneficial App. The time that you used to go a café-bar to see your friends, spend that time in a mosque with your friends exploring some aspect of the Qur’an and sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Initially, these small changes may be difficult to make but gradually you will start seeing the positive impact of such changes on your life.