Muslims throughout the world prepare to welcome the Holy month of Ramadan. There is preparations going all around. The markets are filled with carts after carts of goods people think they will need. Fasting is a big task for many individuals. It is difficult to go through the day without food and water. It will be hot in many countries. Yet, every Muslim is geared up for the sake of Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) and to attain taqwa (increase our consciousness and fear Allah) as is the outcome of this month.

Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) says in the Qur’an, a verse that is reminded to us year after year of why we fast.

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ ۖ

The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it
[Al-Baqara: 185]

Yet, the concept of fearing Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) gets hidden behind our desires to actually eat more in that month as we prepare for the coming days. We think that getting those kebabs and samosas in the freezer, the chutneys in the bottles and the filling the pantry with yummy goodies is what Ramadan is all about. In the event of abstaining from food, it is the food that becomes our focus. Many a times, for many women across the world, iftar is the agenda. Their mornings are spent sleeping, while the evening are about spending time in the kitchen to lay out a grand iftar infront of the families who eagerly await at least three to four lavishly made dishes. Sadly, on many days, the asr salah is neglected while they are at it or the time right before breaking of the fast is not utilized for the duas as it is meant to be because everyone is too busy getting the many dishes on the table. Do not get me wrong, please. I am all for serving the family, but I do want to remind our Muslim families – Ramadan is not about food.

Let me remind you of the simplicity of our beloved Prophet ﷺ in opening his fast. In a hadith it is reported:

Narrated Anas ibn Malik (RadiAllahu anhu):

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to break his fast before praying with some fresh dates; but if there were no fresh dates, he had a few dry dates, and if there were no dry dates, he took some mouthfuls of water.
(Sunan Abi Dawud 2356)

So as we get ready to observe this month, let’s focus on things that really matter that we need to include in our lives than worry about what will not benefit us and prepare to avail the take full advantage of the opportunity that lies ahead.

  • Make a Du’a List

Do not underestimate the power of du’a in this month and otherwise. If made properly with the sincerity of the heart and soul, du’a can transform our lives. In a hadith, we are told:

الدُّعَاءُ هُوَ الْعِبَادَةُ 

“Supplication is worship itself”
 (Sunan Al-Tirmidhī 3247)

While asking Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ), there should be absolutely no doubt in our minds, that Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) is not listening or will not answer. In a verse of the Qur’an we learn:

وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ

“And your Lord says, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.”
[Ghafir: 60]

Elsewhere in the Qur’an Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) says:

وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَان

And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me
[Al-Baqara: 186]

This is a promise by Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) Himself. How can we then say, “Our prayers are not being answered.” Check again, maybe our yaqeen (conviction) or the lack of it in this case is causing our du’as to not be answered. Additionally, maybe Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) feels that it is not the right time for us to have what we want. We have to believe that He will answer when it is the right time for us. Our job is to just keep on asking. We know He is listening, because one of the ways we recognize Him through His beautiful names is that He is As-Samee, the Always All Hearer. He responds only when He thinks appropriate. We must be patient while asking Him.

So walk into Ramadan with your du’a list including dua of all things that you want. Keep the dua for your own forgiveness and your parents’ forgiveness on top priority. Ensure it is the halal that you ask for and your earnings are halal when you ask as that is also one of the means of acceptance of duas! Think of all those impossible things that you think can never happen in the world. Just ask.

  • Make it About Quality not Quantity

Many a times, we think the so many activities related to the Qur’an makes us utilize the month in the best of manner. Remember, Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) prefers that you put your soul and the correct intention in the ibadah (worship) rather than the numbers. You may be sitting there attending two Dawrah-e-Qur’ans this Ramadan, but may come out of it without any of the amal changing or even a thought process altered an inch. You get the ajar (reward) but the reward will be greater for every life-changing action that is incorporated with that understanding of the Qur’an.

Do not think that finishing the recitation of the Qur’an that you have rushed through without understanding a word of the Arabic text is a means of immense benefit. Of course, Qur’an is shifaa (healing) and the recitation will have its own barakah following it, yet, try to find that connection with your Rabb through His kalam (speech). Try to find the lost relationship and rekindle it with iman. That is what achieving taqwa will be and the purpose of the fasting and this holy month.

  • Forgive everyone

This concept is oft-repeated, yet it cannot be emphasized enough that we do this. As you clean out your closets to put in the new food that you have bought for this Ramadan. Do not forget to clean your heart of all rancour that still exists within you.

The virtues of forgiveness are many mentioned in the Qur’an and in several hadith. Forgive with the intention that Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) will forgive you. We are not perfect either. We may have hurt others at some point in our lives. In Surah As-Shura, Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) says:

وَجَزَاءُ سَيِّئَةٍ سَيِّئَةٌ مِّثْلُهَا ۖ فَمَنْ عَفَا وَأَصْلَحَ فَأَجْرُهُ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الظَّالِمِينَ

“And the retribution for an evil act is an evil one like it, but whoever pardons and makes reconciliation – his reward is [due] from Allah. Indeed, He does not like wrongdoers.”
[As-Shura: 40]

If you have been wronged, know that He will take it into account. He will ensure that justice occurs, either in this world or the Akhira. Allah says about Himself in the Qur’an:

‏ أَلَيْسَ اللَّهُ بِأَحْكَمِ الْحَاكِمِينَ

“Is not Allah the most just of judges?”
[At-Teen: 8]

Let Him decide the fate of who have brought darkness upon themselves by doing injustice upon you. Your job is to let go and free your souls to a higher status. It will be an elevating experiencing to forgive and move on.

  • Start Eating Less

Curb those cravings to eat whatever your heart desires. It is time to put the FoodPanda number on hold. Leave the table with a third empty stomach. This will shrink the appetite enough for you to control. Fasting is all about controlling the nafs. For many, we succumb to food and our unending cravings. Not only is it unhealthy, it is not allowed. Remember the sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ was:

Al-Miqdam ibn Ma’dikarib reported: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,

The son of Adam cannot fill a vessel worse than his stomach, as it is enough for him to take a few bites to straighten his back. If he cannot do it, then he may fill it with a third of his food, a third of his drink, and a third of his breath.”
(Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2380)

  • Declutter

Take out everything in the house that is extra, that you have not used from last Ramadan to this. Give it away. Sadqa is emphasized over and over. Israf (overspending on things we don’t really need) is mentioned again and again. Keep life simple. If you have five handbags or ties, it will be alright if you are left with four. I am sure you will survive. Give away of the things that you love. Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) mentions:

لَن تَنَالُوا الْبِرَّ حَتَّىٰ تُنفِقُوا مِمَّا تُحِبُّونَ

“Never will you attain the good [reward] until you spend [in the way of Allah] from that which you love.”

  • Start Practicing the Extra Nafl

This is the month that is filled with blessings. Let’s go all out to gather the gems of Ramadan by our worship. Fasting is definitely an obligation upon those who are able to do it. But worship does not end there. In fact, this is the beginning. Begin including the extra supererogatory with each salah (prayer). There is virtue mentioned in various ahadith about those rakahs mentioned other than the fard (obligatory). For example, in a hadith the 4 units before the As’r salah brings great reward:

Ibn Umar reported: The Prophet ﷺ said,

“May Allah have mercy on a person who prays four cycles before afternoon prayer.”
(Sunan al-Tirmidhī 430)

Along with this, practice tahajjud. There is still a week left to Ramadan. Waking up for the night prayer (qiyam al layl) will help you get into the habit of waking up for suhur and put in the extra prayer. This is absolutely an amazing time when Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) descends upon the lowest heaven and asks His servant Himself for what he/she requires.[1] This is one of the best acts of worship that raise a person in status, increases good deeds, absolves his bad deeds, and brings him closer to the Lord of all creation. Do not miss this, especially during Ramadan.

Ramadan is a training ground that builds us for the coming days throughout the year. Training ourselves to start those extra nawafil with each prayer will help us achieve that during the month of Ramadan. As you end Ramadan, make the intention of carrying it forward to the rest of the months of the year. This is when you know you have achieved a change with the training in this month. Go for it.

  • Self-Reflect

It is time for operational clean up of thy self! Let go of those bad habits that have become second nature. If you talk about people, abstain. If you get angry, start simmering down. If you like to eat a lot, start eating less. If you are continuously grumpy, start smiling around the house. If there is a haram relationship somewhere even if it is hidden, block it. Start fresh this Ramadan. Make an intention to purify the heart and dive into Ramadan clean, pure and fresh. Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) knows your struggle and rest assured, He will help you through this. Take the first step.

Umar ibn al-Khattab (Radiallahu Anhu) said .[2],

حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ، حَدَّثَنَا أبِي، حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ بْنُ عُيَيْنَةَ، حَدَّثَنَا جَعْفَرُ بْنُ بُرْقَانَ، عَنْ ثَابِتِ بْنِ الْحَجَّاجِ قَالَ: قَالَ عُمَرُ رَحِمَهُ اللَّهُ: «‌حَاسِبُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ قَبْلَ أَنْ تُحَاسَبُوا وَزِنُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ قَبْلَ أَنْ تُوزَنُوا، فَإِنَّ أَهْوَنَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الْحِسَابِ غَدًا أَنْ تُحَاسِبُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ تَزِنُوا لِلْعَرْضِ الْأَكْبَرِ يَوْمَ تُعْرَضُونَ لَا تَخْفَى مِنْكُمْ خَافِيَةٌ

Take stock of yourselves before you are brought to account; weigh yourselves before you are weighed, for that will make the Reckoning easier for you tomorrow, if you take stock of yourselves today and prepare yourselves for the great presentation on the Day when you will be brought to Judgement, and not a secret of yours will be hidden.”

This is but yet another list of how to prepare for Ramadan. If there are more ideas that you can think of, by all means, add on to this. But do practice the above and enjoy this blessed month. Gather the reward. Attain closeness to your Creator. May Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) accept all our ibadah this Ramadan and give us the ability to preserve them. (Aameen)

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[1] Narrated by al-Bukhaari (1145) and Muslim (758)

[2] Kitab al-Zuhd by Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal