Here are seven valuable tips that can help you to avoid common mistakes made during this blessed month of Ramadan:
1- Taking Ramadan as a Mere Ritual
By simply observing the outward rulings of fasting and practices of Ramadan without paying attention to their meaning and purpose will turn it into a mere ritual; an outward show of piety. We can lose the spirit and the essence of fasting altogether.
What is the essence of Ramadan?
The blessed Prophet (peace be upon him) taught us that Ramadan is; a time of patience, sympathy with fellow humans, seeking nearness to Allah Almighty, praying day and night, reciting the Qur’an and listening to it.
This is why he described Ramadan as an intercessor for us on the Day of Judgment and the means of atonement for our sins. One way of making fasting a ritual is to regard it as dieting – fasting is for pleasing our benevolent Lord and following in the footsteps of the Prophet.
By fasting properly we should automatically lose weight, however, do not make the mistake of fasting with the intention to diet since fasting is an act of worship, this way you will deprive yourself of its spiritual benefits.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Jibreel prayed, ‘May Allah ruin that person to who Ramadan comes and his sins are not forgiven,’ and I said, ‘Ameen’. Then he said, ‘May Allah ruin that person who lives to see his parents grow old, one or both of them, but he does not enter Paradise (by not serving them) and I said, ‘Ameen’. Then he said, ‘May Allah ruin that person in whose presence you are mentioned and he does not send blessings upon you,’ and I said, ‘Ameen” (At-Tirmidhi).
2- Craving for Delicious Food
Fasting is a great spiritual exercise that helps us on our journey to the Lord, however giving up food sometimes makes us think more about it. This is evident at iftar (breaking the fast) time; dinner tables become a sumptuous banquet.
Someone will have spent hours shopping, cooking and laying out the table instead of concentrating on salah, Qur’an and other acts of worship, we are missing the very purpose of fasting, to control our desires and delights. Yet Islam teaches moderation; “Eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly Allah does not like people who waste”. (Al-A`raf 7:31)
3- Over-sleeping and Being Forgetful of Allah
In Ramadan, our sleeping pattern changes because we have to get up very early for sahur (breakfast) and go to bed very late because of the Tarawih Prayer. Consequently some people spend more time sleeping.
Before we know it, this month of mercy and forgiveness will be over, every moment of it should be spent in the worship of Allah.
This is a month when Muslims should give up watching TV, playing games and listening to music. The Prophet said; ”if people knew the value of Ramadan they would want the whole year to be Ramadan”.
4- Importance of Sahur (Breaking Fast)
Due to late night Tarawih Prayers some people miss sahur. The Prophet (peace be upon him) advised against this practice he said “Eat sahur for in sahur there is blessing”. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
5- Not Making Time for Du`aa’
Du`aa’ or prayer is the believer’s most powerful tool against the attacks of Shaytan (Satan) and the ego. It is an expression of his humility towards his creator, and submission of dependency on the Almighty Lord.
The prayer of the fasting person is guaranteed to be accepted at the time of breaking fast. The Prophet said: “Three prayers are not rejected: the prayer of a father, the prayer of a fasting person, and the prayer of a traveler” (Al-Bayhaqi).
This is time to pray, sisters in particular need to be careful by organizing themselves at this time so they can also pray rather than be busy serving or cooking.
6- Fasting but Disobeying Other Duties of Shari`ah (e.g. Not Praying)
The Qur’an describes the purpose of fasting; “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become God fearing” (Al-Baqarah 2:183)
Fasting trains us to obey the teachings of Islam, it motivates us, spurs us and gives us the energy to follow the Shari`ah. The Prophet said: “Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it, and ignorance, Allah has no need of him giving up his food and drink (Bukhari).
So praying, giving Zakat and doing good is part of Ramadan, anyone who neglects these is depriving himself from the great benefits of Ramadan.
7- Good Social Practices
Here are three wonderful activities in Ramadan that no one can afford to miss:
Iftar parties: Inviting others for breaking fast is sunnah, however be careful not to make it too lavish. Giving sumptuous banquets in this month goes against the spirit of simplicity and frugality.
I`tikaf is spiritual retreat, when the fasting person stays in the masjid or for women to stay in their room. `A’ishah said “the Messenger (peace be upon him) used to retreat during the last ten days of Ramadan, he did this regularly and after him I do it”.
The night of power (27th of Ramadan) is better than a thousand months of worship the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Seek Lailat Al-Qadr (the Night of Power) among the odd numbered nights of the last ten nights of Ramadan” (Al-Bukhari).
Spending this night in worship, seeking forgiveness and Divine nearness marks the climax of Ramadan.
May Allah give us the ability to follow these steps and help us become true believers.