By Mansoor Ahmed
With Ramadan drawing closer to us, preparations for the month of fasting are already underway. The brothers who will be leading Tarawih (optional night prayers during Ramadan), the huffazh (those who have memorized the Qur’an), are revising their memorization to get ready to lead, making sure they’ll be in top form with their memorization.
Others are preparing themselves spiritually to welcome the month by increasing in good deeds, reciting more Qur’an, and increasing in their remembrance of Allah (exalted is He). In fact, early preparations for Ramadan is the way of the Companions as they would begin getting ready months in advance in order to be in top shape—physically and spiritually—to maximize the benefit they gain from the month.
Personally, I’ve noticed the difference for myself in the years where I consciously prepared for Tarawih as opposed to the ones where I jumped right in without any actual preparation. The years where the preparation was done beforehand were a lot more beneficial, and looking back, a lot more memorable.
In the spirit of the Companions (may God be pleased with them), who would prepare early for Ramadan, here are some practical items we can do starting now that will help us maximize our time spent in Tarawih.
One of the highlights of Ramadan in addition to fasting is Tarawih, in which long portions of the Qur’an are recited. This practice, where the entire Qur’an is generally completed in the extra prayers at night by the end of the month, is an excellent opportunity for the community to increase in their relationship with the Qur’an.
Because Tarawih is something that most of us will engage in for a couple of hours each night in Ramadan, it is important that we try to maximize the benefit we can reap from it so that it becomes more than just a nightly habit; rather, it becomes a conscious action that allows us to interact with the Qur’an as we stand in prayer.
Get in check with your post-`Ishaa‘ prayer activities
Since we’ll be spending roughly two to three hours at the mosque in Ramadan from `Ishaa’ (obligatory night prayer), to Tarawih, to Witr (optional nightly prayer), a good way to prepare ourselves for that would be to start going to the Masjid for `Ishaa’ if we don’t already do so. If we are already in the habit of praying `Ishaa’ at the mosque, then spending 10-15 more minutes after prayer engaged in extra prayers or reciting Qur’an will help us in our transition when Ramadan begins.
This is going to help spiritually prepare us for the increased worship as well as help set up a routine that will be easy to expand once Ramadan starts. It is quite difficult to break our daily routine out of the blue and maintain a new routine for an entire month—so in order to make that easier, it is helpful to redefine our evening routine to accommodate a bit of what we will engage in during Ramadan for those evening hours.
Review the Qur’an
Because Tarawih is all about the Qur’an, the best way to get ready for it, and by extension the month of Ramadan itself, would be to recite more of the Qur’an daily. This will help open our hearts and familiarize ourselves with parts of the Qur’an that we might not know. It’s quite difficult to not be in the habit of reciting or listening to the Qur’an on a regular basis and then suddenly jump into it. Because of this, a lot of times what happens is that the first few nights of Ramadan are full of zeal and we’re going all out but as we get used to the month we begin to slack.
The energy that was present in the first few nights begins to wear down. The best way to avoid such a dip is to be proactive and preventative by establishing a relationship with the Qur’an before so that maintaining consistency during the month will be easier. This goes back to the last point since increasing the time spent in the mosque will make it easier to spend longer periods of time there during Ramadan.
Become Familiar with the Meaning of What is Going to be Recited
A really practical way to maintain our momentum through Tarawih is by understanding what is being recited. It’s not practical to learn Arabic right away to understand the Qur’an by Ramadan with a few weeks to go. However, reading or listening to some explanations of the Qur’an beforehand will help us in our effort to understand what is being recited. This is especially more relevant during Ramadan itself when we can find out what portions of the Qur’an the Imam will recite the next night and do our reading before that with available sources such as Tafsir ibn Kathir.
Memorize What You Can
One of the best parts of Tarawih is when the Imam recites the verses that we have memorized. We enjoy following along and become engaged in the recitation. That’s when the Qur’an really comes alive because we’re completely aware. It’s the difference between a friend that we know really well and an acquaintance. Who will you enjoy your time with more? It’s most likely the good friend because that’s who we know and who we have spent a lot of time with before. Likewise with the Qur’an, when we know the verses and have them memorized, hearing them recited is like meeting an old friend and we enjoy that part of the Qur’an much more. The best way is to try and start memorizing some of the Qur’an, as much as we can, to experience the familiarity and closeness to the verses in Tarawih.
With Ramadan right around the corner, it’s a good time to start planning our schedule for the month to make it easier for us when the month starts. That way we’ll be properly equipped to take full advantage of the month. The Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever stands (in prayer in the night) during Ramadan with belief and expecting the reward will be forgiven all his previous wrong actions,” (An-Nasa’i) which gives us all the more reason to prepare.
Hence the Companions used to prepare for Ramadan months before it came such that their days before Ramadan would become like Ramadan due to their diligence and increased worship and they were able to raise the bar even higher when they finally entered into the month. May Allah the Almighty allow us to reach Ramadan and benefit from its days and nights to our maximum abilities. Ameen.
Taken with kind permission from: lastprohet.com.