For every important event in our life it is useful to plan ahead and make needed preparations so that this occasion becomes an unforgettable event. Days are passing quickly as we are fast approaching the month of Ramadan. Can we make this our best Ramadan?
If you ask most Muslims about last Ramadan, they would tell you it feels very close, like only a few weeks or months ago.
Are you waiting for Ramadan and looking forward to its start?
Are you happy that Ramadan is nearly here, or are you worried about fasting in the summer?
Have you prepared yet your plan and program for the best month of the year?
A Gift From God
The month of Ramadan is one of those important occasions that we witness once a year. It is a gift from God. It is a golden opportunity for Muslims to get closer to God by increasing good deeds.
Ramadan is the month in which Muslims observe the obligatory fast which has been prescribed by God on those who believe in Him as it was prescribed on previous nations.
O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain piety. (Al-Baqarah 2:183)
The above verse explains the main purpose of fasting. It is to attain taqwa (God-consciousness) which means that every Muslim must be watchful of everything. He must watch out every word he utters and every action he does.
The literal manifestation of fasting is to abstain from food, drink and intimate relations from dawn to sunset. But the real meaning of fasting goes far beyond that. It is about avoiding gossip, backbiting, evil and idle talks, arrogance, lying, breaking promises, dishonesty, severing social ties, etc. Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said:
“Whoever fails to leave off ruinous speech, and acting on it [during Ramadan], God does not need him to leave off eating and drinking.” (Al-Bukhari)
Fasting is an excellent training opportunity on self-restraint as the fast teaches patience and perseverance. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said:
“Fasting the month of patience and three days every month is equivalent to fasting the whole year.” (Ahmad)
The Prophet describes the month of fasting as the month of patience because fasting teaches how to control one’s inner self and its desires.
Every Muslim should do his best to make the coming month of Ramadan a landmark event this year. Put a target for yourself, like for example having all your sins forgiven by God and that you will be saved from Hellfire.
Ask yourself are you pleased with what you did last Ramadan? Will this Ramadan be the same as last year? Let this Ramadan be the beginning of real change. Make this Ramadan different from previous ones. Start to practice an act of worship that you never did before, or increase the acts of worship that you used to do before.
If you used to read the Qur’an once during the month of Ramadan, this year read it twice. If you used to do Tarawih (Night Prayers) alone, this year perform it in congregation. If you did not give charity, this year make it a daily habit to give to the needy what you can afford, even it is a small amount.
If you did not observe any voluntary fasting since last Ramadan, train yourself to observe fasting during the month of Sha`ban as the Prophet used to do.
I would like to also warn of negative preparations for Ramadan which some people do by storing too much food and drink, as if Ramadan is the month for eating not a month for abstaining from food and drink from dawn to sunset.
Fasting was prescribed two months before the obligation to fight to gain the rights of the oppressed. Those who are able to control their inner selves and their desires become stronger in the face of those who wrong them until they get back their rights.
Early Muslims used to read the Qur’an a lot in Sha`ban in preparation for Ramadan. They also used to give out in charity in Sha`ban to help the poor and the needy observe fasting during Ramadan. They also used to pray to God to bless the months of Rajab, Sha`ban, and Ramadan. This means that every Muslim should make du`aa’ a strong tool in making the best of Ramadan. Du`a should be recited before Ramadan that you witness this month, during Ramadan that God will accept your du`aa’ for yourself and for others, and after Ramadan that God will accept your fasting and reward you abundantly for it.
Suggestions and Useful Tips for Best Ramadan
It is said that: “Rajab is the month of planting seeds, Sha`ban is the month of watering the seeds, and Ramadan is the harvest season”. Therefore, think of what you want to harvest in Ramadan and start planting it and taking care of it in Rajab and Sha`ban.
A famous du`aa’ of Prophet Muhammad:
“Oh Allah give us the blessings of the month of Rajab and Sha`ban and allow us to reach Ramadan.” (Ahmad)
During Sha`ban remind yourself and your family of the virtues of fasting. Have at least a weekly session with your wife/husband and kids to talk about the significance of fasting. Get a booklet on fasting and read it with your children to make them love fasting. Focus on the virtues of Ramadan, that it is the month during which the Quran was revealed and that this month has the Night of Power which is better than a thousand months.
Always remember that in Ramadan rewards are multiplied, the gates of heaven are opened, the gates of hell are shut, and sins are forgiven. Be sure of God’s mercy on Muslims who observe fasting faithfully and avoid committing sins completely.
To make Ramadan the best month of the year, remember the following:
– Strengthen your faith during this month by confirming your belief in the unity of God.
– Have the intention of pleasing God with all your acts of worship.
– Keep away from the things that nullify your faith.
– Follow the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad.
– Feed the poor and the needy. Feel the gift of giving in Ramadan.
– Before going out for `Eid prayer, make sure to pay Zakat Al-Fitr.
– Perform the daily prayers at their fixed times and in congregation as much as you can. Attend the Tarawih prayers constantly and perform extra prayers. Rediscover the power of prayer in Ramadan and concentrate much while praying. Leave this worldly life behind your back once you raise your hands and say Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest).
– Visit your family members and relatives.
– Observe i`tikaf (retreat in the mosque) during the last ten days of Ramadan, if you can.
– Make the Qur’an your companion in Ramadan and have the intention to finish reading it at least once.
– Have the intention to offer sincere repentance to God.
– Have the intention to refine your manners and the way you treat others.
– Make any da`wah effort during Ramadan if you can, like distributing Ramadan-related da`wah materials (CDs, booklets, videos, PDF files, etc.).
– If you have the financial means, make iftar for new Muslims in your community to help them integrate with their fellow Muslims. You can also invite non-Muslims to such events to get to know them and introduce Islam to them through fasting.
– Make iftar meals and gifts for orphans and marginalized children to make Ramadan a happy occasion for them.
– Prepare your du`aa’ (supplication) list. Write down the du`aa’ (supplication) that you want to recite throughout the month. You can ask God for anything and everything. Choose the proper times and occasions of offering the du`aa’. The best supplication is during prostration, while offering the late night prayer, in the last days of Ramadan, and during Laylat Al-Qadr (the Night of Power). Prioritize your list of supplications. Observe the etiquette of making supplication. Start your supplication with praising God and sending peace and blessings to the Prophet Muhammad. Face the qiblah (direction) and raise your hands. Be sure that God will never let your hands empty when you pray to Him. Do not forget the oppressed people, the people of Syria, and Muslims in Burma (Myanmar).
We pray to God to allow us to live till next Ramadan, and make it the best Ramadan ever.