It's finally that time of year again, when you get to focus more on your faith and spend time with your family. Ramadan is with us once again and with it, comes a month long bliss period of fasting, introspection, heightened God consciousness, and a stronger, renewed faith. If you found yourself having very little to prepare this year, then have no fear. You still have time to mentally, spiritually, and of course, physically prepare for this blessed month. So here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.
1. Make a Dua list:
One of the most spectacular and blessed things about this holy month is that prayers are answered in abundance. One of the saying of the Prophet Muhammad is as follows,
"The supplications of three persons are never turned away: a just ruler, a fasting person until he breaks his fast, and the supplication of an oppressed person which is raised by Allah to the clouds on the Day of Resurrection, and the gates of heaven are opened for it and Allah says: By my might, I will help you even if it is after a while” (Sunan Ibn Majah No. 1624).
The great thing about making a dua or prayer list is that not only will you be priming yourself for the month ahead, but you'll be able to remind yourself of what exactly you want to specifically pray for.
It's very easy to do too. In fact, allotting a specific amount of time to making your dua list is actually a great spiritual and mindfulness based exercise which research has shown increases feelings of happiness and reduces stress. All you need is a journal, a pen, and a comfortable spot to start writing. Write down anyone you want to pray for, and anything your heart desires. It can be big or small, even if it seems unimaginable for you, write it down. Knowing that God can grant you anything, small or monumental, is part of the exercise itself. Writing with faith and an open heart. The length of your dua list has no limit whatsoever.
Once you're done, set it aside and read it throughout the day once Ramadan begins. Any dua made in Ramadan is, God willing, a dua answered. Then, as Iftaar time rolls around, take your notebook with you to the table. Before you break your fast, read your dua list again, as the time before breaking the fast is a holy time. The Prophet Muhammad, may God's mercy and peace be upon him, said, "The dua of a fasting person at the time of Iftaar is accepted.” (Abu Dawood)"
2. Try to Read More of the Quran:
The month of Ramadan is essentially, the month of the Quran. Allah says in the Quran, in Surah Baqarah (2:185):
"The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the Criterion (between right and wrong). So, whoever of you sights the month, he/she must observe fasts that month and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number (of days which one did not observe fasts must be made up) from other days. Allah intends for you ease, and he does not want to make things difficult for you. He wants that you must complete the same number of days and that you must glorify Allah for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him."
The Prophet mentioned the magnitude of blessings one receives upon simply reading one single word from the Holy book. He said:
"Whoever reads a letter from the Book of Allah, he will have a reward. And that reward will be multiplied by ten. I am not saying that “Alif, Laam, Meem” is a letter, rather I am saying that “Alif” is a letter, “laam” is a letter and “meem” is a letter.”
We all go days, months even, without touching the Quran throughout the year. But during Ramadan, we should try to be extra conscious about the status of our holy book and the blessings and healing it can offer us. Not only that, but Ramadan is a time for spiritual cleansing. We abstain from food and drink not merely to starve ourselves, but to catalyze a very important reaction. A reaction that effects our minds, bodies, psyches, hearts, and souls. We starve our ego to feed our soul in Ramadan. Once we cut off contact with unnecessary stimuli in this month, then we need to fuel ourselves with something greater. What's better than the Quran itself?
3. Restrict Your Time Online:
Let's face it, it's the information age, we all have budding lives on the social sphere and sometimes, lines can get blurred. Reality can become distorted. We soon become engrossed with the pixelated realm and unhappy or bored with our real lives. We start comparing ourselves with others and we begin a cycle of always wanting more. More followers, more prestige, more flattery, more, more, more. Social media can be a good thing, but for the most part, too much of anything can often be detrimental to our health. Ramadan is a time to reflect on the things we give priority to in our lives and why. It's a time to make an effort to step away from trivial sources of entertainment and spend our limited time and energy on things that will actually benefit us.
It is a difficult task, to be offline a lot more than we normally are. But think of it this way, when you're fasting, you only have so much energy. Why not put it to good use instead of wasting it by mindlessly scrolling through your feeds? If you are aiming to develop a bunch of good habits and traits this month, then you're going to need the time and space in your mind and heart to actually allow anything new to stick. A glass that's full of water is only going to spill everything everywhere if you try to add more water to it. You have to empty some of what's already there to even begin filling it with more solvent. There are actually a lot of apps and browser extensions that will help you limit how much time you spend online.
4. Start a Charity Drive With Friends:
One of the easiest and perhaps most fun ways to reap the rewards of this month is to rally the troops and start a fundraiser. Scout out your local community and find the names of organizations and charities that you think would benefit most from the project. Whether it's a local soup kitchen or community centre that needs food or a local shelter that needs clothing, do your research and reach out to them.
When you reach out to these local organizations, mention that you want to help them raise funds/food/items with your friends as part of Ramadan. Feel free to explain what that is and get the reward of Dawah in there too. Once you have the logistics down, get your friends involved. Simply collect what is required throughout the entire month of Ramadan and then on Eid, deliver what you guys collected. It's that easy. The beloved Prophet once said, "Charity never decreases wealth. Rather, it increases it, it increases it, it increases it."
Give whatever is in your means to give and know that Allah will reward you no matter what you do if your intentions are sincere.
5. Be Good to Your Parents and Family:
One of the biggest things we all seem to take for granted is our family. Smiling, loving, taking care of, and being kind to your family are all good deeds that can be rewarded immensely during Ramadan. When Allah speaks about parents in the Quran, He says, Worship Me, and be good to your parents.
In the same line. The status of our parents is on that level. Allah never mentions anyone else in this same way. In Surah 31, verse 14, Allah says:
"And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents. In travail (pain) upon travail (pain) did his mother bear him, and in two years was his weaning. Show gratitude to Me and to thy parents; to Me is thy final goal."
So often, we have very little patience for our parents. Our tolerance for them is often very low when we get frustrated with them. But we have to remember that they are aging, and they have given us the life we live today. The privileges we bear are through the efforts and strife of our parents. They are often the biggest blessing God has bestowed upon us in this life. If you have lost your parents, then know that doing good to other family members and keeping strong ties with them, is just as great a reward.
اللهم بلغنا رمضان آمين Oh Allah let us reach Ramadan