“Abu Huraira related that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: Whoever fasts during Ramadan with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven. Whoever prays during the nights in Ramadan with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven. And he who passes Lailat al-Qadr in prayer with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven (Bukhari, Muslim)”.
In just a few short weeks, Muslims from around the globe will begin to practice Ramadan. During this month of Ramadan, we are expected to re-evaluate one-self in accordance to Islamic guidelines.
I embrace Islam and Ramadan and it is especially dear to my heart because there was a time when I walked in darkness and Allah (Swt) Al Rahman (The Merciful) led me to the light, the straight path, to Islam just a few years ago on a warm summer day only hours before the first day of Ramadan of 2011.
Some said to me “Are you crazy, you decided to convert during Ramadan” or “You picked a fine time to turn Muslim.” The ignorance actually made me smile. It was then that I knew that I was given the best gift of my life which was life at the time. It was a second chance at my life; to have my sins forgiven and to have a clean slate. For only a true believer would understand where the blessing lies here.
One of the greatest ways to attain purity is to abide by the fourth pillar of Islam which is Sawm or fasting during the month of Ramadan. Sawm (fasting) literally means to “refrain”. Fasting is not only refraining just from food and drink, but from evil actions, thoughts, and words. This means total restraint of your body including your tongue from backbiting, gossiping, etc., your eyes from looking at unlawful things, the ears from listening to anything that may be haram, and the feet from going to sinful places.
Though we know what we are expected to do during the time of fasting, we should start to look at how we plan to achieve all of our obligations and reap the full benefits of the holy month of Ramadan. One must understand that the way we live during the month of Ramadan should be practices that we strive to include in our everyday life all other times of the year. It will not be a struggle in such and it will be easier to be in alignment with its purpose. Insha Allah.
Most of us are accustomed to doing things in a certain order and that becomes our habit or routine. For some, it may be like second nature to implement some of the practices during Ramadan and Alhamdulillah however for others, it may be a challenge to do so which is why proper planning and preparation is important.
Here are some suggestions for preparing for the holy month that has worked for me over the past few Ramadan’s.
A few weeks before, you can begin waking maybe a half hour earlier for fajr in order to become acclimated to the early hours for when you will need to awake for suhoor. This will only help you in maximizing your blessing because you can use this time for worship and praise Allah swt by offering salat during the night hours after Isha. The voluntary prayer known as ‘Qiyaam al-Laul’ is an excellent way to seek forgiveness and closeness from Allah swt, Ar- Raab and have all of your request answered.
The Prophet (pbuh) also said: “You should pray Qiyaam al-Layl, for it is the habit of the righteous people who came before you, and it will bring you closer to your Lord, expiate for bad deeds, prevent sin, and expel disease from the body.”[At-Tirmithi and Ahmad]
The Messenger of Allah in another Hadeeth, said: “The closest one can be to Allah The Almighty, is during the last third of the night. If one can remember Allah The Almighty, at this time let him do so.” [At-Tirmithi, An-Nasaa’i and Al-Haaqim]
Again, the Prophet said: “Verily, there is one hour during the (entire) night when any Muslim (submitting to the Will of Allah the Almighty) may call upon Allah and request anything of Him, regardless of whether the matter be worldly or of the hereafter. Allah, the Almighty will grant and fulfill the request. This is the case every night.” [Muslim]
It is important that you reconcile with anyone that you may have a grudge with. If you cannot talk with that person directly for chance of confrontation, then you should make dua about it. And Allah swt know best. Remember that Allah may still bring about affection between you and your present foes for He is All Powerful, Most Forgiving, and Merciful (60:7).
The Qur’an itself emphatically states, “The believers are brothers [and sisters], so make peace between your brothers and be mindful of God so that you may receive mercy” (49:10).
Another way to get prepared is to block time off in your calendar as to when you will read the Qur’an. Perhaps you will divide it into 1 Juzz per day. It’s a great idea to use times that you would eat to fulfill your reading goals or even instead of using social media or television, this would be an absolute perfect alternative.
The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). [Qur’an al-Baqarah 2:185]
Meal planning is something else that may be good to start doing in the beginning of the week. Use storage containers and zip lock bags so that everything is convenient to eat for suhoor and breaking fasts daily. Pick one day out of the week to do the prepping. This will save so much time and provide more ease. Try to choose the heavier meal in the morning so that you can have more energy to last you throughout the day and the lighter choices at night.
Along with solitary time spent reflecting, praying, and studying; Ramadan is also a time to be amongst your family, Muslim and non-Muslim. Use this time to spread the word of Islam; give small presents to your neighbors, host an iftar at your home, and/or share information with your co-workers.
Finally, we don’t want to forget that fasting is to make us aware of our blessings and to remember those who do not have so please remember to feed the homeless and visit the sick. Volunteering with other faith based organizations to assist those who are less fortunate will also help to bring the community closer.
Taking full advantage during this peaceful time will not only make a difference in your life but also make a difference in the lives of the people surrounding you.
“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).
May Allah give us the heart and spirit to strive for His sake throughout the month of Ramadan and in our daily lives so that we can be truly be amongst the pious. Ameen.