by Mehreen Khan
Almost one year has gone by and Ramadan is about to knock on our doors one more time, insha’Allah. Being able to fast the month of Ramadan is truly a gift – how many have gone back to Allah? – and it is also a trust that needs to kept with care and concern. Just like all other great things, Ramadan requires some sacrifice and determination, if you wish to truly benefit from this gift and protect this trust.
Ramadan requires preparation, which in turn, requires time and reflection. The companions of the Prophet ﷺ used to start preparing for Ramadan six months prior to it, and they would increase their worship especially during the month in which we are now, Sha’ban.
It’s kind of hard to go into Ramadan without any specific goals in the hope to ‘wing it’, because to be able to improve one’s self, one needs to… well, obviously set some goals! Specific and personal goals will naturally vary from person to person, but here are some achievable ones that can be set insha’Allah:
- Make all five salawat (prayers) on time: If one of your struggles is to perform your prayers on time, make it a goal to make each obligatory salat during Ramadan on time. Once this becomes a habit, insha’Allah, it will be easier to continue praying on time during the remainder of the year.
- Recite the Qur’an: At least once a day, with reflection on its meaning. I know a lot of people like reading the entire Qur’an during Ramadan, which is great if you can do it, but do not forget to actually reflect upon what Allah is saying. Obtain a Qur’an with the English translation and read the tafsir of ten verses minimum each day. This is an achievable goal for anyone!
- Avoid backbiting: Sometimes we tend to forget that backbiting is a major sin. “There’s nothing wrong in some gossiping, right?” Wrong! Try to catch yourself when you realize you’re backbiting and stop immediately.
- Pray Qiyam ul Layl: I know it gets hard with school and/or work, but try to wake up at least 15 minutes before suhoor each morning and pray. This is one of the times when du`a’ is readily answered, so make sincere du`a’, ask for forgiveness, and reconnect with Allah. From my personal experience, I know that it makes a world of difference.
- Recognize your sins: Admitting that you are imperfect and depending on Allah is the first step – reflect on the causes of your sins and the harms they have done in your life. Think about the greatness of the One whom you have sinned against, and ask for forgiveness. Pick a sin that you commit and make it a point to avoid committing it during Ramadan. Then pick another sin and avoid that until you behave at your best, at all times, as though Allah (swt) is watching you. Which He is.
- Share Ramadan with your neighbors: Our neighbors have a right to know about Ramadan, and it is our duty to inform them. Think of fun ways of sharing Ramadan with your neighbors. My siblings and I usually make Ramadan goodie bags and cards and put them in our neighbors’ mailboxes. Be creative.
- Try the 1/3 food rule: I know this one super hard and may sound like a broken record, but really…try not to over eat this Ramadan! The moment you feel nearly full – stop eating. Drink more, eat less. This is a goal that benefits others too as you can make two meals out of your one.
At the end of the day, whatever goals you choose to set for yourself, be sure to make them realistic and precise. Make a list of 5-10 goals you can reach to make this the most wonderful time of the year. Challenge yourself, but remember, you are going to have your limits so don’t be overly ambitious and expect a spiritual conversion overnight. Perhaps the most important advice to keep in mind is the saying of the Prophet ﷺ , “The best deed before Allah is the most persistent one, albeit small.” (Muslim).
Brothers and sisters, this could be our last Ramadan ever. This month may just be our last month of mercy, forgiveness, and freedom from the Fire, and we might never be able to see another one again. Let’s not let it go to waste, insha’Allah.
Keep us in your du`a’ – Ramadhan Mubarak!