With less than 30 days left for the glowing crescent moon to announce the beginning of Ramadan, it is time to prepare ourselves for this glorious month. It is a blessed month; it should not pass us by like any other regular month. It is a season of multiplied rewards and blessings.
We should seize this golden opportunity to gain rewards and blessings, to intensify our acts of worship and kindness to others, and to draw nearer to our Lord.
This article is divided into two sections: planning for Ramadan and spiritual readiness.
Planning for Ramadan
• At home and even at work, start a countdown to Ramadan; that builds up excitement to this most important of events, and lifts everyone’s mood and spirit. Each day you can put up post-its, around your home and office, of the number of days left for Ramadan. The smaller the number, the closer we get to Ramadan!! The notes remind us to focus more on faith and less on other distractions in life.
- Share the joy of Ramadan with your children. Involve them in decorating the house, baking cookies, and doing some arts and crafts projects like making lanterns, crescents, stars, and signs to hang around the house.
• Spring cleaning is not only for spring; it can be done in the summer too, and should definitely be done before Ramadan. Schools are out, empty your desks and backpacks; recycle all the note books and papers that can be discarded. Donate text books to charity organizations. Clean out closets, drawers, the kitchen pantry, and all those dusty corners of the house that have been ignored.
• Do not wait for the night before Ramadan to go grocery shopping. The night before Ramadan is officially part of Ramadan, and should be spent reading Quran and praying the taraweeh prayers. Also, call your friends and family to congratulate them on the advent of Ramadan.
Finish your grocery shopping a couple days in advance, and do not hoard enough food to feed an army for a year. We should remind ourselves (myself included) that Ramadan is a month of fasting, not a month of food. Shop in moderation for the essential Ramadan items: dates, lentils, oats, figs, dried apricots, fresh fruit, vegetables, rice, oil, tea, coffee, oats, samosa dough and different fillings, such as cheeses, ground meat, or curried potatoes and peas.
• Some foods freeze well and can be prepared in advance to reduce cooking time during the sacred moments of Ramadan (for example: lasagna, pizza, samosas, meat pies, and more).
• Get done with shopping for Eid clothes for yourself and children and buy gifts for your own children and the young ones in your extended family. Buy gifts, wrap them, and label them with the names of each child, and hide them until the first day of Eid.
- Plan your social activities to take place in the first 20 days of Ramadan. Make sure you plan all your iftar gatherings in those days, and reserve the last 10 days of Ramadan for worship and meditation. Get your calendar all out, call friends, relatives, and co-workers and set the dates that you want to invite them.
• If your home is in need of any major repairs, take care of them now.
• First and foremost, make the intention to fast the month of Ramadan, to read the Holy Qur’an, to memorize portions of the Qur’an, and to vigilantly stand in prayer. For us women who spend so much time in the kitchen which steals from our time for worship, we can make the intention to cook in order to provide nourishment so our family members can regain their physical strength after the fast, and with that intention we can reap great rewards from Allah. With a sincere intention, many of our mundane tasks can be transformed into an act that pleases Allah. Making the intention makes us more mindful and confirms that our worship is done solely to seek the pleasure of Allah.
The first Hadith written down in the book Sahih Bukhari is in fact about intentions, which shows the importance of the status of our hearts.
Omar ibn Al-Khattab related that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Verily, actions are but by intentions and every man shall have only that which he intended.”
• Seek knowledge about Ramadan and other aspects of our faith. Read stories of the Prophets or the Companions to your family once a week after dinner.
- Prepare yourself mentally and spiritually. Did you know that the first 10 days of Ramadan are the days of Allah’s mercy, the second 10 days are the days of forgiveness, and the final 10 days are the days when Allah grants refuge from the Hellfire? So fervently make duaa (supplications) accordingly throughout the holy days of Ramadan.
• Now is an excellent time for self-evaluation of the past year. In his famous saying, Omar ibn Al-Khattab said, “Judge yourselves before you are judged, evaluate yourselves before you are evaluated and be ready for the greatest investigation (Day of Judgment).”
We should ask ourselves: How much of the Holy Qur’an have I memorized last year? Have I helped anyone? How was the quality and timings of my salat? Did I guard my tongue from speaking ill of anyone? Did I harm anyone?
If we open our eyes to see our mistakes, we have the chance to ask forgiveness, but if we are blind to our mistakes we may die before repenting.
The companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him), Abdullah ibn Masood, used to say, “The believer regards his sins as if he were sitting beneath a mountain which he fears may fall on him, whereas the sinner regards his sin as if a fly lands on his nose and swipes it away.”
He was once heard lamenting out of fear of Allah, for the magnitude of his sins, even though he lived a very devout and righteous life.
The early Muslims held themselves accountable for every slight mistake. They saw their mistakes as huge and repented passionately, while today many of us make graver mistakes and yet we shrug our shoulders and casually repent, if at all. Why the difference?
The scholar Aaidh Al-Qarni explained this difference with a beautiful analogy. It is as if the earliest Muslim wore only pure, white clothes so he could see every tiny speck of dirt. The latter Muslims wear dark clothes so no matter how much dirt and stains, we fail to see our sins.
As Ramadan is nearing, we should put on white clothes, so we can see our sins, feel remorse and regret, and ask for forgiveness.
Come on Ramadan, come, we are waiting; we are counting: 30, 29, 28, 27…