By Raghad Ebied
The doors of heaven are open while the doors of hellfire are closed. The devils are tied up while Allah increases your rewards in multiples for every good that you do. It really is the most blessed time of the year: it is Ramadan.
In past years, Ramadan came, Ramadan left, and sometimes, not much may have changed. Even if we thought we had a ‘good’ Ramadan, should we not continue to aim higher and approach this Ramadan with the intent to make it better than the last?
Ramadan is a time of revival for everyone – those who have been practicing for years, those who have just come to realize the beauty of feeling close to Allah and those who may have not fully realize that beauty yet. Ramadan is the golden opportunity for everyone as many have had their lives transformed in Ramadan.
Better yet, how would you like to come out of Ramadan this year feeling that it was the best Ramadan you have ever experienced? How would you like to excel this Ramadan and reach a level in jannah in sha Allah you never dreamed of before? This, more than ever, is the time to revive our souls for the year and revive the race to jannah as Allah states:
“And hasten to the forgiveness of your Lord and to a Paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth, prepared for the (Mutaqeen) God-fearing (3:133)”.
So how is it that we can reap the most out of this blessed month, and ensure that we come out of it, more righteous and pious than we entered it? Here are some tips:
1) Start making dua’a that Allah allows us to witness Ramadan this year and places barakah (blessings) in it. The companions peace be upon them used to spend the six months preceding Ramadan, praying that Allah will allow them to witness Ramadan and the six months following it, praying that Allah accepted their deeds in it.
2) Start forming your good habits and increasing your good deeds from now. It is reported that the Prophet peace be upon him used to fast most of the month of Sha’ban (which is the month we are currently in that precedes Ramadan) except the last few days and when asked why he did, he replied:
“That is the month people neglect. It comes between Rajab and Ramadan. It is a month in which the deeds are raised to the Lord of the Worlds. I love that my deeds be raised while I am fasting.” [An-Nasaa’i]
3) Make a conscious decision to change in Ramadan. Decide which habits you would like to drop and which you would like to adopt. Be specific and realistic. If there is one or a maximum of three habits that you would like to develop, which you think are most important, then focus your efforts on them.
Many experts have cited that it takes at least 21 days to break or form a new habit, so Ramadan can be the perfect opportunity to drop negative habits and develop positive ones.
4) Plan your Ramadan Resolutions before Ramadan so that once you enter, you are mentally and physically prepared to start making changes.
It is wise to decide on one big vision (Ex/ I want to love the Quran, I want to develop khujoo’ (humility) in my prayer, I want to make a big difference in the lives of those less fortunate) and then have sub goals under areas such as:
Prayer, (including extra prayers, night prayer, taraweeh)
Charity, (Does not just include money – can include dedicating time to social service and assistance)
Quran, (Decide on how much you would like to read, memorize, review)
Dawa, (Help others around you feel the beauty of becoming closer to Allah)
Strengthening family ties, (Make sure that before Ramadan starts, there are no hard feelings toward relatives, be the first to call and reconcile, or just call to say Ramadan mubarak)
Duaa, (Allah loves insistence in duaa, so make a list of 5-6 most important duas to you and insist on them every time you make duaa)
Buddy System: Arrange with a friend or friends to keep each other in check during Ramadan
5) Be aware of distractions before or during Ramadan. Turn off the TV and social media and prioritize your commitments. Also, please remember that Ramadan is intended to be a month of fasting and prayers, as opposed to elaborate dinner parties/iftars.
There are many resources available online for sisters now about how to save time in the kitchen, take advantage of meal planning, and spend more time on worship. Be sure to ask your family for help and remember the ultimate purpose of Ramadan is to achieve taqwa.
Also, try to finish any major house cleaning and Eid shopping before Ramadan so you are not wasting precious time, especially in the last 10 days of Ramadan, cleaning or shopping.
6) Manage your energy in Ramadan by organizing your sleep and being aware of your nutrition in order to avoid burn out. If possible, take a nap during the day in order to have energy for taraweeh at night.
If there is any way to adjust your work hours so that you can start later in the morning in order to catch up on sleep after fajr, this would be ideal.
For nutrition, make sure you drink 8 glasses of water between iftar and suhoor to stay hydrated and for suhoor and iftar, eat high energy, nutrition rich foods such as dates, honey, brown rice, sweet potatoes, fruits like apples, bananas, and oranges, spinach, almonds, salmon, eggs, and yogurt.
7) Be aware of engaging in any vain talk, gossip, or excessive arguing. The prophet peace be upon him said:
“Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it, Allah has no need of his giving up his food and drink.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (1804).
Fill your time with the remembrance of Allah, reciting Quran, reading Islamic material.
8) Create a special Ramadan atmosphere, especially if you have children, by fostering family traditions like praying together, reading Quran together, volunteering together, and explaining the importance of Ramadan to your children. There are many resources and activity books/ideas available online for children in Ramadan.
9) Don’t think that when Ramadan is over that you should give up the good habits you adopted and go back to your old ways. Ramadan proves to you that you have the time and energy to do the good things you have been doing. To ensure that Ramadan was accepted, you should be able to continue striving to attain taqwa (God consciousness) which is the purpose of Ramadan.
Imagine how much more we can gain from Ramadan if we look forward to it and prepare for it as we would for our own graduation, or wedding, or birth of a child. Subhana’Allah, though those things bring us joy in this world, having a fruitful Ramadan where we are forgiven of our sins could be the reason for our joy for an eternity, Insha’Allah.
This is the time brothers and sisters to race for the forgiveness of Allah (SWT) and to resolve to make a new start that is filled with righteous actions for Allah .
So, let us make this new start in Shaaban, increase it in Ramadan and continue for the rest of the year Insha’Allah.. Let us not deprive ourselves of this profound opportunity to be amongst the inhabitants of a Paradise that spans the heavens and the earth, Insha’Allah. (P007/R04)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)
This article published at onislam.net
For more resources, including a Ramadan checklist, feel free to visithttp://muslimwomensuccesscoach.com/2012/07/09/preparing-to-excel-in-ramadan/.