As we all eagerly wait to witness Ramadan In sha Allah, we’re more than aware that it is visiting us this year in the months when the days are long and the nights short. One of the first thoughts that’s on everyone’s minds this time, especially those in the West, is how to survive the long hours of the fast.
For me, my fast will start at 3 am and Isha will be at 11 pm! So, as an aspiring Productive Muslimah, I need to try my best to make my Ramadan the most productive as that will please my Lord. Our beloved Sahaba (Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)) used to prepare for Ramadan 6 months before it came. They set an example for us to follow, especially when we know that there are certain constraints like the long duration of fasts and the heat of the summer to contend with. So, I realized that I need that secret formula which will make my Ramadan a Productive one. Alhamdulillah I finally got it and I would love to share it with all you:
It is: Intention + Du’a + Planning + Persistence= A Productive Ramadan In sha Allah!
Now let’s crack the code:
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended.” [Bukhari]
A pure and firm intention to making our Ramadan a productive one is the first and most important step. Until we truly want to spend this month in the manner our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) spent it, we will not be able to implement any of the following steps effectively. Make a sincere, firm intention NOW. Say it out aloud:
”I will iIn sha Allah spend my Ramadan seeking Allah (glorified and exalted be He)’s pleasure and doing deeds that draw me closer to Him”
The next time someone remarks about the long hours, smile and ask Allah (glorified and exalted be He) to make it easy for both of you and change the topic! Don’t dwell upon the long hours of the fast. Think positive. If Allah (glorified and exalted be He) willed it thus, He will bring us through it too. Didn’t we survive the Ramadan last year and live to tell the tale? Yet sometimes, it might seem hard to keep that intention pure and our spirits high. So when the going gets tough, remind yourself about the virtue (benefits) of what you are gaining in this blessed month. Sit in seclusion and start doing dhikr, make dua, read the ahadith about the benefits of fasting and if that doesn’t help then talk to someone and ask for motivation. If that doesn’t work, then listen to some lectures on Ramadan and read motivational articles.
The hours are long and the air dry. The only thing that will help us during these times is the Help of Allah (glorified and exalted be He) and His help is always a “dua away”. Start making dua from now. Ask Allah (glorified and exalted be He) to help you witness this month in all its glory and gather all the jewels that it has to offer.
- “Ya muqallibal quloob sabbit qalbee ‘ala deenik.” (‘O You Who changes the hearts, make my heart firm on Your religion.’) [Tirmidhi]
and duas from the Qu’ran, which when you make in seclusion, with your heart totally focused on Allah (glorified and exalted be He), will In sha Allah make your heart strong and you will feel comforted and not alone.
- “Our Lord! Bestow on us endurance and make our foothold sure and give us help against those who reject faith.” [Qur'an: Chapter 2, Verse 250]
- “Our Lord! Take us not to task if we forget or fall into error.” [Qur'an: Chapter 2, Verse 286]
- “Our Lord! Lay not upon us such a burden as You did lay upon those before us.” [Qur'an: Chapter 2, Verse 286]
- “Our Lord! Impose not on us that which we have not the strength to bear, grant us forgiveness and have mercy on us. You are our Protector. Help us against those who deny the truth.” [Qur'an: Chapter 2, Verse 286]
Planning for Ramadan is the next equally important step, especially for people living in the West, who will experience these long hours as well as have their kids home for the summer vacation.
This can be broken up into 2 parts:
a) Get Your Eid Clothes and Eid Gifts Ready NOW: Look for your Eid clothes and if you order them online or ask your family back home to send it to you, then coordinate with them and get them ready and shipped to you now. You should have them before Ramadan begins or on their way. Don’t waste even a single minute deciding what to wear on Eid day. Go shopping now and get all the gifts shopped, packed and labeled for Eid. During Ramadan if you need to pick a few more, it won’t be a hassle, but buying so many will definitely be a waste of time and energy.
b) Plan Your Menu: Plan your menu for Ramadan now. Shop for and store all dry items that you will need. This will save you time, energy and money. Prepare and freeze items like patties and rolls at least 15 days before Ramadan. Cook and freeze meat curry for use in the first few days of Ramadan.
c) Analyze Yourself and Your Routine: Understand your routine, the times of the day when your energy levels are high and low, the times in the day when there are some errands that you have to run, like helping your husband get ready for work, or when your kids will need you. Optimize your high energy levels (which are normally after Fajr) for reading Qur’an. Start staying up after Fajr from now so that it does not become too difficult when Ramadan starts. Think of what you can do when your energy levels tend to drop. For example, fasting or not fasting, my low time starts after Dhuhr and goes up until 4 in the afternoon. So I plan to either sleep or if my children refuse to sleep, then I will listen to some lectures.
d) Organize Your Dua List: Mark and gather all the duas that you want to make in Ramadan. If they are not in one book, then create Word documents and get print-outs. Mark out the ones you will read after each salah, before breaking the fast, after Taraweeh and in your Tahajjud. Make separate copies and label them. You can also start memorizing some duas from now. Make a list of people you want to make duas for: some friends from long ago that you remember fondly, relatives etc. Keep your dua list or books right next to your prayer mat so that you don’t get lazy reading them if you are very tired.
e) Increase Your Stamina: Start eating less from now. Train yourself to stay hungry for a little more time each day. Exercise to increase your stamina. With the long fasting hours, small children running around and no family to help out, tempers rise very quickly on empty stomachs. Train your stomach and your anger controls of the brain not to work together.
f) Make a Goal List: Make realistic goals of how much Qur’an you want to read in a day. For example, if you aim for finishing one juz’ a day, then break it into 4 parts. Start reading it from before Fajr and end it by Asr or before Maghrib salah. Do dhikr when you are doing “anything at all” like doing your normal chores of getting ready for work, driving, cooking, cleaning etc. Eat a light meal at iftar to be able to perform Taraweeh. Aim for all 20 raka’ahs. Remember this is just for one month. Some friends took off work the last 10 days in Ramadan to concentrate on their ibadah (worship) or to do itikaf (uninterrupted worship in Ramadan). One research scholar used to stay in his lab until only an hour before iftar as coming home reminded his stomach to start growling. So he stayed in the lab where he could stay focused on his work and ibadah.
b) Spend Time with Your Family: This is especially important for those of us living in the West, as our children will fast and meet friends in school who will ask numerous questions and might think they are weird for not eating! Mark out time, before or after iftar or before Taraweeh for some family time together to talk and listen to each other, or to simply “be” together.
There will be times in a day especially during the middle of Ramadan, when your enthusiasm will dwindle. But DON’T GIVE UP. Make Ramadan buddies. It could be your spouse, your coworker at work or a friend or relative. Make your goal list together and if one starts losing steam for going for salah during office hours or starts slipping in attending Taraweeh, the other can pull him up. Encourage each other and achieve your goals together.
I pray that this Ramadan brings barakah in everything that you do and that Allah (glorified and exalted be He) showers His endless mercy on you and your loved ones always. May Allah (glorified and exalted be He) help us make our intentions pure, cleanse our hearts, understand our religion more and accept our deeds, Aameen!