Each year when Ramadan comes, we start thinking about the glory of this month with many ambitions and plans. Unfortunately, on the last night of Ramadan, some of us look back and feel dissatisfied with what we have done. We find that we did not do what we planned or what we did fell short of our plan. We might wonder why! Our desire to improve ourselves spiritually and socially during Ramadan goes poof with the winds despite the fact that demons are locked up and cannot be blamed for our failure! Sometimes bad feelings push us to question our faith and commitment to the religion on the night of Eid. In fact, the reason is simpler than we can ever imagine.
In my opinion, the problem lies in the fact that most of our plans are done without mindfulness. We make promises only in our minds and resolve to fulfill tasks during the holy month only in words. But what we really need is an organized, written plan that goes in tandem with TRAINING. Yes, I do mean rehearsing. Any successful event in the world needs pre-planning and training: any speech you’ll be giving, any meeting you’ll be attending or even any gathering that you will be going to. So what about the great month of Ramadan, which presents you the opportunity to repent of all your mistakes and to have your name written on the Jannah list?! Do you not think that your plan for this month needs some TRAINING?
This Ramadan, I am offering you a new Ramadan Scheme that I hope you find useful. This scheme consists of three different stages: Before Ramadan, During Ramadan, and After Ramadan. In this article, I am going to tackle the first and most important stage: Before Ramadan.
Preparation Before Ramadan
Throughout the year, daily responsibilities overload our lifestyle. All of us have thoughts like: “I need to concentrate more during my prayers”, “I should try to pray more sunnah” or “I want to read the Qur’an more frequently”, “I should help more sisters/brothers in my community”.. etc. Most of us find it difficult to make the first step, and if we are lucky enough to start, we find it difficult to stick to our plan. Ramadan is a yearly opportunity that Allah gives us to return to Him and fulfill our spiritual duties in 30 days. Here we have a yearly chance of praised 30 days to make a radical change, not only for ourselves, but also for our Islamic community.
1. Set Your Goals
To have a productive Ramadan, we need to specify our goals. Your goals should be realistic; plans you can accomplish in Ramadan and continue doing them even after Ramadan In sha Allah. Your goals should be very specific and achievable within a limited period of time: you set specific plans for each week or every 10 days. Write them down with clear steps on how to fulfill them. Finally, your plans should not be self-centered. Muslims should be productive in their communities as well (whether you live in a Muslim community one or not, it does not matter).
If you agree with me on what you have read already, please get a pen and a piece of paper, or open a new document on your PC and start writing down at least two things you want to change in you or in your community this Ramadan – things that you have always thought about but did not have the chance to do before. (I included a few examples, so I would appreciate if you share yours too.)
Personal Spiritual Goals
Change should start with repentance (tawbah). Tawbah starts with feeling guilty. True sorrow keeps you away from committing the mistake again. Istighfar can delete your mistakes as if you have never committed them!
- Start praying salah: sunnah, Duha, Qiyam (Specify a goal for each week. Next week you add another goal or number of raka’ah)
- Perform istighfar or any kind of dhikr (Specify certain dhikr for each week, daily number of times: 100, 200, 500)
- Read the Qur’an (Once, twice or thrice a week or state a certain of number of pages each day)
- Pray Fajr at masjid everyday
Social Goals: (Family/Community)
Family in Ramadan is an infinite source of hasanat if we know how to make full use of them. If any work you do normally has one reward, in Ramadan it has 10 rewards. The good deal is when they are the daily tasks we usually do because it is part of the schedule, but by having an Islamic niyyah (which I call the key of hasanat) in your heart, you get additional ajr (reward)! This Ramadan, let´s try to be radioactive members of our family. I use the term ‘radioactive’ to refer to people with great zest and positive energy in fulfilling their roles. Each one in his/her own style.
- Start teaching your children how to perform salah or the philosophy of salah
- Teach the little ones Surat Al-Fatiha
- Keep the intention of breaking the fast of the family members while cooking. More on this will follow in my next article In sha Allah
- Take your kids to taraweeh. Tell them the story of this spiritual tradition of Ramadan (how Omar bin Al-Khattab gathered all Muslims to do this blessed prayer in jamaa’ah (congregation), and make their tiny hearts attached to the masjid. On the way back home, buy them candy or any similar and healthier thing they like
- Help your mom/dad because it is your duty to do so! It could be helping your father to quit smoking forever, or to overcome recent tension in your parents’ relationship, or helping to build your mother´s self-confidence
- Help your sister/brother in her/his studies or with work problems or to make important decisions
- Make dua for your parents, spouse, children and siblings
On a larger scale, you can focus on the Muslim Ummah. Look around and see who needs help. I am sure you will find plenty.
- Help a friend without waiting until s/he approaches you
- Visit family members whom you have not seen recently (How many families will you visit?)
- Visit elders’ homes and orphanages (specify how many times: once, weekly?)
- Offer sadaqah (decide on a weekly amount or deed)
- Break fast with other Muslims not from your nuclear family (indicate a specific number)
- Make dua for other Muslims (other brothers/sisters, muslim countries in conflict)
For women, you can include a specific plan for your non-fasting days. I have been asked over and over: “What can I do with my plan when I am not fasting?” During Ramadan, every moment and act is blessed. Fasting during Ramadan is not only about abstaining from eating or drinking during the day. Sawm (fasting) is also about refraining from committing our same mistakes. So go ahead in your plan and you will be accumulating rewards, In sha Allah. As a woman, I see those days as an opportunity to do good deeds that need more energy and tolerance, those I might not do quite as efficiently if I was fasting.
2. Prepare Yourself
Prepare your blessed abode for Ramadan. Clean the house in advance so that you do not have a lot of cleaning during Ramadan. Prepare the family’s Eid clothes before Ramadan starts so that you do not spend the blessed hours of Ramadan doing your shopping. For your kitchen, please refer my next article which goes into practical detail.
Write your timetable and put it in a place that you can see it clearly every time you enter your room. Decorate it if needed (you can make hand drawings -flowers, Ka’aba etc.) and use colors, stickers, some glitter and other personal touches. Let it reflect your personality. The little ones can help in that as well. Read more about how people used to spend Ramadan in the past, or how different cultures celebrate Ramadan. Make sure you read how the Prophet used to spend this blessed month. Share your new information with others.
Read more about fasting instructions from fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) books. This way, you avoid having doubts about the validity of your fasting. It will boost self-confidence.
Look for a competitor who has a similar plan. Although this might seem like an easy task, it is not! Do not get a weak competitor so you win whatever you do! Your competitor has to be someone who will give you that extra push when you slow down.
3. Train Yourself
Maybe one of the most important reasons for our failure during Ramadan is our lack of training. During Ramadan, we break our daily rhythm of life, starting by giving up our morning coffee. To add to this, we start another ibadah schedule – taraweeh, Qur’an and dhikr. In most cases, our bodies get exhausted from the first week, thus slowing down our progress and weakening our motivation. By training, you introduce your body, mind, and soul to what is coming forward. It is exactly like how the sport works. It is better to feel tired in Sha’ban, but trained and consistent in Ramadan.
During Sha’ban you can practice your set plan. E.g:
- You can fast a couple of days
- Read parts of the Qur’an that you want to read during Ramadan, thus making it easier for you to reread it in Ramadan.
- Read about the strategies you need to help your father quit smoking, matrimony relationships etc.
- Start getting your tongue used to dhikr.
- Practice being patient and controlling your anger.
- Try to restrain your tongue, stop gossiping and avoid long, useless conversations.
- Start helping some friends, know their problems, listen to their stories.
These are my tips for Ramadan preparation! I hope you find them useful. I am all yours for any further questions or doubts. I’m sure all of us have tips to share and I would love to hear from you. In my next article, I will share more practical tips for a productive Ramadan In sha Allah. Until then, I hope that we will be well prepared and ready for this blessed month. Remember me in your dua.