01. Repent to Allah. Start preparing for Ramadan by repenting to Allah subhanahu wata’la. Our hearts are rusty from the sins that we have accumulated since the last Ramadan. We cannot start the marathon of Ramadan in fifth gear without removing this rust from our hearts. And there is no other way of removing this rust except by repenting to Allah. Repent to Allah and abundantly ask for His forgiveness.
02. Learn the fiqh of Ramadan. We often read the ahadiths that inspire us to excel during Ramadan, and in the process, we forget to learn about the
technicalities and legal aspects of fasting. I would recommend you two sources from where you can learn the fiqh of Ramadan.
03. Tie the loose ends that you can tie up before the beginning of Ramadan. If there is a project report that is due in the middle of Ramadan, finish it before Ramadan. Buy all your groceries and stock them in your house before Ramadan. Whatever you want to buy for Eid, buy it before Ramadan. I will not be exaggerating if I say that it is a calamity to go out for shopping during this blessed month. Because going out for shopping will deviate you from your daily routine, distract your focus, destroy your inner peace, cost your precious Ramadan time, and put you in trial, as markets are places where Allah is scarcely remembered. Majority of the stores give Eid promotions during the month of Ramadan and unfortunately people fall for it. You will find that shops are packed when qiyamul layl is going on in the mosques. Isn’t it a calamity that people choose some miserable promotions of duniya over the promotion of Allah subhanahu wata’la?
04. What are your goals for Ramadan? It is a very gloomy reality that Muslims youths today do not have lofty goals when it comes to his or her religion. But the companions were not goal-less. They used to have lofty goals. There was one companion who used to serve the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). His name was Rabee’ah ibn Ka’b (رضى الله عنه). One day the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) asked him, “Ask for something.” Rabee’ah was among the poorest people of Madinah and the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was expecting that he would ask for something related to this world. But Rabee’ah (رضى الله عنه) replied, “I want your companionship in Jannah” See the vision and the dream of a companion of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). But today, Muslim youths have no goal. They do not know what they want to achieve from this worldly life regarding their religion. And it is thus no wonder that they are also clueless about what they want to achieve from the month of Ramadan. So, have a vision. Of course we want to achieve taqwa but we should know how we will achieve taqwa. Do you want to pray all 150 salats in congregation? Do you want to complete the Quran 10 times? Do you want to read tafseer of one juz every day? Do you want to memorize some particular surahs? Whatever your goals are, make a list of them and make a simple routine that will help you to achieve those goals.
(Parting Farewell Advice of Ramadan: Watch this lecture of Brother Nouman Khan where he explained how taqwa can be achieved through fasting)
05. Start preparing a dua list. Ramadan is a great time to make dua. A dua list will ensure that you will not miss out any important dua that you want to make to Allah subhanahu wata’la during this blessed month. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “The dua of the fasting person will not be refused.” [Reported by al-Bayhaqi, 3/345; al-Silsilat al-Saheeh, 1797] Learn about the etiquettes and manners of making dua by reading this book Dua: The Weapon of the Believer by Shaykh Yasir Qadhi (An audio version of the book is available here).
06. Be mindful of your intention. Intention was a thing that the companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) were always extremely careful about. Because intention is the fine line between sincerity and hypocrisy. At the same time, intention is something that is very fragile and it is exceptionally vulnerable to corruption. In of the hadiths, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Whoever fasts one day seeking the pleasure of Allah, if that is the last day of his life, he will enter Paradise.” [Ahmad, 5/391] In another hadith, he (ﷺ) said, “Whoever fasts Ramadan out of faith and with the hope of reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.” [Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, no. 37]Allah subhanahu wata’la blessed us to experience many months of Ramadan, and today we should ask ourselves, “When was the last time we paused for a moment to analyze our intention? Before fasting, have we ever paused and thought about pleasing Allah subhanahu wata’la and getting reward from Him?” So, be mindful of your intentions this Ramadan. Pause and reflect on your intention.
07. Ramadan is not a food extravaganza. We are often told that fasting is a tool to fight the nafs-the lower self. But it often happens that we fast but feel no change in the power of our nafs. Have you ever wondered why? It is because we eat too much. We eat so much during suhoor and iftaar that we actually do not feel hunger except for an hour or so before breaking our fast. We cannot substantially reduce the power of our nafs unless we discipline it by feeling hunger. So if you want to straighten up you nafs, eat moderately. Also, moderation in eating and drinking will make worshipping Allah easy for you.
08. Observe the sunnah of suhoor. Suhoor is a meal that is taken right before the break of dawn that commences the time of fajr prayer. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) encouraged us to take suhoor by saying, “Have suhoor, for in suhoor there is blessing (barakah).” [Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 4/139].
Eating suhoor differentiates our fast from that of the Christians and Jews. Also it is sunnah to eat dates in suhoor. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Suhoor is blessed food, and it involves being different from the people of the Book. A good suhoor for the believer is dates.” [Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 2345; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/448]
09. Observe the sunnah of breaking fast. The sunnah of breaking fasts are three:
- Hasten to break your fasts. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “The people will be fine so long as they do not delay iftaar.” [Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 4/198]
- Break your fasts with dates. Anas (رضى الله عنه) said, “The Prophet (ﷺ) used to break his fast with fresh dates before praying; if fresh dates were not available, he would eat (dried) dates; if dried dates were not available, he would have a few sips of water.” [Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 3/79 and others. He said it is a ghareeb hasan hadeeth. Classed as saheeh in al-Irwa’, no. 922]
- Recite this dua upon breaking fast: Dhahaba al-zama’, wa’btallat al-‘urooq, wa thabat al-ajru in sha Allah. Thirst is gone, veins are flowing again, and the reward is certain, in sha Allaah).” [Reported by Abu Dawood, 2/765; its isnaad was classed as hasan by al-Daaraqutni, 2/185]
10. Share your iftaar with the poor. The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Whoever gives food to a fasting person with which to break his fast, will have a reward equal to his, without it detracting in the slightest from the reward of the fasting person.” [Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 3/171; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/451] Abdullah ibn Umar (رضى الله عنه) would not break his fast unless he found orphans and poor people to share his iftaar with. If there are no poor people in the locality we are living, we may send some money back home or to countries where there are needy Muslims so that they can have iftaar during this blessed month.
11. Use this Ramadan to improve the quality of your salah. While describing the qualities of a true believer in the Surah Al-Mu’minoon, Allah subhanahu wata’la mentioned salah before everything:
Certainly will the believers have succeeded: they who are during their prayer humbly submissive [The Noble Quran ]
Therefore, it is of extreme importance that we stand before Allah with khushoo (full submissiveness and focus). In his poignant lecture Salah in Focus, Shaykh Abdul Nasir mentioned three factors that prevent us from standing before Allah with humility and full submissiveness:
- Sinful lifestyle: If we commit sins, we will not be able to develop khushoo in salah. It is simple as that. Sin affects the heart. It destroys the light and tranquility.
- Not preparing for salah: We prepare for work. We prepare for school. But we do not prepare for salah. Human mind is not a machine. It cannot jump from one state to another like a switch does from off-state to on-state. If you have been writing C++ codes for the last three hours, and you suddenly get up and make wudu and start praying, do you expect that your mind will suddenly become fully submissive to Allah? It will not. You need to prepare your mind for a great salah.
- Not understanding the Quran
Therefore, this Ramadan should be the time to initiate a change the first two factors at least. Some ways to initiate that change could be: Determine to (a) do siwak and make wudu before every salah (b) go to mosque by walking (c) arrive at mosque 15 minutes prior to adhan (d) Pray tahiyyaatul msjid if there is no sunnah payer to pray upon entering the mosque (e) pray all the sunnah prayers and do not miss any (f) slow down the pace of your prayer and try to achieve khushoo as much as you can (g) memorize some additional opening supplications and adhkars of bowing and prostration (h) recite authentic adhkars upon completion of fard prayers (i) prepare well before going to qiyamlul layl so that you do not have to go to toilet in the middle (j) do not miss a single takebeer tahreemaf of taraweehl/qiuamul layl (k) go to for jumuah salah early.
For sisters, it is best for them to pray at home. However, there is nothing wrong with going to mosque either, provided that they veil themselves properly.
12. Read Quran abundantly. Ramadan is the month of Quran. It is the month that rejuvenates our connection with the Book of Allah. Allah subhanahu wata’la said:
The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. [The Noble Quran 2:285]
While you should aim to complete the Quran as many times as you can in this Ramadan and read some tafaseer, I encourage you to make the intention in this Ramadan to learn the language of the Quran. Until we understand the Arabic of the Quran, we will never be able to truly feel the sweetness of reciting it and connecting with Allah. The whole Madinah Arabic course that teaches the Arabic of the Quran from scratch has been made available in this website for free of cost. We cannot have excuse anymore to remain illiterate in Arabic. The only thing that we need now to learn Arabic is self-discipline. Sincerely ask Allah subhanahu wata’la to give you self-discipline so that you can learn the Arabic of the Quran before Ramadan 1434.
13. CUT OFF TV (actually there shouldn’t be TV in a Muslim house to begin with) + COMPUTER + INTERNET + CELL PHONE. Shaytan will be locked in the month of Ramadan but he has already made us addicted to these time thieves. I ask you to be honest with yourself. “Can you not finish your true necessities in computer/internet in three minutes everyday?” The answer is, “You can.” But we spend hours in computer and internet for no justifiable reason. However, this is not the way of a true believer. A true believer is time conscious. He avoids distraction. He is not concerned about anything that does not benefit him. So, be time conscious in this month of Ramadan. Completely cut yourself off from TV, computer, and internet during the month of Ramadan. Do not say, “I can’t.” Because “You can.”
14. Refrain from gossiping and vain talk. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Whoever does not stop speaking falsehood and acting in accordance with it, Allah has no need of him giving up his food and drink.” (Al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 1903). So refrain from sin and gossiping and vain talk. I also encourage you to control what you think. Any action is first born as a thought. Engage in the dhikr of Allah when you are not directly worshipping Him. Contemplate over the blessing of Ramadan. The goal should be squeezing benefit from every second.
15. Beware of laziness and complacency. Laziness is the killer. We start the month of Ramadan with a lot of enthusiasm. But after a few days, when this initial impetus evaporates, the true test begins. Ramadan is a marathon and you have to sustain the pace until you finish the cross line. Yes, the body will want to relax but we cannot not give up. Because if we give up and relax, we will not achieve our goals and it will be another forgettable Ramadan. Therefore, do not give up. If you do not give up, Allah subhanahu wata’la will make it easy.
It is easy to talk the talk but it is hard to walk the walk. Giving advice is easy. Executing is the hard part. So, I ask Allah to make us witness the month of Ramadan and I ask Him to make acting upon these tips easy for us during the blessed month. Ameen!