Post cover photo credit: Shummon Miah IG@m.1.4.h
Saima Says…get ready for Ramadan
Ramadan is right around the corner, over two months away, and if you’re seeking spiritual growth, the two months before Ramadan have got your back…have you got theirs?
Some of you may fast, some of you may not. If you’re a Muslim, at the very least you’ll be aware it’s Ramadan and will try to make some changes. For some it’s a welcome jump start to re awaken the heart, for others it might be a month of trying to avoid impermissible things they may turn the other cheek on or try to be their definition of what’s more “good” than normal.
Ramadan, the 9th month of Islamic Lunar Calendar marks a time where Muslims all over the world fast from before dawn to dusk. The length of time you fast varies depending on where you are in the world, which hemisphere you’re in and how far away you are from the equator.
Some of you might not be able to fast for part or all of Ramadan for various reasons, valid exemptions or not. You could be preggo, you’re stopped at a red light 😉, your health might not permit it or you’re unable to because you don’t think you can do it, or maybe you haven’t found that spiritual connection yet. In sha Allah, in time it’ll come.
Wherever you are in your practice, if you want to make the most of Ramadan, you’re more likely to find spiritual joy and better experience the sweetness of those spiritual highs with a warm up. The 7th and 8th months of the Islamic calendar Rajab & Shabaan are your warm up coaches. Fyi, regular engagement with your faith throughout the year helps with your spiritually.
Ramadan is the month in which Muslims are obliged to fast (given they can) and fulfill one of the five pillars. What’s really special about Ramadan is that it’s the month in which the Quran was revealed. Ramadan is the month of the Quran. The month in which it was lowered down from the heavens to the earth and revealed over the span of 23 years with the greatest of Angels, Jibra’il (Gabriel) as one of it’s guards. The angel that aided every prophet (may peace and blessings be upon them all) on their journey.
Fasting helps us to suppress our worldly desires so that we’re better able to fill ourselves with worship. Be better at our purpose in life.
The first fast might be difficult for some, but it’s easier if you’ve been fasting beforehand.
Tips for Ramadan Prep
Fast on Mondays and Thursdays or the middle 3 days of the lunar month, as the prophet SAW did regularly.
For those of us in the northern hemisphere Ramadan falls around the longest days of the year, preparing beforehand will help us prep. If you don’t fast regularly outside of Ramadan it’s advisable not to fast continuously right before Ramadan, give yourself some time to do this like fasting Mondays and Thursdays in the two the months before in advance for this, and perhaps give yourself a little break just before Ramadan.
If you have fasts to make up before the next Ramadan, it might be a little easier for you to find the motivation to do this.
Start thinking about what you want to achieve in Ramadan. Do you want to finish the recitation of a Quran or more, do you want to pray 5 times a day, do you want to make sure you’re doing the extra prayers too, do you want to stay up all night in worship, do you want to be in the remembrance of God throughout the day, try wearing the hijab or a Topi 😉, memorise more parts of the Quran, spend time worshipping with your family, do some charity work, eat halal, refrain from haraam?
What about after Ramadan, what do you want the month to give you after?
Take some time to reflect. What did you do last Ramadan? How did you prepare? What did you expect to do? What did you expect to carry out after Ramadan? Did you do it? For how long?
I’m a data analyst so part of what’s natural for me is to look at historic information, identify patterns and trends and make an assessment, sometimes using historic data to set expectations for the future.
What I’ve learnt is, sometimes things will be fairly predictable unless something big changes beit anticipated or unanticipated, internal or external. If you want things to change in any aspect of your life, you have some degree of control over your actions. Your good deeds and du’a can help implore on the mercy of Allah for things you couldn’t hope for, except with the knowledge that Allah can make anything happen. So just ask.
I often remember a quote my friend taught me that her mum used to say her:
“God puts you through the same trials again & again until you learn that you have to do something different to break the cycle”
Plan your routine
Once you’ve identified what you want to achieve, plan your routine. Of the people I spoke to, all of them said that making a plan, preparing for a routine was key for them.
Sit down and plan how you’re going to go about your Ramadan. Remember SIRI, an acronym I just made up. Be Specific with what you want to achieve daily, Identify when you have time, check that those goals are Reasonable for you and Implement. Use that as a framework. If it helps print out a sheet where you can tick off your daily goals like how many sections of the Quran you aim to complete throughout the day. There’s also the Ramadan Legacy app. It has a built in section to tick off what you achieve everyday. You can also post messages, reminders, get people to pray for you, find tips, but my favourite section is the short powerful du’as.
Ramadan is the month of the Quran, so recite it #Iqra. A goal should be to have a relationship with the Quran throughout the year, daily. Allah Spoke to us through the Quran, I would love to be able to understand the Quran in Arabic fluently inshaAllah.
For some this could be learning how to recite it in Arabic, perfecting the tajweed (rules and pronunciation) because you learnt it the Indian/ Urdu way like me #Why?. You might want to (re) memorise Surahs (chapters) or immerse in a deeper study of the meanings. Or you just want to read it more often. Whatever your level there’s something for everyone.
Identify parts of your routine where it’s easy to fit in some time for the Quran, is it a class, before bed, after a salaat. Keep going. Even if it’s a verse, take it one day at a time.
A lot of us habitually engage with the Quran only in Ramadan, so it could be easier to keep it up as a practise right after Ramadan is over when you have the momentum to keep going, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try before.
Maybe try reading or listening to the Quran on your commute. You’ll also be leaving the house with wudhu if you do.
Surah Mulk, Surah Sajdah (theres sujood in this one) and the last 2 ayaahs (verses) of Surah Bakarah should be recited before bed/ in the evening. For women it’s a good habit to include Surah Waqiya. Maybe start off with the shortest here and then add more as it becomes regular practise, like the last 2 ayaahs of Surah Baqarah. This was the only section of the Quran that wasn’t revealed on this Earth, the Messenger of Allah SAW ascended to the heavens to receive those two verses from our Lord himself. Here’s a YouTube link to a lecture on them [I haven’t vetted this one, but Ustad Nouman Ali Khan’s talks tend to be engaging and very beneficial- so if you’ve listened to this or have links to other lectures on these verses please do share in the comments section below]
Check out some of the links to other podcasts in a previous post that you might want to listen to during Ramadan.
It’s good to try to strive to be in constant remembrance of your lord. Another lifetime goal is to have the name of your lord moist on your lips. It really does help your spirituality if you’re finding more and more ways to remember your creator. Even just by saying his name.
One way that helps with this is to carry a tasbeeh (prayer counter/ beads) in your pocket. Pick a du’a you’d like to recite regularly. There are narrations of some the Prophet SAW said regularly, there are some that are short and powerful. There’s so many to pick from. Here’s are a few of my favourites:
- رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
Rabbana atina fid-dunya hasanatan wa fil ‘akhirati hasanatan waqina ‘adhaban-nar
Our Lord! Grant us good in this world and good in the hereafter, and save us from the chastisement of the fire
- يَا مُقَلِّبَ الْقُلُوبِ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِى عَلَى دِينِكَ
ya Muqallib al Quloob thabbit qalbi ‘alaa Deenik
“Oh turner of the Hearts make my heart firm on Your Deen”
- Yunus as du’a
لا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ
La ilaa ha illa anta subhaanaka inni kuntu minazzaalimeen
“There is no deity besides You ; You are free from any imperfection. Verily, I am of the wrongdoers ”
[Surah Al-Anbiya 21:87]
- الله معي
“Allah is with me”
- سبحان الله وبحمده سبحان الله العظيم
Subhanallahi wa bihamdihi, Subhanallah Al-‘Adheem
The Prophet said, (There are) two words which are dear to the Beneficent (Allah) and very light (easy) for the tongue (to say), but very heavy in weight in the balance. They are: ‘Subhanallahi wa bihamdihi’ and ‘Subhanallah Al-‘Adheem.’
- سُبْحـانَ اللهِ وَبِحَمْـدِهِ عَدَدَ خَلْـقِه ، وَرِضـا نَفْسِـه ، وَزِنَـةَ عَـرْشِـه ، وَمِـدادَ كَلِمـاتِـه
Subhaanallaahi wa bihamdihi: ‘Adada khalqihi wa ridhaa nafsihi, wa zinata ‘arshihi wa midaada kalimaatihi.
“Glory is to Allaah and praise is to Him, by the multitude of his creation, by His Pleasure, by the weight of His Throne, and by the extent of His Words”
- A link to some powerful prayers by Mufti Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf of Zam Zam Academy
What are your favourites? Comment, and let me know.
Reawaken your salaat #LifetimeGoals
How much do we struggle with focus in our salaat? If you don’t, MashaAllah! A lot of us, and I assume it’s most of us constantly fight to regain focus.
This isn’t going to be something that’s going to be magically fixed once you’ve got it, it requires effort to keep finding that focus. It’ll come and go in waves depending on where your spirituality is at.
Participating in worship outside of your salaat really helps. For those of us that don’t understand the Arabic language, and haven’t done so, it’s worth joining a course, reading a book or listening to a podcast on the meanings and spiritual aspects of worship. Your salaat will feel much sweeter immediately after.
I’m currently listening to a Qalam Institute podcast series by Imam Mikaeel Smith where he is going through “Purification of the Heart“. In one of the episodes he suggests a method to reawaken your salaat by learning new dua’s. Learning where you can add du’as, which du’as you can add (I need to learn how to do this) and new Surahs too, especially if you learn the meaning. Mixing it up, adding new things freshens up your salaat and helps to keep your focus inside of your salaat and not outside of it.
Give to Charity, be it time or money.
A lot of Muslims pay their zakat during Ramadan, they’re also more generous with their pockets, particularly during the last 10 nights. Maybe pick a cause, set up a donation page with the intention that the sadaqah will be on behalf of a loved one, like your parents, someone who’s passed away, your spouse etc. Maybe do it as a collective?
Spread your donations out throughout the month, to increase the number of good deeds you do.
Spend from what you love, be it money, time or something else.
For those of you that can, give time. I dread being stuck behind a desk, made to make calls, being out in the sun on a hot day asking people to donate, it feels awkward and imposing, but I suppose that’s where some charities need help and it’s still rewarding. I envision doing charity work to be like spending time with those the donations support, or helping someone out at home, spending time with the elderly, playing with orphans, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick spreading knowledge, cleaning a mosque. Things you imagine Abu Bakr as- Siddiq r.a. would have done without people knowing. There’s loads of ways to give your time and money to those who need it.
For those that can’t give time or money, anything you do at home for the sake of Allah is sadaqah be it feeding your family, your pets, taking care of your family etc. As my dad always says “charity begins at home”.
Remember, keep your good deeds to yourself. You never know if by revealing what you do you might be losing sincerity, doing it to please people or to gain their favour, you might do it out of arrogance and pride. You can tell people to encourage them to do it, or you could say things like “I know someone who…” . Keep the very best between you and your creator, keep yourself humble and sincere.
Food, glorious food
Guys, seriously consider giving up that fried food. Or cut it down. That grease is not good for a fasting belly, I know you know it. Overindulgence might effect your salaat, and these days you need your energy for that smidge of time you have to pray tarawih. At the very least, let dates, water and some fruits hit your system first and pace the oil spill. You’re fasting, delayed gratification is surely something you get? Dad, are you reading this? :p
Eat lots of fruit, get your vitamins and minerals in. And drink things that are cooling to the body. Every year my mum says fasting is gharaam (hot) for the body and that you need things like that sweet rose syrup and milk to cool it down.
Think about preparing some healthier options before Ramadan, or try grilling instead of frying. Also, don’t leave your mum or the “women” stuck in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning up after you. They want to pray too you know. You’re an adult, be a lamb and pick up after yourself, you’ll get some reward for it too.
Get your du’a list ready. What are you praying for? We all have worries, hopes and desires. To get the most out of your prayers learn about which names of Allah to invoke, there are some du’as that are good to pray before, and there are times when your du’a might have more of an impact.
Pray for others, yourself and the ummah. We have plenty of oppressed brothers and sisters we hear about through the media, we feel helpless but the absolute bare minimum we can do is pray for them, and seek forgiveness for not doing more.
I’ve added hyperlinks to boosting to your du’as, Shaykh Muhammad Alshareef has some inspiring du’a videos.
While I’m here, remember me in your du’as, do pray for me to get married, and to have one of the blessed of marriages 🙂
When you make du’a for someone, the angels say Ameen and pray for it for you too #SpreadTheLove #NoAwkwardRishtas
There are some great Ramadan series that Sheikhs, Imams, Alims etc share during Ramadan. I’ve linked a few in my previous post. Some of these are the names of Allah, A tafsir of a surah, reflection of a verse in each section of the Quran etc. They’re great, I totally recommend you do this. There are some short ones out there.
When Khala Flo comes to visit
Some of us are unable to fast for part or all of the month. If you’re unable to fast and can’t make them up, then you have to pay fidya (feed poor people for each fast missed). Whilst not fasting it’s easy to feel like you’re missing out or lose motivation (especially if you’re of the opinion women can’t read the Quran during shark week). We can feel our spirituality dip.
A sister once told me that when you’re not fasting because it’s impermissible for you to fast, then you’re obeying Allah, and that obedience is an act of worship. You are able to participate in other acts of worship like a lot of what’s been mentioned in this post. You could also gain reward by helping the people who are fasting i.e. by feeding them.
Over the years I’ve heard different things on how and when to make up fasts, and how to work them with Shawwal fasts. This short video by Sheikh Abu Esa is the best I’ve found.
Whilst we’re on Shawwal, the 10th month of the Islamic calendar where there is a significant amount of reward for fasting 6 days in this month. If you complete your Ramadan fasts and follow it up with 6 Shawwal fasts, you will get the reward of fasting for the whole year #BonusPoints. If you would like to do Shawwal fasts, and aren’t sure if you’re going to feel motivated to do so, make du’a in Ramadan for Allah to make it easy on you.
We’re 2 weeks away from Rajab (approx 18th March). Preparing for Ramadan helps you to have a consistent Ramadan, without cramming all your worship into “the 27th night”. We don’t know for sure which of the odd nights in the last 3rd of Ramadan Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power) is in. Don’t neglect the 21st, 23rd, 25th & 29th nights and spread out your worship and remember that each third of Ramadan has a different phase and benefit. The best of people utilise each part of Ramadan,
I have included lots of beneficial links in this post. It’s worth checking out a few.
Share what helps you in the comments below, and I trust my friends, family, people with knowledge will call me out on anything that’s incorrect here.
Have a blessed Rajab, Shabaan, Ramadan & Shawaal.
Saima says…make a plan Stan
p.s. Get ready to hear this dhikr