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Preparing for Ramadan

Dr. Omar Hussaini

Whenever there is a seminal or portentous event, an event that holds personal significance for an individual, they spend a significant amount of time preparing themselves for it.   If a person has an interview for Google or a top tier university, they will spend a lot of time getting ready for the interview. He or she will research what is asked in this type of interview, prepare their potential answers, anticipate what type of questions may be asked, and rehearse their answers. The night before the big interview, they may not even be able to sleep at night out of worry-- their minds full of the various possibilities that tomorrow holds. If a person does not prepare, then they will simply look like a fool on the day of the interview. In the same way, if someone wants to hold a graduation party or a wedding, there are usually months of planning that precede the actual event. If there is no planning, then the  graduation or wedding instead of being a cause of celebration will become a cause of embarrassment. The reason that planning and preparation are important is that without them, the event is bound to be a marked failure.

We must then ask ourselves what is a more important event than the month of Ramadan, the month of the Quran. Do we want to look like a fool, to be embarrassed before Allah SWT in this month? This is the month in which a sinner can become a saint. This is the month in which the mercy of Allah rains down upon His creation. This is the month in which the Creator of the universe releases people from the shackles that they have placed upon themselves. This is the month in which people are removed from the fires of hell and placed into the gardens of paradise. Because of the great blessings that exist within this month, the one who is deprived of the benefits of this month is truly unfortunate.

Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, ascended the pulpit and he said, “Ameen, ameen, ameen.” It was said, “O Messenger of Allah, you ascended the pulpit and said ameen, ameen, ameen.” The Prophet said, “Verily, Gabriel came to me and he said: Whoever reaches the month of Ramadan and he is not forgiven, then he will enter Hellfire and Allah will cast him far away, so say ameen. I said ameen. Whoever sees his parents in their old age, one or both of them, and he does not honor them and he dies, then he will enter Hellfire and Allah will cast him far away, so say ameen. I said ameen. Whoever has your name mentioned in his presence and he does not send blessings upon you and he dies, then he will enter Hellfire and Allah will cast him far away, so say ameen. I said ameen.” [Source: Sahih Ibn Hibban 915]

Understanding the importance of this month, it has been said that the Sahabah (R) prepared six months for Ramadan and then afterwards spent six months worrying whether or not their actions performed in Ramadan were accepted.  This is one of the reasons that we do not benefit from this blessed month. Since we treat it like any other month of the year due to being too busy with life, Ramadan comes and goes and we do not take any particular benefit. We exit the month in the same way that we entered it.

If we had prepared this would not be the case. Take for example a old car that is driving along the road. Even if there is a Lamborghini parked at the stoplight, if the old car is already driving at 50 mph at the time that the light turns green, it will still beat the Lamborghini. For many of us since we have not prepared for Ramadan ahead of time,  and by the time we “get into gear,” the month is almost over.

How does one prepare for the month of Ramadan? They are both practical and spiritual things that should be done in preparation for this blessed month.

1. Leave Sin

The first thing that we should do is become accustomed to leaving sin.  Sin serves as an anchor for spiritual progress.  Fasting is a shield as long as one does not tear it or destroy it.

 “"Fasting is a shield. So the fasting person should avoid obscene speech and should not behave foolishly and ignorantly, and if somebody fights with him or insults him, he should tell him twice, ‘I am fasting.’ By the One in Whose hand is my soul, the smell that comes from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the scent of musk. (Allaah says about the fasting person), ‘He has given up his food, drink and desires for My sake. The fast is for Me and I will reward (the fasting person) for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times.’”  [Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1894; Muslim, 1151]

What can be more foolish or ignorant than a slave disobeying his master, than thecreation disobeying the Creator?  Common areas where people fall into disobedience include television, Internet, music, backbiting, taking interest, or transgressing the rights of others.  One should try to rectify any wrongdoings made against another person by asking their forgiveness before this month starts. This is the time to “bury the hatchet.” This allows a person to enter into the month disencumbered. A heart that is clean toward his fellow man is indeed a beautiful slate on which to write the story of their Ibadah in Ramadan.

2. Fasting in Shaban

It is important to get into the habit of fasting before Ramadan actually begins. This conditions the body and soul so that it is not shocked by the advent of Ramadan. Fasting in Shaban was the beloved Sunnah of the Messenger (S).

Narrated: Abu Salamah, "I asked Aishah about the fasting of the Prophet (saw). She said: ‘He used to fast until we thought he would always fast. And he used to not fast until we thought he would always not fast. I never saw him fast more in any month than in Shaban. He used to fast all of Shaban; he used to fast all of Shaban except a little.’ [Ibn Majah, 1710]

3. Clear out schedule

Like any other thing that is important, doing it right takes time and effort. This becomes more difficult if we have other competing responsibilities and tasks. The wise person is the one who tries to take care of as many things as he or she can before this blessed month actually starts. This frees up more time so that a person can concentrate on their worship and on their Creator. Take care of the term paper that you have been putting off. Trim the bushes and make that home improvement that has been on your to do list for a while now. Put the bills on auto pay. Do Eid shopping ahead of time. Make a rule that you will check email only once a day. Less things to worry about means more time for Allah.

Also if at all possible a person should try to schedule some time off during the last 10 days of Ramadan. During this time a person should go into seclusion in the Masjid and try to reconnect with their Lord. Making Itikaaf was the sunnah and Habit of Rasulullah (S).

Abu Hurairah (RA) said: “The Prophet (PBUH) used to observe Itikaf in every Ramadan, for ten days. During the year in which he died, he observed Itikaf for twenty days.”(Hadith No. 2466, Book of Fasting, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 3).

4.  Create a daily schedule

A sample schedule is provided below. We should practice trying to get on a schedule in Shaban itself, so we can hit the ground running in Ramadan.

  • Tahajjud (1-1/2 hr before sehri)
  • Sahri
  • Lie down
  • Fajr in masjid
  • Quran, Zikr till Ishraaq
  • Sleep or go to work
  • Duha
  • Work or Household duties
  • Zuhr
  • Qayloolah (siesta) if possible
  • Work or Household duties
  • Asr
  • Time with family
  • 15 minutes before iftaar (dua)
  • Maghrib and Awwabeen
  • Relax/Rest
  • Isha and Taraweeh
  • Sleep right after getting home

One of the mistakes that people make is that they stay up late at night instead of going to sleep. This throws off the schedule the entire next day and compromises the benefit that one can derive.

5. Make Dua

In the end, we are weak and need that succour of our Lord to help us in this life and the next. Without His love and His help, we are lost. We should ask him to rectify our affairs in this month of Shaban and to benefit us from the month of Ramadan by making it a life changing experience. Ameen. 



Ramadan to Ramadan, the Real Challenge

By Farrukh Siddiqui

It happens every year and I can only speak for myself but I have a feeling that I am not alone. Ramadan comes and goes as if in the blink of an eye and before I know it I find myself regressing from the spiritual gains that I so prayed for, welcomed, and enjoyed during this most blessed of months.

I mean, even during the long hot summer, fasting admittedly after the first couple of days becomes quite easy during Ramadan. Reading, studying, and memorizing the Qur’an after Fajr, during the day, or in the middle of the night seems like no big deal at all. Not to mention the effect on our tongues that all of a sudden, forget to utter words or attitudes that, though quite free flowing at other times, are clearly forbidden by Allah and what of our eyes that rediscover amazingly the innate difference between a first glance that is pardonable versus a stare that is not. And of course we can’t forget about our devices that go through their own purification process when televisions learn to tune in Islamic programming, head phones get accustomed to recitation and hamd (songs glorifying Allah), browsers get locked into inspiring lectures and articles, and cell phones routinely display Qur’anic verses like no other time of the year.

Masha Allah, how simple, organized, and systematic life becomes both individually and collectively during Ramadan. What we take for granted throughout the year takes on a renewed significance in our lives. We actually appreciate the food that we are blessed with, the little sleep that we are able to get, the precious time we spend with family and friends learning and talking about what really matters, and working efficiently and productively because we can’t wait to get back to what is really important, a focus and dedication to His worship.

If we actually take a few moments to reflect on it, we can quickly realize that the promise of Allah is true. He did cage the shayateen during Ramadan as just the start of his limitless bounties reserved for us; bounties that have no equal and not even a lifetime of worship can surpass them as long as we search out that most powerful night of all Laylat al Qadr.

I am not here to quote Qur’an or hadith because let’s face it I am not a learned person and our imams, scholars, khateebs, and those asking for our funds do an excellent job of bringing our attention to the requisite Qur’anic ayaat and sunnah of our illustrious Prophet Muhammad (saw). My hope is that we will all relate to the obvious bounties of Ramadan recognizing that Allah (swt) has done His job by making this month stand apart and in so doing painting us in the best of light for the world to see. From the President down to the press to our teachers and our neighbors, they all come to appreciate and acknowledge the greatness of Islam during this most blessed month. Did we do anything except just ride on the Ramadan bandwagon? Not really.

Our challenge is the rest of the year when fasting from breakfast to lunch becomes an ordeal; when the Qur’an often times becomes the immovable decoration on our book shelves, when holding our tongues and lowering our gazes become foreign concepts; and when our devices once again become the great time pass instead of the gateway of knowledge that they seem to miraculously transform into during this glorious month.

You see in Ramadan, we are appreciated because we are seen as different, special, and unique. But afterwards, we race to become part of the pack. We disappear from the world’s consciousness and those very few of us who use hate and violence once again begin to represent us all. Is it the fault of the media, the politicians or really anyone else besides us for how we are ultimately portrayed? We need to take ownership of the fact that in our quest to be like most everyone else chasing after money, pleasure, and affirmation we become like most everyone else dazed and confused.

Now counting down the last few precious days, I am wondering again what is going to be different after the Euphoria of Eid has abated this time and the shayateen are wreaking havoc after a month of solitary confinement? How long is it going to take to commence the spiritual regression that is bound to occur? This is when I tell myself to take a deep breath, calm down and remember that the prescription has not changed because it works; just hold on to the Qur’an, the rope of Allah. It is pretty simple, not complicated, and utterly doable for after all, it is the book of Allah that is meant to shield and protect because only it is able to speak directly to the heart, the bastion of iman.

I know what you’re thinking, easier said than done. Very true indeed! But so what. The duniya is designed to be a test so earning the pleasure of Allah and finding a place in Jannah will take some doing. But let’s not forget that we are trained to perform salah, the relentless pursuit of perfection so dogged determination and discipline are part of our DNA. With Allah, hope is eternal, mercy is ever flowing, and redemption is but a moment away so let’s get busy holding on and being different. In the end, there really isn’t any room for self-pity and if all else fails, remember that our calendar is shorter so the next Ramadan is less than a year away.



The Last 10 Days of Ramadan

By:  Kanwal Malik

Last 10 Days of Ramadan.jpg

By the blessings of Allah SWT, we have approached the last ten days of Ramadan. These special nights are the jewel of the crown since Laylat ul-Qadr (the Night of Power) is found among these nights. According to Aisha RA : "The Prophet PBUH would exert himself in worship during the last ten nights more than at any other time of the year" (Muslim).

                Perhaps the best way to single out this night is by keeping in mind that the Prophet PBUH used to say:  "Seek out Laylat ul-Qadr in the odd nights during the last ten nights of Ramadan" (Al-Bukhari & Muslim).  Furthermore, Ibn Umar stated that Prophet Muhammad PBUH said "Look for it in the last ten nights. If one of you falls weak or unable to do so, then he should at least try on the seven remaining nights" (Muslim).

                Laylat al Qadr is a wonderful opportunity to get our sins eradicated since Abu Huraira narrated that the Messenger PBUH said: “Whoever stands (in prayer) in Laylat ul-Qadr while nourishing his faith with self-evaluation, expecting reward from Allah, will have all of his previous sins forgiven. [Bukhari and Muslim).

                It is in our best interest to look at the last ten nights as the zenith of Ramadan. During this auspicious time we can recite the Quran, make dua and strive harder to do good deeds. Another way to take advantage of the last ten days is by making a to do list for certain activities. Having a goal in mind for every single night can make worshipping more organized and attainable. These goals can vary from ascertaining that our zakat has been done, feeding the needy, doing dhikr etc.

                Abu Huraira, narrated that the Prophet PBUH said: "When the last one third of the night remains, our Lord, the Glorious One, descends towards the lower heaven and proclaims: 'Is there anyone supplicating to Me so that I grant his supplication? Is there anyone begging of Me for anything so that I grant him his wish? Is there anyone who seeks My forgiveness so I forgive him?'" (Bukhari and Muslim).  May Allah SWT allow us all to participate in these special nights and reap its benefits to the maximum In sha Allah.


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What is Ramadan?

By:  Misha Ali

We often think of Ramadan as a month of starving and waking up in the dead of night to eat our only meal of the day, but a lot of us never really see the true picture of the world during this time of month. We hear stories about kids overseas with no food for iftar and sahoor. We sympathize with them, donate some money and move on.

But do you really sit down and think how your life would be if you were in their position? I was the same way. I would hear stories about little kids whose parents cannot afford much food so they had to sacrifice their food for their kids. I remember feeling so bad for them and wishing I could do something. But I never sat down and thought how different my life would be if I went a month without one of the necessities we take for granted every day.

This summer my family and I are in Pakistan. This is our first Ramadan away from home, and I can honestly say it has been interesting. This summer has been Pakistan’s hottest summer. On top of that there is load-shedding. This is where the city will turn off the power for an hour or two to cut back on electricity being used. A few weeks ago, there was something wrong with the power lines, so some places across the city people were going a whole day or 2 without power. Alhamdulillah, we were lucky ours did not go out for that long. But going out and seeing how people were dealing with these issues shocked me. There were people out on the streets, because they have no home, or they haven’t had power for 2 days. There were people on the news striking against the government, because they are not taking action for these issues people are facing, especially during the month of Ramadan.

As I was witnessing all these things that I don’t see on a normal daily basis, I felt embarrassed. Embarrassed because I personally complain a lot. I complain about the smallest things, when they don’t go my way. I am not the only one either. I know many people who complain even more. People complain about not having enough food during iftar and dinner, or the way the food was served. People complain about not having enough or the right kind of soda for their guests or even for the people at Masjid dinners. We complain about the mosquitoes and bugs outside; no one wants to serve because it is too hot to stand outside and you were fasting all day.

All of these little things seem 10x more ridiculous when you see the real deal in a less privileged country.  This Ramadan has taught me to count my blessings, because my life is filled with them Alhamdulillah. All of our lives are filled with them, and I think we should all sit down and really think about it. That clean running water is always there for you when you need it, but does everybody around the world have that? The AC running 24/7…is that a norm for everybody around the world? We are so blessed to be living in a country that provides us everything we need, and, with that, remember to say "Alhamdulillah" even when you didn’t get that samosa during iftar! L

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