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Readers would find it interesting to know that the Arabic word for the one who fasts “Saim” is also used for horses trained for combat. These horses are kept without food and water for days at a stretch in order to increase their fortitude. Likewise, Ramadan is a training period for us whereby fasting teaches us patience and piety among other benefits.
Praying and Waiting for Ramadan
Ramadan is also a month of countless blessings.
According to Abu Bakr Al-Warraq Al-Balkhi:“Rajab is the month to sow the seeds; Shaban is the month to irrigate the crop; and Ramadan is the month to reap the harvest.”
Ma’ali bin Fudail tells about the Companions that they used to ask Allah the Almighty six months before Ramadan to grant them long life so that they could reach Ramadan and they used to ask Allah the Almighty six months after Ramadan to accept their fasting. Longing for Ramadan was a year-long process because they loved this month so much! Ibn Umar (rta) used to say when Ramadan started, “Welcome to the month that purifies us from the sins.”
Yahya Ibn Abi Katheer said: “One of their supplications was: O Allah, keep me safe until Ramadan, keep Ramadan safe for me, and accept it from me.”
Urging Others to Partake of the Blessings of Ramadan
Not only did the Prophet (sa) prepare for Ramadan himself, he also urged his Companions to compete with each other in good deeds during this month. Once, at the advent of Ramadan, the Prophet (sa) told his Companions that the month of blessings is upon them. In this month Allah (swt) turns His attention towards them and showers His Rahmah over them, forgives their sins and accepts their prayers. Allah looks at their spirit of competition (Tanafus). (Tabarani) We must also try and compete in prayers, Sadaqah, recitation of the Quran, feeding the poor and other good deeds in this month. To do so, we need to keep ourselves free from regular chores.
Freeing Oneself from Regular Chores
Shaikh Raey Puri writes that when 29th Shaban came he met all his associates and told them that he would now meet them after Ramadan, if he lives to see them. He gave his servant a sack and told him to put in it all the mail that came during Ramadan. In the Masjid where he was the Imam, if anyone came to sit for Itikaf on 29th Shaban, he would not find a place to keep his bedding. People would come from far and wide to spend their Ramadan in his Masjid.
When Ramadan arrived, Imam Malik ibn Anas (ra) used to withdraw from reviewing Ahadeeth and sitting with the people of knowledge to dedicate himself to the recitation of the Quran. Sufyan At-Thawri used to leave all acts of worship and turn towards the Quran.
Learning to Eat Less
In order to fast easily, we also need to be mindful of our diet. The Prophet (sa) was in the habit of eating less. During his entire prophethood, we don’t find three consecutive days when he ate to his fill. If he ate one day, he would go without food the other day; and if he ate for two consecutive days he would go without food on the third day.
Eating less is a trait that is common among all the famous scholars. Imam Bukhari remembered countless Ahadeeth. Somebody once asked him how much he ate in a day. He told them that he used to eat seven almonds and get busy in his work. It is only possible to reap the blessings of Ramadan if we keep ourselves less busy in eating and busier in Ibadah. No wonder that Imam Abu Haneefah completed the Quran sixty-three times during Ramadan. He used to read one Quran daily and listen to three during Taraweeh prayers. Saeed ibn Jubair used to complete the recitation of the entire Quran in two nights.
Ash-Shafi said: “I have not filled myself in sixteen years because filling oneself makes the body heavy, removes clean understanding, induces sleep and makes one weak for worship.”
The Prophet (sa) used to fast a lot in Shaban in preparation for Ramadan. From a hadith we learn that: “The most beloved of months for the Messenger of Allah to fast in was Shaban.” (Abu Dawud)
Giving Charity was a Habit
Ibn Abbas narrated: “The Prophet (sa) was the most generous among the people, and he used to be more so in the month of Ramadan when Gabriel visited him, and Gabriel used to meet him on every night of Ramadan till the end of the month. The Prophet (sa) used to recite the Holy Quran to Gabriel, and when Gabriel met him, he used to be more generous than a fast wind (which causes rain and welfare). (Bukhari) It is obvious that only if we are in the habit of giving charity will we be able to do so much more in Ramadan. Zahriy used to say when Ramadan started: “Indeed it’s the recitation of Quran and feeding the poor.”
Don’t Neglect Shaban
If we haven’t started preparing for Ramadan yet, all is not lost. We are still in the middle of Shaban and we can start right away. The Prophet (sa) said about Shaban: “There is a month concerning which the people are heedless, between Rajab and Ramadan. It is a month in which good deeds are taken up to the Lord of the Worlds, and I would like my deeds to be taken up when I am fasting.” (An-Nasai; graded Hasan by Al-Albani)