It’s coming once again! The Grand Sale! – “Buy one, get seventy free!” That is how a friend enthusiastically described it.
Yes, I am talking about the blessed month of Ramadan. Every moment of this month carries great treasures of excellence and blessings. Voluntary good deeds (Nawafil) reach the ranks of obligatory good deeds (Faraiz), and the reward for the obligatory acts becomes seventy times greater. And that is not all. There is yet another treasure more valuable than a thousand months of effort and all the wealth we could amass therein: the great night of Laylat-ul-Qadr.
The amount of benefit we gain from the blessings of this month depends on how ready we are and how much effort we make. Just like a farmer has to prepare the land for absorbing the rain, so that he can reap the best harvest, we must pray to Allah (swt) for the opportunity to reap the greatest benefit, and then do our best.
To make the best of this Ramadan, we must, therefore, make Dua, plan and then act.
Make Dua to Allah (swt) that you are in good health, when Ramadan comes. Pray for the energy and time to be able perform all the Ibadah and do all the things you aim to do. And above all, pray for the acceptance of the deeds you perform in Ramadan.
Outline your goals
Let’s play a little game: let’s take a trip into the future…
Imagine it is the Eid. You are walking or driving to the Eid prayers. As you happily recite the Takbeer, you mentally evaluate the Ramadan that has just passed. You are filled with immense joy and satisfaction. Apart from the few natural shortcomings, this was the best Ramadan of your life. The Eid truly feels like Eid, and you eagerly anticipate celebrating your success…
Now think: What was it that made this the best Ramadan for you? What happened? What did you do? Was it the building of a stronger relationship with Allah (swt)? Greater concentration in Salaah? More quality time spent with the Quran? The achievement of a purer heart and a greater Taqwa? What was it?
Come back into the present and write all those things down. These will be your goals for the coming Ramadan.
Set achievable targets
Once you know what you want to get out of this Ramadan, you must set some definite achievable targets that are in line with your goals. These targets will translate your goals into practical day-to-day activities, against which you can then check yourself. For example, if you want to build a better relationship with the Quran this Ramadan, your target could be “read the translation and Tafseer of one Juz a day”, or if you want to achieve a greater Taqwa and a purer heart, your target could be “avoid thinking ill of others and avoid backbiting.”
Similarly, you could decide on some sins you want to clean yourself of and make it a target to avoid them for a week. Or you could choose some good deeds or Sunnahs that are not a habit and try to perform those for a week.
Make a Dua list
One highly effective idea I came across in a lecture by Shaikh Muhmmad Al-Shareef was to make a Dua list for Ramadan. Often, we are so much in a hurry to get back to our activities after Salaah or recitation of the Quran that many things we wanted to pray for just slip out of our minds. Therefore, it is best to take a few minutes for writing down everything we want to ask Allah (swt) and read that list, while making Dua before Iftar, after Salaah, after Quran recitation and especially in the last ten nights in anticipation of Laylat-ul-Qadr.
Organize – unclutter your life
Ramadan is a very special time and you would not like to waste a moment of it in useless activities, such as clearing up that bookshelf, getting your books and tapes in order, sorting out what food items you will need in the coming month, shopping for Eid, etc. If possible, decide your Ramadan menu beforehand. Plan to make quick and healthy meals that provide you with the essential nutrients and avoid lavish Iftars. If possible, prepare and freeze some food items beforehand. Remember, Ramadan is not the month of feasting or self-indulgence. Practice self-control even at Iftar time.
Additionally, adjust your work, school, sleep and meal schedules in such a way as to make the most time for Ibadah and other good deeds. Plan out at what time you will go to sleep, wake up, study, work and do Ibadah. If you have any pending work, for which deadlines may be in Ramadan, try to get over with it as soon as possible before Ramadan, so that you can get the most out of this month.
Plan out Ibadah and other religious obligations
Do you want to go for Taraweeh and Quran study circles this Ramadan? Find out about places, where classes are offered and go with your family. Make travel arrangements, if the venue is far from your house, and check around, if there is anyone else, who might want to go but does not have transportation. Wouldn’t you want to join in the reward of their Ibadah as well by taking them along?
Also, arrange for other activities to learn and teach the Quran and Hadeeth. Furthermore, calculate the Zakah you will be paying in Ramadan. Find out about places, where you can contribute in social welfare activities with your wealth and time.
Prepare your soul
Attend and listen to Ramadan lectures and other talks on spiritually uplifting topics to soften your heart and renew your motivation.
Be ready to absorb the blessings that rain down in this great month. But remember at the same time that Ramadan is not just a one-time vacation, after which you pack up and return to your previous life. Ramadan has been called a ‘training school’ by some; so make sure you graduate from this school with flying colours – colours that should brighten up your entire life.