After breaking the fast, while still on my prayer mat, I was secretly hoping and praying that it wouldn’t be the last fast of Ramadan. Somehow I wasn’t that thrilled about Eid this time. I was rather withdrawn and passive. Obviously, Eid was not the reason for my distress; instead, it was the fact that Ramadan was ending.
Having understood the virtues and experienced the numerous blessings of Ramadan, I was anxious that I had not gained enough from the blessed month. “But there is always next Ramadan,” I reassured myself. “What makes you so sure that you will live that long?” a part of me responded. The growing debate between my conscience and Nafs (lowly base self prone to sin) made me more uncomfortable. The ticking of the clock made me desperate, and I felt like grabbing every second of the passing time.
I started having flashbacks of what little I did the entire month, as opposed to all that I could have done to seek the pleasure of my Rabb: the voluntary deeds I could have performed in addition to the regular rituals. I felt guilty, realizing that the enemy resided within me, and that enemy was my own Nafs.
“Forget it! You don’t have what it takes to be pious. If you couldn’t take charge of yourself in Ramadan, when Shaitan was chained, then what chance do you have for self-purification after Ramadan?” my Nafs condemned me. Tears of regret and remorse rolled down my cheeks into my hands raised in Dua. I promised myself that if I would be allowed to witness next Ramadan then it would have to be a different one and definitely a better one.
The first step towards attaining a goal is to be prepared. Therefore, I devised a pre Ramadan checklist. “This Ramadan will be a different one!” clenching my Ramadan checklist, I announced to myself in a resolute tone.
I thought of sharing it with you all, hoping that it will be of benefit to you as well, Insha’Allah.
My Ramadan Checklist
- Make lots of Dua to be able to witness Ramadan with Hidayah (guidance), Hikmah (wisdom) and Aafia (well-being) as well as to be blessed with Barakah in your time, so that you can make the most of each day.
- Regulate Your Routine. Try giving up on late nights and late mornings at least two weeks before Ramadan, in order to set your routine for Taraweeh and Qiyam-ul-Layl.
- Quran Recitation. Start your Quranic recitation with understanding and contemplation at least ten days before Ramadan, so that by the end of the blessed month you do not feel the urge to rush the completion of the Glorious Quran.
- Memorization of Duas. A month before Ramadan, you can try to memorize at least one new Dua every week. This way you will be able to gain more Khair during the month of forgiveness.
- Grocery Shopping. Make sure that you have organized and stored all your groceries at least a week before Ramadan.
- Ramadan Menu. Pre-planned menus will help you focus on more important tasks. Keep the menu as simple as possible, as it is a Sunnah to do so.
- Adequate Eating Habits. Do not consume too much fried food, as it tends to lower your energy level.
- Iftar Parties. If you invite people for Iftar, avoid mixed gatherings and extravagance.
- Eid Shopping. Ramadan is a golden month for attaining Khair for our Akhirah, not for grabbing the best bargains at shopping malls. Do not lose this opportunity and focus on satisfying your Nafs instead. Complete your shopping before Ramadan.
- Daily Checklist. Prepare a daily checklist of ‘things to do’ for the next day. This way, you will not be preoccupied with thoughts of mundane tasks and will be able to focus on your worship.
- Supererogatory Acts. Form the habit of performing voluntary acts (prayers, fasts, charity, etc.) after your obligatory worship, in order to earn extra rewards.
Abu Hurayrah (rta) has narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “Allah said: My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties (obligatory acts) I have enjoined upon him. My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works, such that I shall love him. When I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask (something) of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it.” (Bukhari)
- Daily Dhikr. Set your practice of the morning and evening Adhkar two weeks before Ramadan. Try to keep your tongue moist with Dhikr, for example: Astaghfirullah, Subhan Allah, Alhumdulillah, Subhan Allah e Wabihamdihi, while doing routine things like cooking and cleaning. This way your ordinary tasks will turn into acts of worship, Insha’Allah.
- Duas before Fajr. A month before Ramadan, try to get up just ten to fifteen minutes before Fajr. This is that part of the night when Allah (swt) descends to the lowest heaven and accepts the Duas of His slaves. How can we miss such an opportunity, such an honour?
- Spiritual Boost. Assign a specific time during the day for listening to Quranic recitation or an Iman-boosting lecture to help you stay high-spirited throughout the busy day.
- Lessons for Children. Invest at least thirty minutes in sharing Deen-related material with your children. Make the lesson interesting and interactive. For example, read a story from the Quran or stories of the prophets; tell them a Hadeeth and try to act on it with them; switch on a short talk by a scholar, listen to it with them and discuss what you have learned.
- Sharing Blessings. Arrange your cupboards a month before Ramadan and separate the items that you have not used for over six to ten months. Neatly sort and stack them in boxes to give away in charity.
- A few months before Ramadan, get your children to help you make a little charity box, so that they can learn the importance of Sadaqah and start collecting money in it. When you go for your pre-Ramadan Eid shopping, buy a few gifts for the poor and wrap them nicely to give them out a day or two before Eid. Charity expiates sins and its virtues increase in this blessed month.
Ramadan offers excellent opportunities for reaping the utmost Khair (goodness). Imagine if you were told about a clearance sale at the best mall in town; wouldn’t you want to grab every valuable item in your reach? Definitely! Then why should we waste this opportunity to attain the pleasure of the One Who loves us beyond our perception?
May Allah (swt) help us make the most of our life, until we meet Him in Jannat-al-Firdaus, Ameen.