Ready for Ramadan 2024: Some preparation strategies

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With the blessed month of Ramadan fast approaching, there’s a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air among Muslims all around the world. But, amid all the enthusiasm, there’s an essential step that so often gets overlooked: preparation. As the famous saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. This applies to Ramadan in the same way it does for anything else. It is a month of fasting, sacrifice, worship and reflection – a time we so eagerly await all year long. What we need to make sure of, is that we have a plan in place to ensure that we hit the ground running when it finally comes around.

Here are four practical ways which can help in preparation, so we can maximise the blessings of this month and make Ramadan 2024 one to remember!

Spend more time with the Holy Quran

Whether you read a line, a ruku’, or a whole part every day – we can all increase the amount of time we spend reading and pondering over the Holy Quran. Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.186), and the Holy Prophetsa would complete a full reading of the Quran every Ramadan with Gabriel. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 3623) In the last Ramadan before his demise, he even finished it twice!

This is why we should strive to read as much Quran as we can this month, and not just recite it but also ponder over the deeper meanings of it. In mosques throughout the world, duroos take place usually after the Asr prayer, in which a portion of the Holy Quran is recited and exegeses of various verses are read out and expounded upon. Also, in the Tarawih prayer which takes place after Isha during Ramadan, a part of the Holy Quran is usually recited each night, in an attempt to complete the 30 parts and thus a full reading by the end of the month.

In the days leading up to this month, we can set a time during the day to read a certain amount of the Quran and make it non-negotiable. The key is to work at your own pace and try to progress each day, even if it’s a little. Progress will always be subjective – if you haven’t read the Quran in a while, now is the time to pick it up and either develop or get back into the habit. If you read a ruku’ daily, try to read two. The goal would be to finish the Quran at least once during Ramadan. And remember, you don’t need to have the most melodious recitation to reap the rewards. The Holy Prophetsa said that the one who recites the Quran with ease in a melodious voice receives a reward no doubt, but the one who recites with difficulty, stumbling over the words, receives double the reward. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 4937) So, whether you have a beautiful voice or not, the aim is to increase our time with the Quran and ponder over its meanings.

Gradually increase in worship

The purpose of the month of Ramadan is to get closer to Allah the Almighty and improve our relationship with Him. We give up physical food during the day, and instead focus on spiritual nourishment. (Haqaiq-ul-Furqan, under verse 184 of Surah al-Baqarah) Salat is a fundamental part of the Ramadan experience. It is the pinnacle of worship, and we know from reports that the Holy Prophetsa, the companions, the Promised Messiahas and the Khulafa would all use this month as an opportunity to dedicate most of their time to worshipping Allah the Almighty. But, for someone who is not in the habit of praying on time every day, it can be a struggle to perform voluntary prayers, such as Tahajjud and the Tarawih.

This is why it is so important to improve the state of our prayers before Ramadan arrives so that we are already in the habit. Then, we can go above and beyond with our worship and strive to establish a living relationship with Allah the Almighty. The Holy Prophetsa narrated that Allah the Almighty descends to the lowest heaven in the last third of the night, saying “Who is calling upon Me that I may answer him? Who is asking from Me that I may give him? Who is seeking My forgiveness that I may forgive him”. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 1145) This is a short window of time in which our prayers are far more likely to be accepted. But we can only wake up earlier in the morning for Tahajjud if we have prior training on this. If not, it can be very hard to maintain such a routine. This is also the case with Tarawih prayers – for those not accustomed to standing in prayer for long periods, it can be very difficult.

So, with an increased emphasis on worship during the month of Ramadan, it is vital that we get prepared and stay ready. Start with offering all your prayers on time with no delay. A good way to get into this habit is to set daily alarms or reminders on your phone for each prayer. Next, incorporate nawafil (voluntary) prayers into your routine whenever you find time. This is a great way to work on the quality of worship and attain extra blessings and rewards from Allah the Almighty. Strive to wake up slightly earlier each morning before Fajr prayer to offer Tahajjud. Remember, start small and remain consistent. This way, when Ramadan comes, you’ll be ready to build on your already-established habits of worship.

Identify specific bad habits and replace

When Ramadan arrives, the gates of heaven are opened, the gates of hell are closed, and Satan is locked up (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 1899). This is a hadith of the Holy Prophetsa. The force which incites us towards evil is locked up, which means that this month is the perfect time to efface bad habits and replace them with good ones. No doubt, this is much easier said than done. Bad habits can be very hard to get rid of, but with courage, determination, strength and of course faith, it is very much possible to defeat them.

Experts even say that a bad habit can be shaken off for good in just under 30 days. This makes the 30 days of Ramadan perfect for this, alongside the fact that Satan is in shackles. But instead of just breaking bad habits and being left with a vacuum, the better way to approach this is to replace them with good ones instead. The Holy Quran tells us that good deeds and habits drive out and replace bad ones. (Surah Hud, Ch.11:V.115)

But rather than going into Ramadan unsure of how to make the most of it, plan ahead and focus on one or two habits to replace for the whole month. Really think about your own life and your habits, and identify exactly what it is that you would like to change this Ramadan. Identify, write them down, and focus on them this Ramadan. In the same way, write down one or two good habits you would like to instil this Ramadan and stay focused. The goal is, that the habits we either destroy or instil, should be permanent, and not just end when the month does. Instead of temporary progress, permanent improvements to one’s lifestyle should be the ultimate aim.

Optimise nutrition and exercise timings

Waking up extra early to eat a pre-dawn meal before the Fajr prayer is something most people are not accustomed to. Our bodies are not used to eating at that hour, and the meal we eat is supposed to fuel us for the entire day till sunset. This is why it is vital to make the right choices when it comes to nutrition. The window to eat and drink is so small, so we have to make it count! The right types of food must be consumed – whole foods packed with nutritional value to keep us fuller for longer.

Again, this is where preparation comes in. We know our bodies best – the foods that work well for us, and the foods that don’t. It probably isn’t the best idea to have an oily, heavy meal so early in the morning, but then again, whatever works for you. The point is, that if we plan what kinds of meals to eat beforehand, fasting becomes easier. If we wake up in a rush, have a quick meal, or worse still, eat nothing at all, we make it harder for ourselves. The more energised we are, the more we can focus on our worship too – be it at night in Tarawih prayer, or the early morning in Tahajjud. Healthy, nutritious food will help us greatly in remaining energised and fresh throughout the month instead of lazy and lethargic.

It is also important to adjust one’s schedule and routine when it comes to exercise. Many prefer to work out in the morning, but this may not be the wisest choice when observing the fast. It is better to plan ahead and develop flexibility in your routine. Experiment before Ramadan with different times of day and see what works best for you. Some choose to exercise just before iftar so they can break their fast and eat and drink straight after the exercise. For others, the night works better, after the Isha and Tarawih prayers. Either way, exercising first thing in the morning while fasting is probably not the best idea!

With Ramadan just around the corner, we hope these tips help you prepare for this blessed month. If you don’t fail to plan, you will succeed, insha’Allah. This is key to making this Ramadan the best one yet!

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