Each year we are reminded that this Ramaḍān may be our final one. We also often remember those who were here last year but have passed on to Allah (subḥānahū wa ta‘ālā) since then.
This year the reminder will be even more stark, with the Covid-19 pandemic bringing death close to our communities and homes.
Amidst today’s confusion and pain however, Ramaḍān, by the will of Allah, is going to be exactly what we need: patience through fasting, tranquillity through the night prayer, purification through repentance, comfort through du‘ā’ and contentment through dhikr.
For this Ramaḍān to be our best, we should start preparing now, spiritually but also physically. The month of Sha‘bān is akin to the sunnah prayers. The sunnah prayers help us to get into the ‘mode’ of salāḥ and prepare us for the farḍ prayers. By preparing in Sha‘bān, we are more likely to taste the sweetness of fasting and qiyām in Ramaḍān.
The following are some of the ways in which we can prepare for this momentous month:
1. Start fasting, especially if you have qada fasts
‘Ā’ishah (raḍiy Allāhu ‘anhā) said: “I did not see him ﷺ fast in any month as much as he fasted in Sha‘bān.” (Muslim)
Usāmah b. Zayd (raḍiy Allāhu ‘anhumā) said to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, “O Messenger of Allah, I do not see you fasting in any month as much as you fast in Sha‘bān.” He ﷺ said, “That is a month which people do not pay much attention to, between Rajab and Ramaḍān. It is a month in which the actions are taken up to the Lord of the worlds, and I like that my deeds are taken up whilst I am fasting.” (Nasā’ī)
If you have any outstanding fasts from last Ramaḍān, use this month to make them up (qaḍā).
2. Increase in your recitation of the Qur’an.
Ibn Rajab (raḥimahullāh) wrote, “The predecessors used to devote themselves to the recitation of the Qur’ān in Sha‘bān.”
Set a realistic – yet slightly ambitious – target for recitation for this month to ensure you have a smoother entry into Ramaḍān. It may be increasing your recitation by 5 minutes or even an extra hour. Whether you increase the amount of time or the number of pages, either way increase on what you usually do.
3. Start praying at night.
If waking up for tahajjud before Fajr is difficult, pray a minimum of 2 rak‘ahs in addition to what you usually pray for ‘Ishā’ before you go to sleep
4. Start reading/listening to something which will boost your iman.
Slowly start weaning yourself off what snatches your time away from Allah (netflix/social media etc) and substitute it with what will remind you of Him.
5. Clear your heart.
As this is the month when your yearly actions are raised to Allah (subḥānahū wa ta‘ālā), cleanse your heart from hatred and grudges. Forgive people who have wronged you and start talking to people you haven’t talked to in a long time. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Indeed Allah looks down in the middle night of Sha‘bān and He forgives all of His creation, except anyone who commits shirk or harbours hatred.” (Ibn Mājah)
6. Hold yourself to account and repent
Our actions are raised up daily to Allah twice: in the morning and the evening. Then, they are raised up weekly to Allah twice: on Monday and Thursday. They are then, raised up to Allah yearly in Sha‘bān. Thus, the Prophet ﷺ liked for his ‘annual performance review’ to correspond with him being in a state of fasting.
Use this month to evaluate your last year’s actions. Seek abundant forgiveness so that you make up for the year’s shortcomings. Do as much ‘ibādah as you can, so that the angels will ascend to Allah with your good deeds.
7. Take the following physical steps:
- Adjust your sleeping routine from now so that your body is adjusted by the time Ramadān begins.
- Buy your ‘Eid outfits and gifts now. If you are going to purchase new items this year, then do it now (in Sha‘bān) to avoid wasting precious time in Ramaḍān.
- Make a plan for simple and nutritious iftar meals to avoid wasting time in the blessed month.
- Plan how you are going to give your zakāh and ṣadaqah.
8. Draw up your Ramadan timetable.
The next article will inshāAllah explore some tips on how to draw up your Ramaḍān timetable.