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.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Ramaḍān, by the will of Allah, is the lifeline we desperately 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. By preparing in Shaʿbān, we are more likely to taste the sweetness of fasting and qiyām in Ramaḍān inshāAllah.
“The month of Rajab is the month for planting, the month of Shaʿbān is the month of irrigating crops, and the month of Ramadan is the month of harvesting the crops.” (Abū Bakr al-Balkhī)
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
ʿĀ’ishah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhā) said: “I did not see him ﷺ fast in any month as much as he fasted in Shaʿbān.” (Muslim)
Usāmah b. Zayd (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhumā) 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 Shaʿbān.” 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)
Just as performing the sunnah prayers before the farḍ prayers awakens the heart, prepares you to enter the farḍ prayers with greater khushūʿ, and compensates for the deficiencies of the farḍ prayers, fasting before Ramaḍān prepares you for Ramaḍān physically and spiritually.
Ibn Rajab (raḥimahullāh) wrote, “As Shaʿbān is a prelude to Ramaḍān, fasting and reciting Qur’ān has been prescribed in it just as it has been prescribed in Ramaḍān. This is so that you are prepared to enter Ramaḍān and you train yourself to perform acts of obedience.” By becoming accustomed to fasting in Shaʿbān, fasting in Ramaḍān will be easier. Similarly, experiencing the sweetness of fasting in Shaʿbān will help you to fast Ramaḍān with greater enthusiasm.
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 Shaʿbān, and they would say ‘The month of Shaʿbān is the month of the Reciters.’”
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.
When Shaʿbān would begin, ʿAmr b. Qays (raḥimahullāh) would close his shop and free himself for the recitation of the Qur’ān. “Glad tidings for the one who rectifies himself before Ramadan”. (Laṭā’if al-Maʿārif)
3. Start praying at night
If waking up for tahajjud before Fajr is difficult, pray a minimum of 2 rakʿahs in addition to what you usually pray for ʿIshā’ before you go to sleep.
4. Give charity
Our beloved Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever provides ifṭār for a fasting person, he will have the same reward as him, without anything being diminished from the reward of the fasting person.” (Tirmidhī)
Give charity in Shaʿbān, so that the poor can gain energy to fast Ramaḍān and perform qiyām, as our predecessors used to do. An additional benefit is that if you donate ifṭār to the poor in other countries now, it is more likely to reach them at the beginning of Ramaḍān, allowing you to receive the reward of the full month.
‘As Shaʿbān entered, the Muslims would dedicate themselves to their Muṣḥafs and would recite Qur’ān; and they would take out the zakāh on their wealth, so that it would support the poor in the month of fasting.’ (Laṭā’if al-Maʿārif)
5. 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.
6. 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 Shaʿbān and He forgives all of His creation, except anyone who commits shirk or harbours hatred.” (Ibn Mājah)
7. Hold yourself to account
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 Shaʿbān. 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. Do as much ʿibādah as you can, so that the angels will ascend to Allah with your good deeds.
8. Purify yourself before Ramadan by seeking forgiveness
Seek abundant forgiveness and turn to Allah in sincere repentance. Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā) says, “So seek your Lord’s forgiveness and turn to Him in repentance. Surely my Lord is Most Merciful, All-Loving.” (11:90)
Purify your heart to welcome Ramaḍān in the best manner possible. Don’t let your sins prevent you from tasting the sweetness of worship in Ramaḍān. Wuhayb b. Ward (raḥimahullāh) was asked, “Can the sinner taste the sweetness of worship?” He said, “No, not even the one who considers doing the sin.”
9. 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 Shaʿbān) 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.
Plan a Ramaḍān timetable. See the next article for tips on how to devise a successful plan.
Revive A Neglected Sunnah
Our beloved Messenger ﷺ described Shaʿbān as, “A month which people do not pay much attention to, between Rajab and Ramaḍān” (Nasā’ī). This indicates that many people are heedless of this time, and it is especially virtuous to worship and remember Allah in places and times of heedlessness, e.g. the markets. It also helps us to perform deeds in secret, as others are heedless, and thereby giving us a chance to increase in our sincerity (ikhlāṣ). Whilst we will all be fasting in Ramaḍān inshāAllah, this is our chance to fast in secret.
May Allah allow us to revive the sunnah of increasing our worship in this month, and allow us to reach Ramaḍān.
“The (pious predecessors) used to make duʿā’ for six months prior to Ramaḍān, asking Allāh to allow them to witness Ramaḍān.” (Laṭā’if al-Maʿārif)“