By: Shannon Abulnasr
Ramadan is a time where you can overcome many hurdles to make yourself into a healthier person both physically, socially, and spiritually.
Are you ready for Ramadan?
Whether this is your first Ramadan, or you've experienced it in the past, Ramadan takes preparation to get the most benefit from it, both physically and spiritually.
The past few Ramadans, and the next several will be some of the hottest and longest Ramadans that many people in the Northern hemisphere will face for a long time.
Ramadan falls during the midst of summer now, so it can be a physically exhausting experience for some, especially for those that recently accepted Islam and have never fasted.
When you are physically exhausted, you tend to become groggy and negative thinking, so we will give you tips and insightful activities to keep you positive to make it through it gaining a physical cleansing of the body, mind, and soul.
To do this, you must prepare yourself mentally with positive thoughts before Ramadan even begins.
Make sincere intentions to do your best and remain positive!
If this is your first Ramadan, and you worry that you may not be able to fast the full hours you can try a graduated method like many do with their children to get them used to fasting. New Muslims often struggle with adjusting to fasting because they didn't experience it growing up, so pace yourself, and don't be too hard on yourself.
Some people will start “test fasting” a few weeks before Ramadan for half a day, increasing the hours they fast, and increasing times between meals, so that by the time Ramadan begins, they will be more mentally and physically prepared for it. If you can't seem to make it through the whole day when Ramadan begins, continue this practice and hopefully mid-way through, you will be able to make it through the entire day.
Allah knows your heart and your intentions, but remember that Allah will never give us something more than we can bear, so stay focused and try to stick with it. He knows if you are able to make it or not, so don't give in too easily. You will be proud of yourself in the end!
Note: Those who are chronically ill and unable to fast due to their illnesses are exempted from fasting, so don't put yourself in danger if a doctor feels that fasting will cause you more harm than good. Fasting cleanses the body of toxins, and many other impurities, but if you are physically sick, it can have a counter-active effect, so check with your doctor first!
When Ramadan Begins
If you don't have time to practice fasting beforehand, you can try fasting the first day, and see how long you can make it, but don't give up at your first feeling of hunger or thirst! Keep your intentions clear and in your mind at all times.
When you find yourself focusing on food and drink during the day, occupy yourself with a task to keep your mind busy. It can work wonders. Read the Quran, or listen to a recorded lecture, anything, just distract yourself!
A key reminder is to think about the people starving all across the world, that don't have food to eat, even when it is time to break their fast! Alhamdulilah you have food to eat!
This is one of the spiritual aspects of Ramadan reminding us of those that are less fortunate than ourselves, and humbles us. It encourages one to be thankful for the blessings they have, and gives us control over our nafs (desires) giving us self-restraint.
“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint.”(Qur’an 2:183)
Be Sure to Eat Suhoor!
It is important to replenish your body with lots of water during the times you are able to eat and drink, especially at the time of suhoor (pre-dawn meal). Eat some dates and drink a lot of water, and it will give you energy, and keep your body refreshed longer. It is a sunnah to eat at least a few dates during the suhoor time. Avoid salty foods that will make you thirsty later on in the day.
If you can't handle the heat, and feeling thirsty, wet a towel and place it on the back of your neck and wash your face throughout the day. If your mouth gets overly dry, you can rinse your mouth out, but be careful not to swallow any of the water! No cheating!
Get Adequate Sleep!
Get at least a solid 6 hours of sleep on a regular schedule so that you won't be groggy later in the day. If you stick to a routine, it will make fasting much easier! If you just can't handle the “low time” of the day, and have the ability, try to take a short nap. Naps can give you that added boost of energy to make it through to sunset.
However, don't do like many other Muslims do by reversing their sleep times to be during the times of fasting, and remain awake all night! Remember Allah knows what you are doing, so keep your intentions clear to gain the utmost rewards.
Getting Closer to Allah through Fasting
“O People! The month of Allah (Ramadan) has come with its mercies, blessings and forgiveness. Allah has decreed this month the best of all months. The days of this month are the best among the days, and the nights are the best among the nights, and the hours during Ramadan are the best among the hours. This is a month in which you have been invited by Him (to fast and pray). Allah has honored you in it. In every breath you take is a reward of Allah, your sleep is worship, your good deeds are accepted and your invocations are answered. Therefore, you must invoke your Lord in all earnestness with hearts free from sin and evil, and pray that Allah may help you to keep fast, and to recite the Holy Quran. Indeed!” (Tirmidhi 1965)
Ramadan is an excellent month for everyone to get closer to Allah, and to recharge faith. Fasting is a pure form of worshipping our creator because unlike other forms of worship like prayer and dhikr, you cannot “show it off” (riya’) in front of others.
Fasting is a pure act of worship unlike any other form of worship because only you and Allah know if you have sacrificed food or drink, or sexual intercourse or not for His sake.
“Allah said: ‘Every deed of the son of Adam is for him except fasting; it is for Me and I shall reward for it…’” (Bukhari 5927 )
How to Get Double Rewards for Fasting Ramadan
Who doesn't want that? Find a Muslim friend or neighbor, and invite them for iftar each day.
“Whoever provides the food for a fasting person to break his fast with, then for his is the same reward as his (the fasting person's), without anything being diminished from the reward of the fasting person." (Tirmidhi 807 )
One of the Best Times for Duas to be Answered
Just before the adhan of Maghrib prayer, can be one of the most anxious times for a fasting person. Did you know that it is a time promised to the fasting person to have their du’as answered?
Focus on this time period with dhikr and du’as, as Allah promises to answer the supplications of a fasting person.
Ramadan is a Time for a Routine Make-Over
Abandon bad habits and engage yourself in acquiring good habits that you wish to have. Ramadan is a time where you can overcome many hurdles to make yourself into a healthier person both physically, socially, and spiritually.
Avoid people that will tempt you into your bad habits, and replace it with those who remind you of Allah, and do lots of dhikr. Pray to Allah lots of supplication prayers to help you achieve your make-over with ease.
Read Quran and Contemplate the Teachings In It!
In the month of Ramadan, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, used to study the Quran every night with the Angel Jibril. Don't just read it, but study it. Read commentary or tafsir on the verses you read to understand the context of the revelations, and have a better understanding of why certain verses were revealed.
Reading the tafsir is an excellent source of knowledge that we should all attain to have a better understanding.
Ramadan is the month of the revelation of Quran, so every Ramadan it should be a goal of all Muslims to read the Quran from cover to cover.
The Quran is broken down into 30 sections (Juz’) to make it easy to pace yourself so that you can finish by the end of Ramadan. Some people divide up each juz’ into 5 parts, and read 1 part after each of the 5 daily prayers to make it easier.
If you are unable to do that due to having to work or other obligations, try to set aside about an hour each day to read one juz’. Many find it easy to do it right after the fajr prayer, or just before going to bed. If work during this month, take your Quran with you to work and spend your lunch hour, and break times reading.
Get Your Past Sins Forgiven!
How can you do that? It's simple.... participate in the taraweeh prayers each night during Ramadan.
“...Whosoever performs (optional taraweeh) prayers at night during the month of Ramadan, with Faith and in the hope of receiving Allah's reward, will have his past sins forgiven." (Muslim 198 )
Do More Good Deeds
Good deeds during Ramadan get multiplied rewards, so try to increase your amount of good deeds! There are countless deeds you can do during Ramadan. Even if you don't have a Muslim community around you, don't let this deter you from gaining rewards for doing good deeds.
There are plenty of things you can do! There are homeless, and hungry people everywhere. Visit a homeless shelter, and help serve them their daily meals. It is truly a humbling experience. Spend more time doing activities with family, or volunteering for a good cause. The options are endless!
May this Ramadan and future Ramadans a blessing and purification for your mind, body, and soul, and bring your closer to Allah. Amen.