Bismillah. Let me start off by letting you know that everything I say is advice to myself first and foremost, and then to all of you. May Allah Azwajjal make this Ramadan a beneficial and productive one.
For some of you, Ramadan may not be a month that you are looking forward to. While everyone around you is ecstatic and readily planning, you are feeling a little more than weary. Anxiety creeps in, and you can already feel both the physical and emotional toll that will come with fasting. You feel some level of guilt for loathing the month. Perhaps you’re not a good enough Muslim, or perhaps you feel like you will never attain that sweetness of faith everyone claims to feel.
Well I’m here to tell you that regardless of your feelings, this will always be the month of forgiveness. It is a month of blessings and rewards for every single person who takes part. Those rewards increase for the ones who fight day by day to hold on to their fast every hour. For the ones that try to cope with their heavy emotions as the day wears on. Just know that you are not alone. This month is full of rewards for YOU, regardless of your feelings about fasting or not, attending late night prayers or not, being able to read extra Quran or not. The sheer intention that you hold in your heart, can easily become a form of worship.
Every time Ramadan is just around the corner, I always tell myself that this will be the year that I change and become better…for good. That this Ramadan will be the one that will change the condition of my heart. I find myself continuously putting a burden on myself to try and achieve goals that are unrealistic, and end up getting burnt out. Why is it that I almost always feel this way?
After a few days of self-reflection, I realized that my approach on how I would be preparing for Ramadan was of utmost importance. Rather than forcing myself to achieve goals that didn’t fit the current state of my day to day life, I came to the conclusion that it was best to focus on areas of my faith that I believed needed the most work.
For myself, I found that coming to God would sometimes feel a little heavy at first. I’d feel this more when guilt would take over my thoughts. All of the weight that I’d been carrying, of so much sin and struggle for the longest time, would feel draining. The darkness would become extremely comfortable. Then when that first little ray of light would hit during that first Ramadan prayer, it would feel a little lighter. That odd feeling, the one that left an almost lasting mark on my heart, slowly felt less painful. I’ve learnt that for myself, my focus is always on the state of my heart. Just learning to confront and face my shortcomings in a realistic manner this Ramadan, will God Willing allow me to me to take in His mercy completely, and elude the light in every broken part of my soul. I hope that sharing some of my tips will do the same for you.
Before I share my tips and tricks on how to best prepare for this Ramadan, I want you to always remind yourself that you are not perfect. Nobody is. Allah Azwajjal is more than aware of your secret pains, the tears you shed in private, and your struggles. It could be that you are at the lowest point of your faith because Allah wants to raise and heal you. Perhaps the pain that you are feeling is a path that will bring you closer to Him. Don’t give up on your relationship with Him because you feel like you are a hypocrite or that your sins are too much. You can sin a thousand times, and repeat the same sins, and Allah Azwajjal will still forgive you. You just need to remember to continue turning to Him. It is a sign of sheer faith that you recognize your weakness. Don’t give up on turning to Him.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my chest, let’s list out of some of the ways that you can prepare for the month of Ramadan;
- Make SINCERE tawbah (repent) and don’t wait to start tomorrow. Start today. Do this before Ramadan begins and mentally prepare yourself to engage in even more tawba. Even if you feel like you can’t stop all of your sins. Start working with eliminating at least one. Working on something is always better than nothing.
- Going into Ramadan, always have your niyyah (intention) to actually engage in the acts of worship that you would like to do. I know that keeping a journal and writing things down is helpful for myself. Grab a pen and paper and create a schedule for yourself on which acts of worship you wish to see yourself perform (be realistic).
- Don’t go into Ramadan having hurt anyone without seeking their forgiveness. The last thing you’d want on the Day of Judgement is to find that everything that you have worked hard for during the entire month has gone to waste. All of your Qu’ran recitation, fasting, Taraweeh prayers, Laylatul Qadr, etc. down the drain because your pride stopped you from saying “I’m sorry”. (With that being said, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry if I’ve ever said or done anything intentionally or unintentionally to hurt you. Please find it in your heart to forgive me.)
- Break your Ramadan into parts. We’re aware that the first 10 days are days to reflect on the Mercy of Allah Azwajjal (Rahmah). The second part reflects on the forgiveness of Allah Azwajjal (Maghfirah). While the last part of Ramadan, reflects on the safety from the the fire. Focus on these parts in sections and figure out short-term and long term goals that work for you. For instance, one goal could be to engage in itikaf (seclusion) for one of the last 10 nights.
- Keep making sincere dua and ask Allah for whatever it is that your heart desires. There are plenty of apps and websites that share duas such as http://www.sujood.co. During your prayers say: Allahumma balighna Ramadaan! ( Oh Allah, allow us to reach the month of Ramadan).
- Take the time to learn something new about yourself and your relationship with Allah Azwajjal. Feeding your soul with educational books and lectures from different scholars/teachers can do wonders for your faith.
- Istigfar (Verbal Repentance): The verbal act of tawbah. Tawbah is a state of mind and heart, while istigfar is manifesting tawbah on your tongue. The most common way is to say “Astagfirullah,” meaning “I seek forgiveness from Allah (swt). Make it a habit to say Astagfirullah100 times throughout your day.
- Don’t forget that your good deeds will cancel out your bad deeds! Continue praying, helping others, and give in as much charity as you can.
- Not everyone’s Ramadan will be so colourful. Some of us will continue facing hardships whether they be physical or emotional pain. But that suffering will be a way of removing your sins. Allah Azwajjal is always Merciful and the pain that we go through in this life, is to lead us closer to him. Allah is always testing us, so that our sins will be forgiven.
- Stay hydrated and well rested so that you have the energy for proper ibadah (worship) throughout your days. Don’t just sleep two thirds of the day and wake up just in time for suhoor. Also, don’t neglect work just because you feel tired and unmotivated.To gain the best of this month, plan it well. Manage your time, so that you can properly concentrate on what you are doing.
- When you fast, your hearing and sight should also fast, and your tongue should fast. With that being said, if you feel that taking a social media detox will help do it. Do whatever you feel will help you and always purify your intentions.
- Don’t go into this month with expectations of perfection. Always remember that you are a work in progress. Come as you are. We are all broken, sinners, weak, strong, guided, and lost in so many different ways.
With that being said, I pray that this Ramadan we all benefit in one way or another. That we all taste the sweetness of imaan and our hearts are changed for the better. May Allah Azwajjal forgive all of us for our shortcomings. May He make us amongst those who always remember Him through the good and the bad. May He make our hearts clean. Allhuma Ameen.