Ramadan is here, and as we move through this blessed month there are many goals we've planned to reach. Each person is unique and will have individual goals, but here are five aspects of worship that we ought to work on this Ramadan.
QURAN: Ramadan is the best time to reconnect with the Quran. The best advice I have been given is to remember to stay consistent with one's recitation and in pondering over the verses of the Quran. Try to set a minimum amount of Quran that you would like to read everyday. In this way, you will ensure that every day of Ramadan will be filled with Quran. A good way to reach your goal is by setting aside time after each salah to read the specific portion of the Quran that you planned to read for the day. But we do not want to fall into the habit of reading the Quran without understanding the beauty within it. Integrating the meaning and the background will help us understand the reasons why the Quran is a Book of Guidance.
SALAH: There are many ways we can work on improving our Divine connection through salah. The first and most important is that we strive to pray all five obligatory prayers on time. By doing so, you will strengthen your connection with your Creator in the way He loves. The next way to improve our concentration in salah is by praying the Sunnah prayers before and afterward. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, told us that "whoever prays twelve rak 'ahs of prayer voluntarily in a day and night, Allah will build him a house in Paradise." Not only do you receive great reward for these extra prayers, but it also helps a person prepare for the fard, or obligatory, salah. This is especially important when it comes to the Sunnah before Salat Al-Fajr, as people are more likely to miss it out of tiredness or lateness. In a hadidi narrated by Aisha, May Allah be pleased with her, and reported in the compilation of Muslim, the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said: "The two rak'ahs before the Dawn (Fajr) prayer are better than this world and all it contains." After the Sunnah prayers, we can focus on the nawafil prayers, such as Salat Ad-Duha, which is two rakahs that can be performed anytime from about a half hour after Fajr until 15 minutes before Duhr salah. Abu Dharr (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said: "In the morning, charity is due on every joint of the body of everyone of you. Every utterance of Allah's glorification (i.e., saying Subhan'Allah) is an act of charity, and every utterance of His Praise (i.e., saying Al-hamdulillah) is an act of charity, and every utterance of declaration of His greatness (i.e., saying Allahu Akbar, or saying La ilaha ill* Allah) is an act of charity; and enjoining ma 'ruf (good) is an act of charity, and forbid-ding munkar (evil) is an act of charity, and two rak 'ahs of the Duha salah which one performs in the forenoon is equal to all this (in reward). (Muslim)"What-ever portion of salah you would like to improve, all salah is a divinely ordained connection to Allah, Exalted and Most High.
DU'A: The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said: "The essence of worship is du'a". Through this hadith we learn that not only does Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, want us to make du'a, but also that there is a reward for those who do. "There is no person who asks Allah, subhanahu wa ta 'ala, for anything expect that Allah gives it to him, or keeps away from him a similar evil, as long as he does not ask for something evil or for breaking the ties of kinship. At this point a man said to the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam: "In that case, we will ask for plenty!" and the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, responded: "Allah is more plentiful." One of the most recommended times to make du 'a is during the last third of the night, which in Ramadan encompassed suhoor time. Another time that is recommended to make du 'a is during salah, especially in sujood. If you can, pray two rak'ahs before Fajr and make sure to make du 'a during sujood. During the month of Ramadan, one of the best times that we are reminded of is the du'a before the fasting person breaks his or her fast. The best ways to remember things that you wanted to make du 'a for is by writing them down as soon as you think of them during the day. So when it comes to these recommended times for du 'a, you will be able to use it effectively.
CHARACTER: This aspect of self-improvement receives less focus than most others, but it does not mean that it holds any less importance. In a hadith narrated by Abu Dawud, the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, guaranteed a house in the upper part of Paradise for a man who has good character. This relates to us the importance of upright character in the individual as well as the society. To inculcate good habits in the month of Ramadan is to integrate them into one's personality.
FAMILY: One of the best ways to focus on improving our character is by interacting with our family. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said: "Allah created the creations, and when He finished with His creations, the rahm, that is, the womb said: "(O Allah) at this place I seek refuge with You from all those who sever me (i.e. sever the ties of lath and kin). Allah said: "Yes, and will you not be pleased that I will keep good relations with the one who will keep good relations with you, and I will sever the relation with the one who will sever the relations with you." The womb said: 'Yes, O my Lord.' Allah said: 'Then that is for you.'" Maintaining ties with ones family is one of the most important foundations of society. As Muslims, we should all make an effort to reconnect with our family, especially during the month of Ramadan. Set goals and share them as a family and even if each member has different goals they can all help each other. Make time to have iftar with your family and share your day's experiences together. Ramadan helps us remember the true meaning of a meal as sustenance from God, and spending time with family.
How to Keep On Track
Sometimes it's hard to keep the momentum of your deeds going. Here are four ways that can help.
MAKE DU'A: Constantly make du 'a to Allah, subhanahu wa ta 'ala, to make things easy for you and that you act out of sincerity. Allah tells us in the Quran: "Make du 'a to Me. I will respond to you"
JOURNAL: There may be days during Ramadan when we feel as though we have not reached any of our goals. That is why it is so important to write down and focus on what you have done during the month to look back at when you need an extra boost to keep going.
FRIEND HELP: Friends, especially in these times, are among our biggest influences when it comes to how we spend our time. This is why it is important to always surround oneself with friends who will help us reach our goals.
REINFORCEMENT: If you notice that you are reaching the goals you set, don't forget to reward yourself. This can be something simple as going out for ice cream after iftar and tarawih. By looking forward to a special treat, whatever wholesome thing it might be, this will help you get through the day.
In the end, goals are meant to help you draw nearer to Allah, glorified and exalted. The best of goals, therefore, are those acts of belief that can be done consistently and be continued throughout the year. Whatever good goals you set, may you reach them with great success.
Article provided by Al Jumuah Magazine, a monthly Muslim lifestyle publication, which addresses the religious concerns of Muslim families across the world.
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