Since Ramadan is just around the corner, I thought I'd prepare a list of simple and practical advice for us to share before Ramadan, in preparation for this blessed month. The aim is to help us take advantage of this time of the year and better appreciate and comprehend what is about to grace the Muslim Community from rewards and opportunity for betterment.
1. Mental preparation before Ramadan is crucial and it goes hand in hand with the Dua. The Prophet would always make Dua at the close to the arrival of Ramadan and say: "Oh Allah make us reach Ramadan." Be conscious of the entire atmosphere before hand so that when it is here, it does not take you by surprise. How can anything so valuable to us take us by surprise when we love its company? Start preparing for it from the very beginning. Look at the days of the year it fall in, what does that coincide with - TAFE exams? University exams? Work commitments? What time is Iftar? What time is Taraweeh? What does that imply for your days, should you be starting work earlier to make it to Iftar on time? What time is Fajr? How many hours of sleep will you need? So on and so forth so that when Ramadan comes, you're smooth sailing and you can ride the wave.
2. Beware of treating it like a habit! For most of us, Ramadan comes and goes and only later during the month do we catch on and realize what is happening. The time it takes for Ramadan to sink in is time wasted; it should hit us from day one. This goes for anything we do for the sake of Allah , especially the worships, it pays to stop everything and bring to your mental attention what you're about to do. To avoid the treadmill approach of empty yearly traditions, when you are about to embark unto a magnificent journey of worship such as Ramadan, you must realize what you're doing, bring to your consciousness, gather all your concentration on this, and then begin in the name of Allah !
3. Sift through your potential bad Ramadan habits and analyze what habits they are. You're a good 18-22 year old now and surely every one of us has some bad habits that they've managed to pick up in the past Ramadans whether consciously or unconsciously. It may be time wasting after Taraweeh where you go home and do nothing productive until Fajr, whether it is to sit at the computer and chat to friends on the internet, or watch TV. In that case sleeping, is much better for you, at least you're resting and preparing you body for another day of fasting, It may also be eating habits; you may eat too much and every evening you get off the table feeling bloated. Maybe you go against the recommendation of the Prophet Muhammad and don't wake up for Suhour; you find yourself drowsy and tired during the day? Maybe you fall asleep in Taraweeh and you need more rest, or you always come late to Taraweeh and end up praying in the last rows with the noisy kids that ruin your concentration, worst still maybe you don't go to Taraweeh at all? When you do go, do you pray or do you hang out with the boys/girls? I will list a few, but think about your own ones and nobody can identify these things like you can; it's your responsibility to hunt them down and eliminate them. It is these bad habits that will make this Ramadan deficient and will create time, opportunity and blessing wasters for you. These are some bad habits people I have spoken to have identified in themselves: in the highest level brothers say: they do not take Ramadan serious enough, they waste too much time doing useless things, they don't not spend enough time with the Quran, they do not try to memorize enough, they do not read enough Juzu's and don't complete reciting the Quran more than once and do not give enough consideration to Qiyaam. At the second level, they suffer from swearing and foul language, not lowering the gaze, listening to music, not reading enough Quran, not spending enough time amongst the family circles, coming late to Taraweeh, sleeping in Taraweeh and don't do enough Qiyaam in the last 10 nights of Ramadan. The third and lowest level, brothers do not fast every day of Ramadan without a reason, they do not go to Taraweeh every day, they go to some nights and not others, they do not wake up for Suhour, they spend all their last 10 nights in idol chat and time wasting, they hang out and cause trouble during the nights in the streets. May Allah excel our worship away from this 3rd level to reach the first this Ramadan.
Speaking of habits, eating, drinking and being with ones partner is it Halaal or Haraam? It is Halaal Alhamdulillah but despite that, in Ramadan it becomes Haraam from Fajr until Maghreb, full Haraam. Now, the trick is that if you can abstain from the Halaal and what gives you physical sustenance and keeps you on your feet for 30 or 29 days, then surely when Ramadan is out, you can still abstain but this time from the Haraam which doesn't help you like the Halaal but in fact destroys your dunya and your Aakhirah! This is to show how we deceive ourselves with your own actions sometimes. We can stay away from that which gives us the strength to live our everyday lives but we can't leave the sins that destroy us?! For those who get the craving to smoke, this shows that this bad habit is all mental and psychological. They remain fasting all day long without a cigarette, days after days. By the end of Ramadan, how many hours have they abstained from that foul smelling habit? If they needed it as much as their psychology tells that they do, they would not have made it! They would have died a couple of weeks before Eid! So the smokers among us, take the hint, you know when push comes to shove, your have enough will power. Your sincerity for Allah can be greater on your list of priorities than smoking is. You have just proved for yourself that in fact you can stop smoking for the sake of Allah so keep going and continue in that and ask Allah for help.
On the other hand, having come out of Ramadan, we will all have some good habits with us that we should continue throughout the year. In Ramadan, you get used to praying in the Masjid, you go there everyday so you should continue this, for Fajr, for Isha, in congregation, that's why you always find that on the last night of Ramadan, even when people know that there is no Taraweeh prayer, they still come to the Masjid in the same numbers, why? Because they have become addicted to the worship of Allah in His house and the feeling is so beautiful they come in their number and the Masjids are full. They come to soak in that beautiful atmosphere at least for one more night. Also, abstaining from using foul language including Nameemah and Gheebah in Ramadan should also continue. Waking up for suhour for 30 days surely gives your body clock a time to wake up, you used to wake up for the watermelon and cheese, or tea or whatever it was you had for suhour, so why not wake up for the sake of Allah , early, pray some units of prayer in Tahajjod and make it to the Fajr prayer in the Masjid with the congregation. Wallahi this is something we should try to continue. For the head of the household, you were generous to your family during Ramadan in what you purchased for them so continue your generosity in the best of spending and many other noble and blessed actions. We should not lose out on all these beautiful habits that do a world of good to our Iman and religious wellbeing, keep it rolling until the next Ramadan when you get a boost and go to yet a higher level.
4. Intention. Intending to fast for Ramadan is extremely important. When do you intend? The night before, that's essential, it must be the night before for Ramadan. In a nafl fasting it'll do if you intend before Thohr, but not for the days of Ramadan. You don't have to say anything to anyone or to yourself for that matter; the intention is in the heart and that's all you need. As matter of fact, when the one of us prepares the suhour? Why are we preparing the suhour? Who in their right mind would prepare a meal at 3 in the morning? No one, accept the Muslim who is preparing for Suhour - so that's a subconscious intention! When you set the alarm on your phone for 3 o'clock (not just your phone, but your brother or sister's phone and the alarm clock and your sound system and your computer and anything in your room that beeps) that's also an intention because you know you're setting the alarm because you want to have suhour to fast the day.
This is what Sheikhul Islam Ahmad Bin Taymiyah said in his compilation on Fiqh: Majmou Fataawah Ibn Taymiyah that he was asked: the faster of Ramadan does he have to intend everyday to fast or not? So he answered: "For everyone who knows and is conscious that tomorrow is Ramadan and that he'll fast, he had just made the intention whether he pronounced it or not. This is the general practice of the Muslims so they have all intended."
During the day the intention plays a big role also. On many other days, you find that you go all day without eating or drinking because you were so rushed and you didn't have the opportunity to. You sit at the dinner table saying this is the first thing I've eaten all day (and you get told off by your mother). Why is that not fasting but in Ramadan when you do that it is? The difference is the intention. On other days, if you could eat you would, if you had the chance or if you had enough loose change or the time but in Ramadan even if you could, you wouldn't. To the extent that if your employment involved preparing food for customers all day long, you still wouldn't eat because your conscious intention is to fast for Allah . Same with being with ones partner, you may not sleep with your wife because of her health or her monthly cycle on other days but during the day of Ramadan, even if she was not in her menstrual cycle and there were no impediments you still would not approach her because you are fasting. Such is the key of fasting: abstaining solely for the sake of Allah , fasting from food, drink or desire when there is nothing stopping you ordinarily.
5. The link between Piety and Fasting. When Allah revealed the verse of fasting what did He begin with, 'Oh you who Believe'. Why? Because He knows that He can count on the Believers to do such a thing and infact to obey any order for that matter. They are the ones who don't think twice about obeying an order of Allah they are the ones who say we hear and we obey your forgiveness our Lord we seek and to You shall be our return. Then Allah says the order to the Believers, you must fast, you have to fast, it's an order from Allah that you must act upon, oh Believer this is another order from your Lord so add it to your system of obedience. Then Allah says, so that you may reach piety. So there is a clear link based on this verse, between fasting and piety. What link is this? Well, we know that our iman is something that fluctuated depending on our behavior. Our iman increases when we do good deeds and decreases with sins. So when we fast, we build up our iman because it is a worship of Allah , when we pray, when we listen to a lecture or a lesson. So fasting being an act of worship builds and nourishes our iman making us closer to piety. This is one opinion; another way is that by looking at the nature of Taqwa and then the nature of fasting, we will find a deep link between them. Taqwa is about fearing Allah alone, fulfilling his commands with a sincere intention to Him whether in a group or by yourself. Having this conscious mentality never to disobey Allah and having a rapport with Allah of obedience in public and secrecy. Even if everyone around you was blind and deaf and the world was at the tip of your fingers to do as you please, your Taqwa will tell you that Allah is still watching me and will continue to watch me and Allah is listening and will always be listening and I wouldn't do anything to displease Him no matter the circumstances. Similarly when we look at fasting, you cannot tell if someone is fasting until they tell you. You can see when he's praying, when he's performing Hajj, when he is giving in charity and most of the worships you can see but with fasting; only Allah knows the truth. Even if you were with someone all day long, you couldn't tell - how do you know that they don't have a health problem and they can't eat for so many hours, how do you know that they've forgotten to eat, in any case how will you ever know that they have intended by not eating for so long that they are actually fasting for Allah?? Hence, Allah knows who is fasting and who isn't. Only once you practice fasting for the sake of Allah in public and in secret even when your at home alone with a fridge full of food you can drink and eat as you please and hide it when your family comes but that won't do the trick, why? Because you know Allah can see you, this is Taqwa. Fasting is training for yourself, once you accomplish it; your Taqwa has developed and progressed.
Do you see how from the mercy of Allah , He provides some training for your Taqwa and some guidance to His path? He doesn't leave you to fend for yourself and get to Jannah on your own, He provides you with support, with training, with a rewards program to help you get there. Not only that, He doesn't make it optional, He makes it obligatory upon you! "Fasting has been made obligatory upon you as it has been made obligatory on those before you." Is this not the mercy of all mercies? Such is the case with all acts of worship; they do not aid Allah in any way, shape or form, but acts as sustenance for our iman, maintenance for our Taqwa, inventory for our records and pleasure for our wellbeing. Allahu Akbar. After this, how can any Muslim be defiant and have total disregard for Ramadan and the bounties Allah has placed in this special month? These kinds of Muslims either have sealed their hearts as a result of their own actions or most probably are ignorant of it all and need to be informed as they are big losers and need to be saved.
6. A note about fasting of the previous nations. The previous nations before Islam also had to fast, but they fasted in a different way. They were obligated to fast not only from food and drink but even from talking! That's why the verse at the end of Surat Albaqarah describes this and when Maryam spoke of fasting what she said was "therefore I will not speak to a single human." It would be very inconvenient for us if we could not speak in Ramadan - think about it?! But from the mercy of Allah , "And he did not make a Haraj for you in Religion" He did not make anything inconvenient in the religion so we can still speak - however, what is permitted is the nice speech, the good speech. Many of us may think it's only a matter of not eating or drinking - no. Maybe if we were forced not to speak it would have been better. The foul language that we speak may decrease our reward and even to the extent of depleting all our reward from swearing at her, backstabbing him, Gheebah here, foul language there from songs maybe and so on - before you know it, you've lost all your rewards for the day! That's why in a hadith narrated by Annisa'i and Ibn Maajah and Alhaakem the Prophet told us that perhaps a person may fast and the only thing they got out of it was hunger and thirst and perhaps a worshipper in the night and the only thing they got out of it was fatigue for staying up late. Perhaps then, we ought to keep real quiet and when we say something in Ramadan we think really well about it before we say it.
7. The reward for reading Quran is one letter by 10 rewards for every single letter and Allah adds as He wishes. Read the Quran, memorize the Quran, listen to the Quran, think about the Quran, eat and drink Quran all throughout Ramadan. On the train read it or listen to it or memorize it, in your car listen to it, at home also. Everyday be with the Quran for at least a page. Make a pledge with Allah that throughout Ramadan, the only thing you will listen to is Quran, and maybe Hadith -The Believers Citadel in now on Cassette. No music, no anasheed, no talk back radio or morning shows, just Quran and Hadith. This is the month the month the Quran was revealed in, the month where Jibreel would descend and teach the Prophet the Quran once a Ramadan and in the year he passed away, Prophet Muhammad and Jibreel went through it twice. People make it a good habit to read the Quran once, twice, three, four times! It's got 30 Juzu' and 60 Hizb, split that as you wish over 30 days, a Juzu' a day is the most popular dose that doesn't take too long, nice and light. If you have enough time and the capability and you want to earn even more rewards, all the better! One Juzu' in Ramadan is a recommended amount considering the importance of comprehension and concentration.
Then there's the night of Qadr which is better than 1000 month's. In other word's, this single night is better than 83 years! A single night, better than a life time! Do you guarantee that you'll live to see 83? Even if you do, are you sure all 83 years have been complete devout worship? Even if you did live till then, consider the time out of these years for sleep, for eating and drinking, for waiting in queues for traveling etc, it just wouldn't be feasible to be in pure worship all this time. But what does Allah suggest in this verse? Worship Me in this night alone and you get the worship of more then 83 years of pure worship - pure from any other facet of life - just worship. In a hadith also, the Prophet tells us that whosoever stays up in worshipping really hard - all their previous sins will be wiped out for them - full stop. The Prophet wanted to tell the companions when it was, he came out and they were quarrelling, he said I was going to tell you but I won't anymore, find it in the last 10 days! Ibn Omar says Prophet used to do I'tikaaf in the last 10 days of Ramadan according to Hadiths found in Bukhari and Muslim.
In light of this, I advice you to beware! Beware that you don't become amongst the losers that the Prophet told us about, the ones who miss out on this night. Angel Jibreel is descending and ascending, the angels are back and forth throughout the earth, ascending and descending and the mercy of Allah is abundant, the worshippers have been forgiven their sins, Allah has shown mercy to the tearful eyes in their Masaajid and in their private homes and the whole buzz of obedience is in the air...and your asleep! Or you're hanging out with your friends at the mosque. Or you are eating at home. Or you're wasting your time on the TV or chatting on the internet. If you do that, you're a loser! Remember you don't have to do all 10 days every single night. Do as much as you can! If you were really thirsty wouldn't refuse half a cup of water would you? The principle in Islam with this type of situation is what cannot be entirely reached, should not be entirely abandoned!
8. Allah from his mercy runs a sale during Ramadan. These are the prices every year. Ibn Khusaima narrated a hadith that one Sunnah action is for the price of an obligatory action. If you choose to upsize, one obligatory action is for the price of 70 obligatory actions. Obligatory actions include what we know like prayer and we already do it. Being good to parents is also obligatory - feed them, please them, spend on them, let every day of Ramadan be Fathers and Mothers day if that's what you like, don't worry about that other day imitating the non-believers, this is the time you treat your parents, to a Muslim everyday is Fathers and Mothers day. Treat their friends well for their sake, be good your uncles and aunties from each of their sides, ask Allah for forgiveness and mercy upon them. The obligatory act of lowering your gaze, when you do that it's times 70 also, around university, in the street, avoid the shops because it'll make this hard for you and it will diminish your rewards as a result, go shopping as less often as you can. With the Sunnah pray them all, any 12 and more, daily. 2 before Fajr, 4 before and 2 after Thohr, 2 after Maghreb, 2 after Isha or other authentic narrations about how many and when and always end your day by praying Witr. If you do so, the Hadith tells us that Allah will build for you a palace in Jannah. This is in and out of Ramadan.
Now get this mathematical example. You walk to the Masjid and every step you take earns you a Hashanah and gets rid of a sin and elevates your position in Jannah. Step by step until you reach the Masjid. Store that on the side, that's one.
There you pray the Obligatory Prayer and in congregation which is 70 prayers by 27 prayers, and in another narration by 25 prayers. So that's 70 by 27 for each obligatory prayer which equals 1890 prayers. At the end of the day, if you pray all 5 prayers in such a fashion, you will earn the rewards of 9450 prayers. If we multiply this number by 30 days, we get 283 500 prayers, which is more than 150 years of prayer! This is just from praying the obligatory prayers in congregation. That's 2, keep storing these points.
You also choose to pray your Sunnah which equals a fard. You pray all the Sunnan of the prayers during the day and you get a palace in Jannah every single day. We look forward so much to buying a house in Australia, in pursuit of the Australian Dream, what about the Islamic Dream of having a House in Jannah? Have we really thought about that? When we pray all our Sunnah and earn 30 Palaces in Jannah, how do you acquire these Palaces and get access to them? You enter Jannah through the door of Rayaan, which is exclusive to the fasters, after they all enter, it will be shut behind them. That's point 3, it just keeps getting better.
Day after day, you clock your foot steps, you pray your Obligatory prayers and your Sunnah prayers and those rewards are increasing until you reach the Eve of Qadr. You stay up that night in sincere worship to Allah for the last 10 odd nights of Ramadan. At the break of dawn, you walk the earth without a sin on your back. No more sins but those 3 points of reward are still accumulating. This is point 4, forgiveness of your sins, all of them.
We have just mentioned 4 points and very briefly and systematically. We never constraint the mercy and reward of Allah , but this is just to give you a ball park figure of the rewards involved. Add to the four points the reward of fasting that only Allah knows, the rewards for a charity, for reading Quran, for praying the Taraweeh, for inviting people to break their fast at your place and... and ... and. At the end of Ramadan you would have one hefty account insha'Allah and none of it will be wasted. Let's make this all encompassing fact, point 5.
Now get this, all these rewards are earned in one single Ramadan. Imagine all these rewards in the one Ramadan being repeated for a second, and a third and a fourth, 5th, 6th seventh etc for as long as you are alive, every year when Ramadan comes round, this is the outcome?! How much rewards would you have earned?
So now answer this question: Is Allah merciful to His slaves or isn't he? And: Is Jannah reachable or isn't it? YES YES YES! But what's the catch? You have to want it and you have to thus work for it.
Allah knows best. What I said which was correct is from Allah. What I said which was incorrect is from myself and Shaitan, Allah and His Messenger are innocent from it.
Source: Mission Islam - Mohammed
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