The month of Ramadan is almost upon and as always, is a month of spiritual devotion, reflection and discipline. As part of my Ramadan preparation each year, I like to reflect on Ramadan’s gone and plan ahead to make the most of this blessed of months.
If you seek to gain maximum benefit in any activity, planning is essential. Whether you’re studying, working or at home, Ramadan requires preparation. Physical and psychological preparation is just as important as spiritual preparation and combined, can make a significant impact on the quality of your Ramadan experience.
Meal planning, food preparation, priority management and efficiency strategies are vital to a productive and spiritual Ramadan. Everyone has their own way of adjusting to a new routine but don’t underestimate the importance of planning even the little things ahead of Ramadan.
The month’s leading up to Ramadan provide a number of opportunities to get yourself back into the fasting groove. It might be a year since your last fast so it’s a good idea to test your mental and physical resolve with a prep fast. I find fasting outside of Ramadan to be more challenging but it also helps me realise how well I can cope without all the coffee and protein shakes.
What you eat and drink can greatly impact your ability to last the fast as well as your level of productivity while fasting. For some reason, some cultures associate fasting with greasy, deep fried anything and everything which tastes amazing but will also make you lethargic in your prayers. Not to mention the reflux, heartburn and weight gain.
Drink lots of water through the night and avoid high sugar and salty foods. Watermelon, cucumbers and dates make for awesome snacking and keep you refreshed for the night prayer. Green Tea is a good source of natural caffeine for the extra energy hit if you’re feeling down after a long day of fasting. Coffee is probably not the best at Iftar but I do look forward to my post-Iftar cuppa which helps me re-energise for Taraweeh.
We should be reciting the Quran on a regular basis anyway but Ramadan is the month of the Quran so there is almost a natural inclination towards a greater awareness of the book and it’s message. Increase your recitation and aim to complete at least one cycle of the Quran during the month of Ramadan. Recitation is important, understanding is key so try to compliment your recitation with the Tafseer or explanation of the verses.
The change of routine associated with Ramadan is not a bad thing. Play your cards right and the new routine can shake things up at home for the better. If your kids are early birds like mine are, they will love waking up early and getting a head start on the day. Suhoor and Iftar are great opportunities for family bonding and spiritual enlightenment. Eat together, have a picnic in the backyard, pray as a family and let Ramadan be something your family looks forward to every year. Don’t stop at Iftar, post-Taraweeh date night can be very romantic too – late night dessert and dhikr is a good way to end the the day.
Ramadan is also the month of giving. Give a little, give a lot, every bit counts. Always carry cash so you can contribute to the local Masjid collection box, pay your Zakaat in Ramadan for extra rewards and increase your voluntary charity throughout the month. Ramadan is the perfect time to teach the kids about charity and the value of giving. We always have charity boxes handy for the kids which gets them collecting throughout the month. Give money, give your time, give food, give prayers… we all have something to give.
Work, school and other commitments don’t stop for Ramadan so it’s important to find the right balance. What you do in your downtime can make a huge difference, don’t waste time with meaningless activities. Give thought to the things you do and find meaning in your actions. If you find yourself with some time on your hands, do something good, it doesn’t have to be something big. Help with Iftar preparations, go early to the Musjid, visit the sick, perform optional prayers or read a (beneficial) book. Sometimes, a changed perspective is the only difference between meaningless and meaningful.
In the words of Rocky Balboa, ‘It ain’t about how hard ya hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward’. Life will always get you down or get in the way, that’s part of the struggle. If you find yourself falling behind, perhaps the fasting proves difficult or you have difficulty coping with other commitments, just keep going. Have a plan, do your best to stick to it and make an effort. One of the beauties of Ramadan and fasting is that the reward is with Allah alone.
I pray for a productive and successful Ramadan In Sha Allah.