“I want to do better this year and reap all the rewards that I can!” are some of the thoughts we often try to achieve as we look into the remaining days before Ramadan. The challenge is to stay motivated and retain consistency. Some of us tend to feel unmotivated as early as the first week of Ramadan.
Have you ever gone through that cycle every year and wondered why is it difficult to stay motivated along the way, just to find yourself regretting it in the end?
It is nevertheless a good move to want to do something great during Ramadan. However, like any other battle, we have to plan and strategise to enter it fully prepared. There is a saying that goes; “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” and Rajab is one of the best times to start preparing for Ramadan.
Rajab is one of the four sacred months, other than Zulkaedah, Zulhijjah and Muharram. Allah s.w.t. mentions in Surah At-Tawbah:
إِنَّ عِدَّةَ الشُّهورِ عِندَ اللَّهِ اثنا عَشَرَ شَهرًا في كِتابِ اللَّهِ يَومَ خَلَقَ السَّماواتِ وَالأَرضَ مِنها أَربَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ
“Indeed, the number of months ordained by Allah is twelve—in Allah’s record since the day He created the heavens and the earth—of which four are sacred.”
(Surah At-Tawbah, 9:36)
Read: 4 Sacred Months in Islam
The classical Muslim scholar Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali quoted another scholar, Abu Bakr Al-Warraq, in his book Lataif al-Ma’arif:
“Rajab is a month of cultivation, Syaaban is the month of irrigating the fields, and Ramadan is the month of reaping and harvesting.”
This means that with the proper preparation and effort particularly in the month of Rajab, achieving the best Ramadan experience yet can be a possibility by Allah's Will.
Thus, in order to achieve the goals you set, preparation has to start now. So here are 8 simple steps that you can follow to prepare for Ramadan:
Yes, you read it correctly. You have to write down your goals instead of relying solely on a mental checklist. Pen down your checklist of what you would like to achieve in Ramadan.
By doing so, you are subconsciously recording it in your mind as well. Then, hang the checklist where you can see it each and every day.
This is to remind you of your goals constantly.
Set the goals you would like to achieve, but make sure that they are practical. It’s okay to set a goal as simple as donating or reading a page of the Quran every day. Instead of focusing on the number of pages, why not focus on the consistency of the 'Ibadah (worship)?
The ultimate goal is to ensure the goals we set do not end here but continue beyond until we meet the next Ramadan, insyaAllah (God willing). There is a reason Islam encourages us to practise moderation in every aspect of our lives so that it will be easier for us to sustain and practise istiqomah (consistency). The Prophet s.a.w said:
أَحَبُّ الأَعْمَالِ إِلَى اللَّهِ تَعَالَى أَدْوَمُهَا وَإِنْ قَلَّ
“The most beloved deeds to Allah s.w.t are those which are done consistently, even if they are little,”
Start by reading about the virtues of Ramadan to internalise the meaning of fasting. For example, you could read about the multiple grades of fasting in Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship, a book that consists of selections from Imam Ghazali's Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din (The Revival of Islamic Sciences).
Besides that, revise the supplications and other types of remembrance that we can recite during Ramadan. It will be helpful to know when and how to do these acts of worship. Finally, on Lailatul Qadar (Night of Power), it is encouraged to read the different types of Sunnah prayers during Qiyamulail (night vigil prayers) and reap the great rewards.
We can start with fasting voluntarily, either Monday and Thursday, or on Ayyamul Bidh (the white days of fasting), being the 13th, 14th and 15th day of every month, or any three days of the month.
تُعْرَضُ الأَعْمَالُ يَوْمَ الاِثْنَيْنِ وَالْخَمِيسِ فَأُحِبُّ أَنْ يُعْرَضَ عَمَلِي وَأَنَا صَائِمٌ
"Deeds are presented (before Allah) on Mondays and Thursdays, so I love that my actions be presented while I am fasting"
The Prophet s.a.w was also reported in another hadith:
وعنْ مُعاذةَ العَدَوِيَّةِ أَنَّها سَأَلَتْ عائشةَ رضيَ اللَّه عَنْهَا: أَكانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ﷺ يصومُ مِن كُلِّ شَهرٍ ثلاثةَ أَيَّامٍ؟ قَالَت: نَعَمْ. فَقُلْتُ: منْ أَيِّ الشَّهْر كَانَ يَصُومُ؟ قَالَتْ: لَمْ يَكُن يُبَالي مِنْ أَيِّ الشَّهْرِ يَصُومُ.
I heard Muaz say; "I asked Aisyah r.a; Did the Prophet s.a.w. fast three days each month?" She replied: "Yes," I asked: "Which days did he fast?" She replied: "He did not care on which day he fasted"
Also, we can choose an action that we want to do consistently, such as reading verses of the Quran, waking up at night even if we managed to pray just 2 rakaat of tahajjud (night vigil prayer) just before Subuh or giving charity every Friday. Hopefully, this will become a habit, not only during Ramadan but after that as well.
Do the major shopping or spring cleaning before we enter Ramadan so that we can give our 100 per cent of focus in Ramadan for acts of worship. It is troublesome to divide our time for Hari Raya preparation while trying to achieve the goals we have set in Ramadan.
So why not do them now?
Undoubtedly, for us to be able to do these acts of worship, we need a healthy body. As the saying goes, a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Plan your meals so that you will eat moderately and waste less. Plan your workout activities. Fasting should not be the reason to skip our exercise. Do workouts that focus on strength rather than cardio.
Ladies, don’t despair. These days are there not for us to feel sad nor to stop all our deeds. Instead, we can increase worship. There are only a few prohibitions during this time such as fasting, praying and holding the Quran. Aside from that, we can still do zikr (words of remembrance), give charity and help to prepare sahur (breakfast) and iftar (breaking the fast).
It was narrated in Lataif al-Ma’arif by Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali that the companions will supplicate for 6 months to allow them to reach Ramadan safely. They will then pray for another 6 months after Ramadan that may Allah accept from them their acts of worship observed in the month of Ramadan. We can recite the following doa:
اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَنَا فِي رَجَب، وَشَعْبَانَ، وَبَلِّغْنَا رَمَضَانَ
Allahumma barik lana fi Rajab wa Sha’ban wa ballighna Ramadan
“O Allah make the months of Rajab and Sha’ban blessed for us and let us reach the month of Ramadan.”
And the Dua:
اللَّهُمَّ سَلِّمْنِي مِنْ رَمَضَانَ، وَسَلِّمْ رَمَضَانَ لِي، وَتَسَلَّمْهُ مِنِّي مُتَقَبَّلًا
Allahumma Sallimni min Ramadhan. Wa sallim Ramadhana li. Wa tasallamhu minni mutaqabbala
“O Allah preserve me for Ramadan, safeguard Ramadan for me and accept it for me.”
(narrated by Imam At-Tabrani)
After all, it is His blessings in Ramadan that we yearn for. So in preparing to reap the rewards, let’s turn to Him and ask from the Most Giving. May Allah eases our preparation to meet the holy month this year and May Allah s.w.t accept all our deeds.