Rajab is one of the four sacred months, other than Zulkaedah, Zulhijjah and Muharram. Allah s.w.t. mentioned in Surah At-Tawbah, verse 36:
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)
Rajab is also the best time to start preparing for Ramadan.
Classical Muslim scholar Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali quoted another scholar, Abu Bakr Al-Warraq in his book Lataif al-Mma’ari (The Book of Witticism and Lore), “Rajab is a month of cultivation, Shaban is the month of irrigating the fields, and Ramadan is the month of reaping and harvesting.”
“I want to do better this year and reap the all the rewards that I can!” are some of the thoughts we often try to achieve as we look into the remaining days to 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 wonder why is it difficult to stay motivated along the way, just to find yourself regretting it at 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 strategize and enter it fully prepared. There is a saying that goes with, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.
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 aims, 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 constantly remind you of your goals.
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?
The ultimate goal is to ensure the goals we set does not end here but it continues beyond until we meet the next Ramadan, insya’Allah (God willing). There is a reason Islam encourages to practise moderation in every aspect of our life 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 on 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.
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, on Ayyamul Bidh (the white days of fasting) being the; 13th, 14th and 15th day of the month, or any three days of the month. As mentioned in a hadith, Ummu Salamah r.a. said:
"Rasulullah s.a.w used to fast three days of every month: the Monday and Thursday of the first week and the Monday of the following week."
Also, we can choose an action that we want to do consistently such as reading verse.s of the Quran, waking up at night even if we managed to pray just 2 rakaat of tahajjud just before Subuh and giving charity every Friday. Hopefully, this will become a habit, not only during Ramadan but after that.
Do the major shopping or spring cleaning before we enter Ramadan so that we can give 100 per cent of our time 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 Ibadah, 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, and then they will then pray for another 6 months for Allah to accept from them their acts of worship. We can recite the following doa:
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.”
(Musnad Imam Ahmad)
Allahumma Sallimni li Ramadhan. Wa sallim Ramadhana li wa sallimhu li mutaqabbala.
“O Allah preserve me for Ramadan, safeguard Ramadan for me and accept it for me.”
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 ease our preparation to meet the holy month this year and May Allah s.w.t accept our deeds.