I remember the night before my first day of second grade; I was tossing and turning all night and had so much trouble getting to sleep. I woke up early, wide awake and alert, and waited until it was time to go. I had my new lunchbox and backpack, and I put on the outfit that I had chosen “by my thelf”. It was my first day at a new school and I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I needed to be ready for anything!
Throughout our lives, we all come upon seasons, changes, and new situations for which we need to be prepared. Today, we are nearly at the midpoint of Sha’ban, and have just over two weeks to prepare for Ramadan. This is the month in which the Quran was revealed, the month in which there is a night that is “better than a thousand nights”, and a month in which the Prophet (s) tells us that fasting its days and spending its nights in worship can wash away our sins.
Throughout Ramadan, Prophet Muhammad (s) would spend his days in contemplation, and his nights in worship. In this month we are encouraged to be generous, to feed people, to come together in prayer, to eat less, to sleep less, to be patient, calm, and kind, and all of this needs preparation. In a world that won’t pause for us to have a month of deep reflection and worship, we need to make the time. Few of us have the luxury to take time off work, but I would definitely recommend that if at all possible.
If you can take some days off, I would take them off in the last ten days of Ramadan, and dedicate them to Quran reading, worship, and prayer. If not, there are so many other things we can do to prepare before the month starts:
Debt: Make sure your debts are taken care of, and most important of these are your debts to Allah. If you have missed days of fasting in the past, now is the time to make them up before a new Ramadan comes around. If you have missed prayers, this is the perfect time to start making them up. Do not lose hope if you have piles of days and prayers to make up. Maybe you can’t finish them all in a day, but you can start.
Food: One of my favorite adages about Ramadan is the reminder that it is the month of fasting, not the month of eating! One of the greatest blessings of fasting is that we can spend less time eating, cooking, and preparing food, and use that time for worship instead. So from today, you can start planning for that: set a meal plan, buy the groceries you can beforehand, cook and freeze what you can ahead of time, and outsource what you can.
Space: Get your home Ramadan Ready! Give it a deep clean and take care of those piles, boxes,drawers, or whatever it is that you’ve been putting off. Yes, yes… I know you have them – but it’s ok because we all do; let’s tackle them together! We want to invite angels into our home with this blessed month, so take time to make it tahir and clean, and bring in beautiful smells.
Worship: Praying, fasting, Quran reading, and sitting in quiet contemplation does not come naturally to most of us, and it takes practice. As we are heading for a marathon month of worship, imagine you’re an athlete coming into a marathon and start preparing now. Do some fasting, take some time out for Quran reading, and start the habit of nightly prayers so you will be ready to ‘hit the ground running’in worship from the first night.
Du’as: The Prophet (s) tells us that while fasting we have an answered du’a. What an amazing opportunity to ask for any and everything we wish for from the One who can actually make it happen! While fasting, though, I find I draw a blank and am never sure exactly what to ask for. So this is a perfect time to start writing those prayers down. Grab a journal or a notebook, jot down your wishes, hopes, fears, and dreams throughout the coming days, and find a book with some beautiful du’as to read from.
Family & friends: If we’re not careful, Ramadan can turn into a busy month in our social calendars. Nurturing relationships is definitely important, but grabbing onto the blessing of Ramadan is more important. To be sure you don’t fall short on social obligations, you can visit, call, and take care of relationships before Ramadan starts. For those you can’t avoid during the month, plan carefully, try to have your guests during your “dhikr week” when you’re not fasting, and make the intention of feeding people.
Give: Deeds are multiplied in Ramadan, so let’s take advantage of this time to give generously, whether feeding people, paying your annual zakat, supporting your favorite non-profit, giving sadaqah, or paying the required Zakat al-Fitr which will need to be paid between the first and last day of Ramadan. Be sure you know how much it will be this year in your country of residence and where it can be paid.
Although 30-some years have passed since that night before second grade, I still remember it as clearly as if it was last night. Although I don’t remember much of the second grade, I do remember that I was 100% prepared for a successful year! Facing any task in this life, we can’t expect to have great results without great planning, so let us enter prepared into the most important month of the year.
The amazing and dedicated team at Rabata are providing a number of opportunities to help us and our kids prepare for Ramadan, including:
- Ribaat Academic Institute: The annual “Ramadan Ready” and “Quran Ready” Workshops
- Rabateens: Weekly worship and Ramadan khitma for teen girls
- Dragonflies: Ramadan Programfor Muslim youth
- The Rabata Ibadah App: Ramadan Prep challenge
- Rabata Annual Award: We Are Nafisa al-Tahira
- Rabata annual educational fundraiser
Being the middle of this hive of busy bees, working and planning for this sacred month, is exciting.