From the Islamic Society of Kingston's newsletter, The Bond (June/July 2011)
Sikander Ziad Hashmi
In just about a month, our days and nights are going to go through a dramatic shift. Gone will be the daytime BBQs and refreshing drinks. Nights will become home to drive-thru sleep.
But nonetheless, Muslims around the world will be welcoming Ramadan with open arms. While the fasts and nighttime worship may be more challenging in the summer, the good thing is that many of us will likely have more flexibility with our work and school schedules.
Ramadan is when many of us will be fasting, attending nightly taraweeh prayers, waking up for suhoor (the pre-dawn meal), reciting the Qur’an, and committing ourselves to extra worship in the last ten nights of the month – all while trying especially hard to avoid spiritual virtue-busters like backbiting and lying.
Whether obligatory or optional, all of these carry very special significance and should not be missed. Their importance will be highlighted in sermons and lectures around the world as we get closer to Ramadan.
Ramadan is such a special time that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) used to pray for its arrival two months in advance by saying:
اَللّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَنَا فِى رَجَبَ وَ شَعْبَانَ وَ بَلِّغْنَا رَمَضَان
O Allah! Make the months of Rajab and Sha'ban blessed for us, and let us reach the month of Ramadan. [Reported by Ahmad]
The early generations of Muslims valued Ramadan so much that they would remember the month for the entire year. In the six months preceding Ramadan, they would supplicate to Allah to grant them the blessing of being alive in the coming blessed month. Once Ramadan had passed, for the next six months, they would supplicate for the acceptance of their Ramadan deeds.
With Ramadan in August, many of us will spend the month of July trying to enjoy our shortened summer by traveling, hosting guests and attending events.
A much-needed break is likely warranted, but it’s also a good idea to start preparing ourselves, physically as well as psychologically, for Ramadan.
Marathon runners don’t sit on the couch and binge on potato chips and soda until the day of the event. Rather, they prepare for marathons days and months in advance, so that they are ready for the challenge.
Similarly, conditioning ourselves well before the beginning of Ramadan can help us avoid a slow start and allow us to be fresh and focused once find ourselves in the most precious time of the year.
So, what can we do to prepare?
Here are some ideas:
• Space out meals: The first fast of the month will be the longest (16 hours or more in some places). It’s a good idea to get prepared by having earlier breakfasts, lighter lunches and later dinners.
• Cut the addictions: Do you find it difficult to get through your day without smoking or chugging down a few cups of coffee or tea? This is the time to start weaning off the addictions.
• Adjust your schedule: Your sleep schedule will be shaken and your energy level will fluctuate during the day. Plan your work hours and holidays in advance, so you can maintain a good balance between work performance and worship performance.
• Seek medical advice: Fasting is obligatory, but not at the expense of one’s health. Schedule a check-up and consult a doctor (preferably a Muslim who understands the importance of fasting) and find out if there is a strong possibility that fasting and not taking medications – especially for long hours – will be damaging to your health. If so, ask an imam or scholar what you should do.
• Reconnect with the Qur’an: Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an, a time when its recitation and listening is more meritorious. You don’t want to suffer from withdrawal once you increase your Qur’an intake. Start phasing out music and less beneficial readings and viewings, and start making more time for the Qur’an.
• Get organized: Physical energy and brainpower will be at a premium in Ramadan. Plan meals, prepare Ramadan and Eid grocery lists, organize your closets, pick out your Eid clothes, figure out your finances and anything else that you know you’ll have to deal with and that will get in the way of a smooth Ramadan.
May Allah help us prepare for Ramadan and allow us to derive maximum benefit from the blessed month. Ameen!
Imam Sikander Ziad Hashmi can be reached through his website at www.sikander.ca .