Ramadan: What does it mean to you?

By Ayub Hamid

Success, in whatever we do depends on how clear we are on the objectives we want to achieve and how well we plan for it. What does Ramadan mean to you? Does it mean more to you than, for example, going for a vacation or excursion?

Are you mentally and psychologically ready to attain all the goodness Ramadan has to offer? Are  you then spending enough time and taking pains to plan how you can get the most benefit from the opportunity Ramadan affords you?

Some people do plan for Ramadan but that planning is only to the extent of who to invite for Iftaar and what special foods to prepare or how to get  the best deal on dates? But is this the type of outcome that is the objective of Ramadan?

  The objectives of Ramadan are:

  * to increase our Taqwa
  * to make us more charitable, and
  * to strengthen our knowledge of the Holy Qur'an.

So, what are the action plans you want to undertake during Ramadan so that when it departs, you have seen significant growth in your Taqwa,  you are more giving and more tuned to the Qur'an.?

Ramadan is a wonderful opportunity to help us fine tune our normal patterns of behaviour thereby changing us for the better. We can ask ourselves the question: What areas of our personality, attitude, behaviour, daily routines and lifestyle, etc. do we need to change to bring us closer to the Islamic standard?

What aspect of your life have you decided to  improve on during this Ramadan and what are your  plans for achieving this change? 

We all need many changes and many improvements. None of us is perfect and our list of proposed  improvements can be exceedingly long if we were being honest with ourselves. Naturally, one cannot pick a big list and work on all those areas in one month. The best approach is to pick one or two aspects of your personality where the change is needed most importantly and then,  devise a plan to make some defined improvements in those areas this Ramadan

Success in making the change would make you a  winner this Ramadan and the month will be one of  great triumph and blessings for you.

If you have decided to make this a meaningful and triumphant Ramadan by identifying areas requiring  improvement and if you have prepared a plan of  action, may Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta'aala assist you and bless you for taking this step in your life.

My Plans for this Ramadan

I would like to share with you a simple sample plan which I have been following over the years so that you can use for that purpose:

This Ramadan, I shall start with establishing a close relationship with the Qur'an. I will gave the top priority to knowing and understanding the contents and message of the Qur'an. I will recite and study the Qur'an. with translation and tafseer regularly and steadily throughout the month, inshaa'Allaahu, from a good, authentic translation and tafseer by a scholar such as Imam Maudoodi (The Meaning of the Qur'an.) or Syed Qutb (In the Shade of the Qur'an.). From the start and right to the end of Ramadan, I will not sleep after Fajr, but instead study the Qur'an. until I am ready to go to school or work. Throughout the day, I will find time to revise and re-learn the Soorahs and Aayaat I already know. Once that is completed, I will learn at least one Aayah a day from a Soorah that I do not already know.

This Ramadan, I will sleep early, soon after Salaatul 'Ishaa. I will go to bed with clear and conscious intention of fasting the next day, as well as with the intention of getting up early for Tahajjud. Then, while remembering Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta'aala, I will fall asleep.  I will get up well before Suhoor time, thanking Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta'aala for giving me life, offer Tahajjud and then make special Du'aa for the mercy of Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta'aala on our Ummah, His Ta'aala's help for its success and well being, and His Ta'aala's interference to foil the plans of Shaytaan. I will also make special Du'aa that Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta'aala protects my Ummah, my loved ones and me from the Dajjaal and his Fitnah.

For the month of Ramadan, I will not watch TV at all. My knowing of what is shown in the news does not affect any affairs of the world. Watching the news causes only frustration, despair and anxiety. If I do not watch for a month, it will not have any impact either on me, my Ummah or the world at large. I would rather spend the month on my personal improvement, personal spirituality and building a close, personal relationship with Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta'aala , rather than on an activity where I cannot make any difference.  (Unless I am one of those few Muslims who write letters, articles or op-ed pieces to TV producers / anchors, paper editors / columnists, politicians and media in general to make Islamic points or to stand up for the Ummah. If I am one of those, I should continue this Jihaad in Ramadan).

While fasting, I will make a special effort to speak only to add value and to say only what is true, factual, positive, meaningful and useful. When I do not have anything good and useful to talk about, instead of saying anything else, I will remember Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta'aala through the beautiful words taught by our Prophet Sall-Allaahu alayhi wa sallaam, while paying attention to their meanings and feeling the impact of the words on my heart, my mind, my thoughts and my attitude. Or, if I do not know them, I will learn those words of remembrance or prayer. Or, I will spend those moments to recite the portions of the Qur'an. that I know or learning those I do not.

I will not lend my ears to anything that is useless, indecent, negative, spiteful or inappropriate. In my car, I will listen to the Qur'an. or some good speech of a reputed scholar. At my computer I would repeat the same piece over and over again, I will use it to help me learn a few verses or a Soorah. Similarly, while riding the transit or subway, I will use my pocket-sized Qur'an. or book of Prophet Sall-Allaahu alayhi wa sallaam's adi'yah  to recite, practise or revise those I know or to learn those I do not know.

This Ramadan, I will particularly watch my gaze. While glancing on a member of opposite sex, I will move my gaze away before I start evaluating or assessing the attractive features of looks, appearance or personality or before I start paying attention to or begin enjoying those attractions. I will not participate or listen to the comments of sexual nature that my colleagues, peers or friends make.

While remembering Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta'aala  in many other ways, I will more frequently ask for Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta'aala's mercy in the first 10 days of Ramaadan (Yaa Hayyu Yaa Qayyoomu, bi-rahmatika astagheethu), invoke Allah's forgiveness in the second 10 days (astaghfirullaah-al-Azeem-alladzi laa ilaaha illaa Huwa-al Hayyu-l-Qayyoomu wa atoobu ilayh) and seek salvation from the Fire in the last 10 days (Rabbanaa aatinaa fi-ddunyaa hasanatanwa fil-aakhirati hasanatanwa qinaa adzaab-annaar). During the last ten nights, I will frequent the Du'aa: Allaahumma innaka 'afuwwun, tuhibbul 'afwa, fa'fu 'annee.

This Ramadan, I will be exceptionally charitable. The tears that fill my eyes when I see the scenes of devastation, disease, starvation, agony, displacement, killings, blown up bodies and severed limbs of poor, helpless people of Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Chechnya and Kashmir will ameliorate my heart and open my purse. I will send all my Zakaah to them right at the beginning of Ramadan through trustworthy Islamic charities. In addition to my Zakaah, I will pay whatever I can spare from my family's necessities for helping those in dire need. If I have been paying my Zakaah to my relatives, this Ramadan, I will help my relatives from my other savings and resources, so that I can pay Zakaah to the victims of state terrorism. I will avoid spending money on my home decoration or getting new clothes for Eid or buying more video games and toys for my children, so that those who are in more need than me and my family can be helped. I will even pay my Fitrah very early in Ramadan so that it can reach those displaced from their homes before the severity of winter.

Also this Ramadan, I will be generous and forgiving to my family, friends and the Muslim community at large. I will clear my heart from anger complaints, suspicion, jealousy, grudges or dislike against any of them. I will be extra kind, accommodating, courteous, supportive and helpful to my non-Muslims neighbours and colleagues. I will find ways to have them participate in the blessings of Ramadan and happiness of Eid by sharing my food specialties with them or giving gifts and chocolates to them.

This Ramadan, I will decline all invitations to social events, because every moment in this month is too precious to be spent on those activities. And this Ramadan, I am going to take my vacations in its last 10 days, so that the precious opportunity offered by those days can be fully utilized for developing my spiritual relationship with Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta'aala.

I will kick at least one of my bad habits such as arriving late for appointments or breaking promises. I will show up or do what I indicate I will do and I will show up or do so on time. If I am a smoker, this Ramadan, I will not smoke even after Iftaar, before Suhoor or at night. I will keep my mouth odour free for prayers and Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta'aala's remembrance and my lungs, blood and heart from disease.

If I am a university student whose final exams are falling in Ramadan, my act of worship is to do my utmost best to study hard and get the best possible results, given that any moment that is not spent on studying is not spent in any other pursuit except in the remembrance of Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta'aala or study of the Qur'an. While travelling to/from or within campus or while taking a break from studies, I will automatically shift to remembrance of Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta'aala  or recitation of the Qur'an. For my studies, I will keep timings that are consistent with the spirit of Ramadan, i.e. sleep early and get up very early. Instead of staying up late at the risk of missing Suhoor or Fajr, I will adjust my body clock to Islamic lifestyle instead of the western lifestyle. When I get up to study at 2 or 3 a.m., I will start with two Raka'at of Tahajjud and then continue with my studies. After Fajr, I will still spend 15-20 minutes on the study of Tafseer every day.

If we succeed this Ramadan in living as planned above, we will be able to look back and rejoice and feel inner joy and true happiness knowing that our Eid day will be the day of celebrating rewards from Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'aala.

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