As Ramadan approaches, we are all growing in anticipation. Whether this is your first Ramadan or you’ve had a lifetime of Ramadan’s, each year we enter this blessed month is a time of spiritual cleansing and rejuvenation. We embark on a month-long journey of increased worship, striving to strengthen our relationship with our Creator and seeking forgiveness.
Imagine for a moment that a special visitor was coming to visit your home. Most likely, you would clean the house, prepare refreshments and ensure the family was fully prepared to welcome this visitor and make them feel at home. Ramadan is our annual special visitor, except instead of visiting your home, Ramadan visits our hearts. Just as we would prepare our home, it is time to prepare our hearts. Here are five ways to get spiritually prepared for Ramadan.
1 -Correct Your Intention
Islam puts a lot of focus on intention, for good reason. It is not necessarily what you do that matters the most, but rather why you did it and for whom. As we draw closer to Ramadan, think about your intentions. Remind yourself why the Qu’ran commands us to fast during Ramadan.
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” [Al-Baqarah 2:183]
English translations are never 100% correct, but it is understood that this verse is indicating that fasting is decreed for us so that we may attain taqwa or righteousness. This is the key to every Ramadan and every day of our lives.
Taqwa in the simplest definition means to attain God-consciousness. Taqwa is what drives our actions to have the love and fear of Allah (swt) behind them. It empowers our rituals and daily habits to be acts of worship instead of a meaningless act. If you are consciously aware of your faith and ask yourself, “Is this what Allah wants me to do?’ – then you are showing signs of increasing taqwa.
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.” [Al-Hujurat 49:13]
Again, we see the Qu’ran highlighting for us how important taqwa (righteousness) is. Allah (swt) is telling us directly, that from all the peoples and tribes, the most noble are those who have taqwa, those who are aware of their Lord in all they do. Make your intentions clear and focused. Renew those intentions every night and be mindful of them.
2 – Straighten Your Relationship with Qu’ran
This is the month of the Qur,an. Do not wait for Ramadan to open your Qu’ran and read. Start reading today, prepare yourself for this blessed month.
Instead of reading for speed or a goal to finish the entire Qu’ran as soon as possible, I encourage you to read for quality over quantity. This means reading for 10 minutes with sincerity and clear intention to understand, is better than reading for 30 minutes without any care as to what the words mean.
The Qu’ran is so much more than words; these are divine revelations from your Creator as revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) via Angel Gabriel (Jabril). This is literally the word of Allah without any edits or changes. Is that not amazing and something that should make us want to understand the Qu’ran better?
Then do they not reflect upon the Qur’an, or are there locks upon [their] hearts.” [Muhammad 47:24]
I want you to think about a moment when the Qu’ran spoke to you; a time when you opened it to a random page or had a specific question in mind and subhanallah, you read the ayas and it seemed like the Qu’ran was answering your question as if it knew you. That is the power of the divine word brothers and sisters.
Read Qu’ran every day leading up to Ramadan and keep doing it throughout Ramadan. Don’t hesitate to even use a phone app that reminds you to read daily if you need help with this.
3 – Fasting and Du`aa’
While it is obligatory to fast during Ramadan, fasting during the month prior (Shabaan) is also recommended; although optional. Fasting is a spiritual act that helps us control our subconscious influences (nafs) and as an act of worship. Insha’Allah it can also help you to prepare for the month-long fasting soon to be upon us.
Du`aa’ is one of the easiest acts of worship gifted to us. You can do it practically anywhere and anytime, without wudu or having to prepare; simply have good intentions and make du`aa’. Do not limit your du`aa’ to yourself; make du`aa’ for your family and the whole ummah. Make du`aa’ to with the aim of benefiting spiritually from Ramadan.
4 – Focus in Prayer
Our prayer is the first thing we are asked about on Judgement Day. That statement alone should drive home how important it is. If you lose your salah, you lose your iman. Start working on your prayer TODAY.
An Imam I have listened to previously often states, “Pray like it was your last prayer.” Think about that before you say Allahu Akbar and begin. What if this was your last prayer? Would you be satisfied ending it this way?
Slow down and really think about what you are saying. If you need to take a deep breath between each movement to keep yourself focused then do it. If you find yourself battling waswasa (whisperings of Shaytan), or your thoughts keep wandering towards things outside of prayer, seek help and refuge in Allah (swt) by saying, “A`udhu billahi min ash-shaytan ar-rajim.” You can say it in English if the Arabic is too difficult, Allah (swt) knows your intention.
If you improve your prayer now, insha’Allah during Ramadan you will find it easier to increase your voluntary prayers. Remember, none of us is guaranteed making it to Ramadan. Correct your prayer today, do not wait.
5 – Look at Your Manners
This topic is not addressed enough, Islamic manners (adab). It is important to highlight that our fasts are not desired if our adab is horrible!
The Prophet (saws) said, Whoever does not give up false statements (i.e. telling lies), and evil deeds, and speaking bad words to others, Allah is not in need of his (fasting) leaving his food and drink.” Narrated by Abu Huraira [Bukhari 6057]
Start making a conscious effort today to correct any areas in your character that have room for improvement. This will, insha’Allah, improve your spirituality and demonstrate a better example of Islam to those around you.
For example, if you are prone to anger and have a difficult time avoiding bad words with others, then spend some time reading about how the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) talked about anger and his suggestions to control it. Make du`aa’ for help in this. Work on improving your adab today in preparation for Ramadan and insha’Allah as a permanent improvement.
As we draw closer to this special month, here is a summary on how to spiritually prepare yourself for Ramadan.
Correct your intention and reboot that intention nightly
Read Qu’ran daily; aiming for quality not quantity
Engage in voluntary fasting and make frequent du`aa’
Improve your focus in prayer and…
Be aware of your manners
If you take away one thing from this, insha’Allah, it will be that you do not need to make some grand spiritual act to prepare yourself spiritually for Ramadan. Rather, it is about a return to focusing on the basics, which we should be more mindful of year-round; our sincerity in worship, our focus, our intentions, a clean heart and good manners.
May Allah make it easy for us and accept your acts of worship, ameen.