How Can We Make The Most of Ramadan?

Ramadan Kareem! it’s the fasting season again. This is easily one of my favourite parts of the year. The vibe, the spirit, the excitement, the discipline. Always gives me some kind of spiritual rejuvenation. Last year I spoke about Why Ramadan Is Important. This time, I’d like to talk about how we can make the most of it, given it’s only 1 month in the year.

In today’s post, I’ll talk about how we can develop lasting habits in Ramadan, how to schedule our time effectively to finish reciting the Quran, certain practices to incorporate and why we should embrace the disruption.

Developing habits in Ramadan

One of the greatest things about Ramadan is the consistency that it requires. We have to wake up before sunrise every single day to eat something before we commence the fasting. As many of you may already know, waking up that early in the morning has incredible benefits.

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The other thing it helps with is discipline. We cannot eat or drink anything (yes, even water) for the entire day until sunrise. This helps us control our urges and snacking habits, which occur quite often when we’re just bored.

Another aspect is that it helps build consistency with praying. In Islam, we pray 5 times a day. Because of the spirit of Ramadan, we tend to be more diligent with those prayers and try to pray them in congregation on time.

Fasting is also another incredibly healthy habit that this month allows us to work on. It’s not always easy during the year to fast, especially given how we structure our entire lives around eating. Ramadan allows us to practice the habit of fasting and makes it easier to keep steady on it afterwards.

These little habits are all fairly simple yet quite remarkable. The impact it has on our day to day lives can be very rewarding, if we approach it with the right mindset and correct intention.

Scheduling your time to recite the Quran

As with my usual reading tricks, there are certain ways to effectively find time to read more Quran during this month. The concept of habit stacking comes in play here. This is essentially implementing a new habit before or after an existing habit, since there would be less effort that way. So, what you can do after each salaah is sit down and recite as much as you feel comfortable to. This will make it more manageable, if praying 5 times a day is an existing habit.

Let’s say your objective is to try and finish reciting the Quran over the 30 days of Ramadan. Considering there are 30 chapters (juzz or paras) in total, that equates to roughly 1 chapter a day. Reading a chapter in a single setting is not necessarily easy for everyone, so you can break it down into more digestible pieces.

In the Quran that I use, a chapter is roughly 20 pages. Using the habit stacking method, you can divide those 20 pages by 5, which equates to reading 4 pages after each salaah. If you use this method consistently over the entire month, it will allow you to recite all 30 chapters.

Once the habit if formed after Ramadan, you can just keep the momentum going by sticking to it afterwards.

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Spiritual boosters

In addition to the previous habits that I’ve mentioned, there are a few key boosters that are easier to implement during the month of Ramadan. These are typically done throughout one’s life, but can be incorporated specifically if you haven’t already formed them.

  • Giving charity regularly and being grateful
  • Listening to Islamic lectures / podcasts
  • Waking up to pray Tahajjud (in the last 3rd of the night)
  • Praying in the masjid 5 times a day for each salaah
  • Making zikr throughout the day (remembering Allah often)

Here are specific things to try and avoid doing, to ensure that you make the most of your time and to help you cut down on bad habits in general:

  • Don’t sleep the whole day (for those of you on holiday)
  • Try not to stay up till too late playing games or watching TV (in fact try and cut that out completely this month)
  • Cut down the time you spend on social media (delete unnecessary apps if possible)
  • Don’t overeat when it’s time to break your fast

Embracing the disruption

The last topic I’d like to talk about is the disruption that often occurs in this month. We leave our comfort zones to a certain extent. We can’t stick to our usual habits. We need to adapt to certain changes, like waking up early to eat or staying away from snacking all day.

If we can embrace the disruption and use it to our advantage, it will make the adaptation process a lot more efficient. This will not only allow us to make the most of Ramadan, but it will also aid us in staying consistent with the habits afterwards.

Ramadan is an incredibly blessed time of the year. We should be very grateful to be experiencing it yet again. Time is your most valuable asset. This is the prime time to invest it in your spirituality and Islamic habits. The return on the investment is immeasurable. Don’t miss out on your chance. You only die once.

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Why is Ramadan so important?

Have you ever wondered why Ramadan was such an important aspect of Islam? This post will focus on shedding some light to those who are curious about this blessed month. It will also serve as a reminder to those of you who are familiar with Islamic knowledge.

I’ll briefly discuss the 5 pillars of Islam, the revelation of the Quran, the reason why Muslims fast, how this month coincides with a crisis and why we try our best to revive our spirituality.

[This is based on my understanding and the research that I have done. Please consult literature or a scholar for more detailed and authentic interpretations.]

Ramadan is the 4th Pillar of Islam

Islam is constructed on the 5 pillars shown below. Each have a significant contribution to one’s faith and need to be consistently adhered to. The 1st pillar is the Shahadah, which is professing that there’s ‘No God but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger’. It’s considered the foundation of Islam, because everything builds upon that testimony.

The 2nd pillar is Salaah (prayer), which is expected to be performed 5 times a day. This consistency in prayer has always been remarkable to me, as it truly keeps the 1st pillar in place and reminds me of my true purpose in life. It forms a beautiful structure to the day and allows us to frequently remember God.

The 3rd pillar is Zakaat, which is a form of giving charity. This needs to be performed annually, where we’re expected to give 2.5% of our monetary wealth to those who are less fortunate (There are more specifications to this, I’m merely giving an overview). This is such a beautiful pillar because it indicates that giving to others and being considerate is part of the religion.

The 4th pillar will be my focus today; fasting the month of Ramadan. It is the 9th month of the Hijri calendar, where we’re expected to abstain from food and drink for 29 or 30 days every year (depending on the sighting of the new moon). There’s more to it than just the abstinence of food and drink however, which I’ll also discuss.

The final pillar is Hajj; the pilgrimage to Makkah. There are roughly 2 million pilgrims on average who embark on this journey every year. This year will be the first time in history where the pilgrimage would be extremely restricted, possibly even cancelled.

The Revelation of the Quran

One of the most interesting aspects of Ramadan is that it’s the month in which the Quran was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He was 40 years old when he was blessed with prophet-hood and when the angel Jibreel first revealed to him the Holy text sent by Allah. It was a constant stream of verses that spanned 23 years, which started around the year 609 CE.

The Quran contains timeless wisdom and is memorized by Muslims all over the world. It is what we recite during prayer and it has remain unscathed since it was revealed (Nothing has been edited). It’s as relevant to us today as it was when it was sent over 1400 years ago.

There’s a lot of emphasis for us to recite the Quran during Ramadan. It’s the one time of the year where everyone is a lot more focused and dedicated to their spirituality, making it a lot easier and enjoyable. Rewards for performing good deeds are multiplied by over 10 fold, which is motivating and encouraging.

Allah’s Prophet said, “Fasting is a shield (or a screen or a shelter). So, the person observing fasting should avoid sexual relation with his wife and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, ‘I am fasting.”

Why do Muslims fast during this month?

You may have encountered the buzzword ‘Intermittent fasting’ over the past few years. I’m proud to say that Muslims have been doing that consistently over the past 1400 years. Let’s discuss what fasting in Islam entails, whilst looking at the scientific benefits behind it.

The infographic above shows a number of health benefits associated with fasting. From an Islamic point of view however, there’s much more to it than that. The fasting starts at the Fajr prayer and ends at the Maghrib prayer. Essentially from dawn till dusk.

The fasting includes abstaining from food and drink, keeping the stimulation of senses to a minimum and staying away from sexual activity. It’s a time to practice self-control, not to indulge in the usual luxuries of life and to focus on your blessings.

The reason behind fasting is for us to become empathetic with those who are less fortunate than us. Many people live without sufficient food or water their entire lives. For those of us who are blessed with a variety of food choices every day, it gives us time to reflect on that and understand how circumstances are for others.

We often complain about the most trivial aspects of our luxurious lives, without realizing that others would be extremely grateful for a mere fraction of what we have.

Spiritual rejuvenation

We’re without a doubt, living through one of the most unique Ramadans in history. It’s no coincidence that this blessed month coincides with a global pandemic. People have the opportunity to focus more on their spirituality, to reflect, to grow and to become compassionate.

The lock down restrictions have forced us to gain a few realizations. We need to understand that everything happens for a reason. Whether you see it as a blessing or a curse, entirely depends on your perception.

I say this again and again, but it’s an important reminder. Life is short and we are all temporary. Look at how quickly time is passing. Before you know it, your time will be up and you’ll spend the rest of your days in the grave (until Resurrection). Keep that in mind often. It’s not something to be bleak about, it’s part of the circle of life.

You should try and feel motivated by how fleeting this all is. You’re not here for nothing. This isn’t a coincidence. It’s all part of the plan.

The reason I wrote this post was to remind myself of why I focus so much during Ramadan. I also hope to have inspired you in some way, or to have helped you understand it a little better. I really enjoyed writing about this, if you’d like me to discuss the 4 other pillars of Islam, please let me know!

I hope the rest of your month and days ahead are blessed InshaAllah. Stay strong, stay thankful, stay present. Everything happens for a reason, don’t forget that. The more struggle you have to endure, the more you are rewarded. Alhamdulillah for everything.