Once upon a dusk, I was out on my rooftop scanning the sky for the new moon of Shawwal (the lunar month after Ramadan), and while I was at it, I found myself wistfully wishing for one more night.
Just one more blessed night of Ramadan so I could stay up through it in prostration, so I could undo my wrongs, could catch up with deeds undone and savor every minute of added mercy that descends exclusively in the month that had just passed me by.
I deliberated over the question if that Ramadan had been better than the last one. And I did not like the answer that echoed back. But then for a working Muslim, it’s a new Ramadan every year. Time changes, circumstances change with each passing year, things pace up and we find ourselves caught in another dimension where we “kill” fasts like we “kill time” and nights go by in a stupor- and by the time we finally manage to adapt to the Ramadan routine, we realize it’s time to bid farewell.
And then the next year around, we remain tangled still. We try to pray a little harder but history just repeats itself. This scenario is not new for people who have jobs to attend to, work to take care of or study deadlines to meet. For them Ramadan usually comes and goes in a frenzy and they miss out on its perks despite their efforts to pull themselves together.
To work around this problem, it is best to prepare early, so when Ramadan comes, we are spared from another hurried encounter. To start with, you should take a while to reflect on all that went wrong with you last Ramadan. List all the unfortunate slip-ups you had had.
Did you sleep through suhour (pre-dawn meal) often?
Were your daily prayers dry and dispassionate?
Were you too tired to perform Qiyam (pre-dawn prayers)?
Did you yawn through tarawih (night prayers) or skipped them?
Did you find yourself losing patience with people around you?
Were you so tired that you lacked the drive to do anything productive at all?
After everything, did you feel remorseful that you had not done justice to an opportunity so great?
Here is How a Typical Fast Goes
|Take note that to fare best during Ramadan, you must sleep well and eat healthy for your body to feel alive and kicking.|
You snooze through the time of the pre-dawn meal missing the only chance of eating something, spend the rest of the day like a total automaton swamped and lifeless, snapping at everyone who dares breathe too loud. Somehow, half of the day passes uneventfully at the workplace or school, but what happens when you reach home? The day begins to take its toll; standing up for prayers becomes a herculean feat, so you ease your conscience by just praying the obligated units and conveniently rule out the voluntary.
And because you had not taken anything for suhour (pre-dawn meal), your brain feels slow, your mental activity goes down and you find yourself unable to focus on your work or assignments, so the intervals between the prayers are just “killed” by sleeping them off. Come iftar, you attack the food and munch on too much than what is good for your system. Next, the indigestion makes you feel all funny and down spiral your prayers again. Now you stay up most of the night to complete your pending work, sleep late and then the day replays all over again.
Mastering Time and Health
As you contemplate over your flashbacks, you will notice that there are two core issues you need to zero in your eating habits and sleeping patterns. All you need is to sort yourself out to get ready for this month. For motivation, keep this hadith in mind, or stick it someplace where it is visible to you as a constant reminder.
On the last day of Sha’ban, the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave a sermon and said:
"O people! A great and blessed month has approached you, a month containing a night better than a thousand months. Allah has made fasting in its days an obligation and prayer in its nights a (recommended) voluntary act.
Anyone who seeks nearness to Allah in this month through any virtuous act will be like one who carried out an obligatory act at another time (outside of Ramadan), and whoever performs an obligatory act in this month will be like one who performed seventy such acts at another time.
It is the month of patience, and the reward for patience is Paradise. It is the month of equality, the month in which the wealth of the believer is increased..." (Al-Muhdhiri)
Take note that to fare best during Ramadan, you must sleep well and eat healthy for your body to feel alive and kicking. On the food scale, refrain from arranging a grand feast at iftar. Avoid fried delicacies for they are not only hazardous to health long-term, but also make you feel full and drowsy, hindering your qiyam in prayers. Revamp your menu. Replace the sugar-laden, oil-dripping items with fresh and raw nutrition- dates, salads, fruits, fresh juices and the likes. In no time will you feel re-vitalized and set for tarawih sessions and other night prayers.
Those done, now tackle your over-sleeping problems. Make suhour a priority.
Anas narrates that Prophet Muhammad said:
"Eat suhour (pre-dawn meal) for it brings prosperity." (Al-Bukhari)
|Another great thing about this month is that it doesn’t let you forget that Someone is watching over you.|
Make sure you set an alarm for the pre-dawn meal. The food will not only energize you to breeze through the day but it will also give a boost to your worship, strengthening you spiritually as well. Moreover, this pre-dawn period is a great time for repenting and getting our prayers accepted. Would you sleep through such a chance? Ramadan is all about sprinting towards good deeds. Every minute counts. Just like you are competing for survival in this materialistic realm, it is more incumbent upon you to throw yourself head-first in this race for Paradise.
Be More Productive
Aside from mastering hunger pangs and oversleeping, here are a few tips to make your time slots more productive:
- Allot a few minutes after fajr (dawn prayer) and before iftar to Quran recitation
- While driving or travelling, make sure your tech gadgets have some good, short Islamic lectures you can listen to along the way. Kick-start your routine with positive energy.
- Keep change with you so you can make small donations wherever needed. Remember that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to be extra magnanimous this month.
- Keep your words in check. Sure, the workplace can be really grueling at times, and life at campus is “always unfair”, but backstabbing will do away with all your hard earned deeds. Stay focused.
- Group up with friends or family members and sign up for a Quran halaqah (circle) nearby that offers flexible timings. Ramadan is the month of this noble Book (Quran). Take a step towards understanding it.
- Carpe Noctem- seize the night. That’s most important. Pray, even if for a little while, in wee hours of the night. Lighten your burden, repent; release your sorrows to the Most Merciful Who has tailored this month just for you.
- Grab the bounties that will soon be showered upon you like you grab items off a sale. Free yourself from the Hellfire and from the sins that might lead there.
- Stick with the constructive habits that you develop during this training period.
Another great thing about this month is that it doesn’t let you forget that Someone is watching over you. Never let this feeling go.
May you have a blessed Ramadan!
Tip the scales in your favor so when the new moon comes, the regrets do not set in.
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