By Yasmin Ahmed
Often in Western society we talk about resolutions during the New Year, we set fitness goals, join the gym etc. but by the end of January our resolution soon dwindles and then we forget about this until the following year and start with full force again. Yet Resolutions are something that are made throughout the year by many successful people and organizations. It is through resolutions and goal setting one can achieve goals and ambitions, and this is the same with our spiritual goals.
Ramadan is one such special month where we can really make a difference and set some really important and even life changing goals. There are many benefits in Ramadan, Abu Huraira radiAllahu anhu narrates:
Allah's Apostle said, "When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained." [Bukhari] [i]
As the devils are locked in this month it is less of a battle to develop habits which at other times of the year you would be struggling to maintain, especially those religious – spiritual goals, such as refraining from gossiping, backbiting etc.
To really benefit from the blessings of Ramadan one needs to understand, some of the blessings of the month (some of which I have already mentioned).
1. Gates of heaven are opened
2. Gates of hell are closed
3. Devils are locked up
4. The holy Quran was first revealed in this month
5. Sawm - Fasting in Ramadan
6. Zakah – Giving a certain percentage of wealth to the needy
7. Night of Power
8. More opportunity for duaas to be answered
9. Eid ul Fitr
Note : Two of the pillars of Islam take place in Ramadan.
Also do not forget most if not all of the Muslim community is striving for the same goal during this blessed month.
The thirty days of Ramadan appear long thinking about it, yet when the month actually starts it is actually a month that flies away with such speed, that before you know it you are actually mourning the eventuality of the month (which in itself is evidence of just how magical Ramadan is).
To attain utmost benefit from such a spiritual and positively charged month we must plan how to spend Ramadan, otherwise we will be left on the 29th / 30th night of Ramadan, wishing we had made the effort. Here are a few suggestions on how to prepare for this miraculous month.
Set the scene
How we approach Ramadan will set the scene for Ramadan. If we approach Ramadan as we approach any other month then that is exactly what it will be for us. We will not benefit from the spirituality and enlightenment and instead will see the fasting, Suhoor, and Taraweeh as a hindrance.
It is important to approach Ramadan with open arms, just as you meet a welcome guest. Mentally prepare yourself to enjoy every moment of this blessed month and you will. Open your heart to receive the benefits of this month and InshaAllah you will. If you want this Ramadan to be extra special then prepare to make it special.
Start Planning / Set Goals
Think about what you would like to achieve this Ramadan.
How are you going to make Ramadan more spiritual? Would you like to complete the Quran? Complete all the Salahs on time? Maybe even pray all 20 rakahs of Taraweeh? You may want to start really concentrating in your salah? Etc.
What about your children? How are you going to make Ramadan special for them? You might want to spend more time with them. Organise Ramadan activities etc.
Think about your past Ramadan’s - what have you enjoyed about them? What have you regretted? For example it might be that you over indulge at Iftari time and might want to control your eating. You might cook rich fatty foods and this time you might want to eat healthily. You may have been going to bed late and struggle with waking up for suhoor in the past, and so this year you may want to pray Taraweeh and immediately go to bed so you can wake up etc. Whatever it is you want to achieve – Write it down!
Once you have written your goals the next step is to get organised. If you are working full time and looking after your family you may need to think about how you are going to fit your goals into your schedule.
This Ramadan you might want to complete the Quran at least once, so you might decide to pray half to one chapter after suhoor before Fajr, and pray the next half as soon as you get in from work. You might even want to consider
…each part consists of twenty two pages. If one were to read four pages during the daily obligatory prayers, it would facilitate the completion of one part every day.
Abdul-Malik Mujahid p 43[ii]
You might decide this Ramadan you are not going to spend hours slaving over the kitchen stove and instead spend that time on ibadah, so you might want to cook less extravagant meals or prepare everything in advance and freeze it.
Also remember the last ten days of Ramadan they are very special with Itikaf, Night of Power and Eid, you might want to make the most of this time. Get your children’s clothes sorted sooner maybe even now so that in the final days you are not rushing around and start buying presents now.
How much time are you going to spend with your children every day? Will you be reading books? Making things? etc. Start researching and getting things together now.
To achieve your Ramadan goals start to put your goals into practise now. This will help with tweaking your goals and help with ensuring they are realistic. Do not do everything all at once but stagger your goals, so you are more likely to put all your goals in to practise once Ramadan is here, for example, you might want to get into the habit of praying Isha and immediately going to bed, but if you are in the habit of watching TV before going to bed you might want to work on this for the first week. The following week you might want to start praying Tahujjud, so you can get into the practise for suhoor etc.
I have included a planning sheet of the points made above to help you get started, on it I have included a reward section for those of you who might need a bit more motivation to stay on track.
Click Here For Ramadan Planner
Finally please share how you have achieved your Ramadan goals in the past. Why not post your achievements and fears in the comments section so we can encourage each other to really achieve their goals this year, motivation is important in goal setting so come on lets help each other and make this Ramadan truly memorable.
Below I have included a list of websites that may help with your Ramadan planning.
[ii] Mujahid, Abdul-Malik (2003) Gems and Jewels – Wise Sayings, Interesting Events & Moral Lessons from the Islamic History: Darussalam
I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)