By Calisha Bennet
Amr Bin Kays رحمه الله has said: “Blessed is he; how excellent is he, the one who rectifies himself before the (blessed) month of Ramadan”[Lat’ta-if al-Ma’arif, p. 138]
What could we have done better last Ramadan? Why do we need to strive to make this Ramadan better than our last? Why should we strive for our best Ramadan? Why do we need to maximise each and every Ramadan? These are important questions we need to ask ourselves in the lead up to each Ramadan. They will (inshaaAllah) instil the need and urgency to prepare and make the most of this blessed month InshaaAllah. There are 7 ways I would like to suggest for you to maximise your Ramadan in order to make it your Best Ramadan Ever. They are:
1. Preparation is key.
We all know the oft-mentioned quote: ‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.’ One of the most important keys to maximising your Ramadan is to prepare for it before it arrives. Have an allocated Ramadan journal where year to year, you set your pre-Ramadan goals and list your post Ramadan reflections. Keeping track on how your previous Ramadan went and working on improving on those results in the Ramadan to come are hugely beneficial in having a better month than previous years. Plan what your meals will be, buy your groceries early and have a rough idea on your cooking plan so that your time can be well utilised each day. Prepare your gifts early, draft a daily schedule, confirm your iftar plans, organise what sadaqah you’d like to give and revisit the merits and fiqh of fasting to refresh your memory.
2. Work on your eating beforehand.
Assess your current eating habits and check if they are in line with the sunnah of eating (both proportion and nutrition-wise). Globally Muslims are in a health crisis with obesity and diet-related diseases in epidemic proportions.
Remember that the Prophet SAW said: “No man fills a container worse than his stomach. A few morsels that keep his back upright are sufficient for him. If he has to, then he should keep one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for his breathing” (At-Tirmidhi)
Set an intention on improving your relationship with food and developing a stronger intention of eating in order to nourish your body (in accordance to what it needs to thrive and survive) as opposed to what your ‘nafs’ desires.
3. Reflect on the parts of yourself and your life that you wish to work on.
What are the characteristics and traits that need improvement within yourself? How can you improve your worship and connection with Allah SWT? How can you improve your Islamic knowledge, your lifestyle, mindsets and habits?
“And on the earth are signs for those who have Faith with certainty, And also in your own selves. Will you not then see?” [adh-Dhaariyaat 51:20-21].
“O you who believe! Fear Allah and keep your duty to Him. And let every person look to what he has sent forth for tomorrow and fear Allah . Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.” [al-Hashr 59:18].
How can you appreciate the blessing of time? It was said that Tawbah ibn as-Summah was in ar-Raqqah, and he used to take stock of himself. One day when he was doing that, he realised that he was sixty years old. He worked out the number of days of his life, and realised that it was twenty-one thousand and five hundred days. He screamed and said: Woe is me! Am I going to meet the Sovereign with twenty-one thousand and five hundred sins? How about if there were ten thousand sins every day?! Then he fell down dead, and they heard a voice saying: How quickly he was taken to al-Firdaws al-A‘la (the highest Paradise)!
Let us not forget to make the most of this life we have been gifted and tested with. Allah SWT is recording and counting everything we do.
On the Day when Allah will resurrect them all and inform them of what they did. Allah had enumerated it, while they forgot it; and Allah is, over all things, Witness. [al-Mujaadilah 58:6].
4. Start detoxing all aspects of your life.
Clean out and detoxify your home environment from clutter, your social environment from bad company, your internal (spiritual/psychological) environment from addictions, dependencies, media and social media. Take back control of your mental, physical and spiritual space so you can fully engage with Allah SWT and His worship this Ramadan. Repent from sins and bad habits and start afresh as the month of mercy arrives. ‘Abdullaah ibn Abi Awfa narrated that the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, used to recite (this supplication): O Allaah! All praise is due to You, filling the heavens, filling the earth, and filling whatever else You Wish. O Allaah! Purify me with snow, (water of) hail and cold water; O Allaah, purify me from sins and misdeeds just as a white garment is cleansed from dirt. [Muslim]
5. Seek knowledge and support.
Commit to finding some Islamic learning and support at your local mosque or Islamic centre, seek out local teachers or friends for beneficial knowledge and influence. Teach Islam and God consciousness to your household. Read some good books, or blog articles or videos that will improve your knowledge and awareness of Islam in general and the upcoming month of Ramadan. Utilise online connection, coaching and programs.
“Like (a favour which you have already received) in that We have sent among you a Messenger of your own, rehearsing to you Our verses, and purifying you, and instructing you in scripture and wisdom, and in new knowledge.”(Quran 2:151) “Allah elevates to high positions those from amongst you who are faithful and those who have acquired knowledge.” (Quran 58:11)
Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah say, The world is cursed, that which is in it is cursed, except thikr Allah (remembering Allah) and what follows it, or a learned person, or a student. In another saying related by Ad-Daarimi Kab said, “The world is cursed and that which is in it is cursed except a teacher of khair and a student of it.”
6. Get your Quran OUT!
Ramadan is well known as the month of the Quran so perhaps spend some time reflecting on these important reflection questions:
What does the Quran mean to you in your life?
How often do you read it and how often do you internalise it?
Could you do better?
Use Ramadan to re-connect and reignite your connection with the Divine Word and Speech of Almighty Allah SWT. Make an effort to learn essential knowledge about how to approach and understand it correctly. The Quran stands as the essential link between you and your Creator and your ability to receive His guidance, therefore we must give it the reverence and attention it deserves.
‘And this [Qur’an] is a Book We have revealed [which is] blessed, so follow it and fear Allah that you may receive mercy.’ (Quran 6:155)
And the Messenger has said, “O my Lord, indeed my people have taken this Qur’an as [a thing] abandoned.” (Quran 25:30) The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, “The superiority of the speech of Allah compared to all other speech is like the superiority of Allah over His creation.”
7. Set a solid intention for your Ramadan my dear sister.
Be firm in your intention to fast in the best way possible, in achieving the goals you set, in making internal and external changes, in being consistent, committed and dedicated. Be firm in your intention to continue your positive changes after Ramadan. Intend on seeking and establishing a connection with Allah SWT like never before. Intend to deeply explore the Quran as the ultimate source of guidance, healing and mercy for mankind.
The Ḥanbalī definition of the Niyyah (intention) is: the intention of the heart to get closer to God during a worship service. So your intention is the first step and first part of your good deed. “Truly, the deeds are only according to the intentions, and to every man is that which he has intended” ( Bukhari and Muslim)
May Allah SWT grant us all the opportunity to benefit from the enormous blessings, forgiveness and amazing potential to reboot our faith this Ramadan. Ameen.
About the author:
Calisha Bennett is the daughter of an Australian convert father and Cocos Islander mother. She is a home-schooling mother of 5 with over a decade of experience as an active speaker, community teacher and mentor of Muslim women, converts and youth. She has a background in Quran Tajweed, Islamic Shariah, youth work, education, coaching and fitness studies. She is the founder of Developing Diamonds which provides identity and success coaching, workshops, courses and retreats for Muslim women around the world.