Preparing for the blessed month – Ramadan

How is it possible that Ramadan is about to arrive again. I’m sure it was just recently that I had been fasting and celebrated Eid. But it’s about to arrive again in a few months! SubhanAllah time flies! So as I begin to think about what I want to achieve this Ramadan I realised that I have a lot of preparation to do. So I thought about what I need to be doing now to ensure I get the best out of Ramadan. With so many changes that happen to our routine during Ramadan we can easily burn out if we don’t try and add these into our routine beforehand. It can be a shock to the system to try and do all this suddenly and most of us regret not doing or not being consistent in them the whole month. So I made a list of things that I thought will be really good to implement before Ramadan.

1. Attend a Ramadan preparation class or if there isn’t anything in my local area then watch it online. There are so many classes we can attend either in person or online. Alhamdulillah I’ve been able to attend it each year for the last few years and they are so helpful in getting you into the zone and giving helpful tips. They teach and remind you of how amazing this month really is and how we can get the best out of it. 
2. Make time to read Quran daily. It can be 5 minutes or 10 ayahs but what ever it is try and be consistent in reading Quran daily. Everyone has their own level in reading Quran some can read for an hour but others can’t and it’s okay to read to how long you can manage. The important thing is to be consistent. It’s better to read 5 minutes a day than for an hour once a month. Slowly as you read you can increase the length of time or number of ayahs you read a day.
3. As Ramadan is going to be during summer and we will be fasting for long hours it’s good to start fasting before Ramadan actually begins. You can get used to fasting and you will be rewarded for keeping these voluntary fasts too. Begin by fasting Monday’s and Thursday’s as that’s the sunnah and you can revive a sunnah too!
4. Not only is it important for me us to read the Quran in Arabic but we should also know what it is teaching us. So we need to read the translation and learn the Tafsir. If we’re just reading in Arabic we won’t be able to get the full benefit from the words of Allah. A good way to read it is to read the Arabic and then read the translation or Tafsir of the ayahs you read in Arabic.
5. Another good practice is to read nafl prayers so that when it is Ramadan we can reap the most rewards. We will find it easier if we start reading the extra prayers now rather than trying to do everything all at once in Ramadan. 
6. Increase in your dhikr, dua and istaghfar. We sometimes overlook these especially if we are really busy. We pray but don’t do our dhikr after, we barely make istaghfar and dua is reserved for when we want something from Allah. We should start to make it a point to increase in these and give it importance. Remember to say our duas when we wake up, sleep, eat, study etc. recite subhanAllah, alhamdulillah, allahu akbar after our salah and say astaghfirullah as often as we can. 
7. Carrying on from my last point, make a dua list, what I mean by this is write down every single dua you want to make to Allah. Whether it’s specified duas we learn from the Quran or personal duas for your own circumstances. Nothing is too big or small. Remember it’s only Allah that can give it to you. You can ask for good health, a new job, good grades, hajj, to be able to pray 5 times a day consistently etc. I think it’s so useful because especially during the last 10 nights we all know how special it is and we want to stand at night and ask Allah for what we want but how many of us remember everything at that time? Later you realise you didn’t make dua for x, y and z. So by writing it down you have a list and you can keep it in front of you so you remember. Start the list now and as you remember things you can add to the list. When I look back at my last years dua list it’s amazing how many things on that list get answered. It also reminds you in the rest of the year to make dua for these things too.
8. Over the next few months we could get together with our family and friends and talk about Ramadan. It’s so much more than just not eating and drinking but many of us don’t know all its virtues and significance. So we can share knowledge and encourage and motivate each other to increase in our good deeds. Teach the children in our family about Ramadan, so that they will love it rather than see it as something they are forced to do. I love reading my little cousins islamic stories and making Ramadan decorations and making a Ramadan calendar where we countdown the days to Ramadan. It helps them get excited about it. They even love keeping “half fasts” where they fast from fair until dhuhr and then make them a special Iftar. Seriously the kids love it alhamdulillah.
9. Okay so we all want a new outfit for Eid but how many of us rush around in the last few days of Ramadan to find it. It takes up precious time and you’re stressed out. My advice, buy it before Ramadan begins! I have 4 sisters so it’s a nightmare for us (well my dad) but since we began buying our clothes early it’s so much easier. No rush and we don’t need to waste time on it during Ramadan. 
10. Lastly I want to say sisters don’t spend all day cooking! I’m not a big fan of cooking on a normal day but it’s worse when I’m fasting! But I know we need to eat healthy food so what I do is when I cook I make larger portions so that I can freeze some or we can eat the same meal for a couple days. That way we have food in the freezer to take out or I can cook every other day instead of cooking daily. That frees up my time to do other things. In Ramadan it means I can be free to engage in acts of ibadah. Also cook simple healthy meals that are light. We often cook huge feasts that take up so much time and we eat far more than we should which means it becomes hard for us to stand up in prayer at night. So prepare healthy food in advance and freeze it so that you don’t have to cook everyday. 
So these are things that I thought about in order to make the most of Ramadan inshaAllah. I hope you all have found it useful and if you have any tips and ideas please do share inshaAllah.