Getting Ramadan Ready

Every year, for the past few years, I have one intention only when it comes to Ramadan….and that is to have a better Ramadan than the previous year.

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With that being said, having a better Ramadan for me doesn’t include making better savouries than the previous year or trying the new gourmet samoosa fillings and is the latest craze on Instagram. I’ve been asked on many occasions how my Ramadan prep is going, and I’m so tempted to tell people off, but I resort to saying something along the lines off “I haven’t started yet.”

imagesIt’s taken me years to realise and appreciate the true gift of Ramadan. For me to long and yearn for the feeling of bliss that I’m enveloped in when this auspicious month arrives. And therefore, my Ramadan build-up has very little to do with food but everything to do with spiritual preparation.

During the months’ of Rajab and Shaban, I increase my fasting on Monday’s and Thursday’s. I also, whenever possible, fast the three white days (full moon, 13th, 14th,15th) of the Islamic lunar calendar. I increase my Quran recitation after fajr salaah (morning prayers) and increase my daily dhikr. This for me is becoming Ramadan ready. I start limiting screen time (social media and the already little TV I watch). I start spending my time more in the remembrance of Allah rather than waste time away.

ramadan1During Ramadan, I switch of completely from social network. Every account is logged out off and apps removed from my phone. I know how 2 minutes can easily turn into 20 while scrolling through my Instagram feed, hence the drastic measures I have resulted in taking. My time in Ramadan is more valuable than the strongest currency and I need to be accountable for every minute that I spend. I don’t know if I will be blessed to experience another Ramadan; hell, I don’t even know if I’m going to see the one that is just weeks away. And for this reason, I feel I need to make the most of this time that I have.

 

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Ramadan Ya Habib

In just over two weeks, Muslims all over the world will be welcoming an esteemed guest….Ramadan. A period known to many as the month of fasting. But is this really all that Ramadan is?

ramadan-loading-wallpapers_37267_1920x1200As it turns out, Ramadan is not simply an exercise in fasting during the day, binge-eating during the night and setting the clock to the morning’s wee hours to rise for the predawn meal. Neither is it about irate drivers who feel entitled to exhibit road rage, lacklustre employees who see the month as an excuse to slack off and overworked women slaving over a stove every day in preparation for the sunset meal. Ramadan is none of those things, if done right, and instead, is the chance for a spiritual boost, with lessons to be applied long after the month is out.

The month

So Ramadan is here (almost). How do we know this? Because according to official Islamic bodies, the crescent moon will soon be sighted, marking the beginning of the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Lasting 29 or 30 days – the end date will be revealed through another official lunar sighting in the last week of the month – Muslims are to refrain from food and liquid (including chewing gum, smoking cigarettes and the like) from dawn to sunset, and instead renew their focus on prayers and increase their recitation of the Holy Quran.

Why it’s so special

It is the month in which the Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH. As a result, Ramadan is also known as the month to recite the holy text even more eagerly and with renewed dedication to completing the task. Muslims are encouraged to complete the full recitation of the Holy Quran at least once during the month. With an average of 600 pages, this seemingly huge task can be achieved through the recitation of four pages before each of the five prayers daily throughout the entire month.

The fast

It is one of Islam’s five main pillars (the others being the belief in one God and the Prophet Muhammad as His Messenger, praying five times a day, completing the pilgrimage to Mecca for those who are able and giving alms or “zakat”). It is mandatory for all Muslims upon reaching puberty, as long as they are mentally and physically sound. The elderly and chronically ill are exempt from fasting; however, it is incumbent upon them to feed the poor instead if they possess the financial means.

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The fast is not simply about denying your body food and water. It also involves arguably the more taxing challenge of avoiding ill speech, arguments, loss of temper and malicious behaviour. The whole point of the fast is to demonstrate submission to God and keep the mind focused on a spiritual plane.

The benefits

Patience and mercy, which, let’s face it, we all need more of in these harried times. Ramadan is viewed as a month-long school where graduates leave with a developed sense of self-control in areas including diet, sleeping and the use of time.

imagesThe meals

The fasting day is book-ended by two meals: suhoor and iftar. The former is the early morning meal consumed before fasting begins at dawn, while the latter is to break the fast at sunset. If breakfast is viewed as an important meal, a healthy suhoor is even more vital as it is meant to last you up to 15 hours! Slow digesting foods like barley, wheats, oats and lentils are recommended and limiting fatty and sugary products would be wise. There is a propensity to binge eat at sunset, but a balanced, moderate meal would really make all the difference, considering that the evenings are spent engaging in special nightly prayers. It is also recommended to break the fast with dates, as was the practice of the Prophet Muhammad.

The prayers

Ramadan is also defined by extra congregational prayers performed nightly after the evening Esha prayers, which are normally the last prayers of the evening. For those living near a mosque, expect your neighbourhood to be a hive of activity for the whole month.

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The finish line

Ramadan culminates with the Eid ul Fitr holiday celebrating the end of the fast. Marked by a special morning prayer, the day is a form of spiritual graduation and a chance to permanently implement the spiritual lessons learnt throughout the month. Muslims dress in their best and visit friends and relatives as a sense of community prevails.