Getting the Most from Ramadan: Preparation
How does one prepare themselves for Ramadan? Most often people believe that the goal is to simply prepare oneself for fasting, so some start to look up recipes and things to eat in order to make their fasting easier. Others begin to schedule out their days in an effort to maximize their acts of worship, both of which are important and good. But actualizing the spirit of Ramadan is far deeper. The goal of Ramadan is piety, “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” (Quran 2:183).
But this righteousness is only actualized through knowing God, through realizing the blessings that the Divine has bestowed upon us. So the question remains, how does the servant of the Divine come to know who God is? The answer is that one must come closer and understand the words of God.
“The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey - then an equal number of other days. God intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify God for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful” (Quran 2:185).
In this verse we find that the words of the Almighty God were revealed to us in the month of Ramadan highlighting the greatness of this month. It is a month with so much purpose and meaning, with so much mercy and guidance, so much so that the greatest path of guidance and mercy, the Quran, was revealed in it. If one comes into this month of Ramadan and does not realize this mercy and guidance then their fasting, their moments without food and drink, would be devoid of the ultimate reality of this prestigious month. The believer yearns for this month not just because of their acknowledgement of their own feebleness, but because of their knowledge of the greatness of the Divine. They understand that in this blessed month the greatest guidance to mankind was sent down to rectify hearts and to curb harmful desires. In this month, God gifts His servants with open doors to paradise and it is obligatory upon them to enter because the gates of the hellfire are closed.
So what are some steps that one can take to prepare for this blessed month and for coming closer to the words of God and actualizing the purpose of Ramadan?
Reflect on the month
If one takes the time to reflect on the upcoming month and its blessings they will come to realize its greatness. They will come to see that this is the month, the time they have been awaiting, a time that if they do not benefit from, they will have a great loss.
Make the intention
In schools of jurisprudence it is incumbent on the believer to make an intention prior to a voluntary fast in order for that fast to be valid, likewise in the month of Ramadan the believer must have the intention to enter the month of Ramadan and to fast its days. But prior to entering this blessed month one should make the intention to themselves that they will strive to give their all during this blessed month. This intention will serve to remind you during the month that you promised yourself that you would not give up, and that you would see the entire month through.
Finish Sha’ban strong
Usamah bin Zaid said: "I said: 'O Messenger of God, I do not see you fasting any month as much as Sha’ban.' He said: 'That is a month to which people do not pay much attention, between Rajab and Ramadan. It is a month in which the deeds are taken up to the Lord of the worlds, and I like that my deeds be taken up when I am fasting."'
This is a month for us to focus on our fasting and to prepare for the month of Ramadan. There is no better way to prepare for the upcoming month of fasting than to begin from now.
Increase your Quran
The Quran as stated is the gateway to God. Open it, read it, commune with it and aim to understand the words of God. By doing so you will be of those that benefits greatly from this forthcoming month. It is the month in which these blessed words of God were conveyed to the blessed Prophet (May God’s peace and blessings be upon him) by the Angel Gabriel and then to us, “a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion” (Quran 2:185).
If you prepare and put forth effort then God will facilitate a way for you, for God is forever in the service of His servants, “So fear God as much as you are able and listen and obey and spend [in the way of God]; it is better for your selves. And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul - it is those who will be the successful” (Quran 64:16). Ramadan is a time that will test you, it will call upon you to exert yourself to your fullest but if you do so, if you persevere, then you will find yourself among those that are successful. May God facilitate our success.