What You Need to Know Before Ramadan Begins
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Preparing for Ramadan
As Muslims, we should look forward to Ramadan just like the prior generations of Muslims used to do. Similarly, we should strive to understand the value and virtues of Ramadan the way they understood it.
Oftentimes, we assume preparing for Ramadan means preparing our iftars (the meal to break our fast) ahead of time, getting physically ready, or by planning social gatherings with friends and family to break our fast together.
Although there is nothing wrong with any of these things, if we look back 1400 years, we find that the Prophet (PBUH) and his Companions used to prepare for Ramadan in a completely different way.
1400 years ago we find that the Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet) prepared themselves ahead of time by busying themselves even before the start of the month of Ramadan. They increased in performing good deeds, making dua (supplication to Allah), asking for forgiveness and renewing their intentions.
A famous scholar of Islam, Ibn Rajab (May Allah have mercy upon him), mentioned in one of his books, that Mu`alla bin al-Fadhl said:
“They (the sahabah) would supplicate to Allah for six months to allow them to reach Ramadan. Then, they would supplicate to Him another six months to accept it from them.” (Lata`if al-Ma`arif p. 280, Dar Ibn Kathir, Damascus/ Beirut) by Imam Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (736-795 A.H)
From this we can see that the sahabah were eager to meet Ramadan by making sure they ask Allah to not only reach Ramadan, but to also accept their fasting as well.
In this chapter we will discuss the actions and supplications one can make to prepare for Ramadan based on the sunnah of the Messenger (PBUH) and his Companions. It will be divided into these 4 areas:
- Making Dua
- Increasing in Good Deeds
- Making an Intention
- Understanding When Ramadan Officially Begins
Looking at the sunnah of our Prophet (PBUH) and his Companions, there are various dua (ie. supplications, to call upon Allah) they said to prepare their hearts and minds for Ramadan.
To prepare for this holy month, we must learn how to make dua properly as the supplication of the fasting person is granted acceptance.
Moreover, we should also make supplications to Allah to allow us to reach the month of Ramadan as there is no guarantee when death will knock on our door. Below are some common duas that can be made.
Yahya bin Abi Kathir, a student of the Companions, said it was from their supplication:
اللهم سلِّمني إلى رمضان، اللهم سلم لي رمضان، وتَسلَّمه منّي متقبَّلا - Allahumma sallimnee ilaa Ramadhan, Allahumma sallim lee Ramadhan, wa tasallamhu minnee mutaqabbalaa - O Allah, commit me to Ramadan. Oh Allah, commit Ramadan for me. And receive it from me with acceptance.
Another common form dua that is usually made is:
اَللّهُمَّ بَلِّغْنَا رَمَضَان - Allahumma ballighna Ramadan - O Allah! Let us reach the month of Ramadan
Increasing in Our Good Deeds
A lot of us become excited and encouraged when we hear Ramadan is fast approaching and we assume that we will be very productive during it. However, when the time comes to push ourselves towards gaining the Pleasure of Allah (SWT) and increase in doing good deeds, we find ourselves in the same, mundane routine as before. This is because making abrupt changes is hard, especially when it concerns our daily habits.
Changing your daily habits is a process which requires time and effort; therefore it is recommended that we start increasing our good deeds in the coming months before Ramadan in order to avoid shock and disorganization during the advent of Ramadan.
By preparing this way, we can focus on improving our relationship with Allah (SWT) rather than being focused on changing our habits.
Before this blessed month approaches, we should be honest with ourselves and evaluate our relationship with Allah and His Book: the Qur’an. If we are not making time for Allah now, then how can we guarantee we will make time for Him during Ramadan?
This is why the Prophet (pbuh) gave the month of Sha’ban, the month before Ramadan, great importance. He (pbuh), would greatly exert himself with fasting.
Usamah ibn Zayd, may Allah be pleased with them both, said
“I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah (pbuh), I do not see you fasting in any other month like you fast in Sha'ban.’ He, (pbuh), said: ‘That is a month to which people do not pay attention, between Rajab and Ramadan, and it is a month in which deeds are lifted up to the Lord of the worlds. I like for my deeds to be lifted up when I am fasting.’”Reported by an-Nasaa’i, see Saheeh al-Targheeb wa’l-Tarheeb, page 425
In another hadith narrated by Aisha (R.A) she stated:
"…I never saw the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) fasting for an entire month except in Ramadan, and I never saw him fast more than he did in Sha'ban.” Reported by Al-Bukhaari, no. 1833; Muslim, no. 1956
The month of Sha’ban is often neglected for its virtue of fasting. This hadith is a lesson for us all; we should strive to increase our good deeds during the months preceding Ramadan in preparation for it. Even if it is a small action, it may be heavy in the Sight of Allah.
1. Make sure we are fulfilling our Islamic obligations
As Muslims, the obligatory actions must be our priority. You cannot come closer to Allah except by fulfilling your obligations to Him. Therefore, we must strive for their completion. This includes praying on time and praying in congregation at the masjid (for men).
2. Increase in our Sunnah and Nawafil Prayers
The Nawafil prayers are sunnah prayers performed daily in addition to the 5 daily prayers. They make up a total of 12 rakats: 2 before Fajr, 4 before Dhuhr and 2 after it, 2 after Maghrib, and 2 after Isha. We must strive to adopt the habit of praying them all as their reward is great.
“There is no Muslim servant of Allah who prays 12 extra rakats from other than the obligatory prayer for the sake of Allah Most High except that Allah makes for him (or her) a house in paradise.”Prophet Muhammad (Saheeh Muslim)
3. Reciting the Qur’an
We should increase our recitation of the Quran prior to Ramadan so that when the month comes, we are able to give it the attention it deserves.
It is recommended that you make a schedule for yourself so that you develop a close relationship with the Quran, especially during the last 10 days of Ramadan.
Helpful Tip: You can easily complete the whole Quran in one month. This may seem impossible, but, if you commit to reciting 1 Juz (1 section ~20 pages) per day you will reach that goal. You can break up 1 Juz into smaller chunks by reciting 4-5 pages after each of the 5 daily prayers.
An important reminder is to not be discouraged if you struggle with reading the Qur’an.
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
"Verily the one who recites the Qur’an beautifully, smoothly, and precisely, he (or she) will be in the company of the noble and obedient angels. And as for the one who recites with difficulty, stammering or stumbling through its verses, then he will have twice that reward."Sunan Ibn Majah 3779
4. Minimize Distractions
If we truly want to maximize our time in Ramadan then it is important to reduce screen time on our phones, laptops, and tablets as well as minimize any distractions. This will enable you to be more productive with your day so you can get more done during Ramadan.
5. Increase Repentance and Cut Out Bad Habits
It is also recommended to ask for forgiveness and come closer to Allah with proper repentance as Ramadan is the month of forgiveness. Forgiveness will clean and open up the heart, and make it easier for you to do more good deeds.
Ibn Taymiyah (R.A), one of the great scholars of Islam, said If the heart repents from the sins, the heart becomes strong, prepared, ready and willing to do righteous actions.
Before Ramadan arrives, we should prepare our hearts by getting rid of bad habits and abandoning sins. This requires dedication and a strong will because it takes time to adjust from something which is second nature to you (eg. addictions, etc.). We do not want our bad habits to negatively affect our iman (faith) and reduce our concentration during this holy month.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
"And repent to Allah Oh believers, all of you, so that you may achieve success.”Qur'an - Chapter 24, Verse 31
Making the Intention Before Ramadan Begins
The intention is one of the obligatory actions required for fasting in Ramadan or for any obligatory fast. In the hadith below it is mentioned that making intention in the previous night before the time of Fajr comes in, is required.
It was narrated from Hafsah that:
"There is no fast for one who does not intend (to fast) before dawn."Sunan an-Nasa'i 2337
For the month of Ramadan it is sufficient to make one intention for the whole month on the first night of Ramadan before the first dawn (Fajr time).
A person can make the intention in their hearts to fast the whole month of Ramadan. This intention is as simple as waking up with the intention to fast before Fajr (no verbal supplication is required for this; the intention is made with the heart).
This is the opinion of some scholars that took the view that in case of a repeated act of worship (in this case fasting the 30 days of Ramadan) it is sufficient to form the intention once before the action is done, and the intention is valid until something interrupts it, in which case a new intention must be formed.
A good example of this is if you must travel or become sick during Ramadan and you do not fast - your intention is broken and once you reach your destination or recover from your illness, you must renew your intention for the remainder of Ramadan.
Does one always have to make an intention when fasting?
The intention is a requirement only for an obligatory fast (Ramadan, making up missed fasting days in Ramadan).
It is not compulsory to make the intention the night before if it is a voluntary fast, such as Mondays, Thursdays and the 3 white days in the middle of each month (full moon) as the intention can be made afterwards if one has abstained from eating, drinking and intercourse from the previous dawn (i.e., the conditions of fasting have not been broken since dawn).
It is preferable/recommended to make the intention, between you and Allah for important voluntary fasts, such as Ashura, the day of Arafat, and the 6 days of Shawwal.
When Will Ramadan Begin?
This is a question that comes up every single year and it’s important for us to understand how to determine the beginning of Ramadan.
Ramadan begins when the moon has been sighted. If it has not been sighted then we will complete 30 days of Sha’baan (which is the month prior to Ramadan).
Abu Hurayrah (RA) said:
The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Fast when you see it (ie. the moon) and break the fast when you see it, and if it is cloudy then judge the month as thirty.” Saheeh Bukhari and Muslim
What’s important to remember with regard to moon sighting is that it must be done with the naked eye. Astronomical calculations do not count.
However, if the crescent moon is sighted with modern equipment, then this sighting may be acted upon. So long as it has been seen by one or two trustworthy Muslims who have reached the age of puberty and are sane, then it is obligatory to act upon this sighting.