For those who don’t know, Ramadan is the name of the month of fasting for Muslims around the world. It’s a lunar month, so it regresses 10-11 days each year. This means that every fifteen years or so, you’ll have fasted in every season of the year. We fast from sunup to sundown: no liquids (including water), no food, no smoking, no intercourse, and overall we should refrain from any kind of bad behavior (lying, backbiting, using foul language, arguing, etc.), as well as actively pursue more positive behaviors (giving charity, helping people in need, praying more, being kinder, etc.). Every able-bodied adult is required to fast, unless doing so may harm her/his health, or the health of their dependents (such as for a pregnant or nursing woman, an elderly diabetic, etc.).
Muslims believe that the Devil’s hands are tied throughout this month, so it becomes incumbent upon each of us to do our best, as we don’t have the excuse that the devil tempted us! Curiously enough, it does seem a lot easier to fast during Ramadan, than in any other month…
Ramadan is like a boot-camp for your soul. It’s not easy, but it’s not nearly as difficult as you might imagine, and the benefits far outweigh the hardships! Because it’s an intense month, it’s a good idea to prepare a few things ahead of time. Since Ramadan is less than two months away, now is the time to start preparing for it!
To help you get the best out of this amazing cleansing month, seasoned fasters suggest the following pre-Ramadan preparations:
- Clean the house thoroughly, do any fixing that needs to be done, heavy lifting, major repairs, and the like, so you don’t have to worry about it while you’re fasting;
- Clear your schedule of unnecessary activities, try your best to finish all major work projects, so you don’t find yourself pulling all-nighters due to low energy levels;
- Start cutting down on caffeine and nicotine, you will suffer for the first week regardless, but if you’re a heavy coffee drinker and smoker, you’ll be glad you tapered off, to avoid major headaches and other withdrawal symptoms;
- Let your colleagues, supervisors, and teachers know what’s coming, so they can schedule assignments earlier, or postpone them if needed. Some of your colleagues might want to join with you on a few days! Your kids’ teachers will be happy to include your kids’ holidays within the curriculum as they occur, and help them feel a deeper sense of community, by sharing what’s important to them. They might also ask you to give a presentation on it, so it’s a good idea to discuss this eventuality at least a month in advance;
- Prepare pizza dough, grated cheese, chopped parsley, tomato sauce, chickpeas, beans, and other freezables ahead of time, it’ll save you a lot of food preparation time when you’re getting ready to break your fast each night;
- Stock up on dates (they always become very expensive around Ramadan), if you’re trying to save some money, this is a good way to do it;
- Unless you love shopping around with your family in the last few days of Ramadan, or the end of Ramadan happens to fall on sale season, I highly recommend doing most of your Eid clothes shopping ahead of time. Hopefully you’ve been purchasing clothes as you found them on sale throughout the year, if not, I would caution against waiting for the last minute, as you may not find what you’re looking for, and you’d be wasting precious prayer and meditation time for the sake of less than ideal pursuits;
- Start thinking about how to schedule your workouts, some people keep their regular time, but cut down on intensity and time spent, others prefer to work out at night, others still might prefer to work out on a lighter stomach but be able to drink, so they opt for the hour prior to sunup. Choose what works for you;
- Start rereading the Qur’an and jot down questions and discussion points for further study and inquiry. Get ready to plunge into a deeper understanding of the book of Allah;
- If you haven’t already, purchase a good copy of the Qur’an, or bookmark your favorite site. I like http://quran.com/ because it contains most English translations, many other languages, AND lectures on the meanings of most verses given by some of my favorite scholars. In terms of physical books, I love taking notes and putting little sticky notes on all my favorites, and the Qur’an is no different, so I always try to have a hefty hard copy with me wherever I go. This year I’ll be using a new translation, but I won’t recommend it until I’ve read it. It’s in the mail, as soon as I get my hands on it I’ll let you know if it’s a good one.
- Brush up on your Arabic alphabet, so you can attempt to read the entire Qur’an in its original Arabic form. I also recommend listening to audio recordings, if your reading skills aren’t very strong, but try as much as you can to actually follow along with the text, it’s great practice and I find it quite beneficial to help you memorize;
- Try to find out when halaqas are being held in mosques near you. They sometimes cancel them for Ramadan, as people will be busy with breaking the fast and prayers, but they do normally hold weekly or bi-weekly community Iftars, which are a great opportunity to taste foods from all over the Muslim world AND get to know some of the members of your community!
- Non-Muslims might be very curious about this, and Ramadan is a great time to visit the mosque and get to see Muslims at their best!
“The month of Ramadan (is that) in which the Qur’an was sent down: a guidance for humankind, 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. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship, and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” (2:185)