Oh you who believe! Observing As-Sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious.)” [al-Baqarah 2:183]
Throughout the year, Allah blesses His servants with numerous opportunities to get closer to Him. Sometimes through a special day such as the day of Arafat before Eid, or a special time such as the hours before Maghrib on a Friday. Coming upon us is the month of Ramadhan, a month in which Allah forgives His slaves for their sins and enables them to grow closer to Him. A month in which we can rectify all our negative traits and abide by the laws prescribed by our Lord, and taught to us by his prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhu wasalam. Although we have a whole month to get the maximum benefit out of Ramadhan, we must be conscious of the fact that time goes very quickly, and before we know it, Eid will be announced. It is for this reason that we should try our best to fulfill as many as the obligatory and supererogatory acts of worship during Ramadhan to achieve the objective for which Allah has bestowed upon us. I will state some of the necessary acts of worship we must perform and fulfill to, insha’Allah, get the maximum benefit out of this blessed month.
Fixing our intention:
No matter what we do in life, we must always make sure that our intentions are present, sincere and correct. Many of us may neglect the importance of intending to fast during Ramadhan, and doing so for the sake of Allah.
It was narrated by Ibn ‘Umar from Hafsah (may Allaah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever does not have the intention of fasting before Fajr, there is no fast for him.” Narrated by Imam Ahmad, the authors of al-sunan etc. SubhanAllah! From this significant hadith, we learn about the importance of intending to fast to ensure that Allah swt accepts it from us. Remember, you can intend to fast the whole month, or have a fresh intention to fast every day of Ramadhan before Fajr. The former might be easier to achieve in case any of us are forgetful.
Fulfilling obligatory acts of worship:
Fasting: This may seem obvious, but sadly, many Muslims actually refuse to fast during Ramadhan for whatever reason. Fasting is not a choice during Ramadhan, it is obligatory. It is a pillar amongst the five pillars of Islam and those of us who do not fulfill it are committing a grave, grave sin. Some of the pious predecessors even held the view that those who do not fast during Ramadhan have disbelieved. If you have exams during this month or you are not used to fasting, do not allow your fears to deter you from obeying this important command of Allah.
Salah: Also, some may fast during Ramadhan because the rest of the Ummah is doing the same, we are swayed by the Ramadhan vibe and enjoy the spirit of it, all the while neglecting something even more important than fasting such as the prayer. Know, that your fast won’t be of much use to you if you are not fulfilling other obligatory actions. Unfortunately, many Muslims fast and do not pray not realizing that prayer is the second in the pillars of Islam whereas fasting the month of Ramadhan is the fourth, this in itself, illustrates the significance of the prayer. If you’re not consistent with your prayers, do not enter the month of Ramadhan telling yourself that there is no point in fasting since you do not pray; rather make this the time you finally train yourself to obey this imperative command of Allah.
Develop a relationship with the Quran: Sadly, for many of us, the Quran has become a book we simply place on shelves as a manifestation of our Islamic identity. We no longer read, ponder or implement what is in it. If you are amongst these people, Ramadhan is the opportunity for you to rectify your relationship with the Quran, the literal speech of Allah. Keep in mind that it is during this blessed month that Allah revealed it, and the Sahabah would dedicate hours and hours on end reading and pondering over the speech of Allah during this month. Try and complete the Quran at least once by reading twenty pages a day. This may seem overwhelming, but all it takes is for you to read four pages after each of your five daily prayers. The Quran has about six hundred pages, Ramadhan is roughly thirty days, divide six hundred by thirty and you have twenty.
“The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’aan, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong)…” [al-Baqarah 2:185]
Remembrance of Allah: Ramadhan is a month about remembering Allah, separating your mind from all that it is distracted with throughout the year, and focusing solely on your Creator. Contemplate His Greatness and Perfection. Ponder over all that He has blessed you with. When you break your fast at Maghrib, remember that there are people around the world remaining hungry with their throats dry. Engage in lots of dhikr, as taught to us by the prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasalam, and continuously praise your Lord.
Being good to others: As human beings, we are prone to hurting those around us; either verbally, physically, emotionally or mentally. Many of us fall short during the year and neglect the rights of our fellow human beings, the rights of our parents or our neighbors. The rights of our friends or family members. If you have wronged someone and you know it, Ramadhan is the time to swallow your ego and make peace with that person.
If someone has wronged you, now is the time to tell the person and forgive them instead of holding a grudge. If our minds and hearts are focused on the harm we have been inflicted with by others, we will not be able to focus on Allah properly. Likewise, always take care to use the best words when addressing people during and after Ramadhan, but take special care during this month. Fasting isn’t only about restraining ourselves from eating, but also restraining ourselves from committing evil deeds.
The Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasalam, said: “Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it, Allah has no need of his giving up his food and drink.” Narrated by al-Bukhari.
Praying extra prayers: Praying taraweeh, the night prayer after isha, is one of the gems and beauty that comes with the month of Ramadhan. Muslims all around the world come together in the Masajid to pray these extra raka’at, it was a practice of the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam and his companions, and the reward for it is great: Narrated Abu Huraira: I heard the messenger of Allah saying regarding Ramadan, “Whoever prayed at night in it (the month of Ramadan) out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.” [Bukhari]. Try and engage in extra prayers during the day too, as well as taraweeh, such as the Sunnah prayers after or before each obligatory prayers.
Giving charity: Being charitable during the month of Ramadhan is something extremely virtuous. We have been blessed with so much from Allah, if it is only to give from what He has given to us: “Those who spend their wealth in the Cause of Allah, and do not follow up their gifts with reminders of their generosity or with injury, their reward is with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve” [al-Baqarah 2:261-262]
If you do not have the means to give money to those less fortunate than us, then there are many alternative ways in which you can be charitable such as offering food, giving away genuine compliments or helping your fellow muslim brothers and sisters.
Seeking the forgiveness from Allah: Ramadhan is the month in which Allah forgives His repentant slaves extensively. We should continuously make istughfar throughout the day, and sincerely repent to Allah while we are praying or making dua, and always remember that no sin is too big for Allah to forgive.
“Lest a soul should say, “Oh [how great is] my regret over what I neglected in regard to Allah and that I was among the mockers.” [az-Zumar 39:56]
Dua: Dua is one of the weapons a believer has been blessed with. Dua can change Qadr (the divine decree). It is the way through which we can ask Allah swt everything and anything we desire in this life and in the next. Make dua consistently to Allah during Ramadhan, ask Him to bless you and give you what is good in this life and in the next. Remember our brothers and sisters are suffering around the world, and ask Allah to send His help their way. Pray for those whom you know and do not know, ask Allah to change the state of our Ummah and to help the Muslims to regain their strength. Never underestimate the power which your silent requests to Allah may have.
I once heard someone say that it takes thirty days to develop or break a habit. When you take into consideration that Ramadhan is thirty days, you realise that this is a blessing Allah has bestowed upon us, as it gives us enough time to develop or break a habit. SubhanAllah. Ramadhan is present given only once a year, and none of us are guaranteed to witness the next. If Allah has made you amogst those blessed and alive to be able to witness this Ramadhan, make sure you strive not to waste this golden opportunity.