By Talaat Pasha
Allah the Almighty has blessed us with special hours such as the pre-dawn hours (sahar); with special days such as Friday, the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah and the Day of `Arafah; with special nights, such as the last ten nights of Ramadan and the night of Power (Laylat Al-Qadr) and with special months like the month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. It is the most blessed month of the year. Since it is around the corner and as it is the case with respectful and dear guests that we get ourselves ready to receive them, we have to show Ramadan that it is the long-awaited-for guest.
In the rest of this article, we will try to pin down some practical tips to make the most use of this blessed time. We can make use of Ramadan to uplift our personality on three levels:
On the Individual Level
1- Start your day with light rak`ahs after Suhur and before Fajr Prayer.
2- Make sure to pray Fajr in congregation to be given complete light in the Day of Judgment that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) promised those who pray Fajr in the mosque.
3- Have a daily Qur’an reading assignment (wird). Reading one Juz’ (part) is the minimum that you can do in Ramadan. If you really cannot, then try to read as much as you can. If you have a recitation group after Fajr, this will help tremendously to make the task easy.
4- Assign to yourself that task of reading the tafseer of one juz’; knowing the meaning of the vocabulary and the context.
5- Try not to eat much. Follow the Sunnah (one third for food, one third for water and one third for air). This will help a lot in being attentive and not being lethargic during the Tarawih Prayer.
6- Challenge yourself to observe Duha Prayer. The Prophet said that this Salah is the one of the sincere and pious people.
7- Each day in Ramadan, teach yourself the meaning of Allah beautiful Names.
8- Take a nap to be able to stay focused during `Isha’ and Tarawih prayers.
I would like to finish this section by saying that the ultimate goal of Ramadan for a Muslim is to reorient and redirect his/her interests, change the things that keep the heart busy with material life.
On the Family Level
1- Some of the steps mentioned above can be done with family too, like gathering after Fajr Prayer, reading Qur’an etc.
2- Family contest: Have a daily contest which can take 10-20 minutes before Maghrib. Have a poster, ask each member to prepare a section in the poster; e.g. an ayah with meaning, a hadith with meaning, a piece of wisdom or short story and a quiz.
Family members may rotate in doing the different sections each day. It is suggested that parents take care of writing the quiz questions and the kids undertake preparing other sections.
Twenty minutes before Maghrib Prayer (or right after eating and before `Isha’), all family members gather and each one reads his or her section with brief comments. Then, a raffle is done to choose the winner of the day. Symbolic gifts and surprises may be offered.
3- Donate your Iftar: devote one day where you prepare one of your best Iftar and take it to your neighbor or at least share it with them. It does not matter whether your neighbor is a Muslim or not. This is a golden chance to get closer to your neighbor, introduce them to Islam and share the spirit of Ramadan with them.
4- If you cannot do # 3, you may replace it with a medium-sized sweet tray.
5- Choose one day where you can invite your friends and your children friends to iftar.
6- Create a program with questions and answers on Ramadan if guests come early.
On the Community Level
1- Most of the Muslim communities in the West have their own gatherings, depending on the size of a certain ethnic population. In the relatively small-size Muslim communities, people tend to have a daily iftar in the Islamic center where each group from a certain country offers iftar for the whole community. Join these collective activities.
2- Invite your non-Muslim co-workers or classmates to the Center and introduce them to other Muslims.
3- Choose a group of young youth and start together a project to help the community at large. The following are some suggestions:
– You can plan for a soup Kitchen, using the Masjid and a mobile vehicle.
– You may invite a guest speaker every Saturday.
– You may plan for an event that only for moms and daughters, and another for fathers and sons.
– Fast-A-Thon: an event where you ask interested non-Muslim to pledge to fast and have free iftar.
This way, we will have a productive month on all levels which in a way reflect the comprehensive nature of Islam. When we practice some or all the steps mentioned above for thirty days, this indicates that being positive and productive is becoming to be a habit and an integral part of our daily life.
Talaat Pasha has a doctorate in Arabic and linguistics. He chaired the department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Bahrain. He is now a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan, USA.