Author: Dilshad Ali
Spiritually preparing for Ramadan wasn’t on my radar for a large portion of my life. It was so far off the radar, in fact, that fasting and praying my five daily prayers pretty much constituted the bulk of my spiritual-ness due to my son’s autism, family, work and other obligations. But, there is something to be said for actively thinking about and mapping out spiritual goals for Ramadan before the month begins.
1. Five for Five, or Five for 150
I’m sort of embarrassing myself by sharing this, but one of my most basic struggles is praying all five of my prayers on time. I find myself doing make-up prayers too often. Twenty years ago, when I was heading into my first Ramadan as a married woman and was pregnant and on bedrest with my first child, I called my oldest brother to lament about how lonely and disconnected I felt – married with a husband busy doing his internship year, in a new city, no friends, not fasting and on bedrest.
We came up with our Five for Five/Five for 150 campaign – a pact between him and I, between the two of us and Allah (S) to pray each of our five daily salah on time every day. Over the course of approximately 30 days of Ramadan, if we did each prayer on time, we would make it to 150 prayers offered with no make ups.
As the years have passed, I’ve kept up this goal each Ramadan for myself, and I know my brother harkens back to it as well from time to time. I’ve added to this goal over the years by pledging to read more sunnah prayers in addition to fard, or to pray tahajjud at least a few times a week. You can shape this prayer goal in anyway you like. It’s been an important touchstone for me over the years, helping me to be more regular and on-time in my prayers beyond Ramadan.
HH’s Community Manager Noor Suleiman told me that she takes an inventory of her Quran reading and salah before Ramadan begins to try and get on top of the basics. This way, she will already be set up for a good routine and can build on it during Ramadan.
2. Quran Goals That Work for You and Allah (S)
Many of us have Quran reading goals in Ramadan. Finishing the entire Quran in Arabic by reading one juz a day is the most common one I’ve heard and seen. But, how do we set ourselves for success in our Quran goals – whatever they are? Maybe you have a command of Quranic Arabic and can read quickly. Maybe you’re like me – a slow reader. What time of the day can be a good, consistent time for you to read, when you’ll have the time you need?
Perhaps you need to break up a juz into four quarters and read one after Fajr, Dhuhr, Asr and Maghreb prayers. Maybe post-suhoor is a good time for you. The point is, thinking about these logistics and deciding how and when you want to read the Quran will help you commit to actually doing it in Ramadan.
Melanie, our CEO, told me that she likes to make sure she finishes to completion her Quran reading prior to Ramadan so that she can make sure to start fresh when the month begins. I’ve also seen many women start their Quran reading a week or so before Ramadan so as to compensate for missed days of fasting and Quran reading that inevitably occurs when their period arrives. Do what works for you!
Perhaps your goal is to just read some Quran (with or without translation) daily, period. Doesn’t matter how much or how little. Even then, decide on a time when you can commit to it. Then there’s me. I could never, and I mean NEVER finish the Quran in Ramadan. I read Arabic very slow and had kids right after marriage. Then autism came into our lives with our eldest son’s diagnosis early on. Year after year Ramadan had been a time of me barely holding on, when my five-for-five prayer goal and consistent fasting was all I could muster.
About two years ago, the challenges of Ramadan and autism started easing up, and I stumbled across a Quran challenge Facebook – a friends’ husband, who is a hafiz (one who has memorized the Quran), would recite a chapter a day over YouTube. I’d listen while working or preparing iftar. If I missed that day’s recitation, I would catch up the next. If I had time, I’d get out my Quran and follow along while he recited, especially in the last ten days. It wasn’t truly me reading the entire Quran, but it made me feel so much closer to it.
3. Make a Dua List
This suggestion I heard from several people: Just like when going for Hajj or Umrah (or perhaps before going into labor if you’ve ever had a baby), make a list of duas (prayers) that you want to recite and ask for every day during Ramadan. As people make dua requests of you, add them to your list and then actively remember and ask for those duas at a designated time, or after each salah during the holy month.
4. Save Time in Ramadan by Planning Logistics Before
This tip is pretty well known and worth repeating. In order to shore up time for spiritual reflection and prayer in Ramadan, spend some time before the month begins taking care of different material and physical aspects. For example, Melanie told me she likes to plan the dates she is inviting people over for iftar ahead of time and get as many people over to her place for iftar on one night so that she doesn’t have to spend too much time away from ibadah (worship) in Ramadan. She also tries to plan her Eid outfit and Eid gifts for loved ones before Ramadan begins.
There are countless Ramadan meal prep plans online and shopping lists to prepare suhoor and iftar meals so that one doesn’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about and cooking the two main meals in a fasting day. Honestly, other than grocery shopping to get the things I know my family will want to eat in suhoor and after breaking their fast, I don’t do a lot of meal prep because it doesn’t take me a long time to cook, and it’s a nice break in my day when I catch up with my kids and/or listen to the Quran. I do let my family know that this is my Ramadan too – I can’t be expected to prepare elaborate meals, and that everyone needs to pitch in so that we can all have time for our worldly obligations and our spiritual goals.
Also, consider doing what HH writer Layla Abdullah-Poulos does with her family: Plan out family goals for Ramadan. What are everyone’s goals for Quran, salah, community service, who will be visited, tarawih prayers? How can everyone help each other to achieve those goals? At our home, consistently attending tarawih prayers is rare for me and challenging for my husband as well, with our autistic son’s strict bedtime routines as well as ongoing nighttime anxiety. I tend to stay home with him, but a few times a month my husband stays home so that I can go to the masjid with our other children. We compromise to help each other feel that Godly connection in Ramadan.
The biggest thing I’ve learned over the years is that Allah (S) will meet you where you are. If you simply cannot make it to the masjid on a regular basis, you can do your ibadah in your home. He will meet you there. If you make the intention to pray tahajjud prayers before Fajr, He will help make that easier upon you. Your spiritual goals can be as big or small as you need them to be. Just try and be consistent. The rest, Insha’Allah, will work itself out.
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