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Ramazan is on its way - Are You Ready?

Success in whatever we do depends on how clear we are on the objectives we want to achieve and how well we plan for it. Even a recreational ...

Success in whatever we do depends on how clear we are on the objectives we want to achieve and how well we plan for it. Even a recreational activity such as going on a vacation takes much planning. It is not feasible for a person to simply just get up and depart to a vacation destination without planning, especially if one wants to have a good vacation or recreational activity.  For example, if one is going to Disney World, usually planning is done months in advance for the trip. In addition to making traveling and accommodation arrangements, people consult friends, read literature and research on how to get the most benefit while there. Time and effort is spent deciding which rides and sites to visit, in what order and at what times of the day so that one can get the maximum benefit at minimum cost in a reasonable time. People make significant efforts to plan the trip because it means so much to them to make such a trip.
 What does Ramadhân mean to you? Does it mean more to you than going for a vacation or to Disney World? Are you mentally and psychologically ready to attain all the goodness Ramadhaan has to offer? Are you then spending enough time and taking pains to plan how can you get the most benefit from the opportunity Ramadhaan affords you? 
Some people do plan for Ramadhaan, but that planning is only to the extent of who to invite for Iftaar and what special foods to prepare or how to get the best deal on dates? But is this the type of outcome that is the objective of Ramadhaan?
The objectives of Ramadhaan are to:
q       Increase our Taqwa
q       Make us more charitable
q       Prepare us for life-long Jihaad, and
q       Strengthen our relationship with the Holy Qur-aan.
So, what are the action plans you want to undertake during Ramadhaan so that when it departs, you have seen significant growth in your Taqwa, you are more giving, more involved in Jihaad and more tuned to the Qur-aan?
Ramadhaan is a wonderful opportunity to help us fine-tune our normal patterns of behaviour thereby changing us for the better. We can ask ourselves the question: What areas of our personality, attitude, behaviour, daily routines and lifestyle, etc. do we need to change to bring us closer to the Islamic standard?
What aspect of your life have you decided to improve on during this Ramadhaan and what are your plans for achieving this change?
We all need many changes and many improvements. None of us is perfect and our list of proposed improvements can be exceedingly long if we were being honest with ourselves. Naturally, one cannot pick a big list and work on all those areas in one month. The best approach is to pick only a few items where the most important change is needed and to devise a plan to make a definite improvement in those area(s) this Ramadhaan. Success in making the change would make you a winner this Ramadhaan and the month will be one of great triumph and blessings for you.
If you have decided to make this a meaningful and triumphant Ramadhaan by identifying areas requiring improvement and if you have prepared a plan of action, may Allaah (SWT) assist you and bless you for taking this step in your life. Congratulations on a good start!
My Plans This Ramadhaan
 How should we -- simple, ordinary Muslims -- spend this fasting month so that at the end of the month we feel inner joy and true happiness knowing that our 'Eed day will be the day of celebrating rewards from Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala?
Here is a sample plan that you can use for that purpose:
 This Ramadhaan, I will establish a close relationship with the Qur-aan. I will give the top priority to knowing and understanding the contents and message of the Qur-aan. I will recite and study the Qur-aan with translation and tafseer regularly and steadily throughout the month from a good, authentic English translation and Tafseer such as the one by Imam Maudoodi (The Meaning of the Qur-aan) or by Syed Qutb (In the shade of the Qur-aan). I will not sleep after Fajr, but instead study the Qur-aan until I am ready to go to school or work. Throughout the day, I will find time to revise and re-learn the Soorahs and Aayaat I already know. Once that is completed, I will learn at least one Aayah a day from a Soorah I do not already know.
This Ramadhaan, I will sleep early, soon after Ishaa. I will go to bed with clear and conscious intention of fasting the next day, as well as with the intention of getting up early for Tahajjud. Then, while remembering Allaah, I will fall asleep.  I will get up well before Suhoor time, thanking Allaah for giving me life, offer Tahajjud and then make special Duaa for the mercy of Allaah on our Ummah, His help for its success and well being, and His interference to foil the plans of the enemy. I will also make special Duaa that Allaah protects my Ummah, my family and me from the Dajjaal and his Fitnah.
 Just for this month, I will not watch TV at all. My knowing of what is shown in the news does not affect any affairs of the world. Watching the news causes only frustration, despair and anxiety. If I do not watch for a month, it will not have any impact either on me, my Ummah or the world at large. I would rather spend the month on my personal improvement, personal spirituality and building a close, personal relationship with Allaah, rather than on an activity where I cannot make any difference.  (Unless I am one of those few Muslims who write letters, articles or op-ed pieces to TV producers / anchors, paper editors / columnists, politicians and media in general to make Islamic points or to stand up for the Ummah. If I am one of those, I should continue this Jihaad in Ramadhaan).
While fasting, I will make a special effort to speak only to add value and to say only what is true, factual, positive, meaningful and useful. When I do not have anything good and useful to talk about, instead of saying anything else, I will remember Allaah through the beautiful words taught by our Prophet, while paying attention to their meanings and feeling the impact of the words on my heart, my mind, my thoughts and my attitude. Or, if I do not know them, I will learn those words of remembrance or prayer. Or, I will spend those moments to recite the portions of the Qur-aan that I know or learning those I do not. 
 I will not lend my ears to anything that is useless, indecent, negative, spiteful or inappropriate. In my car, I will listen to the Qur-aan or some good speech of a reputed scholar. If my car CD player has a feature that allows it to repeat the same piece over and over again, I will use it to help me learn new verses or Soorah. Similarly, while riding the transit or subway, I will use my pocket-sized Qur-aan or book of Prophet's du`aas to recite, practise or revise those I know or learn those I do not know.
 This Ramadhaan, I will particularly watch my gaze. While glancing on a member of opposite sex, I will move my gaze away before I start evaluating or assessing the attractive features of looks, appearance or personality or before I start paying attention to or begin enjoying those attractions. I will not participate or listen to the comments of sexual nature that my colleagues, peers or friends make. 



 While remembering Allaah in many other ways, I will more frequently ask for Allaah's mercy in the first 10 days of Ramadhaan (Yaa Ĥayyu Yaa Qayyoomu, bi-raĥmatika astagheethu), invoke Allaah's forgiveness in the second 10 days (astaghfirullaah-al-azheem-alladzi laa ilaaha illaa huwa-al Ĥayyu-l-Qayyoomu wa atoobu ilayh) and seek salvation from the Fire in the last 10 days (Rabbanaa aatinaa fi-ddunyaa ĥasanatanwa fil-aakhirati ĥasanatanwa qinaa adzaab-annaar). During the last ten nights, I will frequent the du`aa: Allaahumma innaka 'afuwwun, tuĥibbul 'afwa, fa'fu 'annee. 
 This Ramadhaan, I will be exceptionally charitable. My heart will be ameliorated and my purse will be widely opened, when tears fill my eyes on seeing, hearing or thinking of the scenes of devastation, disease, starvation, agony, displacement, killings, blown up bodies and severed limbs of poor, helpless people caused by man-made disasters as in Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Chechnya and Kashmir or by natural disasters as in New Orleans or in the areas hit by Tsunami. I will send all my Zakaah for their help right at the beginning of Ramadhaan through trustworthy Islamic charities. In addition to my Zakaah, I will pay whatever I can spare from my family's necessities for helping those in dire need. If I have been paying my Zakaah to my relatives, this Ramadhaan, I will help my relatives from my other savings and resources, so that I can pay Zakaah to the victims of state terrorism or natural disasters. I will avoid spending money on my home decoration or getting new clothes for 'Eed or buying more video games and toys for my children, so that those who are in more need than me and my family can be helped. I will even pay my Fitrah very early in Ramadhaan so that it can reach those displaced from their homes before 'Eed and before the weather becomes too cold.
Also this Ramadhaan, I will be generous and forgiving to my family, friends and the Muslim community at large. I will clear my heart from anger complaints, suspicion, jealousy, grudges or dislike against any of them. I will be extra kind, accommodating, courteous, supportive and helpful to my non-Muslims neighbours and colleagues. I will find ways to have them participate in the blessings of Ramadhaan and happiness of 'Eed by sharing my food specialties with them or giving gifts and chocolates to them. 

 This Ramadhaan, I will decline all invitations to dinner meetings with non-Muslims because every moment in this month is too precious to be spent on those activities. And this Ramadhaan, I am going to take my vacations in its last 10 days, so that the precious opportunity offered by those days can be fully utilized for developing my spiritual relationship with Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala.

 I will kick at least one of my bad habits such as arriving late for appointments or breaking promises. I will show up or do what I indicate I will do and I will show up or do so on time. If I am a smoker, this Ramadhaan, I will not smoke even after Iftaar, before Suhoor or at night. I will keep my mouth odour free for prayers and Allaah's remembrance and my lungs, blood and heart from disease.

If I am a university student whose final exams are falling in Ramadhaan, my act of worship is to do my utmost best to study hard and get the best possible results, given that any moment that is not spent on studying is not spent in any other pursuit except in the remembrance of Allaah or study of the Qur-aan. While travelling to/from or within campus or while taking a break from studies, I will automatically shift to remembrance of Allaah or recitation of the Qur-aan. For my studies, I will keep timings that are consistent with the spirit of Ramadhaan, i.e. sleep early and get up very early. Instead of staying up late at the risk of missing Suhoor or Fajr, I will adjust my body clock to Islamic lifestyle instead of the western lifestyle. When I get up to study at 2 or 3 AM, I will start with two Raka'at of Tahajjud and then continue with my studies. After Fajr, I will still spend 15-20 minutes on the study of Tafseer even on exam days.
If we succeed this Ramadhaan in living as planned above, we will be able to look back and rejoice on the day of 'Eed.
Having Taqwa, Attaining Tazkiyah
Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala commands:
"O Believers! Adopt Taqwa of Allaah; watch what each of you provides for Tomorrow (Hereafter); and again, maintain Taqwa of Allaah. Indeed, Allaah is aware of what you do. And do not be like those who forgot Allaah, and as a consequence, He caused them to forget their souls (their own well-being)." (Al-Hashr 59:18-19)
The attitude and approach of a Muslim towards the affairs of life that distinguishes him from a non-Muslim is called Taqwa. It is a paradigm shift resulting from a continual awareness, remembrance and consciousness of Allaah brought about by a true faith in Allaah (Eemaan).
Taqwa is an attitude of keeping one's duty to Allaah and a paradigm of care, caution and avoidance in the following sense:
·         Being willing, eager and careful to fulfill one's duties to Allaah in every aspect of life.
·         Being conscious of our accountability to Allaah and being mindful that He is well aware of all our actions, intentions, thoughts and behaviours.
·         Being cautious not to get involved in anything that is prohibited or leads to something that is prohibited by Allaah.
·         Being particular about maintaining a lifestyle that will avoid incurring the displeasure or punishment of Allaah.
As per the paraphrased discussion between Ubayy Bin Ka'ab and Umar (may Allaah be pleased with them) Taqwa is: Living one's life as carefully as one holds his clothes closer to his body while passing through a dense jungle of thorny bushes in order to protect his clothes from being caught in any of the thorns.
To capture all the aspects of Taqwa in translation is difficult. Hence, different scholars have translated Taqwa as being God conscious, keeping one's duty to Allaah, or fearing Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala. In fact, Taqwa is all these things.
Taqwa is the source of all virtues and goodness. It is the catalyst that reforms a person from inside. Once a person's paradigm shifts genuinely towards Taqwa, he embarks on a path of continuous self-improvement. He monitors his own thoughts, motives and actions to ensure that they remain pure and aligned with the guidance of Islam. He becomes motivated, eager and enthusiastic to do good, or rather excel, in his ethics, morals, dealings, human relations, and every aspect of his conduct in day to day life. He tries his best to avoid any bad behaviour in any affairs of life. Good actions please him. Mistakes give him anxiety, in which case he immediately repents, seeks Allaah's forgiveness and makes up for them by doing more good. He loves Allaah's creations and cares for them. He becomes generous, gracious, forgiving and kind. He becomes a champion for the rights of the weak, neglected, disadvantaged and persecuted people of the society. He courageously stands up and struggles for the establishment of justice, fairness, equity and equality of all people. He dedicates himself selflessly, never expecting or accepting any thing or any benefit in return because his goal is Allaah's pleasure, mercy and forgiveness.
This process of ongoing, continuous self-improvement in terms of one's thoughts, motives and actions regarding all affairs of one's life is called Tazkiah (Purification).
Thus, true faith makes a person continually remember Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala with love and awe. This all results in an attitude of  Taqwa which, if properly understood and adopted, results in purification (Tazkiah). The result is a person at his/her best – the best a human being can be.
For such a person, the good news is: "Successful is indeed he who purifies." (Al-A'alaa 87:14)
Ramadhaan and Jihaad
Ramadhaan is a month of Jihaad in two ways:
·        The successful defense at Badr against the first Makkan attack (on the 17th) and the final victory over Makkans (Conquer of Makkah on the 20th) both happened in Ramadhaan.
·        Sowm used to be a process of training horses to endure hardship and develop endurance whereby they were kept hungry and thirsty but driven extra hard during the hours of Sowm.
Muslims are Allaah's troopers who have been charged with the responsibility of establishing a peaceful, just, fair, caring, sharing, loving, righteous, pious and clean society (i.e. an Islamic society). They are expected to remain engaged in a lifelong struggle to initiate, develop, establish, maintain and expand that society. This lifelong struggle, called Jihaad, is such an important responsibility for every Muslim that anyone not seriously contemplating it has been regarded as hypocrite (Munaafiq) by our Prophet Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam.
This Jihaad includes changing one's own behaviour to the Islamic way; influencing one's family, friends and relatives to practice Islam completely; inviting one's neighbors, colleagues and citizens of one's town to Islam; starting the Islamic movement in one's locality; helping Islamic movements in the world; helping oppressed people of the world in general and Muslims in particular; etc. All this Jihaad work can be done in multiple ways through word-of-mouth, written words, good actions and behaviour, charitable acts, etc., as long as each action fits in an overall strategy developed to achieve clear time-lined goals and objectives. 
If Jihaad for clearly defined goals is so critical a responsibility that shirking it puts your faith (Eemaan) in question; if Ramadhaan is the month of Jihad that reminds and prepares you for this responsibility; and, if you have heard Allaah calling you for Jihaad when reciting or listening to Soorah Al-Baqarah, Aali-Imraan, An-Nisaa`, Al-Anfaal, At-Towbah and Al-Hajj,
What Jihaad activities are you doing nowadays?
What have you done today and what do you plan to do within the next week?
What do you want to achieve within a month, within a year and the next three, five and ten years?
Tomorrow, when Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala asks you, "I called you to do an extremely important task for me, what did you do?" What would be your response? Would you say:
·        "What task, O Allaah? I did not know you called? I did not read/listen to the Qur-aan."  Or, "I recited the Qur-aan and listened to it as well, but could not understand your call." Or, "I recited and listened to the Qur-aan for Blessings. Was I supposed to respond to its call as well?"  Or,
·         "O Allaah, I heard you calling when I was reciting the Qur-aan in Ramadhaan and when I was listening to it in Taraaweeh prayers, but I chose to disregard it." Or, "O Allaah, there were problems in our community. The circumstances were not right. I alone could not have done much. So I just went to the Masjid, quietly prayed and came back home."  Or,
·         "O Allaah I was too busy in Masjid politics and too caught up in fighting for subsidiary, insignificant and/or irrelevant Fiqh issues that I did not have time or energy to do what you were calling me for."
Do you think any of these responses will be acceptable to Allaah SWT?
Wouldn't it be better if you could rather say, 
"O Allaah, I listened to you and I obeyed. I did my best in the circumstances. Whatever little capabilities I had, I dedicated them for your cause. Please, my Merciful Lord, accept my humble efforts and reward me with your limitless grace and generosity."
Can you imagine the sweetness of the response that Allaah will give to this last answer!
So, what are your action plans to perform Jihaad of changing lives for the better, your main duty to Allaah SWT?
If we succeed this Ramadhaan in living as planned above, we will be able to look back and rejoice and feel inner joy and true happiness knowing that our Eid day will be the day of celebrating rewards from Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala.
Copyright©2004, Ayub A. Hamid
Permission is granted to circulate among private individuals and groups, to post on
Internet sites and to publish in fulltext and subject title in not-for-profit publications.
Contact author for all other rights, which are reserved.
Please note: The quotations of the Qur`aan in the above Ramadhaan article, are not literal translations.
Instead of  literal translations, it gives interpretive meanings of the verses, along with their
contextual details. Please remember that any translation of the Holy Qur`aan is in fact
only an expression of the translator's understanding of  the
Word of Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala,
and hence cannot be equated with the Qur`aan itself.
Only the original Arabic text can be called the Holy Qur`aan.
by Ayub A. Hamid