Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar during which Muslims take part in fasting every day from early morning to sunset for 30 days. Dates vary from year to year because the calendar is based on the lunar cycle. The fast is broken at the start of the next month with a feast called Eid ul Fitr.
Some years ago, there was a vibe about the way Muslims approached the holy month of Ramadan. Preparing for the blessed month had its own charm, its own flavour. But life has become so haphazard, so messy in the 21st century that we have forgotten the traditions of our Prophet (PBUH). Yes, He (PBUH) used to prepare in advance for the holy month of blessings! It makes all the sense in the world as well. You see, fasting doesn’t refer to just abstaining from food. Rather, you should think of it as a refresher course that tweaks your character back to a refined version.
Have you been wondering about how to get ready for the fasting period?, we have put together some top tips and we hope you get the most out of it.
1. Do voluntary fasting beforehand
One way to prepare for Ramadan is to fast voluntarily during part of the preceding month known as Shaban.
Fasting is not permitted in the second half of Shaban (starting from the 16th day) – except for those who regularly undertake fasting on some days. So if you already fast habitually – such as on one or two days of the week – it’s a good idea to keep this up in the month prior to Ramadan. But it’s definitely not advisable for anyone to fast on the last one or two days before Ramadan starts.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) fasted voluntarily in Shaban more than in any other month, saying: “That is a month occurring between Rajab and Ramadan that many people neglect. It is a month in which the deeds ascend to the Lord of the Worlds, be He Mighty and Majesty, and I love for my deeds to ascend while I am fasting.”
He also fasted regularly on Mondays and Thursdays, explaining: “Those are two days in which the deeds are presented to the Lord of the Worlds. I love that my deeds are presented while I am fasting.”
Others fast the 13th, 14th and 15th days of every month (these are called Al-Ayaam Al-Beedh, the White Days) so this could be another routine to try getting into.
2. Cut down on junk food and eat better
Another way to prepare is to cut down on any excesses in eating. Avoid snacks between meals and try to cut out fast food.
By sticking to nutritious meals at regular times, you’ll more easily adapt to the two daily meals (suhoor and iftar) that are allowed during Ramadan.
3. See a doctor
If you have any health conditions or persistent illnesses, see your doctor to find out if fasting is advisable.
Fasting during Ramadan is compulsory for all adult Muslims, except those who are sick, elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic or travelling.
4. Quit smoking
Fasting during Ramadan applies not only to food and drink but also to smoking.
Smoking is an addiction so it can be really hard to give up.
One way to offset the stress of trying to stop smoking during Ramadan is to cut down or give up beforehand, to ease yourself into the month of fasting more gradually.
Hopefully, the prayers and general focus on spiritual matters during Ramadan will help to make it easy not to think about reaching for a cigarette.
5. Change your sleep patterns
If you’re not a fervent worshipper, the changes to routine during Ramadan can be hard to stick to, especially if you are a late riser because of work patterns.
The first meal of the day before fasting begins- well before sunrise – means getting up principally early.
So you can try to adjust the times when you go to bed and get up before Ramadan begins if your work hours can accommodate that.
6. Pray and recite the Qur’an more often
Ramadan involves a lot of spiritual reflection – including prayers and recitals of parts of the Qur’an.
You could get into the habit now by reminding yourself of key religious texts and performing some additional prayers.
Those who recite the Qur’an beautifully, smoothly and precisely are said to be in the company of angels.
Those who recite with difficulty, stammering or stumbling through its verses, are said to have twice that reward.
Performing a few extra prayers will enable you to be ready for all the additional worship that takes place during the month of fasting.
7. Give more to charity
One of the five Pillars of Islam is Zakat, the giving of a fixed percentage of wealth to the poor and needy. And during Ramadan, when the focus is no longer on earthly needs such as food or sex, Muslims have time to focus more on their spiritual life. As a result, many worshippers pay their Zakat during Ramadan.
At the end of Ramadan, it’s then time for Zakat ul Fitr – an offering to the poor so that they too can celebrate the end of the fast with the feast of Eid ul Fitr, just like everyone else.
Muslims are encouraged to increase their acts of giving and kindness prior to Ramadan as well.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is quoted to have said: “Give charity without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity.”