For some, the month of Ramadān is a
month of refraining from eating and drinking between dawn and sunset.
For some, it is the month of reading
more of the Qur’ān and saying more prayers and supplications plus the above.
For a few, it is the month of gaining a
sustaining and higher level of God-consciousness (taqwā) plus the above
to help with the purification of the soul (tazkiyah).
According to the Qur’ān, only the latter
group is aiming for what is really the goal of fasting in the month of Ramadān
Here is a collection of some practical
points that might help us getting closer to the latter group.
1. Having a plan
We are living in a very busy world where
we can easily find ourselves engaged in work all day and are quite tired during
the night. In this busy life the month of Ramadān passes very fast and before we
know it we will reach the day of Eid. It is very wise to have some plans to
determine and decide what special things we want to and can do during this month
and how best we can accommodate them in our busy life schedule.
2. Does not matter if you cannot fast
Many people might not be strong enough
or healthy enough to fast especially if they are living where the summer daytime
is extremely long. There are also those who might be travelling during all or
part of the month of Ramadān. Sometimes people think that if they do not fast,
then the month of Ramadān is not for them and they cannot get any benefit from
it. This is wrong. One who has a genuine excuse for not fasting can still
benefit from the month of Ramadān. Most of the points that are given in this
article are equally related to those who cannot fast. In fact, having more
energy than those who fast, they may even do better in adopting some of these
3. Cleaning any anger and hatred towards
others from our heart
To attempt to increase our taqwā for the
sake of tazkiyah while having a grudge and anger in our heart against a fellow
human being is like trying to fill up a broken bottle with water. We need to do
what it takes to erase any anger and hatred towards others from our heart.
4. Deciding what increasing taqwā means
for us and setting it as an aim of our month of Ramadān
This point seems to be the core
requirement for those who want to attain more taqwā in the month of Ramadān. If
we want to really aim for the real objective of the month of Ramadān, then we
need to carefully study our soul in an attempt to recognise its weaknesses. This
can be anything: becoming angry very easily, offending others, becoming offended
very easily, being lazy in our prayers, becoming worried very easily, behaving
badly with others, not thinking about the right of others, eating a lot,
sleeping a lot, wasting too much time, etc. No one can tell us better than us
what these weaknesses are. We will then decide that in this month of Ramadān we
want to eliminate or improve (not all but) one, two, or only a few of these
weaknesses. If we take the opportunity to use the month of Ramadān to take the
selected weakness/es out of our system for good, then by the grace of God we
have managed to meet the real aim of the month of Ramadān.
This point is really the backbone of the
idea behind this article. It therefore deserves some elaboration. There are a
few tips that can help with the above:
- Starting the month with repenting
Since we want to get rid of some bad
habits and practices in this month it makes perfect sense to start the month and
in fact enter the month with offering a repenting prayer. This simply means to
perform two rak‘ah prayers and then to ask God to forgive us for that or those
habit/s or practice/s that we are now determined to throw out of our system
during the month of Ramadān and for good.
- Praying to be successful in our
Obviously, we have general requests in
our prayers plus specific requests for others and ourselves. However beside
these, we also need to specifically ask the Almighty to help us with our
decision and determination to get rid of that/those selected weakness/es, as
discussed above. Even when we read the Qur’ān, while learning and benefiting
generally from it, we will see if we can get any inspiration or guidance from
the Qur’ān with regard to this challenge that we have decided to face.
- Controlling and monitoring
In order to be successful in our
determination to remove one or more of our weaknesses, we need to closely and
carefully review our performance every day to see whether we are doing well,
whether we need to adjust a few things to assist with our aim and whether we
need to correct and rectify any shortcomings in our progress towards the aim.
- Fasting not just in eating
The best way of thinking about how to get rid of some of
the weaknesses of our soul is to consider “avoiding them” as part of our
fasting. Fasting from food and drink means refraining from eating and drinking
during only a limited time of a day in the month of Ramadān. Fasting from what
we have selected to correct in ourselves in the month of Ramadān does not have
any limits and will become part of our personality by the end of the month of
Ramadān so it will never end.
5. Offering proper Tahajjud
We know that the Prophet (sws) has
advised us that if we cannot offer the tahajjud during its real time,
then we can offer it after the ‘ishā prayer. We also know that during the month
of Ramadān, traditionally many Muslims seize this opportunity and offer their
tahajjud prayer after ‘ishā in congregation and that is what
gradually was called tarāwīh. Point number five is to offer proper
tahajjud at least during the month of Ramadān. That is, saying it
individually after midnight and preferably in its best time i.e. the portion of
the night that is closer to the time of dawn. During our tahajjud, if we
like, and if we have not memorised much of the Qur’ān, we can hold the book in
our hands and read from it. We can determine how many verses or pages to read in
every rak‘ah before doing the last three ones. We do not need to
aim to finish the Qur’ān by the end of the month and we can be flexible and
sometimes read only short Surahs of the Qur’ān if we are too tired or need to
wake up early the day after. Note that this does not suggest that participating
in tarāwīh prayer is wrong.
6. Praying for others
It is better if we always start our
prayers to God by glorifying Him and counting His blessings in our life, then
asking general and specific goodness and help for all and then for those close
to us in particular our parents, kin and friends and only then for ourselves.
7. Giving charity
Giving a bit more than normal as charity
during this month can have a tremendous effect on us.
8. More attention to the quality of our
We need to use the month of Ramadān to
give special attention to the quality of our daily prayers. The key effect of
the prayer is manifestation of one of the sentences that we read repeatedly
during every prayer, that is, “Only You we worship and only You we seek help
9. Reading the Qur’ān while pondering
upon the meanings
Reading the Qur’ān without pondering
over its meanings is still helpful but is nowhere near the way that we are
supposed to read the Qur’ān. There is no need and no obligation to read the
Qur’ān in haste aiming to finish it in the month of Ramadān. Reading the Qur’ān
should be in the form of dialogue, in that, we read the message of the Almighty
and then we reflect on it by our “mind” and “heart” and where appropriate by the
“tongue” (like praying for Paradise when we read its description, seeking God’s
mercy when we read the description of Hell, thanking God when we read about His
10. Talking to God
Every prayer and every narrated
supplication is talking to the Almighty. While these are very rewarding, we
should also develop the ability and the habit of talking to God on our own
initiative. We should be able to talk with Him in private and to say whatever we
would like to say to our Lord and Creator. We do not need to worry about what to
say and how to say as He is the most merciful and kind and He loves us more than
a parent loves a child. We need not to think of a special way of doing this, we
can simply open our heart and talk. We might find it difficult at the start but
once we get used to it we will be able to enjoy it and see the benefit. Nothing
replaces the happy and peaceful feeling of a servant of God who is shedding
tears of joy while talking with his Lord where no one else can see him.
11. Pondering over God’s names
There is a reason that God’s attributes
are mentioned in the Qur’ān. Pondering over these attributes and thinking about
them and their effect on us have a great influence on our soul. Calling God and
praying to Him by these names (like for instance Basīr – All Seeing, ‘Alīm – All
Knowing, Hakeem – Wise, …) can help a lot in putting us on the right spiritual
12. Reminding ourselves about death and
making it a well-established fact in our heart
It is easy to “know” we will die someday and as a Muslim it
is also easy to “know” there will be a Hereafter. What is difficult is to
establish the concept in our heart in a way that it positively affects our
relationship with our Lord, with others and with ourselves. If we remind
ourselves about death and Hereafter and their implications this might help with
establishing the concept in our heart. The aim is not to be sad or disappointed,
but to be motivated enough to prepare for what will certainly happen which will
also help us to have a happier life in this world.
13. Not to go to extremes at the time of
The point of fasting is not to postpone
the amount of the food that we were supposed to eat only to have it all in one
go during iftār (and perhaps adding even more to make it more pleasant!).
Iftār is for us to break our fast so that we do not fall in hardship.
There is absolutely no problem with enjoying the food and having what we like to
have. However we need to make sure that we will not go to extremes. After all,
how can deeply ponder over the Qur’ān and a diligently offer tahajjud
after midnight and all the other things we want to do for our spirituality if we
have filled our stomach with so much food that we can hardly move or stay awake?
14. Taking care of the tongue!
We did discuss getting rid of bad habits
and practices in point 4 above. The tongue of a human being however is such a
naughty thing that it deserves a special “tip” of its own. We will find that
during the month of Ramadān, controlling our tongue will become very relevant in
attaining taqwā. We need, of course. to talk with our family, colleagues
and those around us, however, especially during the month of Ramadān, there is
no harm if we also experience periods of silence to keep ourselves immune from
the potential problems that our tongue might bring us. We are specially advised
not to get involved in arguments in this month.
15. Not to miss opportunities to help
others or to be kind to them
We sometimes use fasting as an excuse to
lay back. We should not allow this to take away opportunities where we may be
able to help a fellow human being or where we can gain many rewards just by
being kind. These are short cuts in the path of purification of soul (tazkiyah)
that often many are neglectful about.
16. Understanding Islam better:
During the month of Ramadān, there can
be times that we like to spend for the cause of fasting yet we are not in the
mood of offering more prayers, etc. In other words, we might need a break from
our ritual worship while still longing to do something related to religion. In
this case, a good break would be to learn more about Islam from its original
sources and from those who have learned it from its original sources. Having a
correct understanding of Islam will help us with being better Muslims.
17. Thinking about ourselves
The last point described one way of
having a break from our ritual worship while still doing something related to
religion. Another thing we can and should do is for each of us to think about
him/herself. This means reviewing one’s life so far, thinking about the person
that one has become, the strength of one’s belief, one’s priorities, the way one
wants to spend the rest of one’s life. This overall means reflecting on one’s
life thus far in order to see where one is heading and whether any adjustment or
redirection is needed.
18. I‘tikāf (seclusion)
The idea of i‘tikāf is to
distance ourselves from the busy day-to-day life and to devote some special time
to improve our relationship with our Lord through worship, reading the Qur’ān
and thinking about God and us. The preferred way of doing this is to stay a few
days during the last ten days of the month of Ramadān in a mosque. However if
this is not possible for us, we can at least choose to stay for a shorter period
in a mosque. Even staying between two prayers can be considered as i‘tikāf.
It is important to note that we do i‘tikāf to have some private and
quality time with our Lord not to spend it chitchatting with people.
19. Seeking Laylah al-Qadr (the Night of
There is a reason why we are not advised by a divine
source as to what night the Laylah al-Qadr is. If the point was to simply hit
the correct night like hitting a target then we would have been told what that
night was. Instead, we are advised to “seek” it during the odd nights of the
last ten nights of the month of Ramadān. The point maybe is to prepare our heart
and make it so powerful that we would get the benefit we are seeking anyway,
even if we do not know what night the night of Qadr is and even if we
unintentionally miss it.
20. Do not commit Harām
The most important precondition of all
that is mentioned in this article is to not even go near what is made harām
for us. There is no place for taqwā if harām is still in play.
Doing lots of worship and then committing harām is like taking a handful
of water and then opening our hands wide. Almost nothing will remain!
21. Encouraging the family
It will help and create a helpful
environment if we encourage our family members to join in the plan of attaining
taqwā in the month of Ramadān. As appropriate, we may choose what things
to do together and what to do individually. Each (doing things together or
individually) have their own benefits.
22. Being aware of showing off
We need to be very careful not to show
off in doing any of our acts of worship. For instance if we find that a prayer
feels more enjoyable when we are doing it in front of others then that means we
are really enjoying the show off element of it rather than the prayer. If we do
something apparently for God but really or partially to show off, we are only
using the name of God as an excuse to serve our own ego.
23. Aiming to have a real Eid
We will and we should inshā’Allāh
celebrate Eid because that is when Muslims (who are healthy enough to do so)
have managed to follow our Lord’s instruction to fast during the month of
Ramadān. However, on the personal level the complete Eid is when we manage to
meet the objective of this month, that is, to be able to jump on a higher level
of taqwā. By the end of the month if we were successful in eliminating
the weaknesses we selected to work on (as in point 4) and if we have managed to
throw them out of our system for good then we will have a very good reason (on a
personal level) to celebrate Eid.
The above points by no means are the only things that we
may do to get the most out of the month of Ramadān. Obviously every individual
has his/her own ways of improving his/her taqwā as well.
May the Lord help us to value the month of Ramadān the way
it deserves and to follow the path of His best servants in this month.
It is narrated from the Prophet (sws):
مَنْ لَمْ يَدَعْ قَوْلَ الزُّورِ وَالعَمَلَ بِهِ، فَلَيْسَ
لِلَّهِ حَاجَةٌ فِي أَنْ يَدَعَ طَعَامَهُ وَشَرَابَهُ
The one who does not leave false [bad] talk and deed [in
the month of Ramadān should know that] God does not need him to leave his food
and drink. (Bukhārī, No. 1903)