Every year at this time, we are reminded of the spiritual dimension of fasting. It’s not just about abstaining from food, drink and sensual pleasures. It’s also about fasting from spiritual bombs such as backbiting and lying. And so on.
For many of us though, as years pass by, the arrival of Ramadan brings a feeling of déjà vu. We find ourselves in the same routine, eating the same type of food, attending the same iftar parties and engaging in the same acts of worship.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some ways we can enrich our Ramadan and make it different, for the better:
• Take advantage of the shorter nights: The time between the end of taraweeh prayers and suhoor (the pre-dawn meal) will only be a few hours. If you can afford to sleep in the next morning, use that time for worship or use it for doing chores around the house, working out or playing sports with friends. Rest during the day and you’ll be refreshed come time for iftar, Isha and taraweeh prayers.
• Stay at the masjid overnight: I’tikaaf (retreat in the masjid) is recommended in the last 10 nights of Ramadan, as was regularly done by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). But it can also be done at any other time. So if you have the time, spend the night in the masjid. Bring your suhoor with you and go home after offering Fajr prayer in congregation. If you bring children with you, please make sure they are with you at all times.
• Avoid overburdening iftar parties: The reward for feeding a fasting person is huge. But there are better ways to gain that reward than spending valuable time planning and cooking for elaborate iftar parties for your circle of friends. For example, you could cook for those who would truly appreciate your delicious cooking, such as students and people without families. If you and your friends really want to get together for iftar, plan for each family to bring a dish. This way, everyone gets to feed others and share in the blessings. Better yet, get together at the masjid and share the meal with strangers, spreading genuine kindness.
• Change your eating habits: Nowadays, more than ever, it is extremely important to have nutritious meals in Ramadan. With the long fasts, your body has got to receive the nutrients it needs to make it through 29 long, hot days. The foods you find tasty and are used to eating in Ramadan may not be what your body needs. Take that into account and if it means letting go of tea in the morning and fried foods in the evening, just do it. (For tips on a healthy eating in Ramadan, visit my website at www.sikander.ca and search for “Ramadan guide”.)
• Donate to a different charity, everyday: Make this a family project. Compile a list of 29 charities you want to donate to. Ask your children to explore the work of each charity and write out envelopes to each one. Then mail out a cheque, even if it’s for a small amount, everyday. Not only will you be rewarded for giving charity on every day of the blessed month, it’ll also build concern for others and the spirit of giving in your family
• Resist the temptation to daydream during taraweeh prayers: Maintaining your concentration through over an hour of prayers can be challenging, especially if you don’t understand classical Arabic. One way to change this is to look over the translation of the next portion to be recited, so that you can have a sense of what’s being recited and can ponder over its meaning and implications. You can also try focusing on specific words that you understand and think about how they relate to Islam, Allah and you.
• Hold a daily family halaqah (study circle) before iftar: Try to have iftar preps done 15 minutes before sunset. Then gather your family in a circle and spend the next 10 minutes reading a commentary of the Qur’an, a collection of ahadith such as Riyadh as-Saliheen, stories of Prophets or other Islamic material. Spend the final five minutes before sunset making du’a, individually or collectively, as it is a very special time for making supplications.
May Allah grant us all the strength and opportunity to make this Ramadan better than ever. Ameen!