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Ramadan is a month in the Islamic calendar which is completely devoted to fasting in its true sense. Muslims fast from all desires and pleasures in life, including the need for food, entertainment, and physical needs. Instead, your time is devoted to what is known in Arabic as Ibadah (worship of Allah almighty), reciting the holy Quran, spending quality time with family and doing good deeds to help those in need. It is a month that not only gets you closer to Allah but also helps you get closer to your loved ones, friends, relatives and acquaintances. In short, the holy month of Ramadan is a time for self-introspection, complete devotion, worship of your creator, and the spirit of giving to those in need. More importantly, fasting in Ramadan is one of the 5 pillars of Islam, making it obligatory for any devout follower with the health and means to practice fasting.
The month of Ramadan celebrates the night of revelation of the Holy Quran to our beloved prophet Muhammad (PBUH). In fact, many of the other pillars of Islam are very closely related to Ramadan. The other pillars of Islam being, Shahada (profession of faith), Salat (Prayer- 5 times a day), Zakat (giving Alms) and Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca).
How to Prepare for Ramadan
- Ramadan is around the corner and Muslims around the world are busy preparing for the most important month of the year. Preparing for Ramadan helps you with arranging your home in time for the activities and rituals practiced during the month and utilize every moment to its fullest, not to mention maximize the spiritual benefits that the month offers to Muslims.
- First and foremost, prepare to transfer all your knowledge about the holy month of Ramadan to the young ones around you. If you think you do not have enough knowledge about Ramadan or Islam that would educate your little ones enough, the go about collecting this information so you can spend time during Ramadan to go through it. There are quite a few subtleties that might invalidate your fast, so collect all information about how you can prevent this from happening.
- Go through your schedule and places you might be during the daytime in the month of Ramadan, so you may make adjustments to better suit your fasting during the day time. Also, the place that you might be and the time you are away might clash with your time for breaking the fast or Iftar. Your present schedule might not allow you to get up early enough, try to make adjustments to your schedule so that you can start early in the morning and have the pre-dawn meal or Suhoor well in time.
- During Ramadan, it is crucial that you eat as simply as possible, although it is easier said than done. In most cultures as in UAE or Saudi, the Iftar parties are elaborate with a lot of food going to waste. One of the great purposes of Ramadan is to abstain from all worldly pleasures including food all through this holy month, not only while you are fasting. So, the advice from scholars is to keep your meals simple, light and healthy. Simple enough to give you the energy to last till bedtime. Abstain from very oily, spicy or sweet meals at Iftar. What you eat will most definitely make your Tarawih prayers less pleasant. It is ideal to make a meal plan and stick to it through Ramadan.
- Set a time and a target for the recitation of the Holy Quran. While you are taken through the Quran during Tarawih, it is also a good and well-practised custom to recite the holy Quran on all days of the month of Ramadan.
- It would be ideal to set a place for your prayers, both at home and the workplace. You could use the same place for reciting the Holy Quran. Make the place remind you of all the things that are close to Allah, so you face the least amount of distraction during this personal time.
- While it is best to read the holy Quran using the actual book, there are alternatives in this age of mobile devices and apps. There are great apps that not only let you recite the Holy Quran but also help you with its translation in several languages. What’re more these apps are good with local prayer, Suhoor, Iftar timings and the direction of the Qibla. So, it may be a good idea to have one of these apps installed on your mobile devices.
- Keeping your surroundings especially the place of worship clean will ensure you feel the divinity of each and every act of devotion you offer to Allah. So, clean up your house, neighbourhood, place of worship in the run-up to Ramadan.
Finally ask Allah to grant you success in your planning, preparation and to accept prayers and alms offered to those in need.
How to Keep Your House During Ramadan
- You might have heard the saying; Cleanliness is . While you have to keep your house clean at all times, it is important that you pay special attention to this aspect as it is believed that angels visit houses during the month of Ramadan, especially during the night of revelation or Laylat Al Kadr.
- Human nature makes prayer or any act of devotion easily overlooked or skipped when compared to any form of entertainment. Try to keep all sources of entertainment to the minimum, if not avoid totally. Sheikhs advise that you avoid all forms of entertainment including television, movies, music and the like. This also applies to mobiles these days as most forms of entertainment are available through mobile phones. The general advice is to keep your entertainment or acts of pleasure to the minimum or avoid it totally.
- Many homes in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, decorate their homes and places of worship with banners and lanterns. Traditionally lanterns are used to welcome the holy month of Ramadan in many Islamic countries. Involve the little ones in your family in activities like creating banners or posters of inspiring hadith related to this holy month.
- Making a special room or a corner of your house as a place of worship will go a long way in ensuring you feel the divinity of the holy month. It is a priceless feeling to have the entire family congregate at a single place in the house for the purposes of prayers or recitation of the Holy Quran. You can decorate the place of worship in ways that remind you of the virtues you are striving to achieve in this holy month.
There are a few special days in the month of Ramadan, like Laylat Al Kadr that you might want to prepare your home or place of worship for.
Rituals Followed During Ramadan
There are many traditions related to this holy month and they vary by geographical region, but here are some of the common ones.
Ramadan also brings in an additional prayer, apart from the 5 times prayer, called the Tarawih. This is a special prayer intended to recite the entire holy Quran, spread over the entire month of Ramadan. This is a congregational prayer and offered at mosques in large congregations. Women and children can perform Tarawih prayers at home in small groups of friends, relatives and neighbours.
Ramadan etiquette for Non-Muslims
When almost the entire country is fasting, there are some etiquettes that are expected of non-Muslims. In fact, both non-fasting Muslims and non-Muslims are prohibited from eating, drinking and smoking in public during the fasting hours in the holy month of Ramadan. Even an act of chewing gum in a public space during fasting hours can attract a stiff penalty in countries like Saudi Arabia.
In the month of Ramadan, especially during fasting hours, it is advised to Not
- Engage in aggressive behaviour
- Wear clothing considered inappropriate in that country.
- Refuse an invitation for Iftar or reject a gift.
- May Allah, accept all your prayers and grant you forgiveness from all sins, and guide you on the right path. Have a divine and blissful Ramadan.