By Ameera Kiran Khan

“O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqûn.” (2:183)

Ramadan is fast approaching and it is about time we pick up the pace and prepare for this month in the right way. How do we prepare for a very important meeting or a crucial exam? Of course, we spend some time planning and drawing up a schedule to organize what needs to be done beforehand so that we are ready for the big day. The same level of dedication, even more in fact, should be seen when a month as important as Ramadan approaches!

It is often seen that at the start of Ramadan, there is a lot of excitement and zeal to make the best of this blessed month but then people begin to slack and go off track. Not setting the right foundation before Ramadan begins is one reason for that. The most important thing to remember here is that it is a great blessing and mercy from Allah(swt) that we are able to witness this month in the first place. When we realize this month is a valuable opportunity from Allah(swt) that we must not waste, that so many people who have passed away have not had this chance that we have, it is then that we can make the right foundation.

Allah(swt) commands us to fast and then tells us that the purpose of fasting is to become Muttaqoon – those who have Taqwa. Taqwa means piety or being conscious of Allah(swt), avoiding sin out of that awareness and willingly doing good deeds for His Pleasure. When you think about it, does everyone who fast become such a kind of person or even close to that at the end of Ramadan? If the answer is ‘no’ or something similar, we have missed the whole point of fasting. Sadly, that is what we are doing every passing year – not all of us, but many – and that is why Ramadan’s coming and going makes no lasting positive difference, may Allah guide us! This is reiterated in the following Hadith: Abu Huraira related that Rasulullah said: Many people who fast get nothing from their fast except hunger and thirst, and many people who pray at night get nothing from it except wakefulness (Darimi).

 Part of the reason for this sad reality is that we are not ready for Ramadan when it begins. Washing your face and sitting down at the table for Suhoor on the first day of Ramadan is not what preparing for Ramadan is about. Checking out the Iftaar deals in your favorite restaurants is also not what being ready entitles. Fasting is for the pleasure of Allah(swt) and to strive to become more righteous in our relationship to Him and to His creation so that is what our preparation should be about. But how does one prepare the soul and body for that?

Preparing the soul:
Preparing the soul is most important and without it, being ready for Ramadan in just the physical sense becomes meaningless.
Recite more Quran than in usual days, reflect and ponder upon it’s meaning
 Listen to Quran audio tapes or mp3 on your ipods, car CD players, etc. by your favorite Qari
Read inspiring books geared at cleansing yourself of wrong characteristics, such as “The Ideal Muslim” and “The Ideal Muslimah” by Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi Read up on the Prophet(pbuh)’s Seerah to see how he and his Companions strove to become the best of human beings Try to develop a routine that you can carry into Ramadan (for example, reciting one Juz of the Quran recited after Asar prayer everday)
Try to offer your prayers in the “golden timings” – immediately after the Adhaan (except Ish’aa which is preferably delayed an hour or two)
Become more conscious of all the wrong you are doing as Ramadan is the perfect time to work off those habits much more easily than in other days
Keep a close check on the words you are uttering, your relationship with your parents and other people close to you In the days leading up to Ramadan, try to wake up for Tahajjud if you do not do that already

Preparing the body:
Eat a little less than usual if you are not already on the way of the Sunnah (that is, keeping only one-third of the stomach for food, one-third for water and one-third empty)
Try to cut down on your sleeping hours to put in more time for worship in Ramadan
Take this opportunity to give up one bad eating habit (at least) this Ramadan, like giving up certain ‘junk’ foods
Try and go without food for six hours at least between meals, to prepare the body metabolism to adapt to the change By taking making the intention to change for the better and employing a few simple steps, we can enrich our Ramadan experience Insha-Allah, seek forgiveness for our past sins, turn over a new leaf and impact the lives of those around us for the rest of the year. “And I (Allâh) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me.” (Quran 51:56)