With two weeks to go before the start of Ramadan, I began some planning for this special month of mercy and forgiveness. Planning involving taking actions to be in the best space for maximum gains. As given are already self-isolating, being home and with no distractions about going out – I feel we already have a head start!
For many years, I found that I would consider myself ready for Ramadan once I had containers of savoury goods in the freezer, and a pantry filled with ingredients to make traditional desserts and dishes we especially enjoy in this month (sometimes to the extent of mandating it!)
But if the purpose of this month is to develop Allah Consciousness (“taqwa” in Arabic) as Allah says in the Quran (2:183)
“O you who believe fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you so that you can learn Taqwa”
Taqwa includes Allah fearing, piety, and self-restraining. An opportunity to turn things around. To become closer to Allah and to learn more about ourselves by learning more about Him. It involves doing lots of good to please Allah. And to exit the month with more than we entered – physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. With this in mind, I began to approach and welcome Ramadan in a more holistic way and looking at all actions is necessary to make the month as productive as possible.
Physical and Practical
This is usually my starting point as I would look at the key dates such as when do we start fasting and when is Eid and jot them into my calendar and diary. This would give me an indication of what else is going on around Ramadan (for example any appointments or meetings,). It also gives me a good jolt into how much time is left for preparations before the start of the month!
The next step is to plan what food preparation and planning is needed, which is super important given our current circumstances and not being able to just ‘pop out’ or even find what we need. Without the convenience of abundant homemade savouries and delicious chutney dips as we get in South Africa, if I want anything like what I am used to back home such as samoosas or pies, here in Istanbul, I need to embark on making it all myself or do without it as I have over the some years, borek will have to do. So this year where I could I used two evenings to do some preparations and I’m calling it a day!
A tip I learned from my dear mother was to also do any Eid shopping such as clothes and gifts before Ramadan so that way you are not using precious Ramadan minutes running around with these activities. This year given the lockdown situation, I really don’t know what Eid will be like so holding on with any gift planning till things are more clear.
Lastly in this area is setting up the environment at home – putting up some exciting decorations, involving the kids in some crafts- all with the intention of creating a positive spirit and love for this beautiful month for the whole family. We have already started talking about Ramadan parties, so my little one is amped!
Setting a real focused intention immediately puts me in the right space. Reading up on the benefits of fasting, and listening to a few great speakers on the blessings of this month are great reminders about why I need to maximise on stacking up reward.
If there are any habits I want to change, I might start working on them now, weeks before we start fasting. This year, I aim to give up on junk shows (at least!) on Netflix. I actually enjoy documentary-style shows so I have already started switching to that instead. In Ramadan, I would aim to watch nothing at all and it always amazes me how I am able to detox in this way so easily, and occupy my time with extra prayer -or just rest.
Closer to the start of Ramadan I would begin my “fasting focus”, and do my best to clear my mind of all other peripherals – binge chats, binge Instagram scrolling, anything else taking me away from the sole purpose of this month – worshipping Allah and gaining closeness to Him.
This mental focus is so important as it sets the tone for the last pillar. We cannot pray in the sincerest way we are meant to if our mind is still cluttered with other things. I mentally put on hold anything extra that can wait for after the four weeks- so my mind has clarity and space.
The focus of the month will be on my soul- to uplift myself in a deeply spiritual way, Insha Allah. Usually for me personally this involves goals for completing the recitation of the Quran, listening to Tafseer, revising previously memorised surahs. I really enjoy understanding what I read in Quran so for this, I have begun at least listening to (and often making notes though I do need to revise more so it’s more entrenched), the Tafseer from leading scholars on the verses of Quran we read most often – for example starting with Surah Yaseen, Surah Kahf, and the last 20 surahs in Quran which are the ones I would read in my Salaatul Taraweeh every night.
Other great resources I have come to love has been the daily 20 minute lectures that some scholars give live after Taraweeh salaah. My favourite being Ramadan Gems and Ramadan Nightly Reminders (Mufti Menk). These are all available on-demand on YouTube if you miss it live. It is centered around a theme such as Stories from the Quran, or Stories about the Messengers, making it compelling listening to complete the full picture and great learning.
So as you can see, if we start to break down all the aspects to consider in preparing for this month Insha Allah, there’s so much more beyond hanging up decor or stockpiling the freezer!
How far are you with preparations for this beautiful month? And which aspects do you focus on? Make sure your approach is holistic.
Taskeen is a Business Professional with 10 years of international experience in corporate marketing for leading local and global brands. She is also a Certified BodyTalk Practitioner based in Istanbul currently, and offers remote balancing sessions for clients all over the world. She writes articles, runs a blog and shares her creative content and videos online,to inspire positive living, healthy body and mind and closeness to Allah. She shares her passion for planning and productivity on Instagram to help busy moms with simple ideas for managing their time and their tots. She has appeared on British Muslim TV and Radio Al Ansaar in South Africa. IG: @productive_muslim_mom