The month of Ramadan is approaching quickly. Every year we set goals for ourselves with the intention of making this Ramadan better than the last. We want to stay motivated and consistent but what we often don’t realize is that motivation and consistency don’t manifest overnight. You can’t start Ramadan with a list of things you want to achieve that you don’t normally do. You need to choose which acts of ibadah will be most beneficial and most realistic for you. You might want to read three Islamic books and read the entire Qur’an this year, but how often do you read normally? If you’re an avid reader, this might be a small feat. But if you’re not a big reader, this might prove difficult.
Your goals should start out small and realistic or else you will lose motivation early in the month. Making a checklist or keeping a journal can help you keep track of your goals. Make a checklist of what you want to complete and a list of du’as you want to make during the month and, specifically, when you break your fast. The Messenger of Allah (s) said, “Verily, the supplication of a fasting person is not turned away at the time of breaking fast” (Sunan Ibn Majah).
Ramadan is a time where we try to develop new habits or improve old ones, but habits take time to form. If you want to stay consistent with your sunnah prayers, dhikr, Qur’an reading, and fasting, these habits need to be started before Ramadan in order to help establish a routine you can carry into the month. Implementing some of these habits during the month of Sha’ban cannot only help you prepare for Ramadan, but there is blessing in starting it in Sha’ban as well. Aisha reported: “The most beloved month to the Prophet (s) for fasting was Sha’ban, then he would connect it with Ramadan (Sunan Abu Dawud).
In another hadith, the Prophet (s) said, “It is a month (Sha’ban) people neglect between Rajab and Ramadan. It is a month in which the deeds are raised to the Lord of the worlds, and I like for my deeds to be raised while I am fasting.” Fasting during Sha’ban is a sunnah that has so much wisdom behind it. The first few days of fasting can be brutal for some of us, especially those of in school or those who work because it disrupts schedules, and that disruption can also affect our ibadah and motivation. If your energy and motivation start to dwindle in the first few days, that will only make the rest of the month harder. Practicing fasting and other acts of ibadah during Sha’ban can help you adjust your schedule and get used to your new routine so that you can give your entire focus on keeping up those habits during Ramadan.
Preparing for Ramadan involves more than establishing habits regarding ibadah. There are also other things we can do before the month starts to make sure we give Ramadan our full attention. Do your major grocery shopping and spring cleaning now. Learn or write down new recipes if you want to incorporate new dishes into your suhoor and iftar. During Ramadan, cook meals that will boost energy. A healthy body is a healthy mind. Before each Ramadan, we should also revisit the virtues of this month. What makes Ramadan so special to Muslims? What were the historical events that took place during Ramadan? The more we understand the virtues of Ramadan, the more eager we will be to complete our ibadah and purify our intentions. We should also make plenty of du’as before the start of Ramadan. We should ask Allah to allow us to see another Ramadan, to be able to fast and take full advantage of the blessings of this month. Yahya ibn Abi Kathir, may Allah have mercy on him, used to supplicate with this du’a, “O Allah! Safeguard me for Ramadan, safeguard Ramadan for me and accept it from me — O the most merciful of all those who show mercy!” Ameen.