I took the kids (younger two) to Jummah (Friday) prayers today at one of our local mosques. The khutbah (sermon) was about making the most of the month of Sha’baan and preparing for the holy month of Ramadan. Sure comes up on you fast, doesn’t it? We are a month away from Ramadan (predicted to start on July 20, depending on the siting of the new moon) and aside from the hilarious spiritual discussion trolling the social networks about how a Muslim should handle the problem of opening night of the new Batman movie coinciding with the first night of Ramadan, I received some good, practical advice in today’s sermon on getting ready for the holy month.
For Muslim readers of this post, you can skip ahead of this standard Ramadan explainer – Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, the month where fasting from sun-up to sundown is prescribed for able-bodied Muslims (children are not required to fast). It involves abstaining from food and drink and sexual activity between sunrise and sunset, curtailing bad behaviors and habits, focusing on ibadat (worship) and strengthening one’s connection with God.
Ok, explanation done. Muslim readers, join us again. For the past few years, I’ve tried to make Ramadan goals for myself and for my kids. Sometimes we achieve them, often we fall short. But we try, and I pray Allah (swt) rewards us for our efforts. I’ve had this tendency to live life as usual and then switch gears in Ramadan – with little preparation for the enormous spiritual opportunity that Ramadan is. So I’m hoping to rectify that with some Sha’baan preparations. Here’s some advice I received from today’s khutbah:
1. Fast in the month of Sha’baan: Prophet Muhammad (saw) fasted often in the month before Ramadan – perhaps making up fasts that he had missed the Ramadan before, or just doing nafil (extra) fasts. These fasts are a great way to get back into the habit of fasting (especially the fasts this year will be long – 16+ hours).
2. Moderate your diet: Are you an excessive tea or coffee drinker? Daily soda a must for you? You eat a large lunch every day? Whatever your dietary habits are, use this month to moderate them, cut some things out, eat less, and get used to going without your daily crutch.
3. Do nafil prayers, do extra worship: Maybe you’re like me, a person who struggles to get her five daily prayers in on time and tends to pray the fard (required) part of prayer. Use the month of Sha’baan to add sunnat and nafil prayers to your routine. Ramadan is also a time to do daily Quran reading, as the reward of good deeds is worth 70 times more during that month. So start reading the Quran more now to get in the habit.
4. Start working on cleaning up your negative attitudes or bad habits: I can be an internal grumbler – if someone ticks me off or rubs me the wrong way, I will grumble and stew about it on the inside for awhile before letting it go. I am one of those people with my smartphone perpetually in my hand – I certainly can learn to put it down and give my whole attention to the task at hand or to my family. So now’s the time to work on this. Going cold turkey in Ramadan is not the best idea, and if you work on what you want to change now, chances are you’ll continue to work on it after Ramadan is done.
There are a lot of other great tips. Some of my favorites are here and here (for preparing for Ramadan with kids). Also, check out last year’s Ramadan blog, “Spiritual Appetite” hosted by Wajahat Ali – there are loads of great posts on all aspects of the Ramadan, from reflective to difficult, to hilarious, to practical.