Ramadhan, common to all as the month of Fasting (temporary abstinence from food and drink during the day) is prescribed upon all Muslims as an act to build self-discipline and piety, compulsory in the Holy Month of Ramadan and highly encouraged elsewhere in the year.
Fasting encourages/requires us to step aside from our normal routines, and humble ourselves by experiencing hunger pangs of the poor and underprivileged, hence reflecting on what life would be like if we didn’t have enough to eat and drink.
Fasting also increases our self-discipline, helping us to break free from our daily addictions and indulgences and giving us the opportunity to focus on something bigger than our next meal. Fasting therefore combines various benefits, physical and spiritual for both to individuals and society.
However, acquiring these benefits requires that one prepare adequately for the month of Ramadhan. It is important to understand WHY we fast rather than just performing the act as an obligation to God. For some people, the benefits of fasting are limited to physical level, and do not promote spiritual growth.
The aim of Ramadhan therefore should be to emerge as a better person, more spiritually grown, than you were at the start of the month.
So how does one prepare for Ramadhan?
According to one article that I recently read, there are usually 3 traps that can cause one to miss out on the benefits of Ramadhan:
- The Energy Drain
- The Social Rituals
- The Distracted Mind
Energy Drain refers to being burned out. Our bodies become lethargic and slow during Ramadhan. It is important to understand that we may not function at our optimal during this time, and we must not over-exert ourselves. The quality of food that we consume before and after the fast determines the level of energy that we will have the next day. It is important to understand that during this month, the focus should be more on worship, and therefore conserving energy for these acts is highly recommended. Taking power naps during the day is a good example of restoring dwindling energy.
Social Rituals: In many households and cultures, Ramadhan is seen as a time for feasting and merrymaking. Endless buffets of food, adorn tables at home, something which I feel defeats the purpose of acquiring humility or being humble. Although we are meant to feel hunger pangs just like our less fortunate counterparts, it does not give us the license to indulge in feasts worth a King’s ransom. There is nothing wrong in having your favorite food for breaking your fast with, but can we please be a little moderate here. How about sharing a little bit of extravagance with your poor neighbors, or donating a dish to the mosque so people can open their fasts? (Just Saying).
Mind Distractions: This is something everyone has to deal with in Ramadhan. I don’t just speak for myself when I say that it is very easy to get distracted by the glitter and glam of this world. We are addicted to our phones, social media, friends, books, TV, etc…. bad! Ramadhan aims to strengthen our resolve against these Weapons of Mass Distractions for these thirty days. It is upon us not to let these glorious and blessed days and nights be wasted upon engaging in habits and behavior that can otherwise be avoided or put aside for sometime to make way to fortify and build ourselves spiritually. A technology diet should be in order.
Some of the Goals that I will be setting for myself for Ramadhan:
The focus and emphasis of Ramadhan is to recharge our faith and come out of it a better person.
Some people see it as a time to break and let go of bad habits. Other take the opportunity to increase their knowledge of Religion and The Quran. Some see it as a change to rekindle ties with family and friends. What does Ramadhan mean to me?
Open Fasts of Others: It is highly prescribed to open peoples fasts in Ramadhan by either inviting them home or giving them something to eat. I have singles out a few orphanages and centers that could do with food donations, so I intend to provide food for any such institutions during the month of Ramadhan.
Charity: Ramadhan is a month of giving, whether it means to give of your self or of your possessions. There will be a number of community led programmes to distribute donated food and clothing to remote parts of Nairobi. I intend to make it to at least one of these charity events.
Increasing Knowledge of Faith and The Holy Quran: There will be two great speakers who will be visiting us during the month of Ramadhan for daily lectures. I intend to follow these lectures (probably online as the commute to the mosque will be hectic) and learn something.
Visit the Mosque: Apart from the breaking of fast and other functions, I intend to go to the Mosque every Friday for Juma (the congregational prayer).
The Holy Quran: It is recommended to complete recitation of one full Quran during the month of Ramadhan.
Engage in Dhikr: Dhikr is described to be devotional acts in Islam in which short phrases or prayers are repeatedly recited silently within the mind or aloud. The more, the better. Plus these are great substitutes to reading or browsing your phone.
Stay Active: It is easy for someone in my situation (no job to report to and hence sleep in late) to fall into a lazy trap. I intend to keep up with my daily workouts, with the understanding that I may not be able to perform at par and so should not push my body.
Eat and Drink in Moderation: I need to stick to the meal plan as much as possible. I will allow a few moderation here but I want to be as committed to my FatLoss programme this month as I can.
In line of these goals, and the month of Ramadhan, I have dedicated a series of posts entitled “Ramadhan Diaries” to document and blog my Ramadhan experience this year.
Whether you are a Muslim and will be joining me in fasting this month, or a non-Muslim, what are some of the spiritual goals that you would like to set for yourself this month?