A few weeks ago I was at a friend’s house with some sisters, discussing our plans for the summer when we realised that Ramadan is only three months away. How did that happen?! It seems like last Ramadan was only yesterday, Subhanallah. The conversation then turned to preparing for this year’s month. Now, when I say prepare, a lot of people automatically think about food: maybe writing a list of dishes for Ramadan, stocking up on some foods (like oil, etc) in advance, planning their kitchen redecoration, and such like.

This is NOT what I’m talking about. While it definitely helps to prepare for the food/cooking aspect of Ramadan, it is especially important that we plan and prepare for the spiritual aspect of Ramadan. Why? Well, I’m not sure about everyone else, but with me every year I make big plans of what I’m going to do, and what I’m not going to do, and a couple of weeks in, most of it’s fallen to the wayside. And this happens Every. Single. Year.

[Bar the one when my dad broke his knee and I knew that we were gonna have a ton of visitors and I decided ahead of time that my Ibadah (worship) for the month was going to be cooking, cleaning and being patient. But that was a one-off, and I have no intention of wasting a month that’s as valuable as Ramadan without doing more religion-oriented, Iman-boosting stuff.]

It’s no wonder really that so many of my Big Plans fall flat in Ramadan. I’m literally expecting to roll out of bed one morning and change the way I live my life. Ramadan automatically changes a persons’ routine, not eating/drinking during the day makes me tired, there’s always more cooking to do (no matter how much we decide not to) and adding on top of this all these new resolutions of doing good is just exhausting. It’s no wonder I burn out half way through. As a result, this year I’ve decided that I’m going to try to prepare for Ramadan. The obvious question is: how? Well, ideally I’d have started this months ago and I’d have picked out a different thing to focus on for a month, until I had made all my fave Ibadahs regular habits. That hasn’t happened yet, so I’m going to start now Inshallah. Here’s my initial step-by-step process (N.B.: This may change as I go along. It’s kind of a work in progress.):

1) Identify what I want to do in Ramadan.

Tarawih? Qiyam ul-Layl?Reading the Quran? Revising Quran? Quitting TV? Praying with more sincerity? … There’s loads that I could do in Ramadan, but what is it that brings ME personally closer to my Creator? What makes me want to do more? What is it that makes me feel worthy of the title ‘Amatullah’ (Servant of Allah)? Because these are the activities that I really want to focus on.

2) Don’t go into it with rose-tinted glasses.

Ramadan is hard. Especially in the summer. The nights are shorter, the days are longer and I get tired. It’s important that I factor that in and look at how hard some of these things are going to be. Make no mistake, this is work. I’m not saying it’s not worthwhile, because the rewards are incomprehensibly vast, I’m just saying that it’s important not to kid myself into thinking it’s going to be one easy Iman boost, ‘cause it aint like that.

3) Specify how I’m going to do whatever I’ve decided in step (1) during Ramadan.

I want to read the Quran? Great, Mashallah! How much am I going to read every day? When am I going to read it? What if I can’t do it when I want to? I have to consider all the details. Plan how I’m going to get each and every Ibadah done, then come up with a Plan B and a Plan C, just in case, ‘cause life’s full of surprises.

4) Start now.

Practise makes perfect, so start now. If it’s Tarawih that I’m aiming for, pray some extra rakahs before witr at night. Start off with two and when that becomes normal and easy, I can add another two. If it’s the night prayer that I want to focus on, then the obvious place to start is by making sure I always get up on time for Fajr and then get up about 5 minutes earlier and pray two rakahs. Recite short surahs. Don’t make it hard. When it gets easier and becomes a habit, maybe I can get up 5 minutes earlier and pray another 2 rakahs. How about wanting to read Quran in Ramadan? I can start that now. If I get into the habit of performing these Ibadahs now then Inshallah they’ll be automatic by the time Ramadan comes around. I think the key is to start small, but START! (This will also make me feel less guilty about the whole ‘Ramadan Muslim’ scenario, of only doing good deeds in Ramadan. This time I’ll have started before the month gets here. Bonus points, me thinks. :D)

5) Read. Research. Learn.

The more I know about Ramadan, the better prepared I’ll be. The more duas I know, the more I can sprinkle them during the day. I might even tie a set of duas to a specific activity, like washing up, or chopping veg, etc.

How are you going to prepare for Ramadan this year? What specific acts of Ibadah do you want to focus on and why?