Category: Ramadan

Ramadan Review 2013-1434

[This is a series of posts to chart how well I do with my Ramadan goals. Last week’s review is here.]

OMG – Ramadan is half way over!! How did this happen so fast?! Ugh, it’ll be gone before we know it! 😦 And worse, I’m not happy with the way that this week has gone. I’ve been on my praycation for most of it, and so I was hoping to really get ahead on a lot of things. Well, I haven’t. The only things I’ve done this week that I’m really proud of are to keep up with the exercise and the blogging. We went out for Iftar at my grandma’s on Sunday and went to Bab Ezzouar shopping centre yesterday, so I basically have no routine whatsoever at this point. I need routine. Routine is how I meet my goals. No routine = lazy Sarah. It’s not good. This is what my week has looked like with regards to my Ramadan goals:

Things I will do:

  1. Pray Taraweeh: 2/2 I’m now on my praycation, so this is as much as I could do.
  2. Read the whole Qur’an: 19/30 I am so not happy with this. I have basically read just one juz’ since Sunday. I’m glad that I was ahead on this, and I know that the last 4 Juz’ will be easy for me to read because I either know them, or am very familiar with them, so I would really like to finish the last 11 Juz’ this week. It’s definitely possible, I just have to get on with it.
  3. Pray 2 rakat before/after every prayer: 5/5 Alhamdulillah, for the few days I was praying this week, I had no problem doing this at all.
  4. Blog a minimum of 3 times a week: 3/3 YAY! I actually managed this one! Alhamdulillah, Inshallah I’ll keep it up.

Things I’d like to do:

  1. Revise at least 4 hizbs of Qur’an: 0/0 I did start on this one, but then I stopped. So I haven’t done anything on it.
  2. Exercise 3-4 times a week: 3/3  Alhamdulillah, this one’s going strong! 😀
  3. Say extra duas / adhkar along with my daily dhikr: 1/2 Unfortunately, I haven’t been all that great with this one. I’ve said my extra dua & adhkar about half the time, but I’ve also started to slip on my regular ones in the morning. I feel like I really need to clean up my act on this one. 😦
  4. Listen to Qur’an: 0/0 You know how I said I’d download some Qur’an last week? Yeah, still hasn’t happened.

Things I won’t do:

  1. Watch crappy TV (except The Biggest Loser): 7/7 Like last week, I’ve had no time to even consider doing this.
  2. Spend hours in the kitchen: 7/7 This one’s also going really well. Alhamdulillah our menu planning thing has really worked. 🙂
  3. Overeat: I’m a little unsure about this one as I haven’t been logging my food diary since I stopped fasting. Worse, I’m  eating quite a bit at night, but eating a meal in the day too.  :/

So for this week I need to focus on:

  • Reading the Qur’an. Inshallah I’d like to finish this week.
  • Revise one hizb. I’m really shooting for two, but I’m trying to be moderate.
  • Sort out my morning adhkar because it’s ridiculous that I’ve done so well for so long, and now it’s Ramadan I’m not saying them. Grrr.
  • Resume food diary, because stuffing myself is not Islamic.

I would still like to download the Qur’an to listen to it, but it’s not as much of a priority as the other things. What about you – how’s you’re week gone?


Ramadan Review 2013-1434

The first week of Ramadan is over and it feels like was an eternity. Alhamdulillah I don’t feel tired out or beat yet, I just can’t believe it’s only been one week! At the same time, I can’t believe that this is ¼ over. 😥 No likey. Last week I set myself some goals (and so did my friend!), and here I’d like to review them to see how I’m getting on and what needs to change and what needs to stay the same. Here goes:

Things I will do:

  1. Pray Taraweeh: 7/7 Alhamdulillah I’ve done this every night all week, and, because the mosques are reading one hizb a night and I’m doing 2, I’m actually ahead of them. This means that even when I have my praycation (seriously ❤ that word 😀 ) I’ll still be ahead. Booyah!
  2. Read the whole Qur’an: 14/30 I didn’t read any  Qur’an the first day, and then made up for it the next by reading 5 juz’      in one day. To be honest, I’ve done well with this because it’s easy for me to read the surahs that I know, but now that I’m in unchartered territories I’m talking it much slower – just the normal one juz’ per day. Alhamdulillah, I’ve still completed 14 Juz’, so I’m nearly half way there. Yay!
  3. Pray 2 rakat before/after every prayer: 4/5 Well I always do this for at least 4 prayers out of 5. Dhuhr, Asr and Maghrib (<– I thought this would be a challenge) are no problem, so it comes down to whether or not I pray Taraweeh immediately after Isha or delay it until before Fajr (I’m counting Qiyam in the last part of the night for Fajr, too). Either way, I need to sort this one out. From now on, even if I delay Taraweeh, I don’t take off my hijab after Isha until I’ve prayed 2 extra rakat, and I always leave Shaf’ & Witr until Fajr.
  4. Blog a minimum of 3 times a week: 1/3 (I’m counting last week’s ramadan plan post.) This I really need to pick up. I have 2 topics in mind, plus this post I’ll have three, but I have to write them within the next 24 hours and then I can schedule them for Friday and Sunday inshallah.

Things I’d like to do:

  1. Revise at least 4 hizbs of Qur’an: 0/0 Although I originally said that I’d do this after I’d finished reading the Qur’an, I’ve now changed my mind. I’m so ahead with my reading, and I’ve slowed down to a more manageable amount, so I have the time and focus to do this too Inshallah.
  2. Exercise 3-4 times a week: 3/3  I did this!!!! I’m soooo proud of myself for doing this Alhamdulillah. I work out for 25mins on the evenings when it’s my sister’s turn to do the washing up and that’s working for me so far. (Watching the Biggest Loser motivates me too 😉 .)
  3. Say extra duas / adhkar along with my daily dhikr: 0/0 I went through the dua app on my phone and picked out the ones I want to say, but I haven’t looked at it since. I need these on a list. Inshallah I’ve decided to put them together and publish them as a post. (NB: I have been doing my regular adhkar – it’s just the extras I keep forgetting.)
  4. Listen to Qur’an: 0/0 I haven’t even downloaded it to my phone ( I don’t like the reciter I have). Inshallah I’ll do this today.

Things I won’t do:

  1. Watch crappy TV (except The Biggest Loser – whilst stuffing my face): 7/7 I haven’t had time to watch anything else.
  2. Spend hours in the kitchen: 7/7      Alhamdulillah this one’s been easy to keep up. The most I’ve ever spent was 2hrs (and part of that is due to how slow I move just before Maghrib – seriously, it’s like slow mo). A major factor was in having a meal plan which divides the work fairly evenly between my mum, sister and I.
  3. Overeat: 7/7 I reckon I’ve done this one really well. I haven’t been that hungry at iftar time, but I snack during the night, and I’ve got that taken care of as well      Alhamdulillah. There have been times when I’ve felt uncomfortable, but that was liquids, as I’ve been drinking about 3litres every night.

Okay, so this week I mostly just want to keep up the good work, and add the following:

  • Focus on praying 2 rakat after Isha if I delay Taraweeh, and always pray 2 before Fajr if I don’t.
  • Write 2 blog posts and schedule them for Friday and Sunday.
  • Revise one hizb of Qur’an. (I’m starting bottom up, because they’re much neglected by me)
  • Actually write my dua list and make time to do them.
  • Download Qur’an recitation and put it on my iPhone. (I’ll listen when in the kitchen.)

Over to you guys: How’s Ramadan been for you and your goals so far? What has gone well? What do you need to work on?

Ramadan Plan 2013 / 1434

Tis that time of year again. Not the New Year, nor the Islamic New Year, but Ramadan: the month where good deeds are worth more, the devils are locked up (good riddance) and by sheer necessity all routines are adapted, modified or completely redone. As is my habit, I’ve got some goals for this Ramadan. Like last year, I’m going to break my goals down according to what I want to do (like, really really want to do), what I’d like to do and what I won’t do Inshallah.

To be honest, my goals feel very repetitive – it’s like I do the same things every year. But then again, I guess that’s what I do. 😀

Things I will do:

  1. Pray Taraweeh. (I’ll do this at home – the mosques in my area aren’t that good – after Isha or before Fajr or between the two.)
  2. Read the whole Qur’an. (I take advantage of the early enthusiasm at the beginning by reading extra, which keeps me motivated, which helps me to finish.)
  3. Pray 2 rakat before/after every prayer. (Taraweeh after Isha is included in this.)
  4. Blog a minimum of 3 times a week. <– This is important to me because I really need to blog more often Inshallah, and if I find a blogging groove then I hope that it’ll last outside of Ramadan too. I’m hoping to write three posts in one go and schedule them throughout the week Inshallah.

Things I’d like to do:

  1. Revise at least 4 hizbs of Qur’an. I think I’ll probably start this after I’ve finished reading the Qur’an. Also, I’ll be praying with the same hizb / juz throughout the beginning of Ramadan which will help me to revise them.
  2. Exercise 3-4 times a week. (Side note: I’m so unfit these days 😦 ) I can only do this at night, probably on the nights when it’s my sister’s turn to do the washing up.
  3. Say extra duas / adhkar along with my daily dhikr. (which I have kept up from last Ramadan 😀 ) I have a list of Duas / dhikr I want to say, and I’m going to stick it to my bedroom wall to remind me Inshallah.
  4. Listen to Qur’an. I’ve gotten out of the habit of this and it’s important as it helps me revise / memorise. I’m going to download a recitation I like and put it on my iphone Inshallah.

Things I won’t do:

  1. Watch crappy TV (with the exception of The Biggest Loser – don’t ask, it’s a weird Ramadan family tradition). I will maybe watching documentaries, but I need to catch up on my blog reading first. I simply haven’t downloaded anything to watch, so that’s pretty much taken care of.
  2. Spend hours in the kitchen. I tend to get caught up in Ramadan with all the food I’d love to eat, and then I spend ages in the kitchen cooking, experimenting or washing dishes, so I’d like to cut back on this, just to keep it in proportion. To do this, we’ve got a Ramadan menu so that we know what we have to do and it’s planned so that nobody has to be in there all day.
  3. Overeat. I did well on this last year, and I so want to keep it up this year Inshallah. I’m going to be using to track my meals Inshallah.

Ok, there we have it: this year’s Ramadan plan. May Allah make it easy.

Do you have any goals for Ramadan this year? How do you intend to fit them in Inshallah?

Ramadan Rulings Refresher

A few years ago I read Hilali’s book Fasting in Ramadan (which I highly recommend) and took a load of notes. Over the following years, I’ve just read through those notes as a reminder of the rulings concerning Ramadan and to refresh my memory. It’s worked well for me, so I thought I’d share them with my Aqeedah class (which I teach once a week in English)and it was a success with them, so I thought I’d share it here too. Here goes:

Ramadan was only made obligatory in the year 2H, 15 years after the start of the revelation, as Allah Ta’la said:

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ ۖ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ ۗ يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.

(Surah Al-Baqarah: 185)

I broke down the rulings regarding fasting into three groups: before fasting, while fasting and after fasting, because it just makes it easier to keep track of.

Before fasting:

1)     It’s important to have the intention to fast before fajr. You don’t say it out loud, and basically if you plan on fasting the whole month, your intention is already sorted.

2)     Suhoor (aka: breakfast / brekkie / nom-nom am / etc):

This is a meal that is recommended for fasting people to eat just before fajr prayer. The reason for it’s importance is that it distinguishes us from the people of the book, as the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) : “The distinction between our fasting and the fasting of the People of the Book is the taking of the pre-dawn meal (suhoor).” (Muslim)

Also, the reward of this meal is pretty great, the Messenger (pbuh) said: “The suhor is a meal of blessings, so do not leave it, even if one of you just takes a (gulp) of water, since Allah sends mercy and His angels seek forgiveness for those who take suhoor.” (Ahmad). So basically that means: Blessings + Mercy + Forgiveness = Suhoor. I like that equation.

While fasting:

1)     Things that nullify your fast:

These are the things that if you do, you eat and drink the rest of the day and make up the fast after Ramadan. They are:

a)    Eating & drinking (duh!)

b)    Periods / post-natal bleeding.

c)    Intercourse.

d)    Injections that provide nourishment (note: anaesthetic doesn’t nourish, so dental work is ok!)

e)    Making yourself vomit. This is gross, I know, but if you vomit unintentionally and you swallow some of it back down, then that also breaks your fast. Throwing up unintentionally and not swallowing any of it doesn’t break the fast.

2)     Things that are allowed while fasting:

Basically, everything is allowed except that which the evidence dictates is not allowed. Common causes of confusion (could I get anymore C’s in? lol) that are A-ok, include:

a)    Starting fasting before doing Ghusl for Jannabah / after a period.

b)    Having showers.

c)    Using a siwak.

d)    Washing your mouth and nose out – but do it gently. No industrial gargling. Heck, no gargling at all: you run the risk of accidentally swallowing it.

e)    Tasting food – just be sure to spit it out afterwards.

f)       Using Kohl, and putting anything in the eye, providing it doesn’t leave a taste in the throat.

g)    Toothpaste, provided you don’t swallow it and you spit it out very thoroughly.

3)     Things we’re not allowed to do, but don’t require us to make up the days:

a)    Lying

b)    Ignorant / indecent speech, which includes swearing, gossiping, etc.

Obligatory acts of worship are done for two reasons: obligation and reward. Someone who does either of the things above loses the reward for fasting, but has still fulfilled their obligation. This is the person of whom the Messenger (pbuh) said: “It may be that a fasting person attains nothing but hunger and thirst from his fasting.” (Ibn Majah & Ahmad)

After fasting:

It is sunnah to break the fast before praying Maghrib, but after the Adhan obviously. It’s also sunnah to rush to break the fast because, like Suhoor this distinguishes us from the people of the book, as well as being a sign that we’re still following the Sunnah and doing good. As the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “The people will not cease to be upon good as long as they hasten in breaking the fast.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

While it’s ok to break the fast with anything (my brothers have been known to pick a few chips to break their fast with, the gits), Anas said: “The Prophet (pbuh) used to break the fast with fresh dates before praying, and if not with fresh dates then with older dates, and if not with dates then with some mouthfuls of water.” (Ahmad & Abu Dawud)

The dua for breaking the fast is:

ذهب الظمأ، وابتلت العروق، وثبت الأجر إن شاء الله.

Thahabadhdhama’u wabtallatil-‘urooqu, wa thabatal-‘ajru ‘inshaa’Allaah.

The thirst is gone, the veins are moistened and the reward is confirmed, if Allah wills. (Abu Dawud – no 176 in the Fortress of the Believer)

And don’t forget that this is a great time to make Dua generally, as the Prophet (pbuh) said: “There are three whose supplications are not rejected: the fasting person when he breaks his fast, the just ruler and the supplication of the oppressed.” (Tirmidhi). This means that while you’re breaking the fast you can ask for anything – just don’t make it too long, remember you still have to pray Maghrib.

In addition to this, I just want to include a note about the hadith that states that the first ten days of Ramadan are for mercy, the second for forgiveness, and the last for salvation from the fire. You see, this hadith is, at best, weak. But more accurately, it’s a fabrication. It ain’t true people! When I first found this out, it really shook me – I’d heard it for so long, subhanallah! And then it’s like duh! Allah’s mercy and forgiveness are timeless, and people are saved from the fire throughout Ramadan.

May Allah make this a blessed Ramadan, in which all our sins are wiped clean, many good deeds are written for us and we come closer to Allah.


Ramadan Murbarak!

The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.
[Surah Al-Baqarah: 185]

I’ve decided to set meself some goals again for this Ramadan, as it does help to give me some measure of progress throughout. Some goals are more important to me than others, so I’ll be focusing on them more and I fully intend to see them through. Others, if they happen, it’d be great, but if not, it’s no biggie.

Things I will do Inshallah:

  1. Read the Qur’an.
  2. Pray Tarawih.
  3. Pray a minimum of 2 rakahs of Qiyam ul-layl, two or three times a week for starters.
  4. Make my dua in the morning (before going to sleep after praying fajr) and evening (if not before, then after Tarawih – I’ll definitely be free then).

Things I’d like to do, but might not:

  1. Finish memorising Surah Yunus.
  2. Publish one post every day on this blog (it’ll force me to think of something Islamic to write and think about).
  3. Revise some Qur’an. Maybe the last 4 hizbs.
  4. Exercise 4 times a week Inshallah.

Things I will not do Inshallah:

  1. Watch any of my usual TV programmes / films (this one’s a doozy, cause all of my fave TV series are over for the summer). Note the use of the word ‘usual’ above. This does not include any Islamic TV series that’re on – I’m eyeing the one about Umar Ibn Al-Khattab on MBC – and documentaries too.
  2. Overeat. Alhamdulillah last year I felt that I managed to get a good handle on my food and not go crazy, while still enjoying Iftar. I would like to repeat that this year.

Basically it’s a rinse and repeat of last year’s goals. Inshallah I meet them. I was thinking about various incentives, I like the kiddy ones that Itto has on her blog, but really, I think I’m old enough to be doing the things on my list for myself, without making a game out of it. 😀

How about you, are you setting any goals for Ramadan?

Week Two Review

Oh. My. God. We’re half way through Ramadan already!! How did that happen so fast? I must’ve blinked. 😦

Last week I reviewed my progress with regards to my goals for Ramadan to figure out what I needed to work on. Time to do the same for week two.

1) Read the Qur’an.
Alhamdulillah, I’ve stuck with this. I did get a bit behind during the week, but I caught up quickly.

2) Qiyam ul-Layl / Tarawih.
Last week I wasn’t praying, so I had no idea how I was going to fit Tarawih in: either pray four rakat after Isha and four before Fajr, or all eight together, after Isha or before Fajr. As it turns out, I’ve been praying it after Isha, usually leaving a gap of about an hour between some of the rakat. I did miss one night, but I can’t remember why. I think I was tired after having guests, but I’m not sure. All in all, I’m happy with how this one is going, Alhamdulillah.

3) Dua.
Yeah, this was the one I didn’t think through properly last time and it wasn’t until I was doing the dishes that I realised that it’s pretty much impossible to do tasbih at the same time. Not my brightest moment. This meant that I had to make a more concerted effort to make dua and include adhkar, so now I’ve been taking out 5 minutes when I wake up, 5 minutes after Asr or Maghrib and about a minute before I go to bed. But I’m doing it, so that’s all that matters. 😀

4) Revise Qur’an.
I was hoping that praying Tarawih every night with surahs that I’ve memorised would encourage me to revise during the day to prepare for it. Hah! Yeah right. I just pray reading from the Qur’an, but only doing the surahs that I’ve already memorised – I’m not trying to recite the entire Qur’an during Tarawih. There’s no point, I’d already be a week behind!

I guess this is going to be the goal that doesn’t happen. I’m not going to give up on it entirely, but I won’t be beating myself up about it if (when) I don’t do it.

5) Avoiding gossip and backbiting
Ok, overall, I think I’ve done pretty good with this. But I could probably improve. Dang, this is a hard one! Although, it’s worth mentioning that the one thing I’ve done perfectly is not look up online gossip sites, and that I’m very proud of. Because I’ve been sorely tempted. Seriously. It’s amazing how many celebrities I’ve been wondering about – did X get married yet? How ugly is Y’s divorce getting? (I wouldn’t mind, but I’ve never even been interested in either X or Y before. )

6) Increasing sincerity in prayer.
Two words for this: Oh. Dear.
Seriously, forget sincerity, I’m just trying to concentrate. This needs a lot of work. Grrr… *flexes muscles in determination*

Oh, and do you remember those other little non-religious goals that I had for Ramadan? Let me remind you. They are:
– not eating too much: Lemon Cheesecake. Need I say more?
– working out: Did I write this? Really? Because this week, I haven’t shifted my butt once. May try to change that. Then again, I may not. 8)
– keeping a positive attitude: succeeded! (N.B.: I’m talking about a broad-based, general definition of a positive attitude, here. Not a new age-y serene cheerfulness. Cause that aint me.)

So, how are things going with you? How do you concentrate in prayer? And is it just me, or is this Ramadan whizzing by?

[Note: My recap of week 2 of Ramadan will be up later in the week, Inshallah. I just felt that this was worth posting sooner.]

The first week of Ramadan I wasn’t fasting, but I still wanted to reap the rewards of this blessed month, obviously. I know many sisters get peeved and feel down when they get their period in Ramadan – like it’s a major obstacle in preventing them from enjoying all the blessings of the month. I disagree with this attitude, mainly because I believe that periods are a blessing from Allah. Yep, that’s right. All that mess, pain and inconvenience is a blessing. How? Well, for a start it’s what distinguishes us from men, and I, for one, am grateful I’m not a bloke. Then there’s also the fact that it’s a sign of fertility, and sure, while I don’t want kids any time soon (just as well, seeing as I’m not married – my dad will be relieved. 😉 ), just looking at the women who do have them and how they wouldn’t be without their little monsters is proof enough of how big a miracle motherhood is. It’s a miracle I wouldn’t like to not have. Lastly, any woman who’s ever had trouble with their periods knows just how much of a blessing a normal one is. And boy have I had trouble.

Besides, the only thing that a period stops a girl from doing is praying and fasting, and there is a wisdom in both, I’m sure. (The most obvious to my mind is not having to get up for fajr. I love me some extra zzzz’s.) So, how can us girls make the most of Ramadan when we’ve got old Aunt Flo paying us a visit? Well, here’s some of my ideas:

– You’re not praying, so you’ve instantly freed up some time. Five minutes, five times a day at the least, making a total of 25 minutes. Instead of wasting that time on chores, etc, use it to read Qur’an, or, even easier, to make dua. Maybe you can read an Islamic book? Or memorise a new surah? Basically think of something that you want to do (Islamic, of course) that you haven’t had the time to do. Break it up into little chunks if possible and do it instead of praying. If that doesn’t work for you, simply try to take 25 minutes out on a different type of Ibadah.

– Use the fact that you can eat and drink wisely. Don’t go on a week-long caffeine or sugar craze – you’ll hate yourself for it when you go back to fasting. Also, keep to the fasting schedule of having your dinner after Maghrib, this will reduce the whole having-to-re-adjust thing later. Notice the difference in how you function with a little fuel and liquid inside you and appreciate it. Say Alhamdulillah and give thanks to Allah when you do notice it. See? You’ve just been grateful.

Sleep more. If you’re performing Tarawih / Qiyam ul-layl at night, or simply if you have young kids who keep you going all day long, make the most of this time to catch up on your sleep a little. Sleep deprivation is nobody’s friend.

– You’re eating and drinking, therefore you should be more alert (theoretically, at least). Try to focus more on things that you tend to let slip: try to avoid backbiting – really think about what you’re going to say about someone and ask if they’d like to hear it. If the answer’s no, then don’t say it. Focus on your intention behind doing things. Intend every action to please Allah and you will be rewarded for even the most mundane of things.

Support those around you who are fasting. Make something nice for Iftar, or better yet, for dessert, (mmmmmmm…). If people get stroppy, try to calm them down, remind them that they’re fasting and try to remove the stressor.

– Use this time to prepare for Eid. Nobody wants to spend the last ten days – one night of which is better than a thousand nights (Laylatul Qadr: the night of power.) – making cakes, or sorting out decorations, or Eid clothes, etc, etc, etc. Get it done in advance and you can make the most of the time you have in the last ten days. (This piece of advice is great unless, of course, Aunt Flo decides to come in the last ten days.)

– Perhaps one of the best things that you can do when you’re not fasting is to host Iftar dinners and basically feed other people. The Prophet (PBUH) said:
“Whoever gives food to a fasting person with which to break his fast, will have a reward equal to his, without it detracting in the slightest from the reward of the fasting person.” (Tirmidhi)

How else can someone make the most of their Ramadan when they’re not fasting? What do you do when you can’t fast?

Ramadan: Week One Review

Okey dokey. The first week of Ramadan is over, meaning we’re a quarter of the way through this month. Time to go over my Ramadan plan and see what’s working and what needs tweaking.

1) Read the Qur’an.

Going very well, thank you very much. I have slacked a couple of times, but because I’m not doing it every day it’s easy to catch up on. Either way, I’m on target. YAY! Or even: Alhamdulillah!

2) Qiyam ul-Layl / Tarawih.
Not praying, so N/A.

3) Dua.
Hmm… If I were to give myself a rating I’d say 50% success here. I usually forget to say them first thing in the morning and wind up saying them in the early afternoon, but I always say them in the evening. And doing them whilst washing up works brilliantly – but only for dua. I clearly did not think it through properly, because you really can’t do tasbih, or any other adhkar that requires counting on your fingers, while washing dishes. And when I said I wanted to do more dua, I was including adhkar in my definition of dua. So, yeah, I need to make a more concentrated effort with regards to my dua.

4) Revise Qur’an.

Zilch. This is the one I feel most guilty about. I haven’t been fasting, so I haven’t been praying, so I haven’t prayed Tarawih, so I’ve had a heck of a lot more time to focus on Qur’an and I haven’t. Not to mention the fact that I should really have made the most of what Ibadah I can do while Aunt Flo’s here.

Inshallah, praying Tarawih will give me a boost, because I’m praying at home and I need to know what I’m going to be reciting.

5) Avoiding gossip and backbiting
Ok, I’ll give myself an 80% mark on this. Conversationally, I think I’ve been pretty good, but on examination, it could have been better. With regards to the web, I’ve been really good. (Bar a two minute slip up Sunday night. Which I’m going to pretend didn’t happen. Denial is not just a river in Egypt, yo! Geddit?! Denial. The Nile. I know, I’m a comedic genius. 8) )

6) Increasing sincerity in prayer.
See number 2 above.

Actually, that’s not right. Just because I’m not praying it doesn’t mean that I can’t focus on increasing my sincerity. There’s stacks of research I could be doing to figure out what might help and what might hinder for when I do get back to praying. *Slaps wrist*

Other, not particularly religious, goals I had for this Ramadan are more about keeping a healthy perspective: not eating too much (i.e. reminding myself that fasting does not mean gorging oneself at night), working out and trying to maintain a positive attitude. I’ve had to reign myself in on the food, which is funny considering I’m not even fasting!! There’s no excuse for me to be stuffing my face for half the night, after all. Working out has been a bit hit and miss. I know I can’t exercise when I’m fasting, especially in this heat (I’ll dehydrate faster than a dolphin in the Sahara), so I’m trying to work out at night. I only managed that once, and then the electricity went. Stretching by candle-light is actually quite calming. 😀

Maintaining a positive attitude is a lot easier when I’m not fasting – no crazy sugar lows, no dehydration, no general crankiness, etc, etc, etc. However, according to everything I’ve ever read on the subject, the key to staying positive is to make a conscious effort to be positive throughout the day. Not gossiping/backbiting really comes into this, by making me focus on the good things I can say about people. And, now that we’re on the topic of saying good things about people, can I just say how impressed I am with people here in general. Despite the heat, the thirst, the looooong days and a few idiots, most people are so good-natured. I honestly believe that if you didn’t know it was Ramadan you wouldn’t know people were fasting from their behaviour. From the stall owners in the market, to the police men in the street, to shop owners, to bus drivers. And if they can do it, so can I!

Over to you – how are your goals going this Ramadan? What’s working out for you? And, more importantly, what do you need to work on more?

The Ramadan Plan

Ok, so it’s been ages since I last blogged, but hey, I’m back now! And, as Ramadan is the month of Iman and Ibadah, I’m hoping to post here on a regular basis.

Anyways, enough of the housekeeping (blogkeeping?!) stuff. Ramadan is here already! Subhanallah. Of all the things I planned to do to prepare myself for Ramadan, the only things I can honestly say that I’ve done – and only this month, at that – are read Qur’an and basically cut the TV. (I say ‘basically’ because I haven‘t entirely stopped watching it this past month. And in all honesty, the only reason I haven’t watched much is because I download stuff onto my laptop and the internet connection around here has been atrocious lately. But it still counts. 😀 )

That said, what little I have done makes me feel very motivated for Ramadan. Although I haven’t read all of the Qur’an this month, I have realised that reading it every day isn’t a good idea for me. I’m much better off reading a larger portion every few days then I am reading a small bit every day. It just seems to work better for me. This also means that I may actually get to revise some Qur’an this month Inshallah. We shall see. Another thing that I’ve figured out is that I concentrate much better on what I’m reading if I set a timer and read until it goes off. When I read by page number I tend to count down to when I’m finished, and my focus is more on finishing and not on the words before me. So, I’ve timed myself and worked out how long it takes me to read one Juz’ of Qur’an (roughly 25 minutes in my case – but it varies depending on the Surah and how familiar I am with it) and now I just sit and read until my timer goes off. Alhamdulillah, it’s worked so far.

I haven’t gotten into the habit of praying Qiyam ul-Layl (night prayer) yet, so I’m not sure how I’m going to plan out my Tarawih. I haven’t decided yet whether or not I’m going to do it all in one go, either after Isha or before Fajr, or divide it up so that I pray 4 rakahs after Isha and 4 (+ Shaf’ and Witr) before Fajr. I’m going to have to play that one by ear, I think.

I’ve taken out my little, itty, bitty, pocketsize dua leaflet, and plan on fitting in the dua’s listed during my day. I memorised most of them a few years ago, so I’m hoping they’ll be easy to revise Inshallah. Then I plan on saying my morning duas / dhikr when I get up and my evening ones after Maghrib when I’m doing the wash up. Ramadan, or more, specifically, fasting is one of the best times to be making Dua, so I figure this is an easy Ibadah to factor in. Easy but important. 😀

Like I’ve said I might also try to revise some Qur’an – I would really love to, really I would, but I don’t want to stretch myself too thinly. I want to focus on a few Ibadahs and do them to the best of my ability, rather than try to do a load and do them poorly and sporadically. Because that’s what happens to me every year. I also have no intention of memorising any new Qur’an. And that’s not just a Ramadan thing. I seriously need to revise my Qur’an and I’ve decided I’m not learning anything new until I’ve revised it all.

Nor will I be learning the 99 names of Allah. Although it is an easy one, and the reward is Jannah, I’m just not feeling it for this Ramadan.

Two things I have every intention of really focusing on are:

– Avoiding gossip and backbiting, and

– Improving my sincerity in prayer.

For the first, I’m going to have to really watch myself – it’s going to take a lot of concentration. And I ain’t going to lie: I spent a few hours before Ramadan going through my favourite celeb gossip sites to get it all out of my system. Now I’m going to delete them all from my internet history, so that when I type in an address they don’t come up. I’m not going to block them because I really don’t think I need to …

As for improving my sincerity in prayer, I’ll let you know how it goes, as it goes, Inshallah.

So, that’s my Ramadan plan. What’s yours? What Ibadahs are you going to focus on? How are you going to accomplish them? What works for you?

Ramadan Ibadahs

I’ve been thinking a lot about the post I wrote last week regarding preparing for Ramadan. Specifically about what kind of Ibadah I want to focus on. There’re so many different ways of worshiping Allah, so I thought I’d start by detailing some and some of the benefits of them:

1) Tarawih

This is the obvious Ramadan Ibadah. It consists of praying 8 rakahs (or, if you’re of a different opinion, up to 20 rakahs) after Isha prayer and before Shaf’ and Witr every night during Ramadan. It’s a tradition that started in the time of the prophet, but one which is not obligatory. Mosques usually pray it in congregation, reciting 1/30 of the Qur’an every night, but you can also pray Tarawih at home reciting whatever you know of the Qur’an.

2) Reading Qur’an

This is another obvious and common Ramadan Ibadah. It’s origins lie in the fact that the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) (AS) came to the prophet during Ramadan and made him recite the whole Qur’an back to him. Again, this isn’t a Fard (obligatory) activity, but it’s a good one for several reasons, including:

– The blessings of reading the Qur’an are great, and even more so during Ramadan.

– It strengthens our Iman, whether by reminding us of peoples gone by, or of Allah’s perfect mercy, or of His justice, or simply with the beauty of some of the analogies and metaphors found in the Qur’an.

– The more I read it, the more familiar I am with it and the better I can incorporate it into my life, Inshallah.

– The Qur’an is the fundamental source of this whole religion and therefore contains all the fundamental beliefs / laws that we must hold.

The problem with reading the Qur’an is that it’s not like any other book (in the first place it’s a revelation from Allah and secondly it was revealed for all people of all times for all times) and this can make it hard to remain focused on some of the verses or even pages. Basically, I find that I lose my concentration really easily. But I honestly believe that this is simply a matter of familiarity. If I read the Qur’an more, I would be more used to the Qur’anic style, and therefore would be better able to concentrate and focus on the meaning of the verses.

3) Listening to the Qur’an.

This is something that I should do regularly because, again, it familiarises me with the Qur’an, whilst also keeping the shayateen (Jinn / devils) at bay and encouraging the angels to enter and stay in the house. Good all round.

4) Praying Qiyam ul-layl.

This actually isn’t any different from Tarawih. In fact, tarawih is just the name given to the Qiyam ul-layl prayed during Ramadan after Isha. So, technically, I’ve already covered most of the benefits of this whilst talking about Tarawih. But praying Qiyam ul-layl during the last third of the night is the best time to do so, as Allah comes down to the lowest heaven and looks to bestow His mercy on those who ask for it.

5) Making Dua.

Dua is something that should be a regular part of my life anyway. But it isn’t. It’s simple and easy and can be said whilst doing something else. Basically, it can transform the simplest task into a sincere act of worship. And there are so many beautiful dua’s for all occasions and needs and wants.

6) Praying with more sincerity.

This is probably the most important thing on this list. Prayer without sincerity is pointless, yet too often I pray just going through the motions and my prayers don’t really go further than the ceiling. The more sincere my prayers, the more likely they are to be answered. Which is the whole point of praying in the first place.

7) Avoiding gossip / backbiting.

Too often I think of Ibadah as what I should be doing, but rarely remember that not doing things I shouldn’t do, especially if it’s hard for me (i.e. it‘s something I like – such as celeb gossip!), is also a form of Ibadah. Now, I’m totally addicted to celebrity gossip sites and although I try not to backbite, it’s something I catch myself doing every now and then. Backbiting is insidious – I really have to watch myself for it to actually catch it.

8 ) Stopping the TV.

Not Islamic channels, of course, but maybe some of my beloved dramas? While I love watching me some Criminal Minds, I really think that time is wasted for me during Ramadan. Ramadan is only one month long – and I don’t want to waste any of it doing something that I can’t get reward from. And it’s not like it’s only on once a week – the channels do all their repeats of the best shows during Ramadan, so I could catch up on an entire series in one month. And it’s not just Criminal Minds, it’s the CSI’s, Numb3rs, etc, etc, etc. that’s a lot of TV and a lot of empty, reward-less time. So, it’s either cut the TV entirely, or only watch Islamic programmes. That is, of course, if I can find anything on the Islamic channels that I can get my teeth into, but then that’s another matter entirely.

9) Revising the Qur’an I’ve already memorised.

This is important because the punishment for one who has memorised the Qur’an and forgotten it is severe, to put it mildly. And unfortunately, I can’t remember all of the Qur’an that I’ve learnt. Also, if I revise the Qur’an that I’ve memorised, then I can use it whilst praying Tarawih / Qiyam ul-Layl.

10) Memorising new Surahs.

This is something that I personally can’t / won’t be doing. Unless by some miracle I’ve revised all the Qur’an that I’ve already learnt by Ramadan, I just won’t have the time to learn anything new – not if I’m still revising. And I’m 99% sure that I’ll still be revising Qur’an during Ramadan, and that’s ok. But memorising new surahs is always a good Ibadah anyway, because the more Qur’an we know, the more we’ll have to intercede for us on Judgement day and in the grave.

11) Reading / learning the 99 names of Allah.

The reward for learning the 99 names of Allah is Jannah, according to an authentic hadith. The benefit of learning the 99 names of Allah and, of course, their meanings is that when making dua, you can call upon Allah using the most appropriate name for your need. So for example, if I’m asking for more money then I can call upon Him saying ‘Ar-Razaq’ the provider. Also, it’s a fairly straightforward list, which shouldn’t take that long to learn.

I’m sure there’s more that I could be doing (I’m pretty certain the list doesn’t end at 11, lol!) but I’m all out at the moment.

What other Ibadahs could I be focusing on? Why?