By Thaqib Moosa
A guest is about to come visit us. A guest who comes once a year, and a guest whom we have to prepare ourselves for. That guest is the month of Ramadan. In this article, I wanted to share one reason why it is so important to avail this opportunity, followed by a small practical plan which I have been using for the past couple of years to help prepare for Ramadan. The plan and downloadable documents are in links right at the end.
So firstly, why do we need to prepare? The Prophet (SAW) is reported to have been climbing the pulpit and said Aameen thrice. When the companions asked about it he said that Jibreel made three du’as, and I said Aameen to them. One of them was for a person who reaches the month of Ramadan and does not avail it to gain forgiveness. (The other two were having elderly parents and not serving them, and not saying peace and blessings be upon him when the prophet’s name is mentioned). The Prophet (SAW) himself and Jibreel, the leader of the angels, have said this for those of us who don’t avail Ramadan.
Also, in Surah Ghaafir/Mu’min, right after a discussion on the fate of Firawn and his people, these two verses (47-48) about a conversation happening in the Hellfire:
(وَإِذْ يَتَحَاجُّونَ فِي النَّارِ فَيَقُولُ الضُّعَفَاءُ لِلَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا إِنَّا كُنَّا لَكُمْ تَبَعًا فَهَلْ أَنْتُمْ مُغْنُونَ عَنَّا نَصِيبًا مِنَ النَّارِ)
Behold, they will dispute with each other in the Fire! The weak ones (who followed) will say to those who had been arrogant, “We but followed you: Can ye then take (on yourselves) from us some share of the Fire?
(قَالَ الَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا إِنَّا كُلٌّ فِيهَا إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ حَكَمَ بَيْنَ الْعِبَادِ)
Those who had been arrogant will say: “We are all in this (Fire)! Truly, Allah has judged between (his) Servants!”
[Surat Ghafir 47-48]
Imagine how fearful that scenario will be. There is a group of people who had ended up in the fire due to following others, due to just being lazy and kind of “going with the flow”. In the heat of the fire, surrounded by flames like serpents enveloping their bodies, gasping for water, their throats parched to the extent they will feel like thorns in their necks. Every time their skin peels off, a new skin is given to them for that to peel off as well. Stuck in the position of the sins they might have died upon. Trying to leave but stuck there. Languishing in a prison made out of fire, surrounding them and constricting their movements, feeling like they are in dark pillars made out of fire. They will desperately scream to their fellows, fellows they had taken as leaders, given respect to, followed them thinking that their so-called leaders knew what they were doing. They will ask for the leaders to take off some of their burden (of punishment), but there’s none of that. Nobody can take the blame for someone else’s actions on that day. Allah has ruled in his perfect justice, and YOU are accountable for YOUR actions.
What we can get out of these verses is, if you don’t get yourself out of the hellfire, you have no-one to blame but YOURSELF. This means we really need to buckle up for Ramadan, and one step to buckling up, to hitting the ground running, to getting hyped up, is to PLAN AHEAD. Keep your eyes on the prize (descriptions of the amazingness of Paradise in the Qur’an etc.) and be on it basically.
Now to define this post’s title. We need to enter each Ramadan with a new baseline to improve upon. So after Ramadan we can’t simply fall into the bad habits we were in before Ramadan. We need to be improving in Ramadan, staying on the new level, and then that new level (or very close to it) will be our baseline for next Ramadan and then we will build that up to a whole other level, and then stick to that one. Each subsequent Ramadan should be better than the last in terms of what we achieve until we look back at ten Ramadan’s ago and say “Mate, that’s all I did back then? I was such a lightweight.” In shaa Allah.
The following are links to a few useful attachments which can help you prepare your du’as, your detailed plans, and also read about some tips to help brainstorm goals. I can’t emphasize how much it helps to WRITE THIS DOWN. If you just do this in your head, it’s fluid and you will forget it in a few days. But if it’s on paper it’s concrete and you can hold yourself accountable by coming back to the targets regularly.
A plan template for Project Ramadan https://goo.gl/SZEIpM, there are notes on the sides to what you can use it for, I also have a word doc version which I can email to you if you want (just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Ultimate Du’a Workbook (A now-free workbook which helps to organize the du’as, the videos can also help, especially to get you hyped about the du’as): www.VisionaireOnline.com/ultimate-dua-machine.pdf with videos http://www.visionaireonline.com/raise-your-duas/
A link to a treasure trove of articles and resources on ProductiveMuslim.com:
Here is an example plan:
Phase 1: (1st of May)
- Reduce Food intake
- No Whatsapp except for 9PM to 12 midnight.
- De-activate Facebook, Get off Twitter and Instagram
- Daily Qur’an (minimum two pages)
- Starting to get regular with daily adhkaar (morning and evening, waking up and sleeping)
- Start fasting on some Mondays and Thursdays to get body used to it
Phase 2: (20th of May, 15 days to Ramadan)
- Start the first Khatm already.
- Adhkaar game should be on point by now
- Prepare some sort of light exercise programme to implement while fasting
- Select some YouTube series (Seerah by Shaikh Yasir Qadhi, Surah Jinn by Shaikh Suhaib Webb/ Amazed by the Qur’an by Nouman Ali Khan recommended) or Podcast (Shaikh Abdul Nasir Jangda, SeekersHub podcast or other)
Phase 3: (11th of June, in Ramadan, first day after exams)
- Start ramping up Qur’an
- Review beforehand what will be recited in Taraweeh (Start Dr. Israr Ahmad Quran in Urdu)
- Work through list of books to read and other constructive hobbies instead of other chill stuff., -Du3a’s listed, ready for memorization.
Phase 4: (22nd of June-ish, Day 16 of Ramadan) The final stretch
- Putting in 2+ hours of Qur’an time daily memorization and reflection
- Ra7eequl Makhtoom Arabic Seerah book started for completion by 7ajj,
- Du3a’s listed and memorized prepared for last ten nights
Phase 5: (July 5th/6th/7th, Eid Night)
- Review of Ramadan
- Repeat the Du3as as tonight is Lailatul Jaa2iza,
- Maintenance, consolidation and already preparing for the next baseline
- Review six month goals in line with the du3as made in the last ten nights