In the eye of Allah, fasting enjoys a grace unparalleled by other acts of piety and worship. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Allah said, ‘All the deeds of Adam’s sons (human beings) are for them, except fasting, which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.’” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Ramadan begins anytime soon from now in the ninth month of Islamic calendar. Some may say it’s too early to speak of Ramadan, but actually it is not. You have to prepare yourself, especially if you’re a new Muslim.

If this is your first Ramadan you will appreciate what I am going to say. Everyone has his or her little weaknesses, whether it is the morning cups of coffee that help you to open your eyes, or your cigarettes (which you shouldn’t be smoking). In either case, if your system depends on them, you have to go through a weaning period before Ramadan by trying to decrease your intake of caffeine or nicotine; otherwise the first days of Ramadan will be tough. In the case of nicotine, wean yourself now and determine to give them up completely and forever in Ramadan.

I also suggest you practice fasting to see how it feels. Try to have a pre-dawn meal (called sahur) and then go back to sleep, or eat a meal before going to bed to see which suits you best. If you are a caffeine addict, try a mug of coffee or tea with your late sahur. When practicing to fast, it is disliked to fast on Fridays or Saturdays unless you also fast a day before or after. The Sunnah is to fast on Mondays and Thursdays.

If you are on medication, it is imperative that you consult your doctor to see if you are permitted to fast and whether you need to reschedule your medication. If you can’t fast at all, look now for a needy person in your neighborhood or community to feed in your stead, or inquire at your mosque if you don’t know anyone. The person should be fed the same quantity and quality of food that you eat. For more details, read: When Patients Don’t Fast in Ramadan.

If you cannot read Arabic and you don’t have a translation of the Qur’an, now is the time to acquire one, or tapes or a CD. Ramadan is the month when Muslims renew their commitment to their Creator. Therefore, you should also train yourself to devote some time each day to read the Qur’an. The best time is after Fajr (Dawn) Prayer, but any time is a good time for reading the Qur’an. It is a Sunnah to read the whole Qur’an during Ramadan, a juz’ (one thirtieth) each day. Try from now so that you get into the habit. If you cannot read the Arabic yet, listen and read the translation every day, and practice reading the Arabic as much as you can.

Ramadan is also a month of entertaining and sharing the breaking of the fast. If your house needs a major cleaning, do it before Ramadan so that you can spend the holy month in prayers and Qur’an, not in housework.

This is also the time to look for other Muslims in your community or for Islamic centers or mosques where you can share iftar (breaking the fast) together, followed by praying in congregation. If the mosques do not have communal iftars, they will at least have Tarawih Prayers. During Ramadan, try to perform Tarawih at the mosque, at least on weekends. If you can’t, try to perform Tarawih at home by yourself or with others. This gives Ramadan a unique flavor of its own.

Prepare yourself now so you can have a happy prosperous Ramadan!   

By Magda Azzam