Friday, June 20, 2014

Setting Goals for Ramadan

Salam aleikum, all. The clock is counting down. Ramadan is almost here, inshAllah!

Now, if you're like me, in the past you've had some vague, nebulous goals for the month of Ramadan. You say "Oh, I'll read the Qur'an in Ramadan" or "I'll pray all five salah" or something else, but you don't go beyond that. You don't make a plan - or, if you're like me, you don't hold yourself accountable for meet those goals.

As a result, the past couple of Ramadans have been less than successful for me. Isolation (lack of community) aside, I could have gotten much better benefit out of Ramadan by putting more effort into it, rather than laying on the couch watching all the Burger King commercials for bacon double cheeseburgers!

This year, I wrote down my goals. It took almost no time at all, largely because I got out a notepad and pen and actually WROTE them down. Ideas seem to flow so much more easily that way for me, which I never realised.

Now, before we get into our goals for Ramadan, what should we do? We need to make our sincere intention that this Ramadan fast is for the sake of Allah, to seek His pleasure and to draw us closer to Him. After all, tossing aside all the babble about rewards and devils being chained up, etc, this is what Ramadan comes down to: our relationship with Allah.

So why do we fast? To purify us - to remove our sins, inshAllah, and to make us thankful for the bounty we take for granted every day.

"O you who believe, fasting has been decreed for you as it was decreed for those before you, perhaps you may be righteous." 2:183

" A month of aspiration, in which the Qur'an was revealed; as a guide to the people and clarities from the guidance and the Criterion. Therefore, whoever of you witnesses the month, then let him fast therein. And whoever is ill or traveling, then the same number from different days. God wants to bring you ease and not to bring you hardship; and so that you may complete the count, and glorify God for what He has guided you, that you may be thankful." 2:185

Ramadan is generally called "the Month of the Qur'an". We can see why from the above ayah - this was when the Qur'an was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad. In keeping with that, we shouldn't just recite the Qur'an in Arabic, but we should read it in our language so that we *understand* it and can allow it to challenge and change us from within.

Goal #1: Read one juz of Qur'an each day.

This will allow us to read the Qur'an as a whole, from cover to cover, by the end of the month. I read a statistic that said some 95% of Muslims polled stated that they never, in their whole lives, have read the Qur'an in their own language and, in consequence, understood it. Let's start changing that this Ramadan.

Goal #2: Make all five salah every day - on time, if possible, but make them all, no excuses.

I think we've established that making the five salah is a constant jihad for me. I struggle with it - inshAllah, it will become easier and part of the natural flow of my day during Ramadan and afterward.

Goal #3: Learn one new surah each week (in Arabic), at minimum.

There are a lot of short chapters in Qur'an. Starting to pick up Quranic Arabic from those chapters is a good thing to do. Every language nerd, at heart, wants to be able to read something in the original language and appreciate the nuances and power of the words in their original form, rather than through the lens of a translator's cultural traditions and influences.

Goal #4: Be mindful of my tongue - no gossiping, backbiting, or ranting allowed.

This one can be a bit of a challenge sometimes. Not all the time, alhamdilullah, but being around certain people makes keeping to this harder. I shall keep in mind the old axiom: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Silence will help me to ponder those Qur'an verses I'll be reading, inshAllah. :)

Goal #5: Be mindful of what I eat.

Food is important, but when you're fasting? It's even MORE important. Everything we eat should be healthy and hydrating - but it's so easy to fall into the junk food trap! Fried foods, desserts, soda, tea... none of these things are good for us. I will strive to drink way more water and way less tea. (Yes, I know, tea is actually good, but it's a diuretic, and where I'm from, it comes loaded with sugar - this ain't no Yankee town, y'all!) I also want to eat more fruit and veggies, less processed stuff. Fruits, especially, are loaded with water - they help us rehydrate even as we eat. Grapes, melons of all kinds, citrus fruits, etc, should all be my best friend in the hot and thirsty month of Ramadan! I also need to buy a container of dates - the fructose in them is quickly absorbable and will give me a fast and much-needed energy and blood sugar boost at the end of the day.

Well, there you have it: my plan for Ramadan. Seems a bit daunting, now that I look at it, but it also doesn't seem like much. (How does that even work? lol)

Here's hoping that everyone is successful this Ramadan, inshAllah, and that you all establish plans to help you get the most out of this holy month!