Ramadan is coming, in the middle of June. Before we know it, another year will have passed. What are we doing to prepare to welcome our guest? The sahaba (ra) used to spend half the year in anticipation of Ramadan and half a year missing it. Do we have the same sense of anticipation? They were constantly living in hope of Ramadan, preparing every step of the way and holding on to the spiritual highs gained from one Ramadan to the next.
There are many things we can do in anticipation of the month of Ramadan, to prepare ourselves mentally, spiritually and physically.
Let’s begin with the first thing we do in the morning. The Prophet (saw) encouraged us to have a pre-dawn meal (suhur) before fasting. Anas (ra) reported that the Prophet (saw) said, "Eat a pre-dawn meal for there are blessings in it" (Bukhari, Muslim). Analysing this habit, one can see two key features of this practice:
1. Waking up early, before dawn
2. Eating in the early hours of the morning
Waking up early
To enable us to eat the pre-dawn meal, we must be able to wake up before dawn each day. Think about what time you are regularly waking up on a normal day, and analyse whether there is room for improvement.
Do you have a hard time waking up for fajr prayer each morning? If
so, then waking up before fajr during Ramadan is going to be even harder. Try sleeping early each night and work towards waking up before fajr time on a regular basis. The early hours of the morning are filled with many rewards. Remind yourself of these rewards and motivate yourself to benefit from them.
Practise going to sleep early each night by sleeping immediately after isha prayer. Our beloved Prophet (saw) disliked talking and staying up too long after isha.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) made dua and said, “O Allah, bless my ummah in its (night’s) early hours”. Make it a habit from today to sleep and wake up early each day to capture this blessing.
The blessing which our beloved Prophet (saw) taught us is in line with what is only being scientifically encouraged for the body. The body will be in line with the earth’s circadian rhythms. Harvard biologist Christoph Randler discovered in 2008 that early risers are more proactive. In a 2008 Texas University study, college students who identified themselves as "morning people" earned a full point higher on their GPAs than those who were "night owls" (3.5 vs 2.5).
Abu Hurairah (ra) reports that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “The best prayer after the obligatory prayers is the night prayer” (Muslim).
Waking up early and performing tahajjud prayer is a good way to inculcate morning habits for Ramadan. This not only gets you up and alert, but also reaps the merits that Allah (swt) has gifted us with.
Abu Hurairah (ra) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (saw) said, “In the last third of every night, our Cherisher and Sustainer, Allah (swt) descends to the lowermost heaven and says, ‘Who is calling Me, so that I may answer him? Who is asking something from Me, so that may I grant it to him? Who is seeking forgiveness from Me, so that I may forgive him?.’” (Bukhari, hadith qudsi).
The gifts of the early hours are already open to us well before Ramadan and they will prepare us for the times to come, if only we start to practise the habits.
If waking up for tahajjud is too great a step, then practise waking up early for fajr, and spend some time making thikr each morning to get into the habit. Sit on your prayer mat after fajr for as long as you can. ”The angels keep on asking Allah’s forgiveness for anyone of you, as long as he is at his praying place and he does not pass wind. They say, ‘O Allah! Forgive him. O Allah! Be Merciful to him’” (Bukhari).
This article is an excerpt from ‘Rocket Science’, the newsletter of Mount Albert Islamic Trust & is reprinted with their permission. www.mtalbertislamiccentre.org