Ramadān as a holy month in Islam cannot be equated with any other month; carrying the heavyweight prescription of Allah for the entire Muslim Ummah to fast. This fasting has been prescribed for communities before that of Prophet Muhammad, though with notable differences. Fasting is essentially for the sake of boosting the piety of Muslims. Allah says thus “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” Quran 2: 183.
From the foregoing, it is crystal clear that Ramadān fasting is mandatory on Muslims who already hold unto the four other pillars of Islam; the Kalimatu shahadah (acceptance of Allah as the only God and Muhammed as His messenger), Salāt (the daily prayer), Zakat (almsgiving) and Hajj (pilgrimage to the Holy Land) as prerequisites of Islam as a religion.
The entire Muslim community is currently in the euphoric mood of anticipation to embrace the fast-approaching holy month, but with necessary preparations which include getting one’s mind ready for the great act of ‘īmān (faith in Allah). Also, among the preparations is to readily ascertain provisions that will ease the task ahead of us. However, the best of preparations is what Allah says in the Quran to be “Taqwa”(piety). “And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of Allah. And fear Me, O you of understanding”. Quran 2:197
The fear of Allah as a preparatory requirement towards the holy month of Ramadan entails, to mention but a few, the following:
1. Improve your Salah: unarguably, the major distinguisher between a Muslim and a non-Muslim is the five times daily canonical prayers. It is incumbent on every Muslim at this period to strictly monitor their Salah, keeping to its time while fulfilling, adequately, its components. This will ease for such a Muslim the ability to catch up with the additional act of ‘Ibādah (worship) like Tarāwih (the prayer that comes with the holy month) in the nights of Ramadān and also Nawāfil during the day to intensify one’s reward and of course, aim at the primary goal of the holy month which is to fear Allah at every moment.
2. Payment of missed fast, if any: this is majorly for muslim women and of course, men who, due to a reasonable hindrance, have missed a number of fast in the previous Ramadān. The wife of the holy prophet, Aisha (RTA), has said that she oftentimes paid her missed fastings in the month of Sha’ban (the month preceding the Holy month).
3. Abstinence from all unrighteous deeds: Islām, at all times, is a religion which strictly shuns unrighteousness in all of its forms and encourages righteousness whether big or little. A Muslim who therefore prepares him/herself for the holy month should, totally, steer clear of all misconducts which might have engulfed the soul before Ramadān in order to avoid these illicit acts from reducing the great rewards that should be accumulated in the holy month.
4. Getting oneself acquainted with the uniqueness of Ramadān: reading about the virtues of the month of Ramadan in order to get familiarized with its benefits toward the expiation of one’s sins, multiplication of rewards on every act of ‘Ibādah (righteousness), and how Allah swiftly answers every supplication made therein, as this will boost the morale and eagerness in us to cease every opportunity to purify our souls in the most anticipated holy month.
5. Preparing a Ramadān schedule: fasting comes with natural weakness which will want to deprive the body from absolute activeness to merge up rewardable acts with the personal daily activities. Noting down different religious practices you would like to engage at every point in time in the holy month is very necessary; reading of the holy Quran, observing nawafil (supererogatory prayers), and attending notable lectures among other acts should be prioritized without overwhelming oneself with unrealizable goals in the to-do list.
6. Planning to take care of someone else’s fasting: without doubt, all members of the Ummah are naturally meant to be financially unequal; while some have all it takes to fast in terms of foodstuffs and provisions, there are other people who find it difficult to do so. Therefore, another commendable act that can be done by a fasting Muslim is to cater to the feeding of one or more needy Muslims. One of the companions of Prophet Muhammed, Abu Hurraira, noted that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) once said, “ Whoever helps ease a difficulty in the world, Allah will grant him ease from a difficulty in the world and the Hereafter.” ( Tirmidhi: 1930)
With the above listed preparations, it is believed that every Muslim will have the prepared mindset to strive, relentlessly, towards seeking the face of Allah in the coming month of Ramadan, and we pray Allah, in His infinite mercy, bless Sha’bān for us and allow us reach the holy month of Ramadan. Aameen.
Afolabi O. Quadri writes from the Department of Religions and Peace Studies, Lagos State University