COUNTDOWN TO RAMADHAN: ONE MONTH TO GO!
From tonight it is the 1st of Sha’ban. So, what is special about this fact? What does it mean for us?
Here is a hadith that tells us the importance of this month:
The Prophet (s) said: “Sha’ban is a month between Rajab and Ramadhan, much neglected by people. In it, the actions of all the servants are raised to the Lord of the Worlds; and I love for my actions to be raised while I am fasting.” (An-Nasai and Al-Baihaqi)
There are 12 months in the Islamic calendar. The greatest month of all is Ramadhan, and Sha’ban is special because it is the ‘next-door neighbour’ to Ramadhan. It is precious because it allows us time to prepare ourselves for the greatest of months.
The Blessed Prophet (saw) used to increase his worship in this month. Our Mother, A’ishah (ra) said:
“I never saw the Messenger of Allah fasting an entire month except in Ramadhan, and I never saw him fast more than he did in Sha’ban”. (Narrated in Bukhari and Muslim)
Of course we know that it is generally compulsory for Muslims to fast all the days of Ramadhan. The hadith above means that outside of Ramadhan, the month in which the Prophet (saw) then used to fast the most was Sha’ban. The sahabah Usama bin Zayd (ra) also reports this when he said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, I do not see you fasting in any other month like you fast in Sha’ban’. (Nasa’i)
The Prophet (saw) did not have to fast in Sha’ban of course – these were voluntary fasts (Nafl). So why did he do this if he didn’t have to? Because there is a special honour given to good deeds done in this month, and the Prophet (saw) wanted to carry out extra good deeds while he was in a state of fasting. The great scholar Ibn Rajab (may Allah have mercy on him) said the following:
“…The best of voluntary fasts are those that are done on the months closest to Ramadhan: before or after. The status of these fasts is like that of the Sunnah prayers (called Sunan al-Rawatib) which are done before and after our fard prayers and which make up for any gaps in the number of our fard prayers…”
On the Day of Judgment, if any of our compulsory prayers are deficient, Allah will look to our Sunnah prayers which will fill in the gaps. So just as it is the case with our prayers, any fasts we keep in Sha’ban will be used to make up for any gaps in our compulsory fasts.
Another important lesson to take away from the first hadith mentioned above, is that the month of Sha’ban often gets neglected. So we should be especially cautious that we do not fall into the category of people who neglect Sha’ban. Doing extra worship in Sha’ban is a Sunnah, a practice of the Prophet (saw) – and if we revive this act of Sunnah, we will get extra rewards inshaAllah. Take a look at this hadith:
“Whoever revives a Sunnah from my Sunnah and the people practice it, will have the same reward of those who practice it without their reward diminishing” (Ibn Maajah)
So, readers, let’s not lose the opportunity to revive a Sunnah. Let your family and friends know – to share the knowledge about Sha’ban with others is itself a great deed!
THE BENEFITS OF SHA’BAN PREPARATION:
Use this month to prepare yourself for Ramadhan! In order to understand the importance of Sha’ban, and the importance of being prepared, we have to value Ramadhan itself. And if we don’t appreciate the importance and value of Ramadhan, then of course we won’t feel any urgency in making the most out of Sha’ban.
To give you an idea of how special Ramadhan is: the companions of the Prophet (saw) and the Salaf used to make du’a 6 months before Ramadhan, asking Allah to accept their deeds. They would make this du’a:
‘O Allah, keep me safe until Ramadan, and make Ramadan faultless for me, and secure it for me as an accepted (month of virtue).’ (Reported in Ibn Kathir)
They would then make du’a for 6 months after Ramadhan, that Allah would accept the good deeds that they had done. The month of Ramadhan meant so much to them that it was never out of their du’as! They were thinking about it all year round. And here we are just 30 days away from this great month, so we also need to be thinking about it and praying for it.
Here are 2 analogies that show the importance of being prepared.
First of all: Exams! Most people will have to sit exams at some point in their life – many of you will have been going through that in the past month. Can you imagine turning up to your exams without doing any revision? Can you imagine realising you have an exam just the night before? No one would do that to themselves! We make sure that we have the exam dates pinned on our notice-boards and in our diaries months in advance; we then create elaborate revision plans to make sure we cover everything; we will dedicate entire days towards our preparation and will put off many things in that time because they are not as important compared to our exams…
Or let’s take another analogy: Sports tournaments.. Remember the Olympics – How long do you think those athletes spent on their preparation? Did they train a few days in advance – or months in advance? No – actually, it was years in advance! Most of them will have been in intense training for 4 years or more. Many of them would have woken up at 4am everyday for training, would have given up all sorts of food and drink they enjoy but which is not healthy for them…all for the sake of a race that lasts maybe 10 seconds. And if they didn’t put in that training, what then? Imagine a footballer playing a match when they are not match-fit…they might get substituted or injured in the game.
So let’s apply this to Ramadhan and the need to prepare. Yes, the Gold medal is a great goal to work for – but the real, ever-lasting Prize for all of us is Jannah, and that is what a successful Ramadhan can gain for us. If we don’t try to get ‘in the zone’ from now, we will end up wasting the first week or 10 days of Ramadhan adjusting, and before we know it a third of the precious month has already gone. Even worse, we may become too tired just as the crucial stage, the last 10 nights, are upon us.
The only way to make the most of Ramadhan is through preparation before hand, so that we can hit the ground running inshaAllah!
WHAT KIND OF PREPARATION CAN WE DO?
There are many small steps that we can take during Sha’ban – small steps that can make a huge difference. Here are just a few, but you can probably come up with many more.
1. Make lots of good intentions for Ramadhan: Do you intend to pray Tarawih each evening? Do you intend to complete recitation of the Qur’an? Do you intend to give some money in Sadaqah? …whatever it is, make the intention now. You get a reward for just making a good intention – and if you actually carry out the deed your rewards are multiplied. And in Ramadhan, the multiplication increases even more! An easy way to get rewards inshaAllah.
2. Make du’a for your Ramadhan to be a successful one. Start remembering Ramadhan in your du’as after every salah. The Prophet (pbuh) use to say when the months of Rajab (just passed) and Sha’ban came:
‘Allahuma barik lana fee Rajab wa Sha’ban wa balighna Ramadan’
Oh Allah make the months Rajab and Sha’ban blessed for us and let us reach the month of Ramadan (Ahmad)
3. Fasting: As you can see from the above ahadith, this is a clear way to follow the example of the Prophet (saw) :). Also, fasting allows the body to prepare itself for the regular fasts in Ramadhan. Ramadhan can often be a shock to the system, making people feel that the fast is difficult. By fasting a few days in Sha’ban we can inshaAllah build up our endurance physically as well as spiritually. It might make it easier if you invite someone else to fast with you in Sha’ban – a family member or a friend. Then you can encourage each other. Make sure, though, that you leave a few days just before Ramadhan in which you do not fast: this is the practice of Prophet (saw).
It is also important that we make up for any missed fasts from the previous Ramadhan – we must make up these fasts before the next one begins.
4. Start forming good habits early. No need to wait for Ramadhan! Habits take about 20 to 40 days to form: so if you start from now, those good habits will inshaAllah last for even longer – hopefully even long after Ramadhan has gone. For example, maybe you can add an extra nafl prayer after your Isha. Or you can read a bit more Qur’an?
5. Identify the things you want to cut out or stop in Ramadhan, and start cutting them out gradually from now (TV? facebook? Other things that waste your time?)– Set targets for each week of Sha’ban.
6. Make a plan for Ramadhan: what tasks will you set for yourself each day? How will you fit in the things you want to complete in the month? What times will you do it in? E.g. A sister once set herself the target of doing 30,000 istighfar in Ramadhan. So that meant 1000 a day – she then split that up into 200 after each salah. She made it manageable and in that way she completed her task, mashaAllah.
7. A great suggestion that a sister gave at the circle – try and get as many practical, mundane things out the way before Ramadhan. Families can try as much as possible to do the shopping for Iftar supplies before Ramadhan. Maybe some things can be made early and put in the freezer. This will save precious time during Ramadhan, leaving more time for Ibaadah (worship). Also, trying to make your living space conducive for Ibaadah is a good idea – does your bedroom need a tidy-up and organising?! 🙂 Do it before Ramadhan starts. And if you’re working, save your annual leave for at least the last ten days of Ramadhan – request the days off before it’s too late.
8. Read articles and books on Ramadhan, inform yourself about the beautiful blessings of this month so that you start looking forward to it, and so that you want to prepare for it.
9. Remember the reality of life – which is death. This is not to be morbid, but to be prepared and honest. If we remember that death can come at any time, and if we realise that we are not guaranteed to get another Ramadhan after this one, then it will make us more motivated to make the most of this upcoming Ramadhan. Don’t depend on a second chance, make this the best Ramadhan and prepare for it.
10. Try to increase visits to your local mosque – get to know your community, find out their plans for Ramadhan. Decide where you will go for Tarawih prayers. And if you can, on the night when Ramadhan is announced, try to be there at your mosque for the first Tarawih prayers – the sooner you meet with your fellow Muslims and witness the unity amongst them, the sooner you will feel the Ramadhan spirit, inshaAllah.
May Allah help us in our preparation for Ramadan, and enable us to benefit from Sha’ban. Ameen! And if you have other tips about preparing for Ramadhan, please share them with us! 🙂