Many people have moved away from the proper understanding of the reality of fasting. Ramadan for them has transformed into a period of festivities marked by the presentation of varied food, drinks, treats; a period of vigils in front of the satellite television channels. They prepare well before the advent of the month of Ramadan for fear of not being able to possess certain food or to see their prices increasing. They prepare special dishes and check satellite TV menus for Ramadan to find out what to watch during the blessed month and what not to watch. They manifest abject ignorance of the reality of fasting Ramadan and its spiritual dimensions.
Other people, however, do grasp the reality of the fast of the month of Ramadan and begin preparing for it in the preceding month of Sha’ban. Good preparation for the month of Ramadan, in fact, takes different forms including the following aspects:
- Sincere repentance
Repenting to God is obligatory at all times but it is more so for the one on the threshold of a blessed and very important month. Believers must hasten to repent before their Lord of their sins and of inadequately worshiping and thanking Him. Equally, believers need to fulfill all the duties they owe to their fellows in order to enter the blessed month and perform their acts of worship with healthy and tranquil hearts. God, Most High said: “And turn to God in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.” (Qur’an, 24: 31). According to Al Aghar Ibn Yasar (may God be pleased with him), the Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace) said: “O people, repent to God, for I do it a hundred times a day.” (Narrated on the authority of Imam Muslim).
It has been reported that some of our devout ancestors invoked God six months before Ramadan to allow them to witness it. Then, they invoked God for five months after the end of Ramadan so that He would approve their fasting. Believers, therefore, are required to invoke their Lord to maintain their physical and spiritual wellbeing until the arrival of the month of Ramadan. They still need to call on Him to help them get closer to Him during the month and accept their deeds.
- Looking forward to this important month
Observing the fast during Ramadan is one of the great blessings which God gives to His servants. Indeed, Ramadan is an opportunity to do well. Following its advent, the doors of heaven are flung open and the gates of hell are shut. It is the month of Quran. Many of the most decisive events in the history of early Muslims took place during Ramadan. God Almighty says: “Say, “In the bounty of God and in His mercy – in that let them rejoice; it is better than what they accumulate.”(Quran, 10: 58).
- Catching up with due fasting
It is mandatory for the believer who has fully or partially failed to fast during the previous Ramadan to hasten to catch up with unobserved fast for it is not permitted to delay catching up until the arrival of the following Ramadan. (Fateh Al Bari (4/191).
- Learning more about the provisions for right fasting and about the merits of Ramadan.
- Rushing to minimize occupations which might distract the Muslim from heartfelt worship practices during Ramadan.
- Sitting down with family members such as wife and children to explain to them the provisions for fasting and encouraging the little ones to attempt fasting.
- Preparing books that could be read at home during Ramadan.
- Fasting in Sha’ban to prepare well for the fast of Ramadan.
According to Aicha (May God be pleased with her): “The Messenger of God (God bless him and grant him peace) fasted to the point that we told ourselves that he would not break his fast anymore and then he would give up fasting to the point that we told ourselves that he was not going to fast anymore. I have never seen him fast a whole month apart from Ramadan. I have never seen him fast as frequently as in Sha’ban” (reported by Al Bukhari, 1868 and by Muslim, 1156). Osama Ibn Zayd narrated that he asked the Prophet: “I said, O Messenger of God! (why) I do not see you fasting in a month like you do in Sha’ban? He replied, “It’s a month between Rajab and Ramadan, a month that we do not pay attention to. (a month wherein) The deeds (of humankind) are presented to the Lord of the worlds. I would love my deeds to be raised to Him while I am observing the fast.” (Narrated by Ennassai, 2357 and judged as authentic hadith by Al Albani).