Whilst not officially the first Islamic Month on the Lunar Calendar, the month of Ramadan is often regarded as the start of the Islamic Year with respect to developing a change in oneself. One reason for this is bound to be the inclusion in this month of the Night of Qadr, where one’s destiny for the coming year is said to be written. This month is, therefore, an opportunity to develop resolutions for the coming year. Here are a few that you might consider!
1. Connect with the Qur’an
We instinctively introduce the month of Ramadan as a month of fasting, but God introduces it as “that in which the Quran was revealed”, (Qur’an, 2:185) and traditions suggest fasting is obligatory in this month because the Qur’an was revealed in it. Interestingly, these narrations also report it to be the month of revelation of the Torah, Psalms and the Bible. The month provides the ideal platform to explore the book and make it a daily part of our lives, especially in an age where English translations are freely available. Reading one verse from the Qur’an in this month is said to be equivalent in reward to reciting the whole book in other months.
They say that reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. “Read” was the first word revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad (saw), yet it is becoming less and less common in today’s society. Recent statistics found 4 million adults in the UK never read for pleasure, and 25% of Americans over 16 have not read a book in the last year. Reading is not only educational but has been found to increase general wellbeing and has numerous health benefits including the reduction of stress and Alzheimer’s Dementia.
3. Digital Detox
Swiping through your Facebook and Instagram feeds might seem like easy ways to get through a long fast, but we know we could spend the time more productively. For children and young people, social media can be even more dangerous, be it the concerns around children being exposed to screens from a tender age to young people being exposed to cyber bullying and trolling. As fasting cleanses your body physically, why not try cleansing your daily routine by changing the way you use social media this month?
4. Rekindle ties with family and friends
One of the benefits of the digital age is the ease with which we can pick up a phone and speak to family and friends. In Shahr Ramadan, this becomes even easier as communities often gather to eat in the evenings. Islamic narrations mention how keeping strong family relations lengthens one’s life, and this is supported scientifically. This month also provides a good opportunity to mend relationships which might be patchy.
5. Think about others
Last year, UK Muslims donated £38 a second during the month of Ramadan, and the Muslim community is known to be the most charitable religious group in Britain. The Month of Ramadan has a close association with charity, and giving charity in the month is said to ward off 70 types of calamity. Charity is becoming more important in an age where inequality is increasing – the world’s richest eight people now have the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the global population.
6. Fasting of the limbs
The Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) daughter Fatima said: “What is the fasting person doing with his fast if he is not guarding his tongue, his hearing, his sight and his limbs [from sins]?” The month of Ramadan affords an ideal opportunity to better one’s morals. Whether it be controlling your temper, doing random acts of kindness towards strangers, or just smiling more, these good traits can become part and parcel of your daily life after the month ends.
7. Attention to prayers
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) used to increase his prayers in the month of Ramadan and exhorted us to do the same. This is known as the month of God and it is the ideal time to connect with Him, whether it be catching up with missed prayers, performing surplus prayers or paying more attention to the timing of prayers.
8. Explore beautiful supplications
We have some gems in the forms of supplications of the Prophet’s family members. In Dua Abu Hamza Thamali, Imam Ali ibn Husayn talks to God in mesmerising fashion (“I knew of You by You, and You directed me to You and called me to You, and without You, I would not have known what You are”). Similarly, the supplications of Tawbah and Makarimul Akhlaq are quite exquisite in the way they speak of repentance and good morals respectively.
9. Stay healthy
This month is often called a detox month, but this can only be the case if we eat and drink sensibly! Downing deep fried delicacies and spending most nights smoking shisha won’t be as cleansing as we might hope, but if we take heed of our diet, the month can have huge health benefits. Check out the article I wrote for The Muslim Vibe last year on the topic of having a healthy month of Ramadan.
10. Switch off from autopilot mode
The month of Ramadan is a great chance to develop yourself spiritually and to spend time pondering about the purpose of our existence. The worldly desires of food, drink and sex are forbidden, forcing us to think deeper. The month may, therefore, be a necessary hiatus for us to look at where we are going with our lives, away from the autopilot mode of working, eating and sleeping we often end up in for the rest of the year.