Ramadan is the most important month of the year. It is the month that the believers look forward to all year long. At the beginning of Rajab — two full months before Ramadan — the Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, used to pray: “O Allah! Bless us during Rajab and Sha’’ban, and let us reach Ramadan (in good health).”
During Ramadan, we should be seeking Allah’s mercy, forgiveness, and protection from
the Hellfire. This is the month for renewing our commitment and re-establishing our relationship with our Creator. “If we combine all the blessings of the other eleven months, they would not add up to the blessings of Ramadan”.
Ramadan offers every Muslim an opportunity to strengthen his Iman, purify his heart and soul, and to remove the evil effects of the sins committed by him throughout the year. “Anyone who fasts during this month with purity of belief and with expectation of a good reward (from his Creator), will have his previous sins forgiven,” said Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam.
To prepare for Ramadan, we can increase the frequency of our Du’a. Allah says in Surah Al Baqarah, verse 186: “And when My servants ask you, (O Muhammad), concerning Me – Indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me (by obedience) and believe in Me that they may be guided.” (The verses before and after this verse are about Ramadan.) Another way to prepare for Ramadan is by fasting in the month of Sha’baan, such as every Monday and Thursday. Some people do not fast at all until the month of Ramadan, which makes their bodies very foreign to going without food and drink and can make Ramadan much more difficult and unpleasant. Fasting during Sha’baan is the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad. Umm Al-Mu’mineen Aisha – radiAllahu ‘anha – said, “Allah’s Messenger never fasted an entire month other than Ramadan and I haven’t seen him fast more than he did in Sha’baan.”
There are many benefits from fasting during Ramadan, besides the obvious reward that comes from pleasing and obeying Allah.
(1) Gaining Taqwaa
Allah says in the Quran: “O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you as it has been prescribed upon those before you, so that you may attain taqwaa.” (Baqarah (2):183) Taqwaa in this case means to make a shield between oneself and hellfire.
(2) Acquiring patience
Allaah has mentioned patience more than seventy times in the Qur’aan and has commanded patience in more than sixteen ways in His Book. So when one fasts, and gives up one’s food and drink, and one’s marital sexual relations for those hours, one learns restraint and patience.
(3) Striving for Ihsaan (righteousness and sincerity) and staying away from riyaa’ (showing off)
Ihsaan means to worship Allah as if one seeks Him, and even though one does not see Him, He sees all. Hasan al-Basree said, “By Allah, in the last twenty years, I have not said a word or taken something with my hand or refrained to take something with my hand or stepped forth or stepped back, except that I have thought before I have done any action, ‘Does Allah love this action? Is Allaah pleased with this action?’ So when one is fasting, one should gain this quality of watching oneself and also staying away from riyaa’ (showing off). Allah singles out fasting from all other types of worship saying, “Fasting is for Me”, because no one knows whether you are fasting or not, except Allah.
(4) Being more charitable
Ibn `Abaas said, “The Prophet was the most charitable amongst the people, and he used to be more so in the month of Ramadaan.” (al-Bukhaaree) The Prophet (may Allaah send His blessing and peace upon him) said, “He who gives food for a fasting person to break his fast, he will receive the same reward as him, with nothing being reduced from the fasting person’s reward.” (at-Tirmidhee)
(5) Feeling the unity of the Muslims
The Prophet said, “Those of you who will live after me will see many differences. Then you must cling to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided khaleefahs. Hold fast to it and stick to it.” (Aboo Daawood) In this month we sense that there is a possibility for unity, because we all fast together, we break fast together, we all worship Allah together, and we pray Salaatul-`Eid together.
(6) Caring for one’s health
Fasting has many medical benefits and it teaches Muslims to take care of their health and to build strong bodies. The Prophet said, “A strong believer is better and is more beloved to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone.” (Muslim) The Prophet (SAW) said that we should fill our stomach with 1/3 food, 1/3 water and leave 1/3 for air to breath.
After we have prepared our bodies and minds for Ramadan, we should try to set a program for ourselves during Ramadan, such as the following:
1. Scheduled times of the day when we will consistently read the Qur’an, understand what we are reading and memorize new Sur’ahs.
2. Do something useful during the time right before and immediately after Taraweeh.
3. Find ways to increase our worship in the last ten nights of Ramadan.
4. Make the intention to double and triple the amount of Sadaqah we give, the Dhikr we do, the Sadaqah we give, and the deeds that will help us purify our souls.