As Ramaḍān draws closer, we begin to feel sparks of excitement inside of us, ignited by the sheer majesty of the month that is about to descend. A month when our deeds can scale as high as mountains – from the limitless kindness that will be bestowed on us from of the One we pray to, the One we ask from, and the One we wish every blessing from: Allāh the Most High.
And so, Ramaḍān preparations begin. For some, this involves preparing food in advance and saving time in Ramaḍān for more important things, whilst not breaking the hearts of the little ones who so eagerly look forward to a special treat at the table at iftār. Allāh knows your intentions and knows what you are doing is kind and good, and you will be rewarded for it, in shā’ Allāh.
For others, the preparation starts from tidying and decluttering the house for Ramaḍān, that guest we so eagerly wait for every year. Our minds become sharper and more focused as things around us become tidy and put in their rightful places. Again, Allāh knows your intentions and that what you are doing is a good thing, and it will definitely help you be in better mental shape during Ramaḍān.
Many of us also focus on trying to revise the Qur’ān that we have previously learnt. We do this in order to get ready for tarāwīḥ, and maybe focus on trying to concentrate more on our ṣalāh so that we have more khushū‘ by the time Ramaḍān arrives.
Then there is the planning. What lectures to watch? What tafsīr to learn? How much Qur’ān to read? What charity to give?
All these goals that we plan to reach in Ramaḍān will no doubt give us a high turnover in good deeds, in shā’ Allāh, and Allāh is Most Kind. But one of the greatest outcomes that we should be striving for in Ramaḍān is to end the month as a better version of ourselves than when we started it.
While goals can be achieved, they do not necessarily change us as individuals. For example, you may read the Qur’ān cover to cover three times in Ramaḍān, and yet you may find that you do not complete it again during the course of the year until the following Ramaḍān. So, whilst you have achieved this goal, you did not change yourself.
This Ramaḍān, we need to shift our focus to what we want our new identity to be as we leave Ramaḍān. The barakah of the month will allow us to do great deeds, but a change in our mindset will help us to continue forwards with a system and a baseline of regular acts, not just because they are goals but rather because they are a part of our character.
“I am a reader of the Qur’ān. That is what I am, and when Ramaḍān ends, that is what I will continue to be.”
“I am a charity giver (in its different forms), and when Ramaḍān ends, that is who I will continue to be. It is part of my identity.”
Once you have decided to alter your mindset to be a greater version of yourself, the next thing is to decide how to put a system into place so that the results are of a high quality.
The goal of a football coach is obviously for his team to win tournaments. If the coach identifies himself as a winner and has a system that involves choosing the best players together with a vigorous training regime, then that system alone will generate the envisioned result.
The system is key. If you have a set time in which you are able to read the Qur’ān in and out of Ramaḍān – a time you are unlikely to be interrupted in and that you are easily able to maintain – then that is part of setting up a system with a chance of greater success.
This Ramaḍān, identify the flaws in your identity and your system. Concentrate on who you want to be and work towards building a system with a baseline that you will able to continue once the precious month has left.
The months of Rajab and Sha‘bān are great for working towards this because a true habit is formed by a constant repetition of an action for about 30 days. This, followed by a continuation for 90 days, enables that habit to become part of your identity. The combination of Rajab, Sha‘bān, and Ramaḍān is roughly 90 days, subḥān Allāh.
It is never too late. Do not lose hope. Start now. Strive to be the best you can and know that the One above the Heavens sees your efforts. He has promised, “Whoever comes to me walking, I will come to them running.”