Ramadhan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, is special to Muslims as a holy period dedicated to fasting, self-purification, and spiritual attainment.
For non-mulims who are spiritual seekers, you can probably appreciate the goals of Ramadan – A whole-body awareness of Allah and a humble thankfulness for whatever blessings He has granted.
Muslims do the dhikr (reciting short du’as, or supplications) silently while you’re driving, waiting in line somewhere, or doing endless household tasks. Keep a thasbih (the equivalent of a Muslim rosary) in your purse or pocket and use it to count off du’as (prayers).
In past Ramadans I always went on a sort of technology crash diet–television, music, inane web surfing, and movies were all self-banned for 30 days. All the extra time was designated for reading Qur’an, praying, and reconnecting with family.
So the better thing to do is to use technology wisely: Use our email to stay in contact with friends and family, get the news from television and the Internet, and use our ipod to listen to Qur’anic prayers. And when basic needs have been met, turn the technology off and take the extra time to pray and reconnect.
Share Meals Together as a Family
Having iftar (the fast-breaking meal at sunset) as a family should be easier this Ramadan. Muslims follow a lunar calendar, which moves Ramadan back 10 days earlier each year. This year most iftars will be after 7 p.m., late enough for the family to be home together. Breaking the fast with the family is a great opportunity to appreciate one another’s holy efforts and discuss spiritual topics.
Do New Types of Charity
After becoming a parent, I used to get discouraged that I couldn’t properly do those things recommended to Muslims during Ramadan: Go for tarawih prayers or read the entire Qur’an. But my mom and mother-in-law gave me sound insight: Everything you do for the comfort of your family is charity and a way of worshipping Allah.
Get to know your community at the Mosque near you
About the only time most Muslim-Americans go to the mosque is for Friday prayers. During Ramadan, why not make the mosque an integral part of worship? Go there for as many tarawih prayers as you can, especially the end ones when the Qur’an is being completed. Pick one day a week and go to your mosque for iftar. It’s amazing how good we feel to see others fasting and striving as much as we are.
Realize That Faith and Worldly Life Go Hand-in-Hand
During Ramadan some Muslims indulge in spiritual extremes–they may try to shutdown all “worldly” aspects of life, like watching TV or playing with kids, and replace it with all spiritually related activities. But man cannot exist on prayer alone. Yes, Ramadan is the month when Muslims are told that Allah stops the devil from harassing us, and our prayers are more powerful. But though we must ramp up our spiritual practices, we need to keep up our everyday routines.
Don’t Wait for Ramadan to Get More Spiritual
Imam Zaid Shakir has a popular video about preparing for Ramadan as if you’re training for a big race. You can’t just stand at the starting line and then all of a sudden run the spiritual race. Start by fasting on Mondays and Thursdays in Shaban (the month preceding Ramadan) as prescribed by hadith (verified sayings of Prophet Muhammad). Want to read the entire Qur’an in Ramadan? Then before Ramadan, put aside 15 minutes each day to read the Qur’an.
Avoid a Spiritual Letdown
One of the biggest Ramadan problems is what happens immediately afterward. Muslims are consumed with fasting and prayer. Then Ramadan ends and we resume the mantle of our everyday flawed lives. What we should be doing is keeping some of our good Ramadan habits throughout the year. So be sure to engage in a cool-down period afterwards with an eye toward maintaining some of your Ramadan practices. Try fasting one day a week. Resolve to keep up a charitable practice. Read the Qur’an for five minutes daily. A little bit goes a long way.