O you who have believed! prescribed for you is the Fast, as it was prescribed for (the ones) who were before you, that possibly you would be pious. (Surah Baqarah, Verse 183)
There are moments in our lives which are completely unprecedented yet have an everlasting impact on the way we think and approach several aspects relating to us. One such moment was my 4th grade ‘Ramadan’. My Quran teacher walked into the class and greeted us ‘Ramadan Kareem’ marking the beginning of this blessed month.
As a child, fasting during ‘Ramadan’ meant a great deal. There were various discussions around the topic about suhoor, iftar, taraweeh, taking care of one’s behaviour during these days etc. So, to make that particular month a little more interesting for us, our teacher decided to conduct an activity which would help us make the most of this opportunity.
‘Take some time at home and think about how you can keep a track of your ‘Salah’ during this entire month,’ she suggested. ‘You can try maintaining a book and marking those prayers you performed and those you missed.’ It was a simple activity but created a sense of excitement among us. As soon as she delegated us with the task, I knew I would be trying it. I am still unaware as to what geared my interest in it, but the technique has stuck with me till date.
Our teacher’s intention was to help us improve our act of worship and the advice worked. That day, I reached home, kept my bag away and pulled out a notebook to draw rows and columns marking all 30 days of the month and the 5 daily prayers. It looked something like this:
(The fast is) (for) a prescribed number of days. However, should any one of you be sick or on a journey, then (they should fast) a number of other days (equal to the missed ones); and those who have the strength, (still, they do not opt for fasting,) on them there is a fidyah (compensation), that is, the feeding of a poor person. Then whoever does good voluntarily, that is better for him. However, that you fast is better for you, if you only knew. (Surah Baqarah, Verse 184)
Marking my performed and missed prayers motivated me to concentrate more on my ‘Salah’. I had to get as many ticks as possible and as a nine year old, that made me push my limits. If not for this table, I wouldn’t have sincerely done all my prayers.
(Fun Fact: I was punctual for ‘Fajr’ during Ramadan and dropped back into the usual not-waking up for ‘Fajr’ routine post-Ramadan. Read about my personal journey towards establishing Fajr here.)
As an adult, I still follow this method to get into any habit. ‘Ramadan’ is a month where a believer is practicing three out of five pillars of Islam – praying, fasting, and giving zakat. Though these are the utmost important aspects of this month, there are many things that make ‘Ramadan’ special. At every level, several things form a part of this blessed month.
Altering deeds to meet Allah’s expectations is one such important aspect. It is best to use ‘Ramadan’ to bring about those changes, we otherwise are unable to cultivate among ourselves. It is like taking a new year’s resolution, but only to please Allah (swt). So, think about what you want to change within yourself and start this progressive journey this ‘Ramadan’. Make a chart with days and columns where you can tick or cross, the day you practiced or didn’t practice the particular change you want to see in yourself. Make sure you tick and cross on daily basis to stay motivated. Keep at it, till the end of the month and continue after ‘Ramadan’ for at least ten more days. If you successfully practice it for 40 days, ‘In sha Allah’ it will become a habit and you would have succeeded in making it a part of your life forever.
The month of Ramadan is the one in which the Qur’ān was revealed as guidance for mankind, and as clear signs that show the right way and distinguish between right and wrong. So those of you who witness the month must fast in it. But the one who is sick, or is on a journey (should fast) as much from other days (as he missed). Allah intends (to provide) ease for you and does not intend (to create) hardship for you. All this is so that you may complete the number (of fasts as prescribed) and proclaim the Takbīr of Allah for having guided you, and (so) that you may be grateful. (Surah Baqarah, Verse 185)
(Do let us know what your resolution is for this Ramadan in the comment section below)