Practical Tips for Ramadhan

We don't usually associate the winding down of summer with Ramadan, but that blessed and challenging month is just around the corner. Once more, our patience is put to the test as we place Allah's command to fast above our desire for comfort. It can be difficult for many reasons: athletes may find their training routines completely disrupted as their bodies weaken, students may find their studying habits disturbed by headaches, husbands and wives must limit their relations, etc. It is a month that forces all our activities to come to a standstill so that we will stop what we are doing and put Allah's command as our top priority. Moreover, the timing of the month is constantly changing, reflecting its stirring and provocative nature. It is always changing, always catching us at different times of the year, always challenging us when perhaps we least expect it to be our best when we might feel our worst. 

According to the Qur'an and narrations of the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them), the month of Ramadan is meant to increase our piety (God-consciousness), and to serve as a guidance for mankind. We seek this guidance through prayers and supplications, as well as through awareness and mindful actions. Below we have listed a few suggestions to help prepare ourselves for Ramadan on multiple levels, from the stomach to the mind, since Ramadan touches us on so many levels: 

Prepare Your Stomach! 
Dread fasting long summer days? There is no way around it, but perhaps you can ease your stomach by starting in advance. If that is too severe, you can try a mostly liquid diet (think chilled soups and smoothies) during the day. This could be beneficial if you need to detox anyway, because it will keep you hydrated but still let you experience a transition between a regular full diet and no meals at all. (NOTE: Consult a doctor if you want to give this a try!) 

Be Mindful of Your Dates 
Don't open your fast with a date produced in the illegal territories of Israel at the cost of exploited Palestinian labor. The two Israeli companies Agrexco and Hadi-klaim grow dates in the West Bank, using Palestinian villagers for their cheap labor, and sell their products in mostly European markets. Children and adults are forced to support their families by working in humiliating conditions as they gradually face eviction. Read more about them here. 

Think Soup for Iftar 
Eating late can be hard on many tummies, but so too can eating heavy food. Since eating late cant be helped during a Ramadan that falls in the summer, consider a light summer soup to open your fast. Some (gazpacho) are meant to be served chilled and can be very refreshing. Serve with light snacks to make it more substantial. 

Consider Fasting for Your Wallet 
Why not give your mind and wallet a break by becoming more mindful of your spending habits? Control shopping frenzy and new-item cravings by asking yourself whether you need or simply want that new item. Find alternative ways to fulfilling the need that you have, like using the library instead of buying books you won't read, or borrowing an item you know you won't use. Read more about the Ramadan Compact and the buy-nothing experience here, and challenge yourself to turn off your consumer button. What a beautiful new spin on de-cluttering your life! 

Say My Name 
Choose one of the Asma al-Husna, the Glorious Attributes of Allah, and use it for Dhikr as long as you can. Make a goal to recite the name a certain number of times, calmly and slowly, breathing in between and reflecting on its actual meaning. You can follow this chart if you have a more particular intention. 

W.W.A.E. (What Would Ali Eat?) 
Our Imam was known for his simple palate. Try to follow his example by limiting the variety of foods you eat in one setting, and see if your stomach doesn't feel lighter yet satisfied when you are done. Moreover, see if your mind isn't clearer when your focus lies beyond food. 
Keep the Dinner Parties Simple 

There is great blessing in sharing your food with friends and neighbors and breaking fast together. But you don't have to break your back to prepare a wedding-worthy menu. Keep the food varieties simple, and save some time and energy for praying on time and for reading a dua together instead of over-indulging in a lengthy Iftar. 

Bring Out the Decorations 
Celebrate the holy month and remind yourself of its blessings with simple decorations, such as festive candles, lights, lanterns, etc. This can even be a fun project with your children. Send our Ramadan cards (NOT the generic electronic ones!) to friends and family. 

Start Small Today 
You can prepare your body and your actions today by limiting one thing from your daily routine. For example, if you've had iced coffee during the day all summer long and you dread letting go, try not having one tomorrow to help you ease into Ramadan. Do you find yourself saying or thinking things you know are not allowed in Ramadan? Pick one major point you'd like to work on, and limit it NOW. Cursing or backbiting in particular should be tackled immediately. 

Educate Your Neighbors, Teachers, and Co-workers 
It's easier for them to understand why you are not your regular self if your non-Muslim friends and community members know when and what Ramadan is. Consider putting together a brief pamphlet to distribute at school or work. Decorations might also bring curious neighbors to your door. 

Don't Forget About Quds Day 
The Day of Quds is a demonstration scheduled on the last Friday of the month of Ramadan. This event was established 30 years ago by Imam Khomeini to unite Muslims and remind them of their strength and duty to denounce oppression for Palestinians and all others. If no event is scheduled in your area, prepare a presentation to commemorate this day. 

Read Qur'an 
Try to complete a Juz before Ramadan starts to prepare yourself for reading the entire Qur'an in 30 days, insha'Allah. 

Try to Limit Your Activities 
Ramadan interrupts many of our daily activities and routines. Some of these must be continued, but some can be postponed. If you can postpone some of your regular activities, you could conserve the energy you'd be spending for Qur'an, Dhikr, and generally remembering Allah. Think quality of your actions and events instead of quantity.