2. Try preparing three dishes in bulk for the next three days so you can alternate varieties. It’s easy to get caught up with daily cooking and preparing iftars for your family, so try meal prepping as much as you can to spend that time doing other forms of worship.
3. Plan your life around salah (prayer) times, not the other way round. It can be difficult working from home for extended periods of time. We get too lazy to move once we’ve been sedentary for hours. It’s recommended to take a 5 minute screen break each hour anyways, so use prayer as a breather. Schedule an alarm to pray and think of it as time for you to reconnect with Allah (SWT).
Note: Making wudhu can be physically and spiritually refreshing when you feel lazy or unproductive. If possible try to stay in a state of wudhu and refresh it when needed.
4. Stay on the prayer mat 2 minutes before and after you pray. It’s easy to rush prayer when you’ve got a lot on your mind or have a lot of work to get back to. What helps me is getting to my prayer mat a bit earlier to compose myself, set my intentions for the prayer, think of what I want to ask Allah for, and do some athkar to get myself into the right headspace. I like to take a deep breath in and out, expel the thoughts from my mind, unlock my jaw, get rid of the tension in my shoulders and then start praying.
It’s human nature to pray slower and with better form when praying with friends or in public, so I like to remind myself to pray that way always, and recite slowly. Try to enunciate so well that if an Arabic speaker were to hear us, they’d understand each word.
Learning what your prayer means intensifies its impact. It’s easy to treat prayer as routine and forget that every word we say during it has immense depth. Review the steps of prayer and wudhu so your knowledge of why we do them is up to speed.
5. Decorate your home so it feels like Ramadan. When mosques are closed and the sense of Ramadan community we’ve been craving all year is gone, it’s so important to set up your home in a way that it’s inviting to prayer, worship, and friendly interactions with family.
My family never decorates the house during Ramadan, but this year, I used Party City’s curb-side no contact delivery to snag some last minute Ramadan and Eid decor so we feel the joy of this holy month. We have moon and stars decor, lanterns hanging from the ceilings, lanterns with battery operated candles, a Ramadan Mubarak banner, a charcuterie board in the shape of a crescent moon and star, balloons with mosque silhouettes, and string lights draped around the banisters. I converted the game room into a prayer area, laid out tasbeeh and prayer mats, rubbed ittar (scented oils) onto them to recreate masjid vibes, brought my oudh bukhoor (wooden incense chips) stand to burn in the room, added floor pillows, hung some lanterns up and brought speakers to have the Quran playing out loud.
Try to pray in congregation with family. Have someone read as much they can from a physical Quran as they lead taraweeh. I like to dress in traditional clothes or a nice abaya to get myself in the taraweeh mood, and we have a Kashmiri chai break mid-taraweeh to simulate our masjid experience.
If you’re not with family, it might be a good idea to have virtual suhoor and iftars with friends to get that sense of community.
6. Say athkar like SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, La ilaha illallah, and Allahu Akbar while performing easy tasks like running errands, sitting around, on your quarantine walk, or as you browse the internet.
7. Do what you love to do. Some people love to feed the poor, while others love studying the Quran. Some love spending more time in the mosque and others love to spend more time in seclusion. People often force themselves to do things their heart isn’t fully into, and they tire themselves out. Choose the good deeds you enjoy doing and increase them.
8.Powerful times to make dua (pray) are in the last-third of the night and in sujood, among many other times. The key is to be sincere in your prayers and have trust in Allah that your wishes will come true.
9. Avoid excessive time on the Internet and hangouts. This includes parties that deter you from going to taraweeh and making dua before iftar, binging hours of Netflix, and constantly scrolling social media. If it helps, keep your phone in a drawer in a different part of your house while you worship or study. Talking to friends is essential in quarantine, so set time aside to do that, but not to the point where it’s distracting you from making the most of this month.
10. Read 4 pages of Quran with meaning after each prayer to finish one Juz a day, and Insha’Allah the entire Quran by the end of the month. I’ve made it a goal to finish the English translation this month so that I can refresh my understanding of it. Note: Although finishing the Quran is a great goal to have, if it’s overwhelming, reading even a page a day is incredible progress if you didn’t before. Do what works best for you so you stick with these habits even after Ramadan.
11. Surround yourself with people who want to learn new things this month. Gather a small group of people who want to grow during this month too. Have 30 minute daily video calls to go over Quran translations, have a community dua, listen to a short lecture and discuss, or do a group athkar. You can switch it up daily, but the point is to keep each other accountable. One of the perks of having daily meetups is even if your day gets busy, at least you will have this 30 minutes of worship locked down for the day.
My small group consists of just 4 people so there’s less scheduling conflicts and more comfort when opening up about our religious struggles. We discuss our Ramadan goals, share a good deed we did that day (or a bad deed we avoided but normally would have done), and make dua at the end where each person contributes. We found that meeting right after the work day is good because we have ample time after to set up iftar, and be with family during that time.
12. Memorize a verse of Surah Mulk every night of Ramadan. This beautiful surah is said to protect us from torment of the grave, and get this, it only has 30 verses! Playing the recitation on repeat helps it stick faster and it’s great for reciting with tajweed. Reading alongside the translation can also deepen your understanding of it.
13. Keep your goals sizable and consistent. Set your Ramadan goals early on so they are measurable. We all would love to have the entire Quran memorized by the end of Ramadan, but it’s just not practical. Even if it means memorizing one verse a day or sticking to shorter surahs that you can see yourself repeating in prayer regularly, every deed counts. Allah loves consistency, so do what you’re capable of, and do it well.
14. You can’t cut bad habits cold turkey. In an ideal world, we could get rid of bad habits instantly without much thought. But as they say, bad habits die hard. Whether it’s backbiting, getting annoyed easily, or listening to music excessively, it helps to find good substitutes to do when you’re tempted. Instead of music, listen to nasheeds or if you just need something to listen to, try podcasts or audiobooks. Serial, Stuff You Should Know, Dirty John, Dr. Death, and Broken Harts, are all great podcasts to binge instead. Qalam Institute’s Heartwork series is an amazing podcast as well. Instead of backbiting, try to say something positive to say about the person or divert the topic to something else. If you get annoyed easily, take deep breaths and maybe get some fresh air before saying something you might regret.
15. Stick to one Islamic series at a time. In quarantine, every scholar on the face of the Earth seems to be scheduling a livestream. Every Islamic organization wants to have virtual community discussions. Seeing all of these social media notifications can get overwhelming. It feels like there are so many options, I don’t know what to choose… and then I choose nothing. So I decided to stick to Mufti Menk’s Ramadan lecture series from a few years ago. I love that it has its own playlist, there’s structure to the episodes, and they don’t talk about coronavirus, which can get overwhelming hearing about all the time. For more recent series, the Qalam Institute has new YouTube videos coming out daily covering a Juz a day, and Ustadh AbdelRahman Murphy posts daily IGTV videos too.
16. Automate your donations throughout the month. That way, it’s one less thing you have to remember on a daily basis. LaunchGood’s Ramadan Challenge lets you pick a budget and specific causes you’d like to split them towards. MyTenNights does the same, but for the last ten nights of Ramadan, so you never miss giving on Laylatul Qadr again.
The Night of Power is better than a 1000 months, which is over 83 years. Therefore any act of worship during this night is rewarded to worship equal to over 83 years, even if it means donating $1 each night.
I hope you all have a wonderful Ramadan. Please keep me in your prayers and forgive me if I have wronged you in any way.
May Allah make is easy for us to build on our characters, spend our time productively, fast, and achieve our goals. May Allah bless all the Muslims across the globe, forgive our sins and strengthen our imaan. Ameen!