1. Do some voluntary fast days
What better way to prepare yourself for Ramadan than through practice? Try doing a few voluntary fasts in the run-up to Ramadan to get you accustomed to the change. This is also the perfect time to make up any missed fasts from last year.
2. Have an early breakfast
During Ramadan, we will be waking up in the early hours of the day for Suhoor (the pre-dawn meal before the fast begins), so it might be helpful to start having an early breakfast now to help your body get used to the earlier hours. This is especially important if you’re not much of a breakfast eater!
3. Reduce your coffee intake
If you’re a coffee lover, you will most likely suffer from withdrawal symptoms and headaches if you suddenly stop your caffeine intake once you start fasting. It might be best to reduce the number of cups of coffee per day in the week before Ramadan to slowly wean you off it. If you are on any medication, consult your doctor to see how to adjust your programme.
4. Set spiritual goals
Many Muslims struggle with attaining their spiritual goals in Ramadan. So it’s a good idea to set goals and objectives beforehand, then strive to achieve them in the month. Start thinking about how much of the Quran you aim to finish reading this month and what prayers you might complete. Others who want spend the last 10 nights of Ramadan in Itikaaf certainly need to plan and ensure their minds are free of any worldly commitments. Listing your goals in a chart and putting them up somewhere will help you monitor your progress and keep you on track.
5. Avoid bad habits
Fasting is about more than just giving up food, drink and sex for the daylight hours. It requires us to be more aware of our deeds and encourages us to be careful about everything we say and do. If you are prone to swearing, smoking, lying or any other bad habits, then use the time leading up to Ramadan to stop... and resolve to quit entirely in Ramadan.
6. Stock up on Ramadan resources
You can make best use of Ramadan by learning more about your roles and obligations as a Muslim. There are many lectures organised during and before Ramadan on topics that relate to all aspects of our day-to-day life as well as elevating us spiritually. The internet is also full of resources on Ramadan and Islam, and more tech-savvy Muslims can utilise these to increase their knowledge. Interactive downloads are particularly great for engaging the younger generation.
7. Plan for Zakat
Ramadan is also the right time to plan and evaluate your finances if you aim to give Zakat (the mandatory charity) during this period. Getting all your financial commitments in place a month ahead will help to focus on the spiritual achievements instead of worrying about bills and money.
8. Strengthen family ties
In many cultures, Ramadan is a time when family members gather, so many families invite guests to celebrate this time together as there is more blessing in breaking fast in congregation. It is an ideal time to get rid of clutter and have a spring clean, so you can start Ramadan focusing on the spiritual side, renewing any relationships that may have broken and strengthening relationships that already exist with unified prayers, meals and Eid celebrations.
9. Plan for pilgrimage
Many people strive to go to Mecca or Madinah for Umrah during the holy month, as well. This requires a lot of planning - bookings, flights, visas, accommodation and preparing to take time off work so that you do not end up being distracted by emails and phone calls during the pilgrimage.
10. Get ready for Eid Al Fitr
After Ramadan comes Eid Al Fitr, the most awaited festival for Muslims. Planning for Eid before Ramadan is recommended to avoid any last-minute rush to organise clothes, gatherings, catering, gifts, holiday bookings etc. Although shops remain open late during Ramadan, it could be better to shop for Eid clothes, gifts and decorations ahead of time so you can focus on your religious duties during Ramadan itself.
Most countries in the Middle East also have a couple days off for Eid, so this is a good time to plan for a holiday as well. Beware: flights tend to get booked up well in advance..