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up. And yes, you might feel a little (or more) faint with the long daylight hours.

But also there comes arising within you a sense of determination. Deeds must be scrutinised, for every single one will be multiplied bountifully. Time must be well captured, for otherwise it will slip away like water droplets between our fingers. Changes must be made in our daily routine, our relationships and deep within ourselves. Theres a sweetness in the air. Can you taste it? Ramadan is on her way. How are you going to enter the most beautiful month of the year? Will you step forward with a heart exhausted from a year of sin? Inevitably you may only end up spending your days and nights scrubbing and cleaning the dusty sins that have built up in layers in the depths of your heart. Or are you going to enter bright faced and determined; washed clean having made tawbah, and ready to move forwards? Ask yourself this question: are you ready for the Month of Mercy? Here we are counting down to the most important month of the year, and perhaps the most important month of our lives. As with every important event; the key lies in the days and weeks beforehand. We need to come to Ramadan prepared. Below are some clear, practical steps to help us on the way as we reflect and get ready. CHECKLIST

The time is almost upon us. Yes, stomachs may rumble and pounding headaches will flare

NUMBER 1: Clothes.
Eid clothes. Dont leave your Eid shopping to the last ten days of Ramadan! Do it now. Prepare not only your own clothes but also all of those whose clothing you worry about; your children, your siblings and perhaps even your spouses. By having these outfits ready and in the closet now, youll be saving yourself a lot of last minute fuss and bother. Instead, you can dedicate those last precious hours of Ramadan to worship and reflection.

Prayer clothes. What do you pray in? Think carefully youre standing in front of the One who created you and gave you all that you have, including the ability to pray to Him. Alhamduillah! Choose your prayer clothes wisely they should be ironed, clean and fresh, folded neatly and ready to wear on the very first night of the month. Remember, just getting dressed up is enough to make you feel special. If you wouldnt wear it in front of your mother in law, dont wear it in front of Allah!

NUMBER 2: Dedicate a prayer place


Where are you going to pray in the house? Take a look at your house and find a place that will be your special ibaadah place for the month, especially for taraweeh and tahajjud. It doesnt have to be a whole room - it could just be a corner. Set up the area, wash and clean it, add perfume or even bring a vase of flowers. Wash the curtains, wipe the windows; whatever it takes to create a fresh clean ambience ready for worship. Make sure all those items that you may need are placed there in advance, including your copy of the Quran, your dhikr beads etc. And then, keep the kids out!

NUMBER 3: Plan your menu.


Dont let this Ramadan be one where the hours that you spend cooking outdo the hours you spend in ibaadah. Think carefully and be practical. Perhaps the more complicated and time consuming dishes can be substituted for something quicker. Plan the number of hours you are prepared to spend cooking. Have sympathy also for your health and the health of all those you cook for; do you really need a deep fried starter to break your fast with? As much as it is a great deed to feed the fasting Muslim, it is not a good thing to fill them right up so that they are too heavy to pray.
Take the time to plan your invitations and be wise; why not invite those friends or family in the week in which you are not praying? Those days are not a holiday but rather should be filled with service to others. Take the time then to cook for the poor, the homeless or even those too busy to cook. Plan it now.

NUMBER 4: Plan your dua.


One of the most beautiful aspects about Ramadan is the sweetness of that first sip of water or bite of a date at the end of a day of hunger. But even more beautiful are the moments beforehand, as within those minutes is a wonderful opportunity for an accepted dua. In the hustle and bustle of iftar preparations, it is all too easy to allow this special time to slip away without having made a thoughtful dua. Pause. Reflect now about who and what is important to you in your life and in need of your dua. Make a list to remind yourself and keep it ready stored in your pocket or handbag (or iPhone!) Or stick it up as a poster on your dining room wall, perhaps as a family project. Know that Ramadan is a month of miracles and that nothing is too difficult for Allah to fulfil.

NUMBER 5: Plan your Ibaadah schedule.


QURAN Imam Shafi would recite the entire Quran during Ramadan once in the day and once at night. This is the month of the Quran, for in this month the Quran was revealed and our religion began. Remember that there is nutrition for the soul in reciting the Quran in its original Arabic even if you dont understand it, as these are the exact words of our Creator, Allah. How many times are you planning to recite the Quran this Ramadan? Set a goal for yourself, and make sure its more than you managed to do last year. Think to yourself; how long does it take you to read one page? Plan the daily timings you set aside for Quran recitation and plan the number of pages or chapters you hope to work through. When you set yourself goals you are more likely to reach them. QADA PRAYERS Ramadan is an excellent time to start making up prayers that you may have missed. Sit down and calculate exactly how many you need to make up. Make a qada prayer table to pin up on your bedroom wall so that you can tick each prayer off. Dont be overwhelmed; you can make it simple - with every fardh prayer you could pray a qada one too!

NUMBER 6: Make up your missed fasts


Do you have debt to Allah? What is meant by this is that are there days left over from previous years that you need to fast but still havent managed to do so. Enter this Ramadan debt free. Make sure you finish off the fasts that you need to make up. If there are too many, make up the days from last Ramadan and make a firm intention to make up the others as soon as Ramadan is over. This is a serious obligation that lies on our shoulders and one we hope to be free of before our deaths.

NUMBER 7: Prepare your donations.


Be prepared to give in sadaqah. Ramadan is a month of mercy, and Allah loves the one who is merciful to people. Put aside money now to give as donation during Ramadan. Figure out how you can give food and be thoughtful; try and break the fast of a person who you dont normally break the fast for. It could be somebody poor who does not normally get to eat meat or a relative who you have not spoken to for a while or an elderly person in the community. Be creative; perhaps you could start up a childrens craft project and make little bundles of dates to give to families. Be prepared to give.

NUMBER 8: Soothe hurt hearts.


Just as it is custom to ask for forgiveness before performing Hajj, now is a time to really put in the effort to soothe peoples hearts. This may include anybody, from family to friends to co workers. All those who may hold a heavy heart towards you need to be soothed and pleased in a manner that is gentle. Likewise, be sincere and prepared to look within yourself for hidden grudges. When we are a people who consistently ask Allah to forgive us, we need to be of those who forgive others regardless of where the fault in disputes may lie. Give that person a gift, followed by another and another. Go out of your way to make them happy. Remember them specifically in your dua. Enter Ramadan with your own heart pure and the hearts of others pleased with you.

NUMBER 9: Brush up on your fiqh of fasting


Finally, but very importantly make an effort to learn about the Islamic rulings surrounding fasting. Perhaps attend an online course or a class at your local mosque for your particular madhab, whichever one that may be. Make an effort to note down those things that do and do not invalidate the fast, the rulings behind when to have an intention to fast and so on, for these are issues that are soon to be become very relevant in your daily life. Knowledge is a wonderful thing and it will provide safety from mistakes.

We pray that this Ramadan is a beautiful month for all of us inshaAllah, where we may come closer to Allah and His Prophet SAW. May it be filled with new openings and connections; a strengthened connection with our Lord and to His Prophet and religion, as well as a stronger loving connection with all those around us. Ameen.

Taken from the talk by Ustadha Tamara Gray in Cardiff on the 23rd June 2012