What makes a revert's approach to Ramadhaan any different than any other Muslim? After all, Ramadhaan is an act of worship obligatory for us all:
"O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint." 2:183
However, entering into Islaam later in life means you may not have had the benefit of all those years of preparation which many born into Islaam have had, and may find your feelings about the approaching month at odds with those around you. As an excitement about the approaching month seems to come upon the Muslim community, you may be silently wondering how you can ever get through a month of fasting. It may be your first Ramadhaan and although you start off with the best intentions, you may find yourself giving up halfway through, unable to mention your "failure" to anyone else.
So we thought it may be helpful to set out some beneficial pointers for this Ramadhaan inshaa'Allaah, especially if you are worried you will struggle your way through this blessed month and come out the other end feeling you could have done so much better.
Remind yourself of those Qur'aanic verses which reflect on Allaah's (subhanahu wa ta'ala) Mercy towards His Creation:
For example: ..."Allaah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allaah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful." (2:185)
Also: ..."Allaah does not intend to make difficulty for you, but He intends to purify you and complete His favour upon you that you may be grateful." * These two verses alone show us that Allaah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) just wants us to be grateful to Him. Struggle means relying on Him even more – so that can only be good Inshaa'Allaah.
Read up on the virtues of Ramadhaan, its blessings and rewards for fasting, Taraweeh (Night Prayer), Laylatul Qadr (The Night of Power), etc.
(Many articles related to these topics can be found here at idealmuslimah.com in the relevant categories).
Reflect on last year's Ramadhaan and ponder over how you could have improved your experience, applying these improvements to this Ramadhaan.
Choose three small goals to improve your month this year, and keep them simple.
Remember the Hadith: "The deeds which Allaah loves most are those done regularly, even if they are small." (Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 3, no. 191)
Seek positive ways to engage with the Qur'aan
Although we are encouraged to read as much Qur'aan as possible this month, some of us still struggle over the letters and feel completely inadequate at reading. This can leave us feeling a failure. Instead, seek positive ways to engage with the Qur'aan. Read it in English, listen to a Tafsir online, really understand and absorb that particular chapter until you know it and want to live it. Then when you listen to it and try to read it in Arabic, it may become easier for you, Inshaa'Allaah.
Compile a Du'a (supplication) list and allocate time in the day to make lots of Du'a (supplication).
We often feel our difficult situation will never change, but have we made Du'a (supplication) for it? Have we really made Du'a (supplication) for our non-Muslim families, our husbands, our children, our everyday life? This is the month to really try devoting time to Du'a (supplication) - and by making a list, you can see at a later point that these Du'as may be answered!
Buy all necessities; food, new clothes, gifts etc before Ramadhaan
This is so you can focus more on worship and spiritual development. Everyone in the family, even the kids, can participate, by planning meals, writing a shopping list, and preparing some meals to be stored in the freezer.
Try to avoid eating too much at either Suhoor or Iftaar - keep your body and mind fresh for action for Allaah.
Try doing the most important things first
E.g., Quran and extra prayers.
This could be during the first part of the day when you are more alert. Leave digital talks and other beneficial reminders for later on in the day when you can rest and reflect.
Choose a Qur'aan reading buddy, or encourage a small group of friends to read a Juzz a day ( English or Arabic)
To encourage each other to reach this goal, set a time to call each other to check everyone has done this. If a Juzz is too much, set a smaller goal which is going to be achievable. Choose sisters who are at your level, so that you are all encouraged and not discouraged. Or start up a weekly Halaqah (gathering, circle) with other sisters, to go through the Tafseer of a certain Surah. These meetings will (Allaah Willing) be an encouragement to all.
Arrange to care for another revert Sister's children so that she can also benefit from Taraweeh.
If she can do the same for you, both of you can really benefit from this time. If you can't get to the Taraweeh prayer, don't feel guilty, but use that time after Iftaar as a special time for extra prayer, reading and reflection.
Plan different places and ways to have Iftaar, whatever your personal situation: at home alone, by inviting others, visiting other sisters, meeting at the Masjid, eating out in a restaurant for a special treat etc. Enjoy the physical reward for a day of fasting!
If possible, try to spend as much time as you can in the Masjid if your lonely and feeling weak
Break your fast there, and relax before and after each prayer. Enjoy the special sakinah and tranquility of the Masjid at this special time of year. Take a Du'a (supplication) book and find a Du'a (supplication) that resonates with you and keep repeating until you have really internalised it (even if you haven't memorized it). This will help you to feel part of the wider Ummah and reconnect with Allaah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) at the same time.
Set up a method of learning while cooking.
Have talks and reminders of Allaah at hand so that you can practice remembrance of Allaah whilst being in the kitchen. This may be repeating a Du'a (supplication), listening to Qur'aan, choosing an Ayah (verse) to reflect on for each day of the month etc - think about these things in advance so that you don't end up feeling the month is running away from you and you're still just stuck in the kitchen not benefitting.
Choose to do one good deed per week (or more if able)
E.g. Make Iftaar for others, make time for a Sister who is alone, send an encouragement to another Muslim, help to clean someone's home if they are not well, help a Sister with shopping, tidy the Masjid.
Finally, aim to keep a - something you can record your learning, your reflections, your Du'as. It will be invaluable as a record of what you have achieved, so that you can look back and see what a positive month this has been, instead of feeling a failure compared to everyone else.
This month is personal - a time to connect more closely with Allaah (subhanahu wa ta'ala), a time for reflection, and Inshaa'Allaah... a time for renewal.