The beginning of the new year is usually considered a good time to set goals and make resolutions. Ramadan is even better. Since it’s for only one month versus one year, it’s easier to stick it out and really try to make the effort. The possible benefits: the development of a lifelong good habit, a good deed done in a systematic way, and a sense of accomplishment that can be carried over the rest of the year.
Here are 10 suggested goals to set in Ramadan 2010:
1. Break your fast with a $1 meal
Over one billion people worldwide live on $1 a day http://earthtrends.wri.org/updates/node/6. That includes a good portion of Muslims who not only spend their days fasting, but break their fasts with less-than-lavish meals, made up of foods like beans, rice, lentils, and bread.
At least three times this Ramadan, try to do Iftar with a $1 meal. It will give you a perspective beyond empathizing with the hungry from dawn to dusk only.
2. Give away something you truly love
Allah reminds us in the Quran: “You shall not attain righteousness until you spend out of what you love (in the way of Allah). Allah knows whatever you spend,” (3:92). Also, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was noted to always be generous, and was even more so in Ramadan (Bukhari).
Keeping this in mind, choose something you truly love and are attached to this Ramadan and give it to someone in need. For example, if you had been saving up to buy a personal item - be it a gadget, something nice for your house, or a fun vacation - consider giving away all that money to a charity you trust, a family member or friend struggling financially, or to help cover an ill person’s medical bills, for example.
The point of the exercise is to become closer to Allah by sharing with others and reducing our attachment to material things.
3. Console a grieving friend
Grief can take many forms, ranging from the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, illness, or any other hardship. If possible, visit a grieving friend or acquaintance in person, meet for lunch, or at least call. Text messages, tweets, and wall posts just don’t cut it when it comes to really hearing someone out and giving the support they need in times of difficulty.
4. Begin one small, sincere, but regular good deed
The Prophet advised, “Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even though it were little” (Bukhari).
Start one, and only one, small good deed this Ramadan. It could be smiling more if you are a generally more serious type; calling or visiting parents just one more day a week than you usually do; or cooking one meal a week so your spouse has more time to remember Allah. Choose your deed and stick with it.
5. Host an Iftar for the hungry
Polish your guest list this year and include family, friends or neighbors who you know are struggling financially or are truly hungry. Too often, we invite our exclusive clique of people close to us, most of whom don’t worry about where their next meal is going to come from, unlike one in six children in the United States.
This year, expand your social circle and include those who are truly in need. Better yet, invite your “crew” and your new friends together.
6. Pray Taraweeh at a different Masjid
And different here doesn’t mean just in terms of location. Choose a mosque that boasts a congregation ethnically or racially different from you and the people you normally hang out with. Allah created human beings into nations and tribes so they can get to know one another (Quran 49:13). Take this to heart this Ramadan and familiarize yourself with brothers and sisters different on the outside, but spiritually connected to you deep down on the inside.
7. BBQ a meal for a community Iftar
Fire up the grill during this summery Ramadan and cook up some heavy-duty BBQ Iftar for the local Masjid, which usually hosts nightly fast-breaking meals. Note: this is a great opportunity for brothers, many of whom like to engage in the manly sport of BBQing meals in warmer weather.
8. Get rid of Iftar leftovers through food recovery programs and composting
If the fridge is stuffed and you can’t figure out where to put all those Iftar leftovers, don’t head straight for the trash. Throwing away food after a day of knowing what it feels like to be hungry means we haven’t really understood the lesson of feeding and empathizing with the needy that Ramadan teaches us.
Locate a food recovery program or shelter that can use that good food and cut down on waste.
If you can’t use a food recovery program, at least consider composting what you can.
9. Give up one, and only one, addiction
This runs the gamut from lattes to Facebook, to video games to chai/caffeine of any kind. The aim is to lessen dependency on those things we don’t truly need and remember that we should rely completely on Allah for all things.
10. Tolerate or forgive one bad habit or quirk of a loved one
As we remember Allah’s tolerance of our countless faults, this Ramadan - 10 days of which are defined as the “days of forgiveness” - overlook or forgive a specific fault of a loved one. This can be small but annoying habits, like regularly losing the grocery list, forgetting lunch on school days, or perpetually being 15 minutes late.
Samana Siddiqui is Sound Vision's Content Manager. She is also a reporter and columnist for the Chicago Crescent newspaper.
Photo Attribution: Vishal Dutta - http://www.flickr.com/photos/39809462@N05/3867191974/