Making the best of the month of Ramadhan
The holy month of Ramadhan is a great gift from God for the believer and its blessings are not to be missed. In this month Allah grants the believer more thawab (reward) for their good deeds and blessings are increased manifold and God has said He will forgive even more sins, so how can we let this opportunity go by?
The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said:
One who receives the month of Ramadhan (and does not strive in it) is not forgiven. Allah distances Himself from that person.
Keep Away From Sin
This is a month in which abstaining from doing any sins, merely breathing, obtains you copious thawab. And a believers' sleep is like staying up late in worship in other months. Such are the blessings from God. What you really do not want to do is turn away those blessings by committing sins. While God has written great forgiveness for Himself in this month, He has also warned against the committing of sins in this month as the sins count for more in this month as well.
Imam Ali (AS) says:
The Prophet Muhammed was delivering a sermon about the virtues of the month of Ramadhan so I asked him: O' Prophet of Allah! What is the best deed for this month?
The Prophet (SAW) replied:
O' Aba al-Hasen! The best of deeds in this month is the abstinence from that which is forbidden by Allah, The Mighty, The Glorious.
Read The Holy Qur'an
The month of Ramadhan is the month in which the Qur'an was revealed in full. In this month the thawab for reading a single verse is like readings the whole of the Qur'an in other months. Such are the blessings are rewards of God subhanallahu wa ta'ala. Many Muslims strive to read the whole Qur'an in this month and they achieve this by splitting up what they intend to read across the whole day. They succeed in reading the whole Qur'an by the end of the month due to the effort put into organizing themselves and making the most of their time, and the blessings for this are gigantic.
Observe the Obligatory and Recommended Prayers and other acts of worship
Muslims are required to pray five times a day but in this month this same act of worship has a greater reward than in other months:
The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) has stated:
(The rewards of) one who has performed in it (the month of Ramadhan) a single act from amongst the wajib (obligatory) acts of Allah, would be like (that of) one who has performed seventy obligatory acts in other months.
There is also much reward for doing the mustahab (recommended) optional acts of worship. This is a month in which mustahab prayers are highly recommended, especially the night prayers, Salat al-Layl (also called Salat al-Tahajjud). Other recommended acts of worship include ghusuls (ritual baths), recitation of supplications and observing the suhur (the predawn meal).
Make Repentance and Recite Supplications
The month of Ramadhan is a month in which Allah has informed us that He increases His mercy but He calls us to make repentance in order for Him to remove our sins. So actively raise your hands in supplication and ask Him sincerely: O' Lord! I ask you Almighty to forgive me my sins and I turn to you in repentance! Ya Rabb! Istaghfurullah Al-'adheem wa attoubu illayk.
The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said:
Surely, the month of Ramadhan has been named so because it scorches away the sins.
The month of Ramadhan is the best month to ask Allah to remove your sins in and also to ask for what you covet - it is recommended to pray for good things such as the opportunity to make Hajj (pilgrimage) to the Holy Kaabah, to find and marry a good woman/man and to become prosperous and devout.
I'tikaf on the Night of Qadr
The night in which the Qur'an was revealed in full to the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) is known as Laylatul-Qadr, a night in which the thawab for good deeds are better than a thousand months-worth of good deeds. Allah says:
In The Name of Allah The Most Gracious The Most Merciful
[97.1] Surely We revealed it (the Qur'an) on the grand night.
[97.2] And what will make you comprehend what the grand night is?
[97.3] The grand night is better than a thousand months.
[97.4] The angels and Gibraeel descend in it by the permission of their Lord for every affair,
[97.5] Peace it is till the break of the morning.
The exact day that Laylatul Qadr falls on was not confirmed to the believers but they were given a number of days to pick from to do their worship in (the odd days in the last ten days of the month), granting them multiple opportunities to take up this great blessing. A lot of Muslims go to the mosque on Laylatul Qadr and undertake a secluded spiritual retreat (I'tikaf) - they stay up during the night in worship, reading Qur'an, praying obligatory and mustahab prayers, making up for a weeks-worth of obligatory prayers and reading supplications until the night ends. I'tikaf can also be done at home and at other times.
Give To Charity
In Islam the concept of sadaqah (charity) spans beyond just giving money to the poor. The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) taught that even a smile is a form of charity. Having the ability to give charity to the poor is a gift from God, because He has blessed you with sufficient wealth that you can spend as you wish, but He rewards you when you give it to someone poorer than you and blesses them through you. By giving charity you help your neighbor, benefit society and increase your own spiritual level.
The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said: Charity extinguishes sins as water extinguishes fire.
The month of Ramadhan, being the month of fasting, gives us a small idea of how the poor feel when they do not have enough to eat. This insight should increase the willingness of a person to alleviate the hunger, thirst and other hardships of the poor through giving to charity.
The month of Ramadhan is a month that only a fool would let pass without trying to obtain as much blessings and benefits from it. Who knows if this opportunity will come around again this time next year? Allah has blessed us so much and given us so many opportunities for seeking his forgiveness and reward and we should be thankful and take his gifts.