Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum.
Madinah is a blessed place to be in Ramadhaan, but my reasons for loving it are not perhaps what you would expect. It isn't because we can go the Masjid an Nabawi, because the crowds are so great that we don't usually go there until the end of the month and Eid al Fitr.
The beauty of being here is that it is so hot and nothing much is open during the fasting day, we have nothing to do but stay at home. This opens the doors for a structured programme for the family. My day starts at 3:00 a.m. when I wake up to pray tahajjud. I get suhoor started, pray 2 - 4 rakaat, and then finish preparing suhoor and wake up the family. I have some fruit or a smoothie, leave the rest of the family to eat their suhoor, and finish my tahajjud and witr prayers. Then we pray fajr and the children all go back to bed. I wash the dishes, clear up the kitchen and then settle down to read Qur'an in Arabic. I read up to about 6 - 6:30 a.m., at least 30 minutes after the sunrise, and then offer 2 nawafil rakaat of prayer. Then I usually take some rest for a couple of hours.
When we all get up, I read the juz for the following day from the Sahih International Qur'an Translation in English. I write out some questions from the juz and send them to the children through Skype. They also get questions on the Daily Sittings in Ramadhaan by Shk, Uthaymeen from my husband. Their primary goal during the day is to read their juz, answer the questions and send them to me for checking, and read the Daily Sitting and send their answers to their father. We are also slowly going though an aqeedah book, memorizing responses to fundamental questions in Islam.
Then the children are free to play, have an hour on the computer for some beneficial websites, etc. until it is time to break the fast. Sometime after Asr, I open up the kitchen and prepare the futoor (meal to break our fast). I have planned ahead to ensure that the meals during Ramadhaan are liked by all the family members, but do not take a long time to prepare. I am striving to improve both my focus and my use of time each year, inshaa'Allah.
We break our fast with dates and water. Yes, we have the great blessing of being able to drink Zamzam water every day and access to Madinah dates, mashaa'Allah. We all pray maghrib, and then settle down to eat our evening meal. After this, everyone relaxes until isha' prayer and then after the prayer, we all sit down to have a small sweet treat from the homemade biscuits, cookies, and biscotti I made in preparation for Ramadan. Then the children all go to bed, and I settle down for some Qur'an reading in Arabic before sleeping.
Shops are open from after dhuhr until perhaps 4 or 5 p.m. and then after the isha' or taraweeh prayer. Such timing means that I am not planning to see a shop until the month is over! The fresh meat, especially the chicken, on the supermarket shelves are emptied each day with it being hard at times to find anything if your timing isn't right. It is a month of giving food, providing for the fasting, hoping for the blessings and rewards of feeding a fasting person. Tablecloths are spread outside each masjid, with food provided for anywhere from 50 up to several hundred worshipers. The iftars at Masjid an Nabawi have been beautifully depicted on Al Miskeena's blog here.
As we approach our ninth day of fasting and the first third of this most beloved month is almost over, I already feel heart-wrenching sadness at the speed of it's passing. I already feel an impending mourning over it's loss. I already have tears in my eyes, because I know how quickly it will be gone.
There is great beauty in the fact that for the believer, we can slow that rush through silent contemplation and communication with Allah. 24/7 communication with our beloved Therapist eliminates so many of the distractions and fitna of this dunya.
My precious readers, may this be our best Ramadhan ever. May the gates of Ar-Rayyaan stand wide open for us and may we meet Allah without account - ameen!