Lecture 1 (Legal rulings and spiritual advice)
Whether it is a job interview, a presentation, an exam, a sports match, a ceremony, or any occasion of some significance, we always prepare. We just never show up without any preparation and hope to ace the occasion. Yet the sad fact is, Allah is about to bless us with the biggest month of the year, and majority of us are not exerting any effort whatsoever to prepare for it. We think we can simply show up and ace the month, but isn’t it sad that we only demonstrate such counter-intuitive attitude for religious matters and almost never for worldly matters?
My dear fellow Muslims! The month of Sha’ban is not over yet, and we still have 10 days left to prepare for the most generous month of the year. Here is a quick four step Ramadan preparation guide:
1. Repent: Repent from your past sins. Sins are like burden on your back. No runner can enter a race with a burden on his back and expect to win. Similarly, we cannot enter the month of Ramadan with a soul weighed down by sins and expect it to sprint in worship. Therefore, purify it now with repentance.
2. Learn: Learn the fiqh rulings pertaining to this month before the month begins.
3. Increase: Start increasing your level of worship. Fast a few days, read more Quran, and pray extra prayers so that you are acclimatized with increased level of worship before the beginning of Ramadan.
4. Make Ramadan planner: Ramadan should not be the month when you live every moment as it comes. Prepare a Ramadan plan so that you know beforehand what you will be doing at each time slot and thereby squeeze the most out of this month.
Finally my fellow Muslims, I STRONGLY RECOMMEND you to listen to the following lecture by Shaykh Yasir Qadhi about preparing for Ramadan. The shaykh beautifully explained the fiqh rulings of Ramadan and followed it with some heart melting spiritual reminders about this month.
May Allah make this Ramadan the best Ramadan, and may He bless us with many more Ramadans, and may He make each Ramadan better than previous Ramadan!
Lecture 2 (How to make our hearts submit)
A beautiful lecture by Shaykh Omar Suleiman about how to submit our hearts to Allah during the month of Ramadan. The key points from the lecture are as follows:
(1) The word ‘taqwa’ linguistically means ‘to protect’ or ‘to shield’. In Islamic sense, ‘taqwa’ means to protect or shield yourself from the punishment of Allah.
(2) Taqwa can be defined in many ways, but generally, taqwa means that Allah is always obeyed, and never disobeyed, and that Allah is always remembered and never forgotten. Always remembering Allah does not meaning always doing literal dhikr of Allah, rather it means to be conscious of Allah during all our actions and interactions.
(3) ‘Umar bin ‘Abd al-‘Azīz said: “None can reach the state of taqwā until he possesses neither actions nor words that can be exposed to his embarrassment, either in this world or the Hereafter,” and he was once asked: “When does the worshipper reach the peak of taqwā?” So, he replied: “If he puts all the thoughts and desires in his heart on a plate and then wandered around in the market, he should not feel ashamed of anything there.” [‘Min Akhlāq as-Salaf’; p. 56]
(4) Allah commanded the believers to strive to attain taqwa in numerous verses of the Quran, and the foremost verse among them is the following:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ تُقَاتِهِ وَلَا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلَّا وَأَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ
O you who have believed, fear Allah as He deserves be feared and do not die except as Muslims [in submission to Him]. [The Noble Quran 3:102]
When this verse was revealed, the companions were terrified, for it is not possible for any human to fear Allah and be conscious of him like He DESERVES to be FEARED. Thereafter, out of His Mercy, Allah revealed the following verse:
فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ
So fear Allah as much as you are able [The Noble Quran 64:16]
Many scholars of the Quran said that while both verses (3:102 and 64:16) are still recited today, Allah abrogated the meaning of 3:102 with that of 64:16. However, the latter verse cannot be used as a leeway or excuse to commit sins. A Muslim is not allowed to say that he has tried his best to stay away from a certain sin but failed and thus committing the sin. Rather, the correct understanding of the verse is this: when it comes to executing the injunctions of Allah, Muslims must strive their best to fulfill them in the best possible manner, and when it comes to prohibitions, they must avoid them altogether. This is how the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) explained the verse in the following hadith:
“What I have forbidden for you, avoid. What I have ordered you [to do], do as much of it as you can.” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]
Notice that when it comes to prohibitions, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) commanded us to avoid them altogether, because Allah never burdens a soul beyond its capacity to withstand:
لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا ۚ
Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. [The Noble Quran 2:286]
(5) Before we attend any training course, the objectives and learning outcomes are laid out. At the end of the course, if we attain those objectives, the completion of the course is considered successful. If we do not attain those objectives, our mere attendance and going through the motions of the course mean nothing. Similarly, the end goal for the month of Ramadan is to attain taqwa, as Allah has clearly mentioned in the following verse:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may attain taqwa [The Noble Quran 2:183]
While we are planning to do a lot of good deeds in the month of Ramadan, we must not lose sight of the end goal – to attain taqwa. I am not downplaying the importance of doing good deeds, but if at the month we fail to achieve taqwa, if we fail to eliminate certain disobedience and sins from our lives, our Ramadan mission will be a failure.
(6) The similitude of a heart that has no taqwa but is doing a lot of good deeds is that of jar with holes – no matter how much water is poured, it will never be filled.
(7) Remember that taqwa is primarily demonstrated in avoiding the prohibitions. Muslims and non-Muslims alike do good deeds. For example, an atheist occasionally donates to charity and shows kindness to his neighbor. However, you will never find a non-believer who gives up his desire or self-pleasure for the sake of God. Also, the primary motivation for not doing good deeds is laziness whereas the primary motivation for committing sins is self-pleasure. Therefore, you can only attain true taqwa and claim love of God when you can give up your sinful self-pleasures for the sake Allah.
(8) For those who are doing good deeds but have failed to attain taqwa and leave out Allah’s prohibitions, should be afraid of the following verse and hadith of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) :
يَوْمَ يَرَوْنَ الْمَلَائِكَةَ لَا بُشْرَىٰ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِّلْمُجْرِمِينَ وَيَقُولُونَ حِجْرًا مَّحْجُورًا
وَقَدِمْنَا إِلَىٰ مَا عَمِلُوا مِنْ عَمَلٍ فَجَعَلْنَاهُ هَبَاءً مَّنثُورًا
The day they see the angels – no good tidings will there be that day for the criminals, and [the angels] will say, “Prevented and inaccessible.” And We will regard what they have done of deeds and make them as dust dispersed. [The Noble Quran 25:22-23]
“I indeed know that some people from my Ummah will come on the Day of Judgment with good deeds like the white mountains of Tihama, but Allah will make them scattered dust.” Thawban said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, describe them to us, so that we may not be one of them without knowing it!’ He (ﷺ) said, “They will be your brothers, and from your people, and they will take from the night as you do (meaning prayers, etc.), but they are a people who, when they were alone with the prohibitions of Allah, violated them.” [Ibn Maajah]
Therefore my fellow Muslims! Beware of your end goal of Ramadan – attaining taqwa. Sincerely ask Allah to make you from the people of taqwa. Has time not come to be a person of true taqwa? And what opportunity can you have greater than the month of Ramadan to make that transformation in your life?
أَلَمْ يَأْنِ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَن تَخْشَعَ قُلُوبُهُمْ لِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَمَا نَزَلَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ
Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth? [The Noble Quran 57:16]
(Go through the lecture for more learning)