Lecture by Omar Suleiman | Hosted by Br. Abdullah Syed | Transcribed by Sameera[The transcript includes slight modifications for the sake of readability and clarity.]
As you know, the pillars of īmān are six. I want you to think about this. Ramadan has a very direct, special, and unique relationship with each one of the pillars of īmān. We start off with, “Fast Ramadan with īmān in Allāh ,” discovering your īmān in Allāh . We know the famous ḥadīth where the Prophet narrated, “Allāh said, 'All of the good deeds of the son of Ādam are for him except or fasting. Fasting is for Me, and I reward according.” This means that with every single other action that you do, there is some element of interaction with other people. For example: ṣalāh. People are going to see you in your congregational ṣalāh. With zakāh at the very least, the person who is going to receive your zakāh or the collector is going to know that you have given that zakāh. When you look at your Ḥajj, there will be millions of people that are going to see you in Ḥajj. When you take your shahādah, you are obviously going to take it in the presence of at least two witnesses, and usually in front of a large congregation.
Ṣiyām is something that is purely between you and Allāh . There is a mandatory element of ikhlāṣ in its very practice. Think about this. Although you could be fasting in the sight of people, maybe when you go home you sneak into the closet and eat a cookie. (It's a problem if you have cookies in your closet in the first place.) You may be doing something that negates your ṣiyām when people are not looking at you. There is a very special ikhlāṣ and sincerity there. Allāh is saying, “This action is between Me and My servant because no one else is aware of whether or not that servant is purely fulfilling the obligation of ṣiyām.”
Also, we know that when it comes to fasting, Rasūlullāh informed us that for the fasting person, there are two pleasures. The first one is when he breaks the fast and feels really good about it. The sip of water never tasted so good. The bag of chips never tasted so good. Dates never tasted so good. Haleem, 'adas, whatever it is that you are eating. The point is that it feels really good when you break your fast. Rasūlullāh said the greater pleasure is when you meet Allāh. When it is between you and your Lord and when you get that reward. Make sure that you are fasting with īmān in Allāh .
Belief in the Angels
This is the month where Allāh wants us to pay most attention to the angels. If we look at Sūrat Qāf, we find something very interesting. On the second page of Sūrat Qāf, Allāh uses the word “qarīn” twice. Qarīn means someone that is so close to you it is as if they are tied to you. When Abu Bakr al-Ṣiddīq and Ṭalḥa b. 'Ubaydullāh were being tortured by Nawfal, they were being tied together in the early days of Islam and were called “the two qarīns.” They were tied together literally when they were being tortured.
What does Allāh mean when He uses the word “qarīn”? The first time Allāh uses the word qarīn, Allāh says, “And his qarīn said, 'This is what I have to present.'” A few āyāt later, Allāh says, “His qarīn said, 'O my Lord, I wasn't the one who led him astray, but he was in pure, distant error from You.'” SubḥānAllāh. This word is being used twice, but it is referring to opposite entities. On the one hand the qarīn that is presenting to Allāh is the angel, and the qarīn that Allāh talks about a few āyāt later who says, “I was not the one who led him astray,” is none other than Shayṭān. Allāh does us a huge favor in Ramadan because as we know, in Ramadan, the shayāṭīn are locked up, so one qarīn is gone.
You need to worry about the other qarīn now. You have to focus on the other qarīn and focus on the deeds you are putting on that record. What is the angel reporting to Allāh? SubḥānAllāh, this is where we are most conscious. We start to watch our language more and our deeds more in Ramadan. In essence, we think to ourselves: “All of these deeds that I am doing now, do I really want to meet Allāh with these deeds? Do I really want to meet Allāh with that word I just spoke? Do I really want to meet Allāh with that sin?” You are watching yourself attentively, and this is when the angels come in the billions and trillions, constricting the heavens and the earth, making du'ā' for every servant observing laylat'l-qadr. You are engaging with the angels very closely in a unique way. Fast Ramadan with belief in the angels.
Belief in the Books
SubḥānAllāh, this is the month of the Qurʾān! The first way Allāh describes the month of Ramadan is: “This is the month of Ramadan in which the Qurʾān was revealed.” Every single book was revealed in Ramadan. You are not just engaging the Qurʾān, but you are actually engaging in all of the books because all of them were revealed in Ramadan. In a ḥadīth from Ibn Ḥibbān, al-Ṭabarāni and Aḥmad with different narrations, the Prophet informs us that the tablets of Ibrāhīm were revealed on the 3rd day of Ramadan, the Tawrāh was revealed on the 6th day of Ramadan, the Injīl was revealed on the 13th of Ramadan, the Zabūr of Dāwūd was revealed on the 18th or Ramadan, and the Qurʾān was revealed on the 24th (meaning the 25th night) of Ramadan, which is authentically narrated. This month is so great that Allāh always chose to send down His books in this month.
This is the month of Qurʾān for the believer. This is the month where you need to have a strong relationship with the Qurʾān. Qatādah used to read the Qurʾān once every seven days, and when Ramadan came, he would read it three times a week, and in the last ten nights, he would read it once a day. People always kicked it into overdrive because when Jibrīl came to the Prophet in Ramadan, the Prophet finished it with him twice.
This is the month when you need to read Qurʾān more in your everyday life. You need to make sure you are studying the Qurʾān and attending the tarāwīḥ and enjoying the recitation of the Qurʾān. This month is defined by the Qurʾān. You are engaging in belief in the books in Ramadan.
Belief in the Messengers
Imām ibn al-Qayyim tells us that every single messenger of Allāh was mandated with fasting. In particular, notice in Ramadan how you are engaging your īmān in the Prophet . Look at all the ways we are careful to adopt the Sunnah of the Prophet in Ramadan. We are trying to become more like him. We make sure that we do our suḥūr just to follow his example . When we break our fast, we try to break it with dates and see how many dates the Prophet ate and what kind of dates he ate when he broke his fast and if dates were not available, then what did he do. We try to follow the example of the Prophet as much as possible in Ramadan. Naturally, one of the goals of Ramadan is to become more like him . You are engaging belief in the prophets.
Belief in the Ākhirah (Hereafter)
When Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are open and the gates of Hellfire are shut. The believer feels like he is between Jannah and nār and he is trying to make sure that the gains redemption from Hellfire and enters into Paradise. You fast with the belief in the ākhirah and with the belief that you will be rewarded in the ākhirah. The Prophet said the reward of the fasting person is that his face will be removed from the Hellfire a distance of a journey of 70 years for each and every single ṣiyām.
This is a month different from any other month. This is the month of redemption. You want to gain protection in the ākhirah. We often hear a weak ḥadīth that the first ten days of Ramadan are mercy, the second ten days are forgiveness, and the third ten days are being freed from the Hellfire. This is a weak ḥadīth. SubḥānAllāh, there is more mercy in the Sunnah of the Prophet . In the ḥadīth of Abu Umāmah, Aḥmad, and Abu Sa'īd al-Khudri, the Prophet said, “Allāh has on every single day and every single night of Ramadan people that He redeems from Hellfire. You don't have to wait for the last ten nights. One day of Ramadan, Allāh looks at you and sees your sincerity and decides to free you from the Hellfire. Allāh decides to redeem you. In the narration of Abu Sa'īd: “..And for every single day and night, the Muslim has a du'ā' that is mustajab (accepted).” This is an authentic ḥadīth. SubḥānAllāh.
We don't even wait to engage the belief in Hellfire until the last ten days, but we think every single day remembering the ākhirah: “Was this the night that Allāh chose to redeem me and free me from the hellfire? Was this the day I was written of those of Paradise without any form of punishment or any form of accountability?” Engage your īmān in the ākhirah. In Ramadan, engage your belief in the Hereafter in a way you would not do so throughout the year. Make sure that your ṣiyām has that component.
Belief in Divine Decree
SubḥānAllāh, it is very simple. This month has in it a night we are all very aware of, which is called laylat'l-qadr (the night of divine decree). The Prophet said about this night, “Whoever is forbidden from its good, then truly he is a person who is deprived.” This is the night Allāh will send the angels down in the trillions. If a person catches this night, it is better than a lifetime of worship. This is the night Allāh will decree all of our deeds for the next year. Ibn ʿAbbās said the names of the people going to Ḥajj that year will be written down from al-Lawḥ'l-Maḥfūẓ and written down in the records of the angels. What better way do you want to meet Allāh on the night when the next year's worth of deeds is going to be decreed than standing up in qiyām'l-layl and worshipping Allāh? In Ramadan, engage in your belief in al-qadr.
Īmān and Iḥtiṣāb (Seeking the Reward)
What other act in Islam do you engage your īmān the way that you engage it in Ramadan? This is first thing the Prophet said. The second thing is iḥtiṣāb: seeking the reward. In essence, this is one of the most crucial things that you can do in Ramadan: make sure that you see everything in Ramadan as an opportunity because this is the month when everything is multiplied.
When Allāh gives us the purpose of Ramadan, He says, “Ṣiyām was written upon you as it was written on those who came before you so that you can gain taqwa (be aware of Allāh and fear Him).” Abu Hurayrah explained this to us like a man who is walking on a path where there are many thorns, and he is making sure that he doesn't get pricked by any of those thorny bushes. This means he is aware and seeking the reward from Allāh , so he will not let anything poke him from any side.
Allāh describes taqwa to us in Sūrat Āle-'Imrān. Allāh says, “Rush to the forgiveness of your Lord and to a Jannah that is as vast as the heavens and the earth that is promised to the people of taqwa.” Then Allāh describes them. “Those who give in both times of hardship and times of ease.” Usually people restrain themselves from giving too much ṣadaqah because they are worried and afraid. Allāh is teaching us to restrain ourselves from our own sense of greed and to trust Him and to give in both hardship and need.
This is the month in which the Prophet was described by Ibn ʿAbbās and by 'Ā'ishah : The Prophet is always generous, and you can never find a day in the life of the Prophet and not find an act of generosity, but in Ramadan, he is more generous than the blowing wind. What is the meaning of this? Like a hurricane or tornado. It is indiscriminate. His ṣadaqah is going everywhere and benefitting people all around him. We learn in this month taqwa and restraint from the things that would harm us.
What is the relationship between taqwa, ṣadaqah, and iḥtiṣāb? From the ḥadīth of Abu Hurayrah : “Protect yourself and be fearful of the Hellfire even if it is by half a date.” Taqwa leads you to give because you fear your sins and what they might do to you. You give hoping that Allāh will take it as a ransom for your sins. How is this related to Ramadan? Allāh mentions the benefit of ṣadaqah: iḥtiṣāb – you are seeking the reward of Allāh on that day.
“And those who swallow their anger and pardon people.” What is the relationship between taqwa and iḥtiṣāb here? In the authentic narration of al-Ḥākim, Rasūlullāh said, “If someone comes to you while you are fasting and he is foul with you or he tries to argue with you or pick a fight with you, then say to him, 'I am fasting.'” This means: you are looking at that person directly as a form of good deeds. This person is your best friend at the moment because he is allowing you to be elevated in the sight of Allāh . You see him like money but in the sense of good deeds. When someone insults you and tries to pick a fight with you in Ramadan, not only do you hold yourself out of your taqwa, but Rasūlullāh is saying to seek the reward of it. You are saying to yourself, “Alḥamdulillāh this guy is coming and arguing with me in Ramadan, and I have a chance, O Allāh, to restrain my anger from him in hopes that You will restrain Your anger from me.” You are seeking reward in everything because you fear your sins and you fear Allāh .
The Prophet said in the authentic ḥadīth in al-Tirmidhi, “Whoever provides ifṭār to a fasting person, Allāh will give him the same reward without decreasing from the reward of the fasting person.” When you are at your ifṭār, you are thinking to yourself that this is a time to get more good deeds. You don't wait for someone to come give you the dates. You go and take the dates and try to serve others to get the reward of fasting. You are thinking money but in the form of ajr and good deeds.
Rasūlullāh mandates us in this month in many different narrations to read Qurʾān, to seek forgiveness of Allāh , and to pardon people and reconcile with people. Ramadan is a beautiful opportunity to reconcile with people through ifṭārs and seeing them in the masjid. The last thing you want to do if you are truly aware and awake with taqwa and trying to seek the reward of Ramadan is to have your entire Ramadan rejected because you have a grudge against someone and aren't talking to somebody. The Prophet informs us that whenever the good deeds are presented to Allāh , when Allāh sees two people that are quarreling, Allāh says, “Leave these two until they reconcile with one another.” Meaning: Allāh doesn't want to see the deeds of the person unless he reconciles with his brother. This is your opportunity to go and reconcile, seeking reward. “O Allāh, I'm pardoning this person so that You will pardon me.” The relationship between taqwa and iḥtiṣāb is unbreakable.
This Ramadan is your opportunity to be forgiven for everything you have done. This is your opportunity come closer to Allāh and seek the reward in everything around you. The Prophet tells us, “Allāh doesn't have any need of a person's fasting if he does not do away with false speech and lying (and other things that are displeasing to Allāh).” You need to fast Ramadan with īmān and iḥtiṣāb. At the end of the day, recognize the opportunity. With great opportunity, there is a down side. If you fail to take advantage of the great opportunity, then what a failure you will be.
The Prophet was seeing by the companions saying “āmīn” three times and they asked him what he was saying, “āmīn” for, and he said, “Jibrīl was making du'ā' against three people: may he be humiliated / may his nose be in the ground (because of how humiliated he is) / what a failure and loser he is, the one who Ramadan comes upon him and he still fails to be forgiven by Allāh.” Seek the reward of this Ramadan. Make sure you become aware this Ramadan. Īmān and iḥtiṣāb.
I'll leave you with a powerful story. This is an authentic ḥadīth from Ṭalḥa who said, “I saw a dream about myself, and I had with me two companions of the Messenger of Allāh .” These two ṣaḥābah had become Muslim on the same day, and one of them passed away exactly a year before the other. The one who passed away a year before the other died a martyr and was more known for his good deeds. They were both great companions, but the one who died first was more pious in the eyes of the people than the second one. He had more good actions and more good deeds at least to the public eye.
Ṭalḥa said, “I'm standing with these two ṣaḥābah, and the caller calls the one who died second to Jannah first. He went and entered. Then the caller called the other ṣaḥābi to enter Jannah. Then he called me, he told me to go back and that it was not time for me.” This was a good dream for him because it means he is ultimately going to Jannah. We know that he is from the ten promised Paradise.
Ṭalḥa went the next day, and every morning the Prophet used to ask, “Who amongst you saw a good dream that you can share with us all?” The ṣaḥābah tried to have good dreams because they wanted to share. Ṭalḥah comes and shares his dream with the companions, and the companions are shocked and surprised. The Prophet said, “Why are you surprised?” They said, “O Messenger of Allāh, the guy who was called to Jannah second died a martyr and had more good deeds than the person who died after him and who was called to Jannah first?” The Prophet listened to his answer and said, “Didn't the one who died second live an entire year after the other one?” They said, “Yes, O Messenger of Allāh.” The Prophet said, “And he caught another Ramadan and fasted such and such and prayed such and such.” They said, “Yes.” The Prophet said, “Then what is between them is greater than the distance of the heavens and the earth.”
This ḥadīth is ṣaḥīḥ. The Prophet did not insult the martyr, and this does not decrease from the reward of the martyrs. This shows you that if you make the most out of your Ramadan with good īmān and iḥtiṣāb, then you could actually surpass a martyr. Think about that! SubḥānAllāh.
I ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to make the most out of Ramadan. I ask Allāh to allow both you and I to make the absolute most of this Ramadan, to fast it with absolute īmān and absolute iḥtiṣāb and to achieve the goal of taqwa as a result of this Ramadan and to be forgiven by Allāh for all of our previous sins. Allāhumma āmīn. Jazākum Allāhu khayran to all of you.
I want to mention that on August 7th, I'm going to have a class on laylat'l-qadr. It will be the 19th or 20th night of Ramadan, inshā'Allāh. That will be with ILF Texas. It will be a free class.