Lecture by Yaser Birjas | Hosted by Br. Abdullah Syed | Transcribed by Sameera
[The transcript includes slight modifications for the sake of readability and clarity.]
[Br. Abdullah Syed]: Al-salāmu ‘alaykum wa raḥmatullāh wa barakātuh. Today we are with Shaykh Yaser Birjas. Today is the 11th day of Ramadan Prep. We’ve done many programs, and I hope it is has benefitted everybody. I sincerely hope that every single person who listened to the recorded videos and who has participated in our live broadcast have benefited a whole lot. Before I get started, I want to thank everybody, including all the volunteers, listeners, and speakers. Jazākum Allāh khayr.
[Shaykh Yaser Birjas]: First of all, congratulations to all the brothers and sisters who lived another year to witness the month of Ramadan, alḥamdulillāh. I want you all to know that you have been selected and pre-approved for the contract of mercy and forgiveness from Allah . It is a very genuine and serious contract in which Allah is giving you the opportunity for 30 days and 30 nights in the month of Ramadan to exercise that gift to the utmost possibility of getting the forgiveness of Allah . Towards the end of the month of Ramadan, there are the last 10 days and 10 nights and laylat’l-qadr in which the Prophet said there are so many blessings and barakāt. Take the opportunity to do as much as you can to get Allah ’s Mercy and Forgiveness in this blessed month.
Once in a Lifetime Experience
When it comes to the month of Ramadan, we should really understand and realize that every Ramadan by itself is considered a once in a lifetime experience. We have been surviving all these years and witnessed many Ramadans already, but how many of these Ramadans can you count on for salvation on the Day of Judgment? If Allah has given you the opportunity to survive another Ramadan, then it should mean that it is another lifetime opportunity. It is a lifetime opportunity because the Prophet said, “Anyone who fasts the month of Ramadan out of belief in Allah and faith hoping for reward in Allah , his sins will be forgiven.” Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet said, “May his nose be rubbed in the dust (an Arabic expression for humiliation) who fasts Ramadan and Ramadan ends without him being admitted into Jannah.” [al-Tirmidhi] Every single month of Ramadan is considered a lifetime opportunity.
Therefore, we have to make the most of our time. Things come in do’s and do not’s. This is how Allah organized our dīn for us. Even when you look at reward, Allah created Jannah and Jahannam. Allah commanded us to worship Him out of love and hope in the reward and out of fear. You are always between love, hope, and fear that you will be punished for misbehaving or for mishandling the ni‘mah Allah has given you.
It is crucial for each and every one of us that we look into the most important things to do and the most important things to avoid in any kind of practice. We should always focus on that which is the most important to do and the most rewarding and the most important to avoid so you don’t hurt your īmān and Islam.
One day a man complained to the Prophet , “Ya Rasūlullāh, the deeds and practices in this dīn are becoming too many for me. Guide me to do something that will admit me to Jannah and take me away from Jahannam.” The Prophet told him something very simple and said, “As long as your tongue is always wet in the remembrance of Allah.” This means that as long as you practice dhikr of Allah , you should be fine and rewarded. This is one of the most valuable things you can do.
In Ramadan, there are specific things you need to do and specific things you should avoid. We will talk about the top 5 versus 5: the top five important things you need to achieve and do in the month of Ramadan and the top five things that you should stay away from and avoid in the month of Ramadan.
Top 5 Do’s in Ramadan
1. Ramadan Things First
Usually it is said “first things first,” but when you talk about Ramadan, Ramadan things should always come first. What does this mean? What are the most important things in the month of Ramadan?
The Prophet mentioned in a ḥadīth qudsi that Allah said, “My servant will never draw nearer to Me in anything more than the obligatory acts.” This means that the first thing you should care about is your ṣalāh, fasting in Ramadan, giving zakāh. The obligatory things are the most important. It is so ironic in the month of Ramadan that many people care so much for ṣalāt’l-tarāwīḥ more than they do for ṣalāt’l-i’ishā’. They care so much for tahajjud and the night prayer that they even miss ṣalāt’l-fajr. SubḥānAllāh, it is so ironic. Even though they are supposed to care about the most important things and most valuable things which are the ṣalawāt and fasting in Ramadan and the zakat.
Br. Farhan talked about khushū‘ in ṣalāh as one of the most important things you care about in the month of Ramadan. When you fast, fast well. Make sure you don’t hurt or harm your fasting by any of the bad deeds. Also, don’t get distracted by the less important things while you are fasting. Don’t get distracted by focusing on tarāwīḥ more than focusing on ṣalāt’l-i’ishā’ or ṣalāt’l-fajr.
Ramadan Exclusive Acts
Ramadan has very exclusive acts of worship that perhaps you don’t practice as much as you do in Ramadan. The first is that it is a taqwa exercise. Allah said, “Allah made Ramadan obligatory upon you as He did upon those who came before you so that you may acquire taqwa and righteousness.” It is very important that we do our best to exercise taqwa. I highly recommend you listen to a lecture on taqwa or read an article or book so that you know what you should be focusing on in the month of Ramadan.
Another exclusive act is Qurʾān. Ramadan is the month of the Qurʾān. Study the Qurʾān as much as possible. Br. Nouman covered this subject at the beginning of this series. Read the Qurʾān. Review what you have memorized. Memorize something new. Read tafsīr or a translation of the Qurʾān to help you understand what you are reading. Make the focus. Don’t study anything else unless it is related and attached to the Qurʾān.
Tarāwīḥ and qiyām are exclusive to the month of Ramadan. Qiyām is around the year, but when it comes to tarāwīḥ, it is very exclusive and special to the month of Ramadan. Make sure that you attend tarāwīḥ in the masjid and do some at home. If you can’t do it in the masjid, do at least part of it in your house. Do it in the way you do it in congregation.
One of the exclusive acts of Ramadan is generosity. Be generous. The Prophet was generous at all times, and particularly in the month of Ramadan when Jibrīl used to come and visit with him and review the Qurʾān with him. Make sure you show your generosity in Ramadan.
After you fulfill the obligatory acts and the exclusive acts of Ramadan, then move on to the bonus acts such as extra nafl, staying at the masjid for a longer time, and many other good deeds.
2. Add a New Value to Your Life
Make Ramadan an opportunity to add something new in your life. Take the chance to change something in your life that would promote many more good deeds that you can do afterwards. Like what?
Take it to the next level. You have already done good deeds throughout the year and good preparation in the month of Sha‘bān. Now take it to the next level! If you already pray the five daily prayers, then try to make it in congregation. If you have already done congregational ṣalāh for two or three ṣalawāt, add another one. Always take it to the next level. If ṣalāt’l-fajr is on and off, then make it continuous and in Ramadan become regular in ṣalāt’l-fajr. Do your personal qiyām. The way you are doing these good deeds in congregation, try to make them also on an individual level inshā’Allāh.
Create a spiritual retreat. Br. Omar Suleīmān talked about the purification of the soul and so did br. Gyasi. Take Ramadan as an opportunity to make this a spiritual retreat and work on your inner self. It is very crucial and very important that you work on your inner self! This is why the Prophet used to do i‘tikāf. This is why he used to pray qiyām the first three nights in congregation and then continued worshipping individually. Create a spiritual retreat for yourself. The way you do things in congregation, you should do individually.
Do lots of good deeds on an individual level such as adhkār, staying in the masjid after ṣalāt’l-fajr and read Qurʾān. At night, I want you to cry in the darkness of the night and not for the Dark Knight that rises. Make ‘ibādah not because of watching a movie that everybody is talking about these days.
Share the khayr. Ramadan is a month of generosity. You need to share the khayr with everybody inshā’Allāh. Invite others to goodness. Be a messenger of the Ramadan spirit with the Muslims and even the non-Muslims. When people talk to you about Ramadan, learn and share the khayr with everybody. Dr. Main talked about the issue of zakāh.
3. Prepare a Du‘ā’ List
Imam Abdul Nasir talked about du‘ā’ and mentioned it as one of the most important things to do in the month of Ramadan. I want to emphasize this because Ramadan is all about the doors of Jannah being open as the Prophet mentioned. This is a chance for our du‘ā’ to be accepted, and if you know your du‘ā’ is going to be accepted, then you need to increase in your du‘ā’. My recommendation is that you make du‘ā’ seriously, and prepare a du‘ā’ list. Prepare an actual du‘ā’ list in the way you make a shopping list. Write it down and keep it with you.
What kind of du‘ā’ list can you make? For yourself: what do you need of the matters from the dunya and ākhirah? Ask Allah for what you are looking for. Make a du‘ā’ list for your loved ones, parents, spouses, children, friends, teachers, and those who you care about in this life and who care for you. Make a du‘ā’ list for your community. Make a du‘ā’ list for the ummah and not just for your community. If you look around you, then you know that the ummah definitely needs your du‘ā’. Look at the people in Burma and the situation in Syria and the lost lives. Ramadan is approaching and coming very soon. May Allah make it easy for them! Make a du‘ā’ list for the ummah. Make a du‘ā’ list of the day. Every single day, something new may come up and you may need to make a du‘ā’ for that.
Prepare yourself by making all of these du‘ā’ lists inshā’Allāh. Learn the etiquette of the du‘ā’ and learn more du‘ā’s. Go to books of du‘ā’, the internet, or learn from someone you trust to teach you. Use them in the month of Ramadan.
4. Upgrade Your Level of Patience
There is a misunderstanding about the month of Ramadan. Because people are fasting, they expect you to give them their space. How many times have you heard someone who is fasting and ask him to do something and he says, “Don’t talk to me. I’m fasting.” It is as if fasting has become a curse, subḥānAllāh. Why is that? For them, hunger is synonymous with anger and when they are hungry, they are always feeling angry. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about the month of Ramadan. I know of many families and wives who complain that when their husband is fasting, it is like a disaster. They hate the days that he is fasting because unfortunately he is always short-tempered and not in a good mood and doesn’t want to do things. Ramadan is supposed to be the month of happiness as br. Hasan Elwan discussed in this series.
Ramadan is all about patience. When you fast, you challenge yourself and take yourself to the next level in patience. You are upgrading your level of patience.
When it comes to patience, there are so many things in the month of Ramadan that cause people to get angry. Anger management is very important at this time. What are they angry about? The moonsighting issue causes people to angry with one another. When it comes to tarāwīḥ, do you pray 8 or 20? Long or short? Hold muṣḥaf or not? This causes people to get angry and fight with each other. When it comes to food: more or less? This gets them angry. The parking issue, recitation of the Qurʾān, fundraising every single night.
It is very important that we take ourselves to the next level of patience inshā’Allāh in the month of Ramadan by training and following the example of the Prophet , knowing that your reward is with Allah . In a ḥadīth qudsi, Allah said, “All of the deeds of the son of Adam belong to him (there is a determined reward) except for fasting, and I will reward for it.” Those who persevere in patience shall be rewarded immensely, which means without measure.
5. Search for Your Ramadan Buddy
You are not alone in this when it comes to fasting! Many people will be fasting. Don’t try to take it by yourself. Encourage yourself to help and assess one another. Allah recommended that you should assist each other in doing good deeds and acts of righteousness. He is recommending that we assist one another in achieving these good deeds. When it comes to finding the Ramadan buddy, it is like finding a needle in a haystack. It is very hard to find someone you can trust with whom you can grow in spirituality. Once you find this person, hold onto them inshā’Allāh. Team up for goodness.
Good and bad traits are contagious. If you stay with those who are not serious about fasting and who are not serious about the month of Ramadan, then the chance is that you will adopt their akhlāq and manners and their attitude towards the month of Ramadan.
If you associate with those who are good, then inshā’Allāh you will adopt their traits and good qualities. The sahabah knew each other very well and used to help one another. They would memorize Qurʾān with each another. Look for someone with whom you can get together in qiyām’l-layl, adhkār, memorizing Qurʾān, and to do i‘tikāf in the masjid.
These are the top 5 things I want to recommend when it comes to Ramadan:
1) Ramadan things first.
2) Add a new value to your life.
3) Prepare a serious du‘ā’ list.
4) Upgrade your level of patience.
5) Find a Ramadan buddy. Look for someone you can trust so you can help and assist one another during the month of Ramadan.
The Top 5 Don’ts in Ramadan
These are the top 5 things to avoid in the month of Ramadan.
1. Don’t Procrastinate
Avoid procrastination. Avoid getting lazy and avoid delaying things from taking place. If you set goals for the month of Ramadan, once Ramadan begins, don’t delay things and don’t push things back when it is time for you to perform your ‘ibādāt. Don’t push ṣalāt’l-tarāwīḥ unless it is something more important. Don’t push away reading of Qurʾān unless it is more important than recitation of Qurʾān. Procrastination can hurt you very much. Keep things on schedule.
Don’t escape good deeds because they are hard. We get excited for ṣalāt’l-tarāwīḥ the first few nights and after a few days you may be lazy, but this doesn’t mean you should quit. Instead, you should continue. Don’t become a Ramadan drop-out: every time it becomes hard and difficult, you quit.
Some say they want to finish the Qurʾān three times in Ramadan. Based on their calculation, they will have to do a particular number of pages every day. Can you do that? Can you achieve it? The answer is yes if you put the time for it and are determined to do it, and I know people who can do much more.
2. Do Not Kill Time
Do not kill your time. You may have heard this from so many people, particularly the young. When you become so hungry and tired and it is so hot, many people want to pass the time doing anything to distract themselves and their mind from being hungry and tired. When you are hungry and tired, do your best to return to Allah and not run away from Him.
One of the things people use to kill time is technology: internet, television, smart phones. People watch television so much. Television makes your heart heavy because the more you watch, the more you are distracted you become from the purpose of fasting and it is really hard to continue fasting the month of Ramadan. Technology is very addictive. Once you watch something online, then you check your e-mail, and the Shayṭān drags you from one screen to another, and you find yourself hours later and you benefitted nothing from all of this. Remember to stay your course.
Another thing people do to distract themselves from hunger in Ramadan is shopping. Shopping robs your time because it is all about passing and killing time.
Remember not to kill your time in the month of Ramadan!
3. Do Not Be Excessive
Excessive in what? Everything! For example: excessive in worship. The Prophet warned us from being excessive in worship. The one who does it excessively will become exhausted and fatigued and quit everything. Don’t be a Ramadan dropout or quit the ‘ibādah because it is too much for you. In the first days of Ramadan, people want to jump immediately in all acts of worship. This will not help you. You need to do it one step at a time. Do one extra ‘ibādah every single day, provided that you do the obligatory regularly all the time.
Excessive in food: This is in many ways, including cooking. Ramadan has special dishes, and we wait for Ramadan for that. Some people wait exclusively for these recipes because they don’t taste the same outside of Ramadan. When the first night of Ramadan comes, we have to cook all these things altogether. When we invite people over, we spend three days beforehand preparing. This is very excessive in terms of preparing for food. Also, don’t be excessive in eating food because you will get lazy and tired and will not be able to come to tarāwīḥ and won’t be able to recite Qurʾān and won’t enjoy your ‘ibādāt at all.
Excessive in socializing: Many people like to get together in the evenings of Ramadan. There is nothing wrong with getting together, but Ramadan is not just about socializing, and there are many things more important. Give time to your relatives, friends, and guests, and you also need to take time for your soul and heart. Avoid excessive late night session because you will not enjoy your ‘ibādah after and when you wake up for fajr, you will not be able to stay awake after ṣalāt’l-fajr.
4. Don’t Put Life on Hold
Avoid putting your life on hold. Many of us when Ramadan begins, we enter a bubble and isolate ourselves completely from our surroundings in a way that we feel safe, and when Ramadan finishes, they go back to life and completely forget because they lose the connection.
Understand that life is real. Getting hungry while at work is real. Many people take off the entire month because they don’t want to bother working while fasting. Life is real! And you are going to have to suffer some of that as well and deal with it. Don’t isolate yourself completely from this world, but focus on Ramadan.
Many people take the opportunity in Ramadan to do a temporary truce with the Shayṭān. During Ramadan they quit so many bad things. Br. Wisam Sharieff mentioned quitting bad habits in Ramadan. Many people do this temporarily and put it on hold. When they quit the bad habits they had before the month of Ramadan started, they always keep these strings attached. After Ramadan finishes, they suddenly disappear and go back to these habits. When they entered the gates of Ramadan, they never throw away the coat of dunya and instead put the coat behind the door so that on the way out they could take it with them. If you plan to quit bad habits you know are wrong and hurt you, then you need to make this permanent and not just temporarily on hold. These are the things you need to really quit.
If you are serious about the month of Ramadan, you need to work on full, complete, and real transformation. No regrets for quitting bad habits!
Build the momentum in Ramadan so that at the end, you will be fine inshā’Allāh. You will reach with your practice to a very high level so that inshā’Allāh after Ramadan you can continue doing all these beautiful good deeds.
5. Avoid Regret
Regretting towards the end of Ramadan is inescapable. You vowed at the beginning of Ramadan to do great things, but towards the end of the month, you always think that it went by so fast. The first few days will seem so slow because it is summer, but at the end, you will be saying that it went by so fast and you missed so many things. How many times you didn’t pray fajr in the masjid. How many times you didn’t do your du‘ā’. How many times you didn’t do your ‘ibādāt.
Laylat’l-qadr: you may miss it and regret not doing enough during that night. I‘tikāf: you had an opportunity to take off for ten days during Ramadan to make i‘tikāf in the masjid and now you are missing the opportunity.
Avoid having too many regrets. Make your regrets minimal by planning well in the month of Ramadan so that towards the end there is not too much to worry about or regret.
Even if it is the last day or last minute in the month of Ramadan, don’t say that it is over because it is a very special time. If you know you missed the first few days, don’t let the middle days of Ramadan go by without doing good deeds. Don’t let the feelings of regret pass without using it to your advantage by rebounding to success. When you regret something, you have to recover by vowing inshā’Allāh to do better in the future and by rebounding to success.
These are the ten points I have for you: 5 vs. 5.
The top 5 things to do in the month of Ramadan:
1) Ramadan things first.
2) Add a new value to your life.
3) Prepare a serious du‘ā’ list.
4) Upgrade your level of patience.
5) Work on your Ramadan buddy
The top 5 things to avoid in the month of Ramadan:
1) Don’t procrastinate.
2) Don’t kill your time.
3) Don’t be excessive.
4) Don’t put your life on hold.
5) Don’t regret many things in the month of Ramadan.
These are five things, and I’m sure there are so many more that you can learn on your own by experiencing the month of Ramadan, but at least begin with this. These are my guidelines and principles.
Again, for those who Allah blessed to live and survive to witness another Ramadan, congratulations! You have been selected for that season of mercy and forgiveness.
May Allah make us of those who attend the last 10 nights and laylat’l-qadr. May Allah forgive our sins and elevate our status in the ākhirah and Jannat’l-Firdaws.