10 Points for Excelling in Ramadan
My dear brothers and sisters everywhere, al-salamu 'alaykum wa rahmatullah,
and Ramadan Mubarak to all of you! Alhamdulillah, I'm honored to be a part of
this beautiful program.
My message is very simple and that is to remember that you will never be too
ready for the month of Ramadan. No matter how much you try and how much you
think you have done, Ramadan deserves much more, so always remember that you
are never too ready for the month of Ramadan.
Alhamdulillah, Ramadan is an annual opportunity to review our goals in life.
We adjust our schedules and know we will spend longer hours in the masajid and
exhausted during the days. It is an exclusive opportunity for Muslims every
year. As Muslims, we always feel that we are under achieving what we should be
doing in Ramadan, and we all have the feeling that we could have done better
and should have done more. At the end of the month, we regret so much of the
time we spent wasted. There is always a chance for improvement every single
My talk this evening is on the art of excelling in Ramadan and how we cannot
repeat the same mistakes. Don't expect me to give you a full program of waking
up at such and such time and suhur and fajr in the masjid. Each person has
different responsibilities and circumstances and you can write your own
I'm going to share with you ten points to help you reach excellence in
Ramadan. Insha'Allah I will share with you principles on how to reach success
in the month of Ramadan.
1. Have the Hunger for Success:
Imam Al-Bukhari was one day asked about the medicine that would help people
memorize, and he said, "I have nothing except for the ardent desire.' If you
truly and really have the ardent and burning desire and hunger to succeed,
then you will achieve it. The 'ulema' said that whatever expectations you
have, you will achieve at least 80%. Imam Al-Bukhari excelled in that field
because he had the ardent desire and hunger for success. Ibn 'Abbas was a
young man when the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) passed away, but the
amount of knowledge he collected made him the top of his field and he was an
expert in the interpretation of the Qur'an. He was once asked, "How were you
able to collect all this knowledge in such a short time?' He said, "I had an
inquisitive tongue and the heart that comprehends.' He had the ardent desire
and didn't waste his time. Don't make failure an option in Ramadan. Don't give
yourself an exit. Many people start making excuses, and once you give yourself
and excuse to fai
l, you will lose success. Never give yourself that excuse and always have that
hunger to succeed.
2. Set Your Goals. Make sure that these goals are very high:
Fear Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala). In order to help us achieve
the path of success, he gave us the ultimate goal: to reach Al-Firdaws Al-A'la.
In many ayat, Allah says to race and rush. Allah is helping us set our goals
and making our goal Jannat Al-Firdaws Al-A'la. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi
wa sallam) when he met the ansar atbayat'l-'aqabah,... The muhajireen asked
him, "Ya Rasulullah, what do we expect out of this?' The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi
wa sallam) said, "Jannah.' That is the ultimate goal and should be a very high
and lofty goal.
When you start Ramadan, set your goals
as high as you can. If you want to do khatm'l-Qur'an, set a higher goal of
two, three, or five. If part of your goals is to achieve righteousness and
taqwa, then you have to start making plans on how to do so by adding more good
deeds to your schedule. If part of your goals is to pray qiyam'l-layl every
night in the masjid, then commit yourself. If you fall short a little from
achieving these lofty goals, insha'Allah they will still be higher than what
you did last year.
3. Build Confidence in the Month of Ramadan:
Some people come with high expectations for themselves such as finishing the
Qur'an ten times and praying night prayer every night and not missing
takbeerat'l-ihram. Build confidence that you can achieve these goals. Set a
plan and strategy on how to achieve these goals and build confidence that you
can do that. 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr ibn Al-'As was a young man at the time of the
Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam). He used to finish the Qur'an every
single night, and the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) was surprised. He
(sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) came to him and told him it was a righteous and
good deed, but he should recite the Qur'an in one month (this is besides
Ramadan, by the way, and Ramadan is a special occasion when you can do more).
He (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, "Try to finish the Qur'an once every
month.' He said, "Ya Rasulullah, I can achieve more than this.' The Prophet (sallallahu
'alayhi wa sallam) said, "Do it in one week.' He said, "Ya Rasulullah, I can
achieve more than this.' The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, "Do
it in every three days.' He said, "Ya Rasulullah, I can achieve more than
this.' The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, "There is nothing
better than this.' If it is done more often than three nights, then it may be
rushed and you will not benefit a lot. Thishadeeth applies outside of Ramadan,
and in Ramadan you can do more.
'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas (radyAllahu
'anhu) after the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) passed away was still
a teenager. He had an ansari companion he would seek knowledge with. His
companion said, "This is going to be a far journey. Who is going to waste his
time and come listen to someone like you?' 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas said, "I left
him and continued my journey seeking knowledge.' Eventually, he became the
great scholar we all know. His friend later saw hundreds of people at the
masjid and said, "That young man was much smarter than me and knew that one
day this would happen.' Have the confidence that you will achieve your goals
and have a strategy and plan.
4. Do What You Love to Do in Ramadan:
so many good deeds that you can do. Some people love to feed the poor and cook
food and give to others. Others invite a lot of people to their house or take
food to the masjid. Other people love to read the Qur'an a lot and dedicate
more time. Other people love to do salah and qiyam'l-layl. Some people love
spending more time in the masjid and others love to spend more time in
seclusion. Some people push themselves so hard in what is not what they enjoy
in acts of 'ibadat and may force themselves to read the Qur'an more and are
too exhausted to do adhkar or taraweeh, and this is not a smart plan. Do what
you really love to do. Choose and select the good deeds you enjoy doing and
increase them more and more. Make your plan around these deeds that you love
and enjoy doing. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) recommended us to
achieve that which is little but continuous. Many people love to start Ramadan
with as many good deeds as they can, which may be too much. Take it easy and
start with what you enjoy. As you build momentum, add more. The whole point is
to be proactive, so start your plan and choose the good deeds you enjoy and
start working on it.
5. Study the Successful & Learn From the Best:
Experts in the field of success teach this to people. Why is our 'ibadah less
when it comes to studying from the experts and learning from the best and
successful? What do we mean by this? The 'ulema' say, "Stories at tales are
like the gems of Paradise.' When you hear a story, you enjoy it so much
because you can relate to it. Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) says, "We sent you
the best of stories...' At the end of the story of Yusuf, Allah said, "There
is in the stories instructions for men of understanding.' When you learn from
the successful and from the best, it will encourage you and raise your morale.
Achieving all of these great goals has been done by the people before you.
The sahabah were the best examples after the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa
sallam). Check the stories of the successful in Ramadan – How did they
succeed? What did they do? Read some of the biographies of the people and the
great scholars and how they spent their time in Ramadan.
Remember, keep these stories with you throughout the month of
Ramadan, and when you feel weaker and weaker, go back to the stories and
6. Be in the Company of the Successful Ones:
The previous point was about people you learn about in history: the Prophet (sallallahu
'alayhi wa sallam), thesahabah. Many people say that this is theoretical. Look
for people around you in your own community who can help you achieve these
lofty goals. You will definitely find one or two people around you. You should
go and look for those people. Remember that your companions in Ramadan can
help you go higher in goals or can pull you down. Habits are contagious. Look
for high achievers in the month of Ramadan. If you always associate yourself
with high achievers, bi'idhnillah you will go higher in your goals. The
Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, "The example of the good and bad
companion is the example of the one who sells perfume and the blacksmith. He
may give you something good for free or you may buy something, but at least
you will get a nice smell from him. The blacksmith will blow smoke and he may
burn your clothes or at least you will smell something bad.' The same is with
those you associate with during Ramadan. Are you going to associate with those
who will encourage you to watch TV or play cards? Or will you associate with
those who will help you go higher? Look for those who are high achievers and
associate with them throughout the month of Ramadan as much as you can.
7. Go All Out & Work Hard:
When you set your
goals, don't just set them to achieve them at your convenience or when you
have spare time. If you are serious about achieving these goals, make them a
priority. Go all out to achieve these goals. Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala)
reminded the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam): When he (sallallahu 'alayhi
wa sallam) would go out for da'wah he would invite as many as he could. No one
can achieve more than the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), but when he
came home, you would expect him to take rest, but the instruction that came
from Allah was the opposite. Allah told him: "When you are done, put yourself
in worship and 'ibadah until you get tired.' The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi
wa sallam) always maintained qiyam'l-layl every single night. With all of the
work he did during the day, he did more at night to get to the next level.
People who go to the gym know that once they have achieved the
ten reps, they have to add one more. They are excited that they have passed
their regular achievement.
Put priorities during the
day and night. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) is reminding us all
the time how to move on from one level to the next. One time the Prophet (sallallahu
'alayhi wa sallam) said, "There is one night that is laylat'l-qadr which is
better than the worship of 1,000 months.' The sahabah were worshipping in the
hope of achieving this night. Then the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam)
told them to look for it in the last ten nights. The sahabah became more
focused. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) instructed them that the
night is in the last ten nights of Ramadan. Some of them became tired and a
little lazy, and to help them achieve more, the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa
sallam) told them it was in the odd number of the last ten nights. They would
then focus on five nights. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said it
may be the 27th, 25th, or 23rd. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam)
sees the momentum going down and helped them become more focused. Go all out
and work so hard. It happens only once a year. Only Allah knows if you will
even survive today. Make this coming Ramadan the best Ramadan by being more
focused and put so much effort in achieving better goals.
8. Be Prepared & Adaptable:
Be prepared to
change your schedule. Many people are effective the first few days but then
feel that they are losing it and then lose momentum completely and say they
can't do it. Instead of slightly changing their schedule, they try to start
over with a completely new schedule and then they quit. Expect yourself to
change plans. It may not be a dramatic change, but you need to adapt. It is
better for you than completely quitting the program over and over again.
The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) started his days
with plans and changed them. One time he entered the house of one of his wives
and asked if there was any food, and if there wasn't, then he would say he
would fast. He could have gone out and looked for food somewhere else, but he
took the opportunity to fast.
Never put your programs
back to back and make them so crowded. When there is an emergency, the whole
program will be broken up. Expect yourself to do some changes, which will make
it less stressful for you. If you start reading five juz every single night
and then realize that they are too much and then decrease to three juz and
then you are short two juz. As you try to make up and do seven, you start to
lose hope. Expect yourself to adapt and change. Do something reasonable every
single night like reading three juz and move on with your schedule. Don't
simply cancel the good deeds you have started just because you think you are
You may fall sick or have an emergency
to travel or relatives may come to visit. Expect to change some of your plans.
9. Remind Yourself of the Virtue of What You are Doing:
Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) says in the Qur'an: "Reminders
benefit the believers.' During the month of Ramadan, you are going to feel a
little tired and exhausted. Go to someone who you think can help you remind
yourself. Ask them for advice. Remind yourself by spending a few minutes each
night in dhikr and du'a'. Read about the virtues of fasting every now and
then. For many people it becomes a cliché, but the reminder definitely
benefits the believers. Keep Riyadh Al-Saaliheen handy and the ahadeeth about
the virtues of Ramadan handy. Hopefully it will rejuvenate your spirit. If
that doesn't work, then have someone else give you advice. If that doesn't
help, attend a program in the masjid. Revisit your goals.
10. Never Give Up!
If the Shaytan wants
anything from us, it is for us to give up on ourselves. The Shaytan whispers
that you can't do it and that you aren't the person to achieve the good deeds
and you give up on doing them. How many times have you vowed after Ramadan to
wake up for qiyam'l-layl after Ramadan and you never achieve it? How many
times have you wanted to fast Mondays and Thursdays after Ramadan? Allah (subhanahu
wa ta'ala) says in SurahYusuf: "Never give up hope of Allah's Mercy. Truly no
one despairs of Allah's Mercy except those who have no faith.' Never cancel
your plans in the month of Ramadan simply because you fell a little short or a
little weak. Even until your last breath and last seconds in this word, you
are required and asked to do something that is good. In the Musnad of Imam
Ahmad, the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said in a hadeeth of Anas:
"If the Day of Judgment is established and you have a plant in your hand, if
you are able to put it in the earth before the Day of Judgment completely
starts, then do it.' With Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala), you will benefit. Even
if it is the last second of the month of Ramadan. What were you doing last
year? People were getting ready to finish and prepare for Eid. It is one of
the blessed moments. Focus on du'a' and dhikr and give charity. Once Ramadan
is over, what was multiplied in Ramadan will no longer be multiplied. Never
give up even if you fall short and behind. Continue doing good deeds until the
end of the month, even if it is the last night. Even if it is the last hour
and you still haven't finished khatm'l-Qur'an, still continue reading. Falling
short one juz is better than falling short 15 juz. Remember that you are
dealing with Allah, and Allah is the One who rewards. With Allah, it is
absolutely worth every effort that you are doing.
It is never too late to prepare for Ramadan. You will never be too ready for
the month. Plant some principles in your mind and heart so that you have
something to achieve. Have the hunger of success. Have the ardent desire to
succeed in Ramadan. Do you have that or do you think that you are not a strong
achiever? Expect to succeed more insha'Allah and have a hunger for success.
Set your goals very high. Allah has set your goals higher than you can imagine
and is helping you set your goals high. Go and try to achieve these goals.
Build confidence that you can achieve these goals. Don't beat yourself down.
If you fail once, it does not mean you are a failure.
Do what you love in Ramadan. You may not be able to achieve anything, but
start by achieving that which you like. If you like giving charity, then give
more. If you like to read the Qur'an or spend more time in the masjid, do what
you love the most.
Study the successful and learn from the best. Read the stories of the sahabah
and the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and how much they achieved in
Ramadan. Learn from them and learn their techniques.
Be in the company of the successful ones. Associate yourself with good
company. Pick one or two people who are high achievers. Habits are contagious.
If you associate yourself with low achievers, most likely that is what you
Go all out and work so hard. It is once in perhaps your lifetime. It could be
your last Ramadan. Only Allah knows. Make this opportunity like your first and
last opportunity. You will definitely do your best and put every single effort
to make it successful, particularly in the last ten nights.
Be adaptable and expect changes in plans. As you try to achieve your plans,
some emergencies may come up, but it doesn't mean you should quit. Adapt and
move on based on the new change. Never cancel the schedule or program.
Remind yourself of the virtue of what you are doing. Keep handy the books on
the virtues of fasting. Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) says in a hadeeth qudsi:
"All the good deeds of the son of Adam are for himself except for fasting
which is exclusively for Me, and I shall reward for it.' If you know that
Allah is giving the reward, you know that it will be beyond your imagination.
Never ever give up, even if it is the last hour in the month of Ramadan. Make
sure to use it wisely.
These are ten points on how you can excel in the month of Ramadan insha'Allah.
I wish all of you a successful Ramadan this year and ask Allah (subhanahu wa
ta'ala) to make this Ramadan the best Ramadan for all of you. I ask Allah to
help us all to live to this Ramadan, to make the fasts our best fasts, and the
qiyam our best qiyamand to help us become more generous in the month of
Ramadan. I ask Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) to help us all achieve some of the
i'tikaf during the last few nights of Ramadan. I ask Allah (subhanahu wa
ta'ala) to help us be of those who will survive and live and worship Allah (subhanahu
wa ta'ala) on laylat'l-qadr. I ask Allah to make us among those who will learn
beneficial knowledge and benefit others.