Home Sermon How To Prepare For Ramadan

[Friday Sermon] How To Prepare For Ramadan

I Begin With The Name Of Allah, The Most Merciful, The One Who Bestows Mercy

Alhamdulillah! Indeed, all praise is due to Allah. We praise Him and seek His Help and forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from our soul’s evils and our wrong doings. He whom Allah guides, no one can misguide; and he whom He misguides, no one can guide.

I bear witness that there is no god except Allah – alone without any partners. And I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.

O Allah, send prayers upon Muhammad and the followers of Muhammad, just as You sent prayers upon Ibrahim and upon the followers of Ibrahim. Verily you are full of praise and majesty. O Allah, send blessings upon Muhammad and upon the family of Muhammad, just as You sent blessings upon Ibrahim and upon the family of Ibrahim. Verily, You are full of praise and majesty.

Dear brothers and sisters! Allah describes Ramadan as a prescription; one that cures the soul. In the eleven (11) months outside of Ramadan, we spend time feeding our bodies but tend to neglect and starve our souls. But in Ramadan, its the exact opposite, we starve our bodies, only to feed and replenish our souls. So revive your souls!

Dear brothers and sisters! Ramadan is truly a gift, a blessing from Allah to the believers, during which the doors of Jannah (Paradise) are open, while the doors of Jahannam (Hellfire) are closed. Ramadan especially gives us the opportunity to renew ourselves, recharge our Iman (faith), purify our hearts, and set our goals and priorities – to improve and excel In shaa Allah. In case our minds and hearts became distracted, Ramadan is the time for us to redirect our focus to the Akhirah (Hereafter), and to join the race for Jannah.

As Imam Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah said, the most beloved son of the twelve (12) sons of Prophet Ya’qub was Prophet Yusuf. Likewise, Ramadan is the most beloved month of Allah. The eleven (11) sons of Prophet Ya’qub were forgiven because of the Du’a (prayer) of one of them, namely Prophet Yusuf. Likewise, the sins of the eleven (11) months are forgiven by the blessings of Ramadan.

Respected brothers and sisters! A lot of people don’t know about their fard, their obligations (Salah, Zakah etc) throughout the year, but at least in Ramadan most people will try. With the fulfilment of fard in Ramadan, make Du’a to Allah, ask Him ‘Ya Allah grant me the ability to fulfill these obligations throughout the year. Ya Allah grant me the acceptance to love your commands, and to hate your prohibitions and make them ugly in my sight so that I don’t even go near them.’ May Allah grant us that acceptance and may He not make us from among those who only worship Him in Ramadan. Ameen.

Respected servants of Allah! Know that, when the stomach is empty and the hands are raised, the answer to your prayers is imminent. Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri reported in a marfu’ Hadith that:

“Allah ransoms people every day and night (i.e., in Ramadan) and every day and night the Muslim has a prayer that is answered.” [Narrated by Imam al-Bazzar, and authenticated by as-Shaykh al-Albani in Sahih al-Targhib wat-Tarhib]

My beloved people! We are facing the blessed month of Ramadan and many of us are unfortunately still only warming up in our worship and righteous acts. A common excuse for this is that due to the long hours of fasting in the heat, coupled with having to go to work and look after one’s family, it is difficult to strive towards supplementary voluntary acts of worship beyond the tarawih prayers. The mantra of ‘I am tired’ is probably the most frequent form of Zikr on the tongues of many Muslims today.

As a way of motivating us to hasten towards ihsan (excellence) in our worship so that we get the best out of Ramadan, rather than the bare minimum, it is worth pondering on the following Prophetic Hadith:

It was narrated that Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) ascended the minbar and said:

“Ameen, ameen, ameen.” It was said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, you ascended the Minbar and said, ‘Ameen, ameen, ameen.” He said: “Yes, Jibril (Peace be upon him) came to me and said: ‘If Ramadan comes and a person is not forgiven, he will enter Hell and Allah will cast him far away. Say Ameen.’ So I said Ameen. He said: ‘O Muhammad, if both or one of a person’s parents are alive and he does not honour them and he dies, he will enter Hell and Allah will cast him far away. Say Ameen.’ So I said Ameen. He said: ‘If you (Prophet Muhammad) are mentioned in a person’s presence and he does not send blessings upon you and he dies, he will enter Hell and Allah will cast him far away. Say Ameen.’ So I said Ameen.”

Although there are three supplications being made in this Hadith it is only the first which is the focus of this article. Before studying the content of the supplication itself, let us examine the circumstances surrounding the supplication.

Firstly, who is making the supplication? None other than the Archangel Jibril (Peace be upon him), the greatest, most virtuous and most honourable of all the angels, who has a high rank with Allah and the one whom Allah chose to entrust with revelation revealed to His Prophets.

Secondly, who is saying ameen? The Noble Messenger Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) – the last Prophet, the Imam of the Messengers, and the one who will intercede with Allah on the Day of Resurrection. In short, the best of creation.

Thirdly, what is ‘ameen’? It itself is a supplication calling upon Allah to answer what has been requested.

Fourthly, where is the supplication being made? On the Minbar of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in his Mosque in Madinah, the second holiest place in the world after Makkah.

In light of the above four points, it is clear that whatever supplication is being made here is of significant importance. How powerful a supplication must it be if it is uttered by Jibril (Peace be upon him) on the Minbar of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who is himself asking Allah to accept the supplication? Knowing the above, we would be foolish to ignore a supplication of such magnitude.

In this Hadith, Jibril (Peace be upon him) is essentially supplicating against someone who witnesses Ramadan but is not forgiven in it. So severe is such a failing according to Jibril (Peace be upon him) that such a person should be thrown into the Hellfire and distanced from Allah’s infinite mercy. Note that the Du’a does not mention the sins of this individual, but speaks of them in a general sense such that it is applicable to all – those with many major sins as well as those with few minor ones. Yet, the Du’a is mercilessly calling for such a person to be thrown into the Hellfire and distanced from Allah’s mercy which envelopes all things.

The reason for this is that anyone who fails to be forgiven in the month of Ramadan must indeed be a wretched individual. For this is the month in which the shaitan are chained up, and the month in which the gates of Paradise are opened and people emancipated from the Fire nightly. It is a month therefore in which Allah facilitates us to do good deeds and to avoid committing sins. If this is not enough, Allah motivates us further by promising to multiply the reward for our deeds.

On the last day of Sha’aban, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) gave a sermon and said:

“O people! A great and blessed month has approached you, a month containing a night better than a thousand months. Allah has made fasting in its days an obligation and prayer in its nights a (recommended) voluntary act. Anyone who seeks nearness to Allah in this month through any virtuous act will be like one who carried out an obligatory act at another time (outside of Ramadan), and whoever performs an obligatory act in this month will be like one who performed seventy such acts at another time. It is the month of patience, and the reward for patience is Paradise. It is the month of equality, the month in which the wealth of the believer is increased.”

It is a time when the Mosques are overflowing with worshippers, when entire families who may not offer prayers during the rest of the year, pray obligatory and voluntary prayers in the Mosque, when all around you, believers are completing a recitation of the Qur’an, when purses are being emptied to give charity in the way of Allah, and when the tongues are restrained. Indeed it is a time when the believers are united in worshipping Allah. If in such a month someone is unable to obtain Allah’s forgiveness, then wretched indeed is he, and thus, deserving of Allah’s punishment as supplicated for by Archangel Jibril (Peace be upon him) and the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

Dear brothers and sisters! We must not be self-satisfied and think that just because we are fasting, we will be forgiven. Only the foolish would remain content with their actions and gamble with their destiny in such a fashion. Instead, we must remember the Du’a of Jibril (Peace be upon him) and use these precious few days of this blessed month to hasten to good deeds and righteous actions and actively strive for Allah’s forgiveness and mercy so that we can abide in the Gardens of Paradise forever.

* Ways to make prayer (Du’a) in Ramadan

Dear brothers and sisters! As we all know, Ramadan is a great time to spiritually recharge! It’s also a great time to make Du’a (prayer).

Every year for the past twenty (20) years I’ve made a Du’a list. At the start of Ramadan I write down a list of things that I want the most and I memorise them. I make Du’a for each item on the list every day of Ramadan at the times that Du’a are more likely to be accepted. I can personally tell you wallahi all that it does wonders. Honestly, things I’ve asked for persistently and I did not think would, have come true.

It’s incredible. I look back and can’t believe I’ve gotten so many of things I asked so desperately for, Allah truly does not leave the hands of a believer empty when raised to Him. I get excited every year around this time because I get to make that wish list again.

I would highly recommend making a personal Du’a list of your own! As an incentive, our Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) said:

“Allah is angry with those who do not ask (pray) Him for anything.” [Tirmidhi]

* Some things to consider when writing your Du’a list:

1. Write it all down

Put down what you want to ask for on paper or on your phone so for the first few weeks you don’t miss a single item. It can be as long as you want! It can be private and you don’t need to share it with others so feel free to only make a list of keywords to remind you of each item.

2. Ask anything and everything that is good

When choosing your items, imagine that Allah is asking you to ask Him for anything and everything you’ve ever wanted! Imagine the possibilities. Write down everything you want to ask Allah with no limitations (but keep it halal (permissible)!). Remember folks, you’re asking Al-Mujib – the One Who Responds and is the Supreme Answerer.

3. Organise

Try separating your Du’as into categories so you know that you’ve properly hit each one. I would recommend: Dunya, Akhirah, Ibadah, the Ummah, and Relationships. For each category, think about what you would like the most and start listing them.

4. Make the Du’a when Du’as are most likely answered

These times include right before breaking the fast, during your Salah in Sujud and after the obligatory prayers, Qiyamul lail, the last ten (10) nights etc. I personally make mine right before breaking my fast during Iftar.

5. Remember the etiquettes of Du’a

There is a right and proper way to make Du’a. Remember that we must praise Allah first, ask for peace and blessings upon our Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) and then make our Du’a.

I pray you all have a meaningful and successful Ramadan full of Barakah (blessings). May Allah preserve you all to reap the benefits of such a noble month and bring you closer to Him. May He give you all strength, knowledge, patience and humility, Ameen!

* Great goals to set for Ramadan

1. Eat, drink and be moderate

Almost all of us do it – once Iftar time hits, we just keep ploughing food and drink into our mouths and stomachs till it’s hard to move afterwards. And those of us who do it know this is totally contrary to the spirit of Ramadan, through which we’re supposed to learn self-control not self-indulgence. Let’s try to stick to the Prophetic rule on eating: fill our stomachs with one-third food, one-third water and one-third breathing space, even in Ramadan.

2. Give one naira a day in charity, or five, or ten, etc

The Prophet Muhammad, Peace and blessings be upon him, was always generous but even more so in Ramadan. Let’s open our hearts and dig a little deeper in our pockets, wallets and bank accounts this year. Even less than one naira a day adds up. Whatever you can give, it’s the intention that counts.

3. Memorise four new Surahs

Memorising the Qur’an often seems like a daunting task. But the key is doing it in small bites. Since there are four weeks in Ramadan, try to memorise one new Surah a week. Start off with a short, easy one. Once you’ve started, you’ll build momentum and may even want to memorise a longer one the following week.

4. Go to Tarawih prayers

Post-Iftar, the first urge is to sleep after an exhausting day. But try your best to head out to the Mosque for Tarawih prayers. Praying alone is wonderful, but doing it in congregation is fantastic. The community spirit is part of Ramadan’s blessings. Don’t miss it this year. If going every day is not possible, try going at least one week. Attend the Tarawih prayer in which the recitation of the Qur’an will be finished. Call the local Mosque and find out which day the Imam will be finishing the recitation of the Qur’an in prayer. Attend to not only hear part of the Qur’an’s recitation in prayer, but also participate in the heart-rending Du’as that follow it.

5. Stop swearing and/or backbiting – with a special box

It’s hard not to shoot our mouths off when someone’s upset us. Whether we utter those four-letter words or backbite about someone to our family and friends, we know this isn’t the Allah-approved way of letting off steam. In Ramadan, when we want to build our spirituality, we’ve got to wage Jihad (to struggle) against our bad habits. Try this: get a box and every time you catch yourself swearing or backbiting put some money in it. It could be a buck or less. The point is to choose an amount that makes it feel like punishment. At the end of the month send the money to a charity or buy a gift for the person whom you’ve back-bitten the most against.

6. Call/email or WhatsApp your relatives

You’d think that given the easy access to email, competitive long-distance calling rates, phone cards, etc. these days, we’d keep in touch with family and friends more often. But the opposite seems to be the case, as we get caught up in life’s “busyness.” Strengthening ties with family members and keeping in touch with friends is part of our way of life and an act Allah is very pleased with. This Ramadan, call family and friends or at least email or WhatsApp them a Ramadan card and ask them how their fasting is going.

7. Go on a technology diet

Even if you work in the IT industry, you can do this. Avoid checking personal email and surfing the web during your fast. After Iftar, instead of plopping yourself in front of the screen, go to Tarawih. The same goes for the television. The point is to try to give our full attention to spiritual elevation this month. Read fifteen (15) minutes of Qur’an a day.

Even if you feel you’ve got absolutely no time, set a timer or the alarm on your cell phone and find a relatively quiet place. You can read the first page of the Qur’an you open or follow a sequence. The choice is yours. The point is simply to connect with Allah through His revelation in the month of the Qur’an, the Ramadan.

8. Forgive everyone who has hurt you

Still got a festering wound from the fight with your friend last year? Still upset about something your spouse said during a heated argument? Or are you still bitter about the way your parents sometimes treated you as a kid? Let go of the anger and pain this Ramadan and forgive those who have hurt you. Remember, forgiving someone is not only good for the body, but it’s also great for the soul. And in Ramadan, ten days of which are devoted to Allah’s forgiveness, shouldn’t we lesser beings forgive too? If you find it very difficult to forgive everyone, forgive at least three people.

* Let’s ask ourselves tonight

I sit here, wondering and thinking how, have I spent my first days of Ramadan fruitfully, Or have I wasted time unknowingly?

Ramadan comes for a short days, it’s here. Will I ever meet the Ramadan next year? Allah, Oh Allah, help me guide my heart through, for only you know if I’ve devoted enough to You.

Ramadan as usual has flown by, despite planning beforehand, many of us may have gotten caught up in a routine after accustoming ourselves to the change in schedule the blessed month brings. This may have affected our initial plans to increase our worship, contemplation and to seek Allah’s Forgiveness and Mercy with greater fervour. But the last ten days and nights of Ramadan are still ahead for us to benefit from. Ask yourself these questions and see what you can do to make the most of what’s left of Ramadan this year, In shaa Allah. Please ask yourself:

1. Have I kept pace with the amount of Qur’an I wanted to read, or have I fallen behind?

2. If so, how much do I have to read on a daily basis the rest of Ramadan to catch up?

3. Have I tried to attend Tarawih regularly, or did I use weak excuses to get out of it?

4. Did I ever pray the night prayer?

5. Did I try praying my five daily prayers with more sincerity, concentration, and focus than usual?

6. Did I invite anyone over for Iftar (breaking the fast)?

7. Did I help any needy person, even a panhandler or beggar, when I was fasting?

8. Did I regularly seek Allah’s Forgiveness and Mercy with sincerity, fear and hope?

9. Did I encourage my family to fast or participate in regular opportunities for more rewards that come with Ramadan (i.e. good deeds in general, but also Tarawih, more reading of the Qur’an, etc.).

10. Did I memorise any more Qur’an than what I knew before Ramadan started?

11. Did I try to be more patient in Ramadan than I normally am?

12. Did I try to control my anger, especially while fasting?

13. Did I try harder to avoid backbiting, slander and spreading fake news?

14. Did I constantly check my intentions, to make sure that my good deeds were for the sake of Allah alone, not to impress others, gain their favour, or to show off?

15. Was there even an atom of pride in my heart?

16. Was I quieter and more contemplative?

17. Did I cry in my prayers?

18. Did I read more Islamic literature apart from the Qur’an?

19. Did I make sincere repentance to Allah, really feeling sorry for my sins?

20. Did I forgive those who hurt me?

21. Did I avoid hurting anyone with my attitude, words, intentions or actions?

22. Did I give any more Sadaqah (charity) than I normally give?

23. Did I share the message of Ramadan and Islam with a non-Muslim?

24. Did I share the message of Ramadan and Islam with a non-practicing Muslim family member or friend?

25. Did I feel annoyed at being hungry while fasting or did I rejoice?

* Effective tips for controlling your tongue in Ramadan

Respected brothers and sisters! Many Hadith (sayings) of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) have warned us against letting the tongue be free, yet we still find amongst us many struggling to leave back-biting, slander, swearing, cursing, lying and spreading fake news and all those traits which are not befitting for the character of a Muslim.

This Ramadan is an opportune time for you to restrain your tongue just as you restrain your body from food and drink and its desires.

Here are some tips to control your tongue and gain the most of your fasting, as the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:

“Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (ie. Allah will not accept his fasting).” [Bukhari]

1. Leave that which does not concern you

The first tip to master is to leave that which does not concern you. Don’t enquire about something that is not necessary like what someone else may have said or done wrong.

The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:

“From the excellence of a man’s Islam is leaving that which does not concern him.” [Bukhari]

2. Remember ‘Silence is golden’

Before you speak, start by asking yourself a few questions: 1. Will this benefit or harm? 2. Is it necessary? Often it takes this mere moment of reflection to identify whether your speaking is necessary or useless. And as the proverb goes: ‘If talk is silver then silence is gold.’

3. Conceal faults of others

Covering the faults of others is part of the virtue of safeguarding the honour of Muslims.

Once the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was asked:

“O Messenger of Allah, which of the Muslims is best?” And he said, “He who the Muslims are safe from his tongue and his hand.” [Riyadus Salihin]

We’re quick to disclose other’s faults and conceal our own, yet we should remind ourselves of the time when we would wish our faults would be concealed. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:

“Whoever conceals (the fault of) a Muslim, Allah will conceal his fault on the day of Judgment.” [Muslim]

Our society today is filled with many rumours and fake news that create disunity as well as animosity so always presume good of others and be part of the solution not the problem.

4. Eliminate unproductive ‘chit-chat’

We are all culprits of talking rubbish at times, yet as Muslims we know that Allah is always listening to us. Ask yourself what topics often come up in your conversation? Are they about matters which would be pleasing to Allah? or are they just about worldly matters and boastfulness?

We have to ensure it is not always the latter, instead discuss topics that are beneficial, it may be social awareness, about a Hadith you have learned, about Muslims who need help.

5. A slip of the tongue?

Our societies are fragmented and our families sadly ‘not on talking terms’ because someone said something without thinking or in a heated moment. We know from the narration of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) it is prohibited to stop talking to one who has displeased us for more than three (3) days; yet some Muslims go years on end without talking to relatives/family members despite the curse incurred as a result of cutting off such relationships. Often it occurs on the basis of what can be a ‘slip of the tongue’ – so take it upon yourself to say sorry if you wronged someone or forgive them if it was a slip of the tongue.

6. Don’t spend your ‘Free Minutes’ on Talk Talk

Our social culture and major mobile corporation networks tell us that conversing is ‘free’ so we should take advantage of it – but every minute comes at a big price to your religion, your world and your Akhirah (Hereafter). Check what your going to say is beneficial and the time spent- otherwise you just fall into the trap of talking without any meaningful purpose.

Cut out your talking time after Iftar and whilst your fasting and don’t let a minute be wasted. Instead, use those minutes to see how your family are, call to speak to those who you have not been in touch with for a while and get in touch with others to invite them to good. Allah the Most High says in Surah Al-Asr:

“Verily by time, man is in loss, except for those who believe and do righteous deeds, and recommend one another to the truth, and recommend one another to patience.” [Qur’an, 103: 1-4]

* Important info about Ramadan

Here is what should be done in Ramadan:

1. Offer every Salah (Prayer) with Jama’ah in a Masjid.

2. To rise up little earlier for Suhur and to offer the Salah of Tahajjud.

3. The recitation of Glorious Qur’an. No specific limit is prescribed but one should recite as much of it as he can.

4. Any Zikr or Tasbih.

5. Make Du’a and Supplications.

6. Give Sadaqah and Zakah (Charity).

What should be avoided in Ramadan:

1. Telling lies.

2. Avoid anger and conflict with people- Remember you are fasting.

3. Quarreling.

4. Eating unlawful things.

5. Ghibah or Backbiting.

6. Earning through unlawful means.

7. Any act which may harm a person without valid cause.

8. Burdening one’s servants or employee with a toilsome job beyond their ability, without providing them facility to carry it out.

Lastly I pray, O Allah, You have created our souls and it is for You to take them in death. Their death and their life is for You. If You cause them to live then preserve and protect them and if You cause them to die then forgive them. O Allah, we ask You for physical well-being.

May Allah enable us to reap Ramadan benefits, Ameen!

The perfect knowledge belongs to Allah the Almighty. Our last prayer is all praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Peace and blessing be upon our Prophet, his Family, his Companions and his Brothers till the Day of Resurrection.

This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today Friday, Sha’aban 13, 1440 AH (April 19, 2019), by Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: gusaumurtada@gmail.com or +2348038289761.

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