The most important and first thing that I want to say to you is to realize the value of this time in your life. I mean that you are in your youth. This is the most valuable period of your life and once it is past, it can never be regained. This is the period about which we will be questioned and if we spend it in the obedience of Allahﷻ and on the Sunnah (Way) of His Messengerﷺ, we will be shaded under the Shade of Allahﷻ’s Throne. One of the seven categories of people who will be shaded under the Throne of Allahﷻ on the Day when there will be no shade except the Shade of Allahﷻ’s Throne is the youth who was obedient to Allahﷻ.
Abu Huraira (R) reported: Rasoolullahﷺ said, “There are seven whom Allah will shade on a day when there is no shade but His. They are a just ruler, a youth who grew up in the worship of Allah, one whose heart is attached to the mosques, two who love each other, meet each other, and depart from each other for the sake of Allah, a man who is tempted by a beautiful woman of high status but he rejects her, saying, ‘I fear Allah,’ and one who spends in charity and hides it such that his right hand does not know what his left hand has given, and one who remembered Allah in private and he wept.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
Please note that all references in Ahadith are gender neutral. ‘Man’ means ‘Man or Woman’.
My advice to you therefore is, do not waste this time in anything that takes you away Allahﷻ. The high value of this time is because it is the time of maximum temptations, and aspirations, and the strength and ability to indulge in and pursue them. The one who is connected to Allahﷻ not only maximizes this time but also saves himself/herself from the distraction, anxiety, depression, stress, and mental strain that comes with the urges of youth. Allahﷻ told us where to look for peace of mind and tranquility. He said:
ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ ٱللَّهِ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ ٱللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ ٱلْقُلُوبُ
Ra’ad 13: 28 Those who believe (in Islam), and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.
How many people do you and I know, who entered their youth with great promise but got distracted chasing their passions and desires and paid for that with their careers and worse. The time to focus in now.
The purpose of Ramadan is to make us Muttaqoon – people who have Taqwa of Allahﷻ . All the promises of Allahﷻ are for the Muttaqoon. Allahﷻ promised to help people of Taqwa and to solve their problems and provide them from sources they can’t imagine. You are in a unique position to be among those who Allahﷻ promised to help. He said:
وَمَن يَتَّقِ ٱللَّهَ يَجْعَل لَّهُۥ مَخْرَجًا
وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُۥٓ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ بَـٰلِغُ أَمْرِهِۦ قَدْ جَعَلَ ٱللَّهُ لِكُلِّ شَىْءٍ قَدْرًا
Talaq 65: 2-3 And whosoever fears Allah (has Taqwa) and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty) And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allah will accomplish his purpose. Indeed Allah has set a measure for all things.
What is Taqwa? Taqwa is the fear of displeasing the One we love the most. The way to do that is to choose every action based on only one criterion, ‘Does it please Allahﷻ?’ The beauty of Taqwa is that not only does it get us the pleasure of Allahﷻ but since everything that Allahﷻ loves, is intrinsically beneficial and good, it also gets us the approval and love of people. People love those who are moral, honest, kind, positive, productive, hospitable, and brave. People who do good to others without expecting any reward because their reward is with Allahﷻ . Ramadan comes to make us into such people. Ramadan came to make us Muttaqoon. Allahﷻ said:
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ ٱلصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
Baqara 2: 183 O you who believe! As-Saum (fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (Taqwa).
The best way to maximize the benefit of the last ten days and nights of Ramadan is to make I’tikaf in a masjid. If there is one on or near your college and you can manage to take the time off, I would recommend that as the best thing to do. If you can’t, then read on.
On college campus, given the class schedule and other inescapable engagements it is necessary to structure what you need to do to maximize the benefit of the last ten nights of Ramadan. The magic word is ‘Structure’. It is short for – Kill all social media. If you don’t, it will kill you.
To structure, you need a framework and that is the goals that you set for yourself. Set goals for your last ten nights which you want to accomplish. Don’t compare with others. Set goals that make sense to you and which you are reasonably certain about accomplishing. Don’t get over ambitious and don’t do the opposite. There is special Baraka (blessing) in Ramadan, and you will find that you can do much more than you may have thought possible. How much Qur’an do you want to read in these days and nights? How much charity do you want to give? How much Taraweeh and Qiyam do you want to pray? What habits do you want to start, stop, or continue consciously and why for each of these? I always find it extremely helpful to write these down and so I recommend that to you. Having done this, there are six areas of focus that I recommend:
3-D’s – Dhikr + Durood + Dua
Dhikr is to think about Allahﷻ and develop the awareness that Allahﷻ is with us wherever we may be. This has two major benefits: It is protection from sin because the one who is aware of Allahﷻ in his/her life, can’t commit a sin and will immediately repent and make Istghfaar, if he does. And it gives you tremendous confidence because if Allahﷻ is with you, who can harm you? Dhikr can be done by repeating the glorious names and attributes of Allahﷻ for which there is great reward. Each SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, and Allahu Akbar is a tree in Jannah. Spend some time each day in sending blessings on Rasoolullahﷺ – Durood. You can say the Durood Ibrahimi which we say in Tashahhud or any other. Rasoolullahﷺ told us that when someone sends Salatu-was-salaam i.e., Durood on him once, Allahﷻ sends Salaam (blessings) on that person ten times. Finally, especially at the time of Suhoor and Iftaar, make dua. These are special times for the acceptance of dua, so ask Allahﷻ with humbleness and sincerity. Ask with humility and knowing that Allahﷻ can do whatever he wants. Our job is to beg and persuade Him. Ask for yourself and the Ummah of Rasoolullahﷺ.
Make a lot of Istighfaar (repentance). All goodness begins by owning up our sins and seeking Allahﷻ’s forgiveness. Then make the intention to change your path in life.
Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas (RA) said: Rasoolullahﷺ said, “If anyone constantly seeks pardon (from Allah), Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress and a relief from every anxiety and will provide sustenance for him from where he expects not.” [Abu Dawud].
Reflect & Introspect
Reflect on your life. Think of your goals in life in the context of what pleases Allahﷻ and realign them accordingly. What do you need to start doing, stop doing and continue to do consciously? How are your relationships and what must change to make them positive and productive? Which friends should you retain and who do you need to part company from? How must you change the way you use time? What do you need to learn? What do you know which you need to start practicing? Make notes about all these things which you can implement going forward.
Forgive people and seek their forgiveness. Don’t send around mindless messages to your entire address book, ‘If I did or did not do something, knowingly or unknowingly etc. etc.’ Be real and sincere. You know what you did, to whom you did it, what you should have done instead and so go to them and ask them to forgive you. If you need to return what you took from them, do that. Don’t bear grudges. It is like holding a live coal in your hand. It only burns you. Cleanse your heart of all hatred, resentment, and dislike. Remember that the one you dislike, Allahﷻ feeds and takes care of every day. Settle matters between yourself and the other person and don’t carry them over to when we will all meet Allahﷻ. That will prove to be very expensive. Remember that the only thing that prevents us from seeking forgiveness or from forgiving is our ego. And the one who is subject to his/her ego is the slave of the worst thing in the world. Let’s free ourselves.
Abu Hurairah (R) said: Rasoolullahﷺ said, “It is not lawful for a Muslim to forsake his (Muslim) brother beyond three days; and whosoever does so for more than three days, and then dies, will certainly enter Jahannam.” [Abu Dawud]
Salah is the key to Jannah. It is the first thing to be accounted for. It is the covenant between us and Allahﷻ . The one who abandons Salah has abandoned Islam.
‘Abdullah bin Buraidah narrated that his father said: Rasoolullahﷺ said: ‘The covenant that distinguishes between us and them is Salah. So, whoever leaves it, he has committed Kufr.’” [Ibn Majah]
Use this time to become regular with your Salah and pray it on time and preferably in Jama’a. You get 27 times the reward for the prayer when you pray it in Jama’a. If you can’t get to a masjid, then pray in Jama’a with a couple of your friends. That way you will also have friends who remind you about Allahﷻ and His Messengerﷺ. Focus on improving the quality of your Salah. Improve concentration, try to understand what you or the Imam recite and try to become aware that you are standing in the presence of Allahﷻ . Take this opportunity to also start praying Tahajjud regularly lifelong. Ask Allahﷻ when He wants you to ask. Don’t waste that opportunity in sleep. To do this you will need to sleep at a reasonable time. This will help you to improve your schedule and make it more productive.
Abu Huraira (R) reported: Rasoolullahﷺ said,“Our Rabb Almighty descends to the lowest heaven in the last third of every night, saying: Who is calling upon Me that I may answer him? Who is asking from Me that I may give him? Who is seeking My forgiveness that I may forgive him?” [Bukhari & Muslim]
Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an. Try to read as much as you can. Make the intention to understand what you read, to learn to read it well, to learn Tajweed, to memorize more than you know and with the help of Allahﷻ, to memorize the entire Qur’an. For these days, focus on reading the Arabic. You can read the translation after Ramadan. You can also listen to the Qur’an on your devices but use headphones so that you don’t disturb others.
Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (R) reported: Rasoolullahﷺ said, “Whoever recites a letter from the Book of Allah he will receive one good deed (it will be counted as a good deed and will receive ten like it as his reward from Allahﷻ )as ten good deeds like it. I do not say that Alif Lam Mim is one letter, but rather Alif is a letter, Lam is a letter, and Mim is a letter.” [Tirmidhi]
Listening attentively is equal to reading and so whether you listen to the Qur’an attentively in Salah or on your device, we ask Allahﷻ for the reward of reading it. Make the Niyyah to learn the rules of Tajweed and learn to recite the Qur’an well after Ramadan. There are many online resources for this also as well as many Qurra (reciters) who teach online courses. Make the Niyyah to understand the Qur’an and to practice it in our lives.
The Qur’an was revealed on Laylatul Qadr which is the crowning glory of Ramadan and Allahﷻ’s supreme blessing. Rasoolullahﷺ told us to search for it in the odd nights of the last ten nights of Ramadan. Don’t get into discussions about which are the odd nights. Pray as much as you can on all the nights of the last ten days of Ramadan. Try to stay awake the whole night in Salah, reading Qur’an and Dhikr. Don’t waste any time in chatting or socializing. Every minute is precious and so please use time wisely.
Narrated Abu Huraira (R) that Rasoolullahﷺ said, “Whoever fasted the month of Ramadan out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his past sins will be forgiven, and whoever stood for prayers in the night of Qadr out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.”[Bukhari]
Narrated `Aisha Siddiqa (RA), that Rasoolullahﷺ said, “Search for the Night of Qadr in the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan.”[Bukhari]
Anas ibn Malik (R) reported that Rasoolullahﷺ said when the month of Ramadan began, “Verily, this month has presented itself to you. There is a night within it that is better than a thousand months. Whoever is deprived of it has been deprived of all good.” [Ibn Majah]
Narrated `Aisha Siddiqa (RA), I asked, “Ya Rasoolullahﷺ, if I know which night is the Night of Qadr, what should I say (dua) during it?” Rasoolullahﷺ replied, “Say: O Allah, You are forgiving. You love to forgive, so forgive me.” [Tirmidhi]
Sadaqa – Zakat and Charity
In Islam charity is a pillar of our religion. Zakat is a Rukn, like Salah. Zakat is the compulsory charity payable on savings, not income. It is what you must pay if you have an amount equal to or more than the Nisab. The Nisab of Zakat is the minimum amount of wealth one must have before they are liable to pay Zakat. Rasoolullahﷺ set that at 85 grams of gold. In North America as of April 14, 2022, Nisab is estimated to be $3,913. The Zakat payable on that is $97.8 ($98). Zakat is payable on the entire amount you have as savings including the Nisab. So, if you have savings equal to $5,000 (gold, silver, currency, shares) then the Zakat payable on it is $125. It is best to set one day e.g., 25th Ramadan, and pay 2.5% of the value of gold, silver, currency, and shares as Zakat. Zakat must be given to individuals who do not have the amount of Nisab as savings and the individual must be made absolute owner of the amount i.e., you can’t tell them what to do with that money. Zakat can’t be given for masjid maintenance or Madrassas or for any organization. It can be given to an organization for distribution to individuals, but it remains your responsibility to ensure that the organization which collects Zakat maintains a separate account for Zakat funds and doesn’t mix them up with other forms of charity. If you don’t ensure this and if they use your Zakat for maintenance or other activities, then your obligation to Allahﷻ remains and your Zakat remains unpaid, even though you gave it to the organization. Zakat is payable only to Muslims. You can give to others and for other causes from non-zakat funds. There is special benefit in giving charity in Ramadan because the reward gets multiplied 70 times. In the whole month and especially in the last ten nights, try to give some charity every night. May Allahﷻ accept your donations.
Abu Huraira (R) reported: Rasoolullahﷺ said, “None gives charity from what is good, (for Allah only accepts what is good) except that Ar-Rahman takes it with his right hand. Even if it is a date, it is nurtured in the hand of Ar-Rahman until it becomes greater than a mountain, just as one of you nurtures his young horse or camel.” [Muslim]
Asma bint Abi Bakr (RA) said, “Rasoolullahﷺ said to me, “Do not withhold your money, (for if you did so) Allah would withhold His blessings from you.”
Marthad ibn Abdullah (R) reported: Rasoolullahﷺ said, “The shade of the believer on the Day of Resurrection is his charity.” [Ahmad]
The final and most important thing is to live Islam. Islam, like Judo or Aikido, is a practice. It is not a philosophy, theory, or idea. It is what we do, not what we know, which makes us Muslim. Knowing about Salah doesn’t make you a Musalli. Praying makes you a Musalli. Knowing about fasting doesn’t make you a Sa’aim. Fasting makes you a Sa’aim. It is for the one who is fasting that Allahﷻ said, “The fast is for Me and I will reward it.” He didn’t say, “Knowing about the fast”, but “Fasting.” Only actions get results. The Sahaba understood this and as soon as they learnt something, they acted upon it. Knowledge that is not acted upon will become a Hujjah (proof) against us on the Day of Judgment because we will not be able to say that we didn’t know. People listen with their eyes. They don’t care what you say until they see what you do. Islam spread by the winning of hearts. Not by force. You can’t even make someone change who they vote for, or which league they support by force. How can anyone make someone change who they worship, by force?
Imam Az-Zuhri (RA) the great Muhaddith and teacher of Imam Malik bin Anas (RA) said, “Islam spread the fastest after Fatah Makkah because for the first time people were able to see the lives of Muslim, up close.” Remember he is talking about the lives of ordinary people. People came to Islam because they were impressed with the manners, dealings, behavior, and interactions with their Muslim neighbors. Not because they were convinced by some complex point of Fiqh (Islamic Law) in a lecture or debate. Allahﷻ rewards deeds.
College life is a unique Da’awa opportunity for you. Show people the beauty of Islam in practice. Don’t talk about Islam. Show Islam. Let them taste and feel what it means to be a Muslim. Not in some Ramadan event. But every day of their lives, while they are in contact with you in classrooms, gym, dining hall, driving, and sports. Differentiate based on your choices, your attitude, the smile on your face, your hospitality, and above all, your kindness. The One we worship is Ar-Rahman nir Raheem (Most Beneficent, Most Merciful). His Messengerﷺ is Rahmatullil A’alameen (Mercy to the Worlds). So, how must the one who worships Allahﷻ and follows Rasoolullahﷺ be? Stand out as the kindest, most caring, compassionate, people with the highest integrity. Be the go-to people for anyone who needs help. Then see how the world opens for you.
May Allahﷻ help us to please Him and be pleased with us and never be displeased.