بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم
In the name of Almighty God, the most gracious, the most merciful. All praise be to God, the lord and cherisher of all that exists. We praise Him, we seek His guidance, we seek His forgiveness and we seek refuge in Him from the evil within ourselves and the evil within our deeds. No one whom God guides can be misguided, and no one whom God allows to go astray can be guided. I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Almighty God, without equal or partners, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
My brothers and sisters in Islam, starting tonight, after the sun has disappeared below the horizon, we will officially begin the last ten days of this holy month of Ramadan. The whole of the month of Ramadan is indeed holy and magnificent, but these last ten days, hold special significance.
It is recorded in the collections of Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim, on the authority of Aisha (ra), that during these last ten days of Ramadan, the prophet Muhammad (sws), used to spend the whole of the night in constant prayer and worship of Allah (swt). He would also wake his wives to do the same.
Also the prophet (sws) performed itikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan. Secluding himself in the masjid in a form of spiritual retreat, retreating from the world for the sake of spending every waking hour in worship of Allah (swt). This is actually similar to what he did even before receiving the very first revelations from Allah (swt) the cave on Mount Hira.
Now here for us, we don't have a masjid to perform itikaf in, however we can learn from that example of how to spend these last ten days of Ramadan. You could say that these last ten days are the home stretch of the holy month. That last leg of the race where you push yourself hard, harder than you think you can handle, to try to reach that finish line in good standing.
Another important and maybe the most important part of these last ten days, is the coming of Laylat ul Qadr. Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an,
Indeed We sent it down on the night of Qadr;
And what will make you comprehend what is
the night of Qadr?
The night of Qadr is better than a thousand
The angels and the Spirit descend within it
with the permission of their Lord on every
Peace it is until the break of dawn.
This night, Laylat ul Qadr, is the absolute most important night of the whole year. And here Allah (swt) is telling us that to worship Him in this night is not only extra special because of it being Ramadan, but it is so special that He compares it to a thousand months. That's approximately 83 years! Many of us may not live to be that old. Allahu 'Alim (God knows). Any Muslim man or woman who would rather be busy with the affairs of their dunya (daily life) during that night is nothing short of a fool. This is a night that could easily mean a big difference when your good deeds are weighed against your bad deeds on Yawm ul Qiyyama (Day of Judgment). However, remember that it is not known with any certainty what night of these last ten it is, but it is reported that the prophet (sws) said to look for it in the odd numbered nights. So, it could be the 21st, the 23rd, the 25th, the 27th, or the 29th, only Allah knows for sure. So it is important to spend each of these nights worshipping Allah (swt) as much as you possibly can.
This is the night that the holy Qur'an descended from Allah (swt). Many times we may forget or take for granted how truly magnificent this book is. It is not the first nor the only revelation from Allah (swt), but it is the only one that was literally the very speech of Allah. My brothers and sisters remember when you look at this text, in it's Arabiyyah (Arabic), and when these marks and dots turn into a sound in your mind, remember that that is not just the words of a book, that it's not just beautiful poetry, but that this is the very speech of Allah (swt). When you hear me, or Dr. Iyad, or Dr. Firas, or anyone else reciting the Qur'an in salat, that this is not our words. These are words that are far beyond the conceptualization and creativity of any man or jinn who has ever lived, including the prophet Muhammad (sws). Many people read through the Qur'an hastily as if they were reading any other kind of book. There is a hadith, although I'm not sure of it's authenticity, but it says that the prophet (sws) said that "anyone who does not sing or recite the Qur'an in a beautiful voice, is not from us". This is not like any other book in any language that we will read. These are the literal words of Allah (swt), to be revered, to be shown the utmost respect, and to held in esteem far beyond any other book. During these last ten days, recite the Qur'an frequently. You can't recite it too much. But, don't only recite it but reflect upon it. We know that on Yawm ul Qiyyama (Day of Judgment), one of the types of people who will be blessed with shade from the heat on that day, will be those who remember Allah to such an extent that they cry. Reflect on the Qur'an until you cry, and if you that your just not a crier, than reflect harder. Because when you truly TRULY reflect on those words of Allah (swt) and really apply them deep within yourself, there is not a human being alive who would not cry. There is not a human being alive who would not cry at the beauty of Allah (swt). There is not a human being alive who would not cry at the mercy of Allah (swt). There is not one who would not cry at the majesty, and bountifulness of Allah (swt), and there is not one alive who would not cry at the thought of tasting even one millisecond of the punishment of Allah (swt).
Brothers and sisters in Islam. As I said, we are in the home stretch. Attendance has been waning at congregational tarawih for many of us, myself included. Please if you haven't attended tarawih during this month, please try to attend in these next few days. Not for our sake but for your sake in seeking the bounty of Allah (swt). Strive to share the blessings of this holy month with your families, whether they be Muslims or not. If you do not pray tarawih here with us, be sure to stand in Qiyam during these nights worshipping Allah (swt). Remember the obligation of Zakat ul Fitr as well and insha'Allah let us really push ourselves, both individually and as a community, through these ten days, all the way into the Eid ul Fitr (Festival of the fast breaking) insha'Allah.