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 Ramadan.
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 schedule.
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 fail, 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 taala).  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.