Advice for Freshers

Summary

In this khutbah, we explore many points of advice that we may have wanted to hear as freshers. No doubt, during our time at university, we have so much relative free time to develop in so many different domains, that it’d be a shame to graduate university with just a degree certificate and nothing else! So what were the main points of advice mentioned?

1) Renewing your intention: why would you not let at the very minimum, let your studying be an act of worship? Why spend all the time throughout the year studying, and not let it weigh heavily for you on your scale of good deeds in the hereafter? Remember, your studies can all be an act of ‘ibadah (worship) with the right intention.

2) Lofty goals: remembers, it’s not that people aim high and miss, it’s that they aim low and hit. What excuse do we have when we know our affairs, and the Being we ask from to help fulfill our goals is Allah The Almighty?

3) Build imaan, don’t consume it: we all know those merciful servant videos on YouTube, those reminders where the Nasheed in the background is so loud you can’t hear what the speaker is saying. We know the imaan high we get from it, however, we also know the subsequent crash. So what really sustains your imaan? It’s the small and consistent action that gradually build your imaan – for that is the Prophetic advice.

4) Don’t judge others: in the journey we try and take to get closer to Allah, through building our imaan, shaytaan (the devil) can tempt us into judging others and thinking we are better than them. If it’s not the outwardly shortcomings, it’s the inwardly ones that we should be aware of. For it was pride that kicked Iblis out of paradise, for we ultimately do not know where we will end up!

So the practical steps we also shared in terms of helping us realise and implement this advice is as follows:

4 Practical Tips

  • Think good of Allah: as He says, “I am what my servant thinks I am.” Why do we have such a warped view of Allah SWT? For He loves us more than our own mother!
  • Schedule: a difficult habit to maintain and get stuck to, but if developed well enough, can be life changing – timetable!
  • Good company: one of the most pertinent pieces of advice, especially for freshers! This affects your life in so many different aspects, from your spiritual mindset to your academic effort, that who you surround yourself with will rub off on you so easily that you won’t even realise it!
  • Persevere: for this is the forgotten type of patience; and persevere not just with your actions, but with your dua’a to implement the above.

 

Full Sermon 

The Prophetﷺ said,

“Allah the Most High said, ‘I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.’”

– Sahih Bukhari

Introduction

It’s amazing to see so many new faces with us around university this week – hope you freshers are enjoying your first week so far, and you’re settling in nicely! I ask that Allah SWT blesses you all in the year to come, grants you its success and goodness and protects you from its harm!

Now I was struggling to choose a topic for this khutbah; it may be weird to say that because there’s so many great topics to choose from for beginning of year, but that was exactly the point: there’s so many to choose from, so which one? But then I thought to myself, if I was a fresher, what top tips would I want to hear, that would’ve saved me so much time and energy, and headaches and heartaches back then?

And in fact, I’ll take it a step beyond that, when I begin prepping for this khutbah, it turns out all these points are still relevant to me today, and so regardless whether you’re a fresher or in your final year, these are 4 pieces of golden advice that I pray will be of great benefit, and then 4 practical steps to go about achieving them.

The Importance of Your Time at University

So before we even begin talking about the tips, I’m going to briefly explain why it’s important to follow the advice I’m about to give. You see, as Muslims, and during these few years we have at Uni, we have so much opportunity to learn and develop ourselves; whether that’s your spirituality, academically, socially, your skillset, your character, your confidence etc. This is the time where you’ll have to do it before you get caught up in the responsibilities of life. So with that background out of the way, let’s begin.

1) Renewing Your Intention

So my first point, & this really one that we hear time and time again, is critical. For but there’s a reason why it’s drilled in. A reason why major books of ahaadith (the sayings of the Prophet) begin with the hadith that “actions are according to their intentions”, and it boils down to a simple concept. If Allah SWT says the purpose of our creation, [wa ma khalqatul jinna wal insa illa liya’budun – and I did not create jinn and mankind except to worship me] if we think worship is just Salah and dhikr, how would we be able to realise our purpose? And that is by making our intention to a noble higher goal. e.g. making studying an act of worship through the examples mentioned in the Exams Khutbah on this website.

2) Set Yourself Lofty Goals

Aim high. Have an idea what you want to achieve from life. As muslims, we’re meant to aim for the best of both lives, and use this one as a means of achieving something greater in the next. Whether it’s the fact you want to do humanitarian aid work when you’re older from what you studied, or excel in your field to be an ambassador and role model for Islam, or you want to learn the Quran and understand it, it’s always good to remember The One you’re asking from not the one asking. And try make it to a means of something greater, because you don’t want the ceiling to be just in this life. Even if it’s work, it comes back to the idea of asking. But also remembering whose hands it’s in. It’s better to aim high and miss than to aim low and hit.

3) Build Imaan, Don’t Consume It

This is something very profound. We all know that imaan increases and dips, this is the Sunnah of our Prophet SAW when the companions complained to Him about their imaan feeling low. But remember, we want to think of the long term trajectory. About moving forward. Because the issue is, and we’re all guilty of this, you have those times where imaan is super high, when you’re watching one of those merciful servant type videos, and you feel so spiritually fulfilled, and so forth, and then you crash! So the good way to go about this is having something small but consistent, something sustainable! Whether it’s literally one verse of the Quran a day, reading it and pondering of it with the translation, or watching a video.

We’ll go into practical tips later for example if you want to start praying, but before all of that, if you go in with the right intention, that you want to develop yourself spiritually and get closer to Allah will see your sincerity, because He knows us better than we know ourselves. He understands our struggles, our pains, our shortcomings! He knows that we’re all on our own journey, we’re all developing in different ways, we all have different environments, different upbringing. So with that in mind, it leads me to my fourth point, which is:

4) Don’t Judge Others

Everyone is on their own journey. Different backgrounds. We don’t know where we were, and we don’t where we will end up. Just look at the Prophet SAW and He dealt with his companions after Uhud. Don’t be difficult on people – if you want someone to be difficult on, be on yourself, be easy on others. “Make things easy for the people, and do not make it difficult for them, and make them calm (with glad tidings) and do not repulse (them).” Understand that Allah is the one who guides, you don’t know if you’ll die as a Muslim, if they can become better than you.

Yes, if we care about someone, we can give them good advice, giving advice is not the same as judgement – and perhaps we can give a khutbah about the etiquettes of giving advice, as it’s not as often what is said, but how it is said, but regardless, especially as many of you are starting knew, and at different levels with different things, know that arrogance is the thing that kicked Iblis out of paradise! If it’s not the external shortcomings (that Allah has protected me from, and only Him) it’s the internal! Which can be dangerous since you don’t realise it.

Now with these pieces of advice, what are some practical ways we can go about implementing them, that will help us with that. Now the reason why I’ve split it like this because, these four things, all sounds good, but they are not without their challenges! Life is difficult no doubt, but here are a few practical steps you can take to help renew your intention, to set yourselves high goals and achieving them, to help build imaan, and not judge others.

Practical Steps

1) Think Good of Allah 

Helps out in so many aspects. The One whose got your back. He found you lost, and He guided you (otherwise you wouldn’t be in this room!) Who loves you more than your own mother. The One who’ll help you achieve your goal even if you think it’s unrealistic, won’t let you lose hope. If you want to build your imaan, but feel held back by your past, know that Allah’s mercy is vast. “O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.” That He forgives all sins, do not despair. Shaytaan wants you to because he’s lost all hope in Allah!

2) Timetable and Schedule

Structure your day around Salah, especially in the Winter – utilise the fact Fajr is late and try stay awake after Salah to read some Quran and do uni work if need be as there’s a lot of barakah.

Schedule your time and make a timetable – the earlier you do this, the better. It’s something I struggle with a lot personally speaking, and tends to be something people do when ‘they get older’, but it’s a great habit to get into ASAP. This is perhaps most difficult but most effective.

You’ll find this difficult at first and you may not always stick to it – but getting into a routine eventually sticks inshallah and you’ll increase with efficiency as time goes a long. Also sleep early and wake up early! (I’m super bad at this sA but learn the way of the Prophet ﷺ and companions regarding after Isha and after Fajr!). Surround yourself with likeminded people – who will push you with regards to your ambitions and not pull you down.

You’ll be busy with many things in life, and you’ll get swarmed left right and centre. So one thing I was recommended is making a timetable for the week in advance. Sectioning off your day into segments, where one part you’ll be reading Quran, even if it’s just 5 minutes, another part study, another part chilling with your family, or if you live out, phoning your parents, another part chilling with friends and so on. It does require a lot of discipline but it’s really one of the ways you’ll able to realise certain aims. As they say a goal without a plan is just a wish, so having it down on a paper or on your Google/iOS calendar, will help you stick to it as best as possible iA.

3) Good Company

Entire khutbah within itself, so will expand later on in coming weeks, but using a personal example, I had so many shortcomings before I came to university based solely on the fact that I was with the wrong company. Yet when I was able to join University, and had a fresh start with good company, so many of those shortcomings were resolved simultaneously. The impact the people can have around you is life changing. It rubs off on you, they will either encourage you to do good, or keep you trapped in a vicious cycle and hold you back.

Such is the example with also academics; you have so many high achieving people, we’re talking about straight A*s in school, that come and study, yet all of a sudden, they’ll just be happy with a 50% pass and that’s it. And you surround yourself long enough with them you’ll also be impacted.

4) Persevere

Persevere, for it is one of the three types of patience. A scholar of the past said that he had struggled with the night prayer for 20 years until he enjoined it for another 20. And so there’s a reason why patience is mentioned 100+ times in Quran. It’s not just for calamities. Ibn al Qayyim mentions “There are three types of patience: Firstly, practicing patience to fulfill the obligations and to do righteous. Secondly, abstaining from evil and prohibited acts. And thirdly, practicing patience during times of hardship without complaints.” And the first is arguable one of the most overlooked, but one of the most important.

So persevere not just with your habits, but with your dua’a.

Ending Reminder

Whatever you do, however much you don’t practice or sin etc, remember, to never despair. We ask from Allah not because of who we are, but because of who He is.