Saturday, December 31, 2011

Anytime Resolutions...

Anytime Resolutions...
Let's Make Our Lives Spiritually Enriching!
The Islamic New Year of 1433 has recently ushered in, people, generally, begin to think about their life and some even make resolutions about how they will approach this New Islamic Year and their work, health and relationships. As humans and believers we also have ambitions. Instead of making resolutions only about material progression, the resolutions of a believer would and should be about one's progression on the path of enlightenment and nearness to the Creator Allah Ta'ala. In reality we don't need a New Year or special occasion to make a resolution for doing or achieving good. It can be done instantaneously!
Generally people intend doing things to become better off than the year before. Common resolutions include cutting down on chocolate, quit smoking, getting in shape, etc. A lot involves benefits to the health and/or improving their lifestyle. Others include giving more to charity, being closer to family which boosts a personal level of satisfaction, but those are what we as Muslims should be doing regardless.

What about us? Have we set a goal or targets for ourselves? If so, was it because it was a New Year? Did you have to wait for the New Year to set it? Is there something about you that you wish to improve? No human is perfect. But Allah Ta'ala gave us human's intelligence to learn and the means for people to better themselves. And we should aim for perfection. The whole essence of Tarbiya is based on improving ourselves, i.e. self development.

While people set goals or targets for the benefit of this world, we as Muslims should ideally be setting goals for not only our material well-being but more importantly for the akhira (Life in Hereafter), to maximise reward so we attain Jannah(Paradise) and to avoid the punishment of the Jahannam (hellfire). That is not to say that we should not set goals for this life either, by all means go ahead. But if you intend to do a good deed for the dunya(worldly life), your reward will be in the dunya. When you intend to do a good deed for the akhira, your rewards will be in both the dunya and the akhira. For example, when you intend to eat so you can have the energy to work so you can maintain your family for Allah Ta'ala sake, you will be rewarded for both on this world and the next. But if you just eat so satisfy your hunger then your reward is just the benefits of eating.

Allah Ta'ala mentions in the Holy Quran; "…And I created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me.." (Quran 51:56) Therefore, our intentions and targets should ultimately be aimed at pleasing Allah Ta'ala. We set ourselves certain targets that will help us maximise reward, or to even minimise sinning. For many of us we can start with some simple yet effective, ways which we can improve our character such as to stop backbiting, be more trusting, watching our tongue, not lazing about, etc.

Let us look at it another way. Do we ever stop at the end of the day to look back thinking, What have I actually achieved today? It may be a good idea, before the start of each day, to ask yourself, What can I do tomorrow to improve myself? It can even be something small such as learning an ayah of the Quran or giving a loaf of bread in Sadaqah (Charity).
Whatever you wish to improve on, no matter how ambitious or small it is, whether it is for the dunya or the akhira, one can apply the SMART method. What they stand for is: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. The crucial element here is time, which means you need to set yourself deadlines. Instead of saying, I'm going to memorise the Quran insha Allah, rather say by the end of this month, Insha Allah I hope to have memorised  juz(chapter) Amma. Its more direct and you will have set yourself up with expectations. Another way to help is to let others know what you intended to do. This way you will have someone else to give you that extra push. If you and a friend decide to work towards the same target then it makes it much easier, you both can push each other. The Noble Messenger of Allah is reported to have said; "None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." (Hadith:Bukhari and Muslim).

There is also the topic of setting yourself a long term goal, but that in itself is another topic, though the principles are similar.

Often the lack of motivation is what causes people to stop pursuing their targets. However, if you set your targets with the intention of pleasing Allah and make effort, He will make things easier for you. In Hadith Qudsi Allah  says, "if he comes to Me walking, I go running unto him" (Bukhari, Muslim).

Allah Ta'ala also mentions that; "…those who strive in Our cause, We will surely guide them in Our paths. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good." (Quran, 29:69).

Knowing that Allah will reward you both in this world and the hereafter should re-stimulate that motivation that you need to accomplish things. Sometimes it is that extra motivation that you need. So if ever, when working towards something you feel a bit bothered about  then just ask yourself again why you are doing this. For if it is for Allah Ta'alas cause then He shall make things easier for you. But you need that bit of effort. Have a bit of patience for you will be rewarded for that too.
There is indeed no limit to the good a person can intend and indeed according to ones niyyah (intention) one will be rewarded . According to Hadith if a person intends to do a good deed but cannot do it, Allah writes for him a reward of one good deed. If he both intends to do and performs that good deed, Allah writes for him a reward of ten good deeds and increases it up to seven hundred and more. (Hadith Bukhari). Also if a person intends to do a good deed, but is then unable to complete it due to an obstacle in his way, there will still be a reward just for his good intention.
Intention is such a magical cure that it turns habits, activities, deeds to worship. And also it is a soul which turns dead circumstances and moods to live worships.

Setting goals or targets is an excellent practise There are good resolutions a person can make and does not need to wait for a New Year. Here are a few tips to get started…
·         Reach for the Stars!: The most important is to note that all resolutions, hopes, ambitions and dreams etc are entirely dependent on Allah, The Most Wise, for their fulfilment. So making Dua (asking Allah Ta'ala) is the most essential ingredient for achievement. When making dua "reach for the stars" i.e. ask Allah Ta'ala for the most in fact ask for everything good. Don't leave out anything. Allah, The Most Wise, says:  "Invoke Me, (and ask Allah for anything) I will respond to your (invocation/dua)………….." (Quran: 40: 60) 
·         Eliminate Sins: Just like a Shop keeper refuses to grant more credit to a bad debtor or nonpayer, likewise how can we expect Allah Ta'ala to grant us good if we continuously sin and transgress. To get the Help of Allah Ta'ala we need to remove sin from our lives. We are not perfect and as humans we often err. But the least we can do to show our sincerity to Allah Ta'ala is to intend to abandon ALL forms of sins from our lives.  Allah is ar-Rahman, the Most Compassionate, and ar-Raheem, the Most Merciful. Allah tells man of the greatness of His forgiveness and mercy so that no one would despair due to the amount of sins he may have committed. This is supported by the following verse of the Holy Quran: Say: O My servants who have transgressed against their own souls, despair not of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Qur'an:Surah az-Zumar 39:53) 
·         Make Islam the Bigger Circle: Until now we may have made our material (worldly) desires the Bigger Circle and Deen(Islam) the inner Smaller Circle that occupies a very small insignificant place in the Bigger Circle. Now resolve to make Deen(Islam) the Bigger Circle and make everything else fit into the Bigger Circle. If it does not conform to Deen, no matter what it may be, leave it out of the Bigger Circle! The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him is reported to have said: "None of you can be a true Muslim, unless his desires are subject to the religion that I have brought." (Hadith)
·         Aim High: Yes set high goals both for our Spiritual and Material progress. The Holy Qur'an says: "Our Lord! Grant us good in this world and good in the life to come and keep us safe from the torment of the Fire (Quran:Al-Baqarah:201). So indeed there is no harm in achieving good in both materially and spiritually.
·         Set Specific Goals: It would be good if specific intentions are made. Also categorise goals.  For example ; lets take salaah (prayer): Resolve that henceforth all five prayers will be read punctually and better still for men(if possible) that prayers would be in the Musjid. Qur'an: Aim to memorize more verses of the Book of Allah; Make our children Hafiz of the Quran; Dhikr: Increase the amount of Dhikr done daily and aim to improve concentration. Sadaqah (Charity): Spend more on the poor and for all other noble causes whether it be victims or natural disasters or contributing to the local Musjid etc. Increase the amount of time one spends volunteering, Spending Time in the Path of Allah, memorize duas for different occasions or Prophetic traditions(Hadith), making quality time to spend with family, making wise career choices for yourself/children, assisting one's mother and/or father, speaking well with one's siblings, furthering Islamic knowledge, serving those less fortunate and thanking Allah Ta'ala in whatever way for the all blessing and bounties for which He has bestowed upon us.etc etc 
·         Be Extensive and Systematic: Yes let the list be extensive, realistic and systematic. Dedicate time with family to make these resolutions. Make your family part of it and set goals together. In addition, it helps to write down intentions and to regularly review those intentions in order to fulfil those commitments. 
Finally the most important resolution is that My Creator Allah Ta'ala must be pleased with me. So whatever I desire, do, say, want, etc must be only to please my Lord!
May Allah make this Islamic Year 1433 Hijrah the most spiritually rewarding year for the Ummah …Ameen