“Ramadan is the month for which all other months pass. It is the season of budding. In Ramadan, Taqwa can no longer remain hidden in the seed – the fleshy sheaths of your heart. The sun is on you and what is to become of you finds its moment, its moment in the sun. Do you have what it takes to reap lasting gains from it?” (Hassan Haidi)
Opportunities are seldom labelled. Ramadan is one. It is an opportunity to:
- Profoundly think about the purpose of your existence.
- Understand the part you need to play in the bigger picture.
- Work upon the areas that you have been neglecting.
- Nourish the soul and in the process, strengthen it.
- Resolve personal improvement and communal change for the next eleven months.
- Charge yourself with passion and enthusiasm for gearing towards a crisp and clear goal.
- Chalk a strategy to carry out the above.
- Befriend Allah (swt) and prepare to meet Him ultimately.
“O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).” (Al-Baqarah 2:183)
Attaining Taqwa itself has a higher purpose.
“Say: ‘Shall I seek a lord other than Allah, while He is the Lord of all things?’” (Al-Anam 6:164)
“The Forgiver of sin, the Acceptor of repentance, the Severe in punishment, the Bestower (of favours), La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He)…” (Ghafir 40:3)
“…Allah will assemble us (all), and to Him is the final return.” (Shura 42:15)
Ramadan is not about losing weight. It is not about mindless starving and uncontrollable feasting, or about shopping and endless planning for the Eid-ul-Fitr. It is indeed the best time to renew intentions and to set resolutions for the remaining year. Yes, for Muslims it is not January or Muharram but the blessed month of Ramadan that is divinely designed to help them achieve specific goals. Today’s scientific research proves that it takes thirty days of constant practice to break a bad habit and instill a new desired one. How Merciful and loving is our Lord towards the sinners to bestow them with Ramadan as a golden opportunity to turn a new leaf and be rewarded for it, Alhumdulillah.
Abdullah Khan shares: “It is customary among people to set new year resolutions. However, the majority of people lose their newfound resolve within just a few months. This is mainly because few of us know how to set goals for our self-promises. Even less have an action plan to achieve it.”
In order to grow closer to the Lord of the worlds, you have to push yourself to rise to a level of performance beyond the comfort spheres of faith you have already achieved. This requires a SMART goal. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
When you have a vague or unclear goal, it has little chances of being accomplished. Narrowing it down to an exact target that needs to be achieved doubles your chances of attaining it. You must work out the 6 ‘Ws’ when setting your goal. For instance, if the task at hand is to establish the Sunnah prayer along with the Fard prayer (which you are already offering), the following should be answered:
- Who is involved? (You: a Muslim, who is firstly a servant of Allah (swt).)
- What do you want to accomplish? (You want to establish your Sunnah prayer on a regular basis.)
- When do you want to achieve it? (During Ramadan and carry it forward after the month ends.)
- Where do you want to attain it? (At home, at college, at your work place, etc.)
- Why do you want to achieve it? (It has uncountable rewards and benefits in this life and the hereafter.)
Abdullah Khan offers: “Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of your goals.” You may chalk out the following questions for yourself
- How much? (The number of Rakahs of Sunnah I will begin with, for example, 2 or 4 in Zuhr prayer.)
- How many? (How many Sunnah Salahs will I begin with? Fajr and Maghrib as Sunnah Mukadah and then build on that, or all five Sunnah Salahs together?)
- How will I know when it is accomplished? (Maybe you can prepare a chart that helps you mark the daily Sunnah Salahs performed, until you fall into the habit of praying without having to chart it.)
A far-away goal comes closer, if you plan your steps, prioritize and demonstrate determination to achieve it. The goal doesn’t shrink; you grow and expand to match what it takes to meet the expectations.
Shaitan, as usual, will intercept and try to weigh you down, reminding you of past sins and causing you to despond of Allah’s (swt) mercy. But Allah (swt) expedites the attainment of that servant’s spiritual goal, who exerts himself or herself spiritually. The Lord (swt) states in a Hadeeth Qudsi: “I am as my servant thinks I am. I am with him, when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself. If he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly better than it. If he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
A realistic goal means an objective that you are both willing and capable of achieving. It does not mean something easy. Rather, it means something doable. Similarly, it also does not mean something that is next to impossible under present circumstances. For instance, one cannot set a goal to scale the mountain with no prior training or expertise; it spells failure to begin with. You are bound not to achieve your goal, as you do not possess the skills required to do it. Hence, the goal should be to train first. Similarly, goals set with half-heartedness and under coercion are highly unlikely to be attained, as your heart and soul are not into it.
Abdullah Khan advises: “One way of knowing if your goal is real is to determine if you have accomplished anything similar in the past. Also, ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to achieve this goal.”
When you bind your goals to a timeframe, it will give it a sense of urgency. “I will start praying the Sunnah Salah some day” will not work as well as “I will start praying the Sunnah Salah from the 1st of Shaban.”
This due date will serve as a motivation for you to get started and stay on track. It will also help you determine whether or not you have fulfilled your goal.
All super goals can be broken down into smaller and smarter goals, in order to aid with assessment. For example: From the 1st Shaban until the 7th, I will pray Sunnah Salah of Fajr. Once that is in place, I will begin from the 8th of Shaban to the 14th to pray Zuhr Sunnah Salah as well and so on. In time, I will be ready to offer all the Sunnah Salawat in the blessed month of Ramadan and carry it on, Insha’Allah.
A life without a plan is a plan for certain failure. A devout worshipper and believer is never ad hoc, mismanaged or unplanned. He realizes that the time he has been spared in this world is of very high value and about which he will be questioned. Recharge your Iman and set up SMART goals for yourself without further delay. Ramadan is the perfect time for change. And change begins with you.
Inspired from a series of articles titled “R is for Ramadhaan and resolution”, written by Abdullah Khan.