Resolve in Ramadan to Set Smart Goals

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“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.

  1. Specific

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.)
  1. Measurable

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.)
  1. Attainable

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)

  1. Realistic

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.”

  1. Timely

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.

Planning for Ramadan

Vol 5 - Issue 2 Planning for Ramadan

It’s coming once again! The Grand Sale! – “Buy one, get seventy free!” That is how a friend enthusiastically described it.

Yes, I am talking about the blessed month of Ramadan. Every moment of this month carries great treasures of excellence and blessings. Voluntary good deeds (Nawafil) reach the ranks of obligatory good deeds (Faraiz), and the reward for the obligatory acts becomes seventy times greater. And that is not all. There is yet another treasure more valuable than a thousand months of effort and all the wealth we could amass therein: the great night of Laylat-ul-Qadr.

The amount of benefit we gain from the blessings of this month depends on how ready we are and how much effort we make. Just like a farmer has to prepare the land for absorbing the rain, so that he can reap the best harvest, we must pray to Allah (swt) for the opportunity to reap the greatest benefit, and then do our best.

To make the best of this Ramadan, we must, therefore, make Dua, plan and then act.

Make Dua

Make Dua to Allah (swt) that you are in good health, when Ramadan comes. Pray for the energy and time to be able perform all the Ibadah and do all the things you aim to do. And above all, pray for the acceptance of the deeds you perform in Ramadan.

Outline your goals

Let’s play a little game: let’s take a trip into the future…

Imagine it is the Eid. You are walking or driving to the Eid prayers. As you happily recite the Takbeer, you mentally evaluate the Ramadan that has just passed. You are filled with immense joy and satisfaction. Apart from the few natural shortcomings, this was the best Ramadan of your life. The Eid truly feels like Eid, and you eagerly anticipate celebrating your success…

Now think: What was it that made this the best Ramadan for you? What happened? What did you do? Was it the building of a stronger relationship with Allah (swt)? Greater concentration in Salaah? More quality time spent with the Quran? The achievement of a purer heart and a greater Taqwa? What was it?

Come back into the present and write all those things down. These will be your goals for the coming Ramadan.

Set achievable targets

Once you know what you want to get out of this Ramadan, you must set some definite achievable targets that are in line with your goals. These targets will translate your goals into practical day-to-day activities, against which you can then check yourself. For example, if you want to build a better relationship with the Quran this Ramadan, your target could be “read the translation and Tafseer of one Juz a day”, or if you want to achieve a greater Taqwa and a purer heart, your target could be “avoid thinking ill of others and avoid backbiting.”

Similarly, you could decide on some sins you want to clean yourself of and make it a target to avoid them for a week. Or you could choose some good deeds or Sunnahs that are not a habit and try to perform those for a week.

Make a Dua list

One highly effective idea I came across in a lecture by Shaikh Muhmmad Al-Shareef was to make a Dua list for Ramadan. Often, we are so much in a hurry to get back to our activities after Salaah or recitation of the Quran that many things we wanted to pray for just slip out of our minds. Therefore, it is best to take a few minutes for writing down everything we want to ask Allah (swt) and read that list, while making Dua before Iftar, after Salaah, after Quran recitation and especially in the last ten nights in anticipation of Laylat-ul-Qadr.

Organize – unclutter your life

Ramadan is a very special time and you would not like to waste a moment of it in useless activities, such as clearing up that bookshelf, getting your books and tapes in order, sorting out what food items you will need in the coming month, shopping for Eid, etc. If possible, decide your Ramadan menu beforehand. Plan to make quick and healthy meals that provide you with the essential nutrients and avoid lavish Iftars. If possible, prepare and freeze some food items beforehand. Remember, Ramadan is not the month of feasting or self-indulgence. Practice self-control even at Iftar time.

Additionally, adjust your work, school, sleep and meal schedules in such a way as to make the most time for Ibadah and other good deeds. Plan out at what time you will go to sleep, wake up, study, work and do Ibadah. If you have any pending work, for which deadlines may be in Ramadan, try to get over with it as soon as possible before Ramadan, so that you can get the most out of this month.

Plan out Ibadah and other religious obligations

Do you want to go for Taraweeh and Quran study circles this Ramadan? Find out about places, where classes are offered and go with your family. Make travel arrangements, if the venue is far from your house, and check around, if there is anyone else, who might want to go but does not have transportation. Wouldn’t you want to join in the reward of their Ibadah as well by taking them along?

Also, arrange for other activities to learn and teach the Quran and Hadeeth. Furthermore, calculate the Zakah you will be paying in Ramadan. Find out about places, where you can contribute in social welfare activities with your wealth and time.

Prepare your soul

Attend and listen to Ramadan lectures and other talks on spiritually uplifting topics to soften your heart and renew your motivation.

Be ready to absorb the blessings that rain down in this great month. But remember at the same time that Ramadan is not just a one-time vacation, after which you pack up and return to your previous life. Ramadan has been called a ‘training school’ by some; so make sure you graduate from this school with flying colours – colours that should brighten up your entire life.