Ramadan best time to set resolutions
May 25 2018 12:05 AM

By Abdullah Khan

It is customary among many peoples to set New Year resolutions. The majority of people lose their newfound resolve, however, 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 them.
The best time to set resolutions or renew intentions for Muslims is not in Muharram or January, but Ramadan, for Ramadan is Divinely designed to be a month of personal and communal change. No surprise, then, that it is also the lunar period in which Allah Almighty changed the destiny of humankind by blessing them with His final and universal Divine Guidance.
In it, as a commemoration and a renewal, Allah re-instituted fasting among humanity and magnified all the other great acts of worship not specifically time-bound to another calendar date or season. His Heavenly purpose, therein, being precisely to purify us both physically and spiritually. These acts of worship, within a state of worship, within framework of worship — Sadaqah (charity), for instance, given when one is in a condition of self-imposed deprivation, within a divinely demarcated, obligatory sacred span — of and by their very nature facilitate — even mandate — change in our lives, at the very list by disrupting our daily routines. It is during this time of flux that our lives are most malleable to any attempts to improve them. Muslims must, therefore, set new resolutions and goals for and during this month.
But what kind of resolutions should we make? What type of goals should we seek to achieve?
Allah Almighty has clearly set out the main goal for the month of Ramadan by declaring what means: {O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous} [Qur’an 2:183], that is to become ever God-fearing. But the acquisition of Taqwa itself contains a higher purpose: To prepare us for a much greater achievement in life— namely, to meet Allah. Allah States this throughout the Qur’an what means:
• {Then to your Lord is your return…} [Qur’an 6:164]
• {…To Him is the destination.} [Qur’an 40:3]
• {And that to your Lord is the finality.} [Qur’an 53:42]
It is for this reason that Allah States in another place in the Qur’an concerning Hajj (Pilgrimage) what means: {…And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of Allah. And fear Me, O you of understanding.} [Qur’an 2: 197] Hajj, in this life, symbolises our inevitable meeting with Allah in the Hereafter while Ramadan represents the life of this world that we are living, which, again, is a preparation for that ultimate goal.

The practical reflection of our spiritual objectives
Given this understanding of the profound aspirations of the believer, the main focus for any Ramadan goal should entail the ultimate ambition of a favorable meeting with Allah.
One of the most common New Year resolutions is to lose weight. This, it seems, has also become a common objective for Muslims during Ramadan. Although keeping a healthy body is part of our responsibility as Muslims, if our focus is as solemn as meeting Allah in joy and happiness, then it becomes clear that our goals for Ramadan must be more comprehensive than losing weight.
Our lives are multidimensional: Financial, spiritual, intellectual, social, familial, personal, philanthropic, physical, etc. Consequently, the resolutions we set for Ramadan must reflect this multi-dimensionality. Some people expend all their energy in pursuing only their financial goals and pay no heed to other aspects of their life. Muslims should try to achieve and maintain the golden mean, as practiced by the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, in all aspects of his life.
A successful personal goal setting endeavour begins with a self-assessment. For Muslims, the central question in accounting for oneself is to ask sincerely: “Am I observing the golden mean in my life?” This will reveal where we focus most of our energy and resources in life.
For some of us, we may realise that we are spending the bulk of our time and energy at work, to the detrimental neglect of our family life. Others may come to realise that though their family, social, and intellectual life is satisfactory, the spiritual aspect is wanting. Still others may conclude that while they are financially fulfilled, they fall short in giving charity. This central question will help us identify areas and aspects in our lives that we need to work on in order to achieve and maintain that golden mean. Still, the question remains, How should we prioritise our goals?
Allah Almighty provides guidance in setting priorities in life through the example of His Friend, Ibraaheem, may Allah exalt his mention. After delivering his wife Hajar and his son Ismaa‘eel, may Allah exalt his mention, to the precincts of the barren sacred valley of Makkah, Ibraaheem, may Allah exalt his mention, walks away from them, as directed by Allah Almighty. When he is out of their sight, he turns around facing the place of the Ka’aba and makes the following Du‘aa (supplication) for them: {Our Lord, I have settled some of my descendants in an uncultivated valley near Your sacred House, our Lord, that they may establish prayer. So make hearts among the people incline toward them and provide for them from the fruits that they might be grateful.} [Qur’an 14:37]
Note that though Ibraaheem, may Allah exalt his mention, acknowledges in his supplication the scarcity of food and water faced by his family—an urgent matter of life and death—the first affair of significance that Ibraaheem, may Allah exalt his mention, places before Allah Almighty is the high purpose of his intent: To facilitate his family in the establishment of Salaah (prayer). Only after first establishing their spiritual mission—and by extension his hope in Allah’s succor of their vital spiritual need—does Ibraaheem, may Allah exalt his mention, turn in his supplication toward their dire physical and social needs in his supplication. And even then, he connects the purpose of the fulfillment of their social and physical needs to their (ultimate) spiritual goal, namely, to thank Allah.
It is with this same spirit and understanding that we need to prioritise our goals for life in general, and more specifically for the month of Ramadan.
Another sense of precedence for setting goals should come from the fact that Allah Almighty has made certain things obligatory for Muslims while encouraging them toward other levels of worship (Sunan and Nawaafil, that is, the desirable and the additional). Some Muslims focus more on the later (like the Taraweeh prayers) to the neglect of the obligation (like the five daily prayers). It is important to fulfill the obligation, before attempting to practice the Sunan and Nawaafil.
When setting goals for Ramadan, then, remember to set smart (sensible, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals:
Specific: A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal you must answer the six “W” questions:
Who: Who is involved? (remember, you are a Muslim, a servant of Allah)
What: What do I want to accomplish? (for Ramadan - attain Taqwa; in life - seek the pleasure of Allah)
When: Establish a timeframe
Where: Identify a location (work, home, etc.)
How: Identify requirements and constraints (if the goal is to memorise certain parts of the Qur’an then the requirement is to know proper Tajweed. If so, one constraint that one may face is the amount of Qur’an one can memorise depending on their fluency in reciting Qur’an)
Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal
Measurable: Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of your goals. To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions like How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished? Hence, a measurable, spiritual goal for Ramadan can be, say: I will perform all the Sunnah prayers before and after each obligatory prayer everyday during the month of Ramadan.
Attainable: You can attain most any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a timeframe that allows you to carry out those steps. Goals that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them.
A believer is susceptible to falling into the fallacy of considering him - or herself unworthy of a certain level of spirituality because of past sins committed. This is an old device of Satan, to weigh us down and cause us to despond of the mercy of Allah. To succumb to this whispering is to forget that our Lord, Allah, Most High, is all forgiving and Most Merciful.
Allah states in a Sacred Hadith: “I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself. And if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And 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.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] Therefore, as the servant of Allah exerts himself or herself spiritually, Allah expedites the attainment of that spiritual goal.
Realistic: This is not a synonym for “easy.” Realistic, in this case, means “doable.” To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work.
One way to know if your goal is realistic 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.
Timely: Binding a goal to a time - frame will give a sense of urgency in attaining it. Learning to recite the Qur’an “someday” won’t work. It is important to identify by what date you will learn to recite the Qur’an. This due date will not only motivate you to work to reach that goal but also help you to determine if you have fulfilled your goal or not. And, of course, a goal of this magnitude should be broken up into smaller smart goals, to ensure advancement and assessment.
The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and his Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, used to prepare for Ramadan well before start the month. One way of doing so is to identify and formalise goals for it now, if you haven’t already. For goals not only help us prioritise our life but also enable us to undergo the requisite purification of intention. This, in turn, assists us in becoming focused in and with our lives. Thus goals are an integral part of having a plan, a purpose, for our life.
Heed this last point well, for a life without a plan is a plan for certain failure. We ask Allah to direct us toward those goals that will help us earn His pleasure, for, indeed, that is the ultimate goal that He Almighty has commanded all of us to seek in this fleeting life.

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