Bismillahi Rahmani Raheem
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
All praise belongs to Allah, and may peace and blessings be upon the most noble of the Prophets and Messengers.
With the situation in Gaza getting worse by the second, it is important that we as an Ummah can do what we can to help the situation, including pressuring the MPs, donating money to Gaza, etc. Please do pray and make duas for our Muslim brothers and sisters in Gaza and everywhere else in the world.
The Prophet (saw) said, “The Muslim Ummah is like one body. If the eye is in pain then the whole body is in pain and if the head is in pain then the whole body is in pain.” (Muslim) Surely when a person is in pain, he/she would take medication to help ease it. Since this pain has been ongoing, and recently has intensified, then surely a much stronger medication is needed. Thus we need to constantly do what we can to help our brothers and sisters in Gaza, and other parts of the world. Please do help. The Prophet (saw) said: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” (Bukhari and Muslim). We in the UK or elsewhere may be safe now but calamities can strike anyone whenever, and if we do end up disadvantaged would we not be asking for help?
For this Tarbiya, I will first touch upon the sacred month of Muharram, then move on to the part on resolutions, seeing as it is the New Year.
Having entered the Islamic New Year, especially now being the month of Muharram, one of the four sacred months, the Prophet (pbuh) has said: “O People! Time has gone back to how it was at the time Allah created the Heavens and the Earth. A year has twelve months, four of which are sacred, three consecutive, Dhul-Qi’dah, Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram, and Rajab, which comes between Jumaada and Sha’baan.” (Bukhari)
In Surah Tawbah (no. 9), part of ayah 36 says, “Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so it was ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them, four are sacred. That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein…” From Tafsir of Ibn Kathir, many have narrated that the phrase, “so wrong not yourselves therein” implies that sinning in the sacred months is worse than sinning in other months but rewards for good deeds multiply. So what are we doing with our Muharram? Are we going to let it pass? Or are we going to make use of it, for example helping those in Gaza or elsewhere. Not only would our rewards increase but the people suffering will also benefit. Buy one get one free.
It is a nice idea to do voluntary fasts during the month of Muharram. The Prophet (saw) said, “The best of fasts after the month of Ramadan are in the Month of Allah, which you call Muharram. And the best of prayer after the obligatory prayer is the night prayer.” (Muslim) We’re young, healthy and the daylight hours are still small so it would be a shame if such opportunity was not used. Who knows what will happen to us in the future? The reward for a person fasting is between himself and Allah. Allah (swt) says in the Hadith Qudsi, “Every action of the son of Adam is his, except for fasting. It is Mine, and it is I who reward it.” (Bukhari and Muslim).
Fasting during ‘Ashura (10th Muharram) is also recommended as Allah wipes away the person’s sins for the previous year.
New Year’s Resolution
This year, the Islamic New Year, coincided with the New Year in the Solar Calendar (perhaps a few days difference). Something that many people do is to set themselves a New Year’s Resolution. What can one work towards to become better off than the year before? Common resolutions that I have seen people set are like cutting down on chocolate, quit smoking, getting in shape, etc. A substantial bunch involves benefits to the health and/or improving their lifestyle. Others I’ve heard include giving more to charity, being closer to family which boosts a person’s 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? If you didn’t set one, perhaps there is something about you that you wish to improve. No human is perfect. But Allah gave us humans 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 the akhira, to maximise reward so we attain Jannah and to avoid the punishment of the hellfire. That is not to say that we shouldn’t set goals for this life either, by all means go ahead. But if you intend to do a good deed for the dunya, 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’s 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 (swt) 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. 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’s 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. 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 inshaAllah,” direct in this way, “By the end of this month, I hope to have memorised juz ‘ammah inshaAllah.” It’s 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. Again, “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” (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.
Statistics say that only 12% of New Year’s Resolutions succeed. 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 he says, “…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, Muslim).
Also he mentions, “As 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 “I can’t be bothered,” then just ask yourself again why you are doing this. For if it is for Allah’s 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.
After all, Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’oon. To Allah we belong and to him we will return.
All this applies especially to me, as I have a long way to go, but I hope you could take at least one thing from this inshaAllah. Everything good I mentioned is from Allah (swt) and anything bad that is mentioned is from me.