1. Strengthen your relationship with God
Faith does not stay at one level. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, may Allah have mercy upon him, said, "Iman is speech and action. It increases and decreases. If you perform good deeds, it increases, and if you do wrong, it decreases."
While some might need clinical assistance for mental illness, all can benefit from a praying connection with our Lord. Sabr (patience) and Salat (prayer) are two methods Allah has given us to achieve a better relationship with Him (Quran 2:45).
There are many ways to strengthen our connection to Him this year. These include:
Improving the quantity of our five daily prayers
making Dua for things both big and small
Making more frequent and larger charitable donations
Reconnecting with the Quran
Identifying and working on dropping one bad habit
2. Take care of your health
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “A strong believer is better than a weak believer” (Muslim). This does not just apply to spirituality, but to our physical state as well. He also said, “There are two blessings which many people waste: health and free time” (Bukhari).
Commit to exercising more, even if that is parking your car further so you walk more. Or choose other simple ways to get some exercise in to build a stronger health. Take care of any health issues you may have been neglecting and make an appointment for that annual physical to make sure you are in top shape.
3. Make calls. Many.
In December 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of House Resolution 1091, a bipartisan measure that declares the Burmese military atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim minority genocide.
This was passed with the help of Americans across the country doing one thing: Making a phone call. With the guidance and encouragement of Burma Task Force, which issues regular action alerts, supporters called their elected representatives to vote in favor of this resolution.
We are blessed to live in a democracy, as flawed as it may be. We are blessed to be able to have a say in what policies affect not just us, but others around the world. And all it takes is a phone call. In 2019, resolve to take this small step that has long-term, positive repercussions for you, your family, and others around the world.
4. Revive your marriage
The divorce rate among Muslims in North America has risen sharply over the last 25 years. It is clear that we need to work harder on building lasting and satisfying unions that reflect the Islamic ideal, not cultural norms that may be unfair to either spouse.
In 2019, if you are married, commit to building a stronger partnership, one that reflects the ideal marital relationship of Rahma (mercy) and Muwadda (love) as described in the Quran (30:21).
Whether that means attending couples and/or individual counseling, apologizing for past mistakes and making amends, or just planning date nights where you and your better half enjoy time away from children and other responsibilities on a regular basis, make an effort to strengthen your bond with your spouse.
5. Help someone else get married
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, described marriage as “half of faith”. While most Muslims are serious about finding a life partner, they are having a harder time finding a spouse for a variety of reasons.
For some, matchmaking websites offer a solution. But for many, it’s still trusted family and friends they feel most comfortable with to introduce them to their potential better half.
It doesn’t call for opening up your own marriage bureau (although you can always direct someone to one if they’re interested). All it requires is for you to consider it your personal responsibility, especially if you yourself are married, and even more so if you are happily married. After all, shouldn’t we love for our brother/sister what we love for ourselves? Also, as a married person, you’ve got a pool of potential candidates via your spouse that can match up with your own friends. If the process is done with dignity and discretion and results in marriage, not only will you help someone settle down in life, but you’ll reap its spiritual benefits as well.
6. Choose a candidate to volunteer for in 2020
If you are unhappy about the state of our government, the time to start working on this is not 2020 but a full year ahead of that. It will take a tremendous amount of time, money, and effort to turn this around because the chances of a different party taking the helm at this writing are slim. Find a candidate you feel best represents your interests and needs and book an appointment to meet them in person. State why you support them and ask how you can help their campaign.
7. Reach out to your neighbors
Reaching out is not just about Masjid open houses and interfaith dialog groups. It happens in so many casual encounters, we often miss the opportunities: During a child’s softball practice while cheering with other parents; at the grocery store checkout line; while being part of a sports team or exercise class; on the daily bus or train ride to work; in the school cafeteria sharing a meal with peers. Daily or at least weekly, find ways to reach out to your neighbors, coworkers, classmates, friends and strangers.
This is even more important in 2019, at a time when America is polarized at alarming levels based on politics and other markers.
8. Reconnect with a Masjid
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “There are seven (types of people) whom Allah will protect with His Shade, on the Day (of Resurrection) when there will be no shade except His Shade.” Of those mentioned was, “A person whose heart is attached to the Masjid” (Bukhari).
If your local Masjid is not a welcoming place because of the exclusion of women, ethnic bias, lack of transparency, or other issues, resolve to find a new one. If you cannot, for now, focus only on fortifying your faith and connection to Allah. Attend Juma prayers, make sure to pray the extra prayers offered upon entering the Masjid (Tahiyyatul Masjid) and if you’re nearby during the weekdays, try to catch the congregational prayer there.
There is power in a place dedicated to the worship of God which is simply absent when you pray in your cubicle at work, a stairwell in the corner of a school hallway, and even at home.
9. Solidify your financial position
Muslims are more likely than other Americans to be underemployed, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center portrait of the community.
Overall, 29% of Muslims are underemployed, in that they are either employed part time but would prefer full-time work (10%), or they are not employed but they are looking for work (18%). By comparison, 12% of U.S. adults overall are underemployed in these ways.
Keeping in mind that Allah is the Provider (Al-Razzaq), we should start off 2019 by making a deep, sincere Dua asking God to increase your earnings in a Halal way. That can mean different things. It can translate into taking on a second job in your spare time or encouraging your older children to look for work, especially in the summer. On a larger level, it can include starting your dream business or even working with an existing one to strengthen it with your skills and talent, if not your capital.
If you’re still in school, carefully consider your career path. While it’s important to be passionate about what you do, a certain level of financial security is important for everyone to reach their potential in life. Research expanding career options, like green and sustainable development in all sectors, which big corporations are also seeking to fill with qualified personnel. Then see if you can marry your passion with a solid profession.
Remember that making more money also raises your ability and responsibility to give more to good causes, and help those who need it, be it family, friends, or neighbors.
10. Volunteer with family and friends
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind." (Daraqutni).
Bringing benefit to others is of course not restricted to monetary charity. Countless volunteer organizations help people meet all kinds of needs, be it job training, food, diapers, tutoring, and more.
In 2019, resolve to join the ranks of the 25 percent of Americans who volunteer, if you already don’t. Even more important, volunteer with family and friends, encouraging them to give back and benefit others as well.
Whatever you decide to do in 2019, do seriously plan for it, instead of just taking it lightly as a “new year wish.” You know yourself better, so think and plan. Sound Vision has many online guides available for evaluating yourself and planning for the future. As you sit down for planning, do include the whole family in the process. Thinking together is barakah. Also review our advice for 2018, 2017, or 2016. maybe you will find something useful in those ideas which you can incorporate in 2019’s plan.
May God bless you with wisdom, thoughtful planning, and a blissful 2019 full of productivity.