As the most blessed month of the year draws nearer, Muslims world over prepare to welcome it wholeheartedly. This is the month in which Allah opens His doors of Rahmah or mercy and provides opportunities in abundance to His people, to revive their hearts with His remembrance and replenish their souls with goodness. Hence, making it the most anticipated month of the year. It is known that even our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and his companions used to prepare for Ramadan in advance. According to several narrations Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, used to fast the entire month of Shaban in honor of welcoming Ramadan.
"The Messenger of Allah used to join Shaban to Ramadan."
Reflecting on the Significance of Ramadan
The virtues of this month far exceed the virtues of any other month in the Islamic calendar year, and this alone serves as the greatest source of motivation for us to utilize this month as best as we can. Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"When Ramadan begins, the gates of Jannah are opened, the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained."
(Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Almost all Muslims would agree that the atmosphere in Ramadan is spiritually charged and conducive to strengthening our relationship with Allah, whether it is in our homes or within our communities. It enables us to feel more energized and motivated to perform our ibadah or worship. Many of us are able to achieve far more in terms of productivity in Ramadan as comparised to other months. This includes being able to set aside extra time for dhikr or engaging in the remembrance of Allah, heightened attention to daily obligatory prayers, performing voluntary prayers, being more tolerant and respectful towards others, cutting back on our food cravings or limiting food consumption and wastage.
The key here lies in recognizing and acknowledging that during this Holy month, our focus is on discovering the reason for our existence rather than satisfying our individual desires. Moreover, our sincerity in devotion and concentration enables us to direct our energy in the proper direction without being sidetracked by materialistic or worldly things, leading to more significant accomplishments for us, as a whole.
Based on this reasoning, Ramadan holds great potential in terms of helping us to lay the foundations for developing life-long practices that contribute to success in this world and the Hereafter.
How can we use Ramadan for goal setting?
In Ramadan, most of us set our minds to achieving certain targets by the end of the month. These include trying to complete recitation of the entire Quran, or focusing on our tajweed or the proper way of reciting the Quran, devoting more time to understanding and reflecting on the Quran, or giving more in charity. It is fairly likely though, that one would focus more on attaining some form of growth from a spiritual perspective. However, if we come to think of it, Ramadan can prove to be an ideal month for setting other personal goals, individually or as a family, too. And, this is because:
1. Ramadan prompts a realistic assessment of needs vs. wants.
The true essence of Ramadan lies in realizing that we are not merely abstaining from drinking and eating, but also learning to curtail our nafs or self from fulfilling selfish desires and refraining from vain things such as gossip and backbiting. This is highly beneficial in terms of helping us set our priorities straight.
2. Ramadan is time-bound in nature.
One of the important things to keep in mind when setting goals is the time factor, in order to be able to measure our performance and track progress. Since we are so focused on what we want to achieve by the end of the month, we are visibly able to track our progress and push ourselves where needed.
3. Ramadan encourages consistency.
In Ramadan, it is generally easier to get rid of a bad habit or adopt a good one, because we are more likely to be consistent in our practice for the entire month.
4. Ramadan calls for collaborative efforts.
Ramadan is a month that promotes accountability and shared responsibility, and fosters a sense of unity. All of these can play a significant role in helping us achieve our personal or collective goals in an effective way. By involving other family members or even friends in setting and working towards our goals, we can stay committed to the purpose and receive support to stay motivated. Simultaneously, they can also help in terms of providing valuable feedback and identifying areas where we can improve.
Let's Get to Work!
It was narrated by Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, that Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little."
Leaning on this principle from the teachings of our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, we are guided to believe that it is not the quantity or the outcome which matters, but rather quality and the actual process which truly determines a person's success.
So why not utilize this month to work together as a family and share the responsibility to help each other achieve our goals?
Here is a carefully thought out list of suggested goals that you might want to pursue as a family this Ramadan.
- Be watchful of our actions, thoughts and words.
- Practice reconciliation and mend meaningful relationships.
- Quit a bad habit, such as smoking, listening to music, controlling our anger or watching pornography.
- Perform daily prayers in a timely manner.
- Make the effort to carry out prayers in congregation, at home. (This applies especially to those who are living in a place where you do not have a local mosque in the area.)
- Dedicate a portion of the day to the recitation of the Quran. This can be done with the intention to help each other with Tajweed or proper pronunciation or even for spending time as a family to reflect on the meaning of the verses together. Similar efforts can be made towards learning and understanding the hadith or sayings of our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him.
- Step up to volunteer for charity work at an individual or community level. Remember that charity can be in different forms, from spending your wealth, and giving your time, to donating your skills or other resources for a noble cause.
- Adopt healthy eating practices. This could include having meals on time, for instance, early dinner, in addition to eating a balanced and nutritious diet.
- Rework healthy routines. For some this might mean aiming for a better work-life balance, and for others it could mean incorporating walk or exercise into their daily lives.
Working together as a family can help set the stage and promote individual goals, too. Not only will this practice be helpful in being persistent, but will also allow for a natural sense of participation that can support each family member's personal goals and help them stay motivated and accountable.
Verily the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“The five (daily) prayers and from one Friday prayer to the (next) Friday prayer, and from Ramadhan to Ramadhan are expiations for the (sins) committed in between (their intervals) provided one shuns the major sins.”
Umm Ahmed is an early childhood educator and mother of three boys. Always on the quest to learn, she is passionate about seeking knowledge and passing it on to others. A writer in the making, she draws inspiration through deep conversations, laws of nature, and her own children. She and her family are currently living in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
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