How to prioritise your goals
We are blessed to witness a new day and a new year. Inshallah we are full of optimism, which is the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Quran tells us to be optimistic in many different verses of the Quran, not to mention the very first verse which we recite: Alhamdulillahi rabbil aalameen in Surat al Fatihah, which sets the tone of optimism. We recite this verse at least 29 times a day (in our Fard salah17+ 12 Sunnah) which teaches us to recognise the blessings and favours of Allah upon us and to utter words of gratitude to Allah Almighty and to be optimistic.
Optimism is as contagious as pessimism. The negativity of pessimistic people invariably rubs off and makes those in their company miserable too. Meanwhile, the positivity and energy of optimistic people makes others feel motived and inspired by them. The Arabs, like the English, say birds of a feather flock together, and thus optimists prefer the company of likeminded people, while pessimists prefer to whinge and moan in dour company.
Every year, I hear people say that we are not permitted to say ‘Happy New Year’ because it is not the Islamic New Year. I have no time for such comments. The fact of the matter is that it is a new year all around the globe, so unless you live on other planet, it is a new year!
Each New Year comes with a flurry of New Year’s Resolutions, with the flickering hope that this year we will finally shed those pounds, or attain another qualification… usually it’s a long list. It is certainly good to have this optimism but the reality is that it is for the most part, short-lived. From a practical point of view if you try to carry too many melons, you will inevitably drop them all and be disappointingly empty-handed in the end. It was the common sense practice of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to prefer consistent actions were manageable, than trying to shift mountains. Daily small steps can take you much further than sporadic long strides. If those steps become your habit and you maintain them, rain or shine, you will reach your destination. This is why Umm Salamah reported about the Prophet (peace be upon him):
كَانَ أَحَبَّ الْأَعْمَالِ إِلَيْهِ الْعَمَلُ الصَّالِحُ الَّذِي يَدُومُ عَلَيْهِ الْعَبْدُ وَإِنْ كَانَ يَسِيرًا
The most beloved deeds to him were righteous deeds that a servant performs regularly, even if they are little. [Ibn Majah]
The importance of time
In the Quran, Allah Almighty tells believers to pay attention for the importance of time. Time is a divine creation and with each second, a moment passes and is replaced by a fresh one – hence periodically we have a new day, a new week, a new month and a new year. This is the nature of time. Without this, time and seasons would be still, and night and day would not exist.
Reflecting on one of the beautiful verses in the Quran, Allah Almighty mentions in Surat al-Hashr:
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَلْتَنظُرْ نَفْسٌۭ مَّا قَدَّمَتْ لِغَدٍۢ ۖ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ خَبِيرٌۢ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ
You who believe! Be mindful of God, and let every soul consider carefully what it sends ahead for tomorrow; be mindful of God, for God is well aware of everything you do. [59:18]
In Arabic ghadan is tomorrow, but the concept of ghad here is not literally tomorrow, but the Hereafter. Time is what we have been given to prepare for it.
Ibn Mas’ud reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said the feet of the son of Adam will not move on the Day of Resurrection until he has responded to 5 questions:
عَنْ ابْنِ مَسْعُودٍ عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ لَا تَزُولُ قَدَمُ ابْنِ آدَمَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ مِنْ عِنْدِ رَبِّهِ حَتَّى يُسْأَلَ عَنْ خَمْسٍ عَنْ عُمُرِهِ فِيمَ أَفْنَاهُ وَعَنْ شَبَابِهِ فِيمَ أَبْلَاهُ وَمَالِهِ مِنْ أَيْنَ اكْتَسَبَهُ وَفِيمَ أَنْفَقَهُ وَمَاذَا عَمِلَ فِيمَا عَلِمَ
The son of Adam will not be dismissed from his Lord on the Day of Resurrection until he is questioned about five matters: his life and how he lived it, his youth and how he expended it, his wealth and how he earned it and he spent it, and how he acted upon his knowledge. [Tirmidhi]
Accordingly we are accountable for 5 things:
Look after your time
A New Year’s resolution should take into account these five questions. It is possible to monitor these. Time is not just money, time is life. It’s more precious than money, and more important.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) mentioned in another beautiful hadith that every morning man is heading in one of two directions – either away from punishment on the Day of Judgment, by following the commands of Allah Almighty, or towards it by disobeying Allah Almighty and doing what is prohibited, disliked, or oppressive.
Every person starts his day as a vendor of his soul, either freeing it or causing its ruin.” [Muslim]
Therefore we have to be careful what our New Year’s Resolution is prioritising.
Most importantly we have to respect time. Manage your time properly. Don’t waste time. Time is a gift from Allah Almighty, utilise every second in your life. This does not mean burning out from exhaustion, but being productive as well as taking the time to relax in a halal way to refresh and recharge yourself.
Look after your salah
Salah is our clock
Salah is our clock. It sets the rhythm of our day and our night. It is the beauty of Islam that we do not worship God once a week or at festivals, and disconnect from Him the rest of the time, instead we have continuous periodical reminders of Him throughout the day and throughout the night. During the day we have 3 prayers and during the night we have 2. We begin with Fajr at dawn, then Dhur at noon, Asr in afternoon, Maghrib in the evening and Isha at night. These are the protection mechanism of your time. If you are distracted between Fajr and Dhuhr, salah comes and reminds you to re-focus and utilise your time. And then between maghrib and isha as well it’s a reminder.
Salah is a river
عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه قال: سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول: ”أرأيتم لو أن نهرًا بباب أحدكم يغتسل منه كل يوم خمس مرات، هل يبقى من درنه شيء؟” قالوا: لا يبقى من درنه شيء، قال: ”فذلك مثل الصلوات الخمس، يمحو الله بهن الخطايا”.((متفق عليه)).
It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
“Do you think that is there was a river by the door of any one of you, and he bathed in it five times each day, would there be any trace of dirt left on him?” They said: “No trace of dirt would be left on him.” He said: “That is the likeness of the five daily prayers. By means of them Allah erases sins.” Bukhari and Muslim.
We see from this hadith that salah is like a river in which we wash and refresh ourself, and become energised. This is a huge investment in your time because it generates time, bringing barakah to your time.
Salah is the focal point in our day
The salah is intrinsically linked to time. Fajr is not Fajr when it is not performed in its allocated time. We have to organise our time around Salah’s timetable, and we have to pray at those times, just as we would not ignore the doctor’s instructions to take our medicine five times a day and swallow it in one go. Therefore first on our list should be to improve our salah.
How do we do this? By praying on time; making it the focal point of our day. Our focal point should not be our business. Of course we need to work and we should work hard to earn halal money, but work should not replace salah. We have to pray on time.
The quality of our salah reflects our commitment to Allah
Your salah is your commitment to Allah Almighty. If you are lazy in performing salah, unconcerned if you miss it or are late to perform it, this is a sign of weakness in your faith. You need to work on improving your faith.
Salah is not just about turning up at a certain time and performing a physical routine. It is beyond this. It should not be rushed. It has to be performed in the right manner with khushu (focus, tranquility and attentiveness). Don’t perform 4 rakahs in 1 minute. Work on improving the quality of your salah and your connection with Allah Almighty through your salah.
Salah – defends us in the grave
Salah performed properly will defend us in our grave from the angels of torture. In a lengthy hadith, narrated by Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) recorded in Sahih Ibn Hibban, Mustadrak Hakim, when the angels come, salah will protect us and proclaim that we used to pray on time. Another set of angels will come, but fasting will defend us. Therefore if we improve our salah, it will protected us in this life and the Hereafter. So our highest priority is to improve our salah, and its quality
On the Day of Judgement we will be asked about how we spent our wealth. Many people made losses over the past year, most notably Elon Musk but average people also during these times of austerity, inflation and with the current cost of living crisis. Allah Almighty is the Provider and sometimes He gives in abundance and sometimes He tries us by withdrawing our provision. We trust Him and rely on Him and we do our best. Eventually we will have to answer how we managed our wealth. Where did we acquire it from? Was it a halal source? Just as we need to know what nullifies salah, we need to learn what is haram in earning. It is not just interest that is haram, but cheating, concealing information from customers, selling poor quality or defective goods etc. Particularly those who structure financial instruments need to know what’s allowed and what’s not allowed.
Moreover, we have to be careful how we choose to spend it. Spending halal provision in casinos in Las Vegas is absurd. It’s not enough to earn in a halal way, as we have to then spend it in a halal way, so we need to improve our knowledge about what qualifies as halal earning and spending.
Multiplying wealth by earning blessings
The mathematical formula that Allah Almighty has given in the Quran, on which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) elaborated though his Sunnah (peace be upon him) defies conventional maths. According to the rules of maths: 10-5=5, however in Islam 10-5=55 because Allah Almighty promised to multiply each good deed by a minimum of ten. Therefore if you spend 5 in charity, it’s multiplied by 10, and becomes 50. Beyond that Allah Almighty multiplies further depending on the sincerity of the intention for giving. It could be x 50, x 500, x 7000, x70,000 according to the scenario, the case, the need. Therefore if you want Allah Almighty to increase your provision (rizq), and this is ‘how to top up your rizq’. The greater your sincerity (ikhlas) and the more you spend for Allah Almighty’s sake, the more Allah Almighty will multiply and top up your wealth. He will put barakah (blessings) in your earning and in your life and in your time. Therefore our second priority is managing wealth better – our earning, spending and improving our knowledge of what constitutes halal earning and halal spending.
Look after your knowledge
As per the hadith, on the Day of Judgement Allah Almighty will ask us about the knowledge which He gave us – not only Islamic knowledge, but all useful knowledge which He gave us. How did we use it? Did we use it to benefit humanity, and to benefit the community? Those who used it in cunning plans, or to circumvent the rules will be held accountable for this. Knowledge is not just for worshiping God, but for practical use in our life. Therefore we need to improve both our knowledge and the practical application of our knowledge.
Your relationship with the Quran
Within knowledge, our relationship with the Quran is paramount. It is our primary source of divine knowledge. How is your relationship with the Quran? How is it going to be this year? Last year, it may have been weak, or mediocre, or flawed. Assess yourself and resolve to improve your relationship with the Quran. For instance, it could be that you recite 2 pages from the Quran every day. This is doable. It should take 5 minutes. In addition, if your tajweed is not that good, then you have to make time to improve your tajweed so you recite the Quran properly. Also focus on the meanings of what you have recited – reflect on them. If, for example, this ayah said ‘Fear the day when you will return to Allah and every soul will be given what they have earnt. And they will not be treated unjustly’ (2:281), then ask yourself ‘Am I prepared to meet Allah Almighty?’ In this meeting, we will meet Allah Almighty and our Books will be opened and we will be told ‘Iqra’ kitaabak’ (Read your book). Will we feel ashamed of anything we have in our book? Now is the time to fix these, so that we will not feel ashamed. If you recited about justice, reflect on whether you are mistreating anyone etc. Pick an ayah attach your heart to it for the whole day. Keep reflecting on the ayah during the day and how to implement it. Ask Allah Almighty to give you the ability to implement the Quran in your life. With this daily connection, everyday you will find yourself progressing and improving and more doors will open for you spiritually, granting you fresh insights.
Apart from improving your recitation of the Quran and your salah, find out how to calculate your zakat properly. Many people are keen to pay their zakah, but don’t know how to calculate it. There are many applications and sites which have a zakat calculator, so you can enter your gold, silver and cash as well as cryptocurrencies, pensions and shares.
Look after your relationships
When we are planning the investment of our time, improving your relationships is a big category but can be summarised as three main relationships.
Relationship with your parents
Improving your relationships with your parents is crucial. How do you do this? Assess your relationship with your parents, particularly over the past year. How is your communication with them? How can you make it better than the previous year inshallah.
Many people have issues with their parents – they may have been strict or harsh, and their children rebelled and resented their control. They may not talk to each other anymore. Or they may be so consumed in their lives, their work and raising their own children that they have no time for their parents. This is not allowed. We need to establish a good relationship with our parents, regardless of whether they are believers or non-believers or our issues with them. We need to have good relationships with our parents.
Relationship with your spouse
Your relationship with your spouse affects your mental wellbeing. Assess your situation and reflect on your relationship over the past year. You may have had some hiccups, issues, and problems. Let’s open a new page and have a better year. But in order to do this you need to identify what troubles this relationship and try to fix it together. Your spouse is your companion to Jannah so you should be on good terms with your companion. Anger and irritation can erode this bond. Yet when this bond is strong, you feel secure and cared for, you have compassion, trust and affection which empower you in the other areas of your life. Examine the main issues which are spoiling this relationship, or if it is good, think how you can maintain and make it better.
Relationship with your friends, colleagues and neighbours
Friends and colleagues are also part of our lives. Often issues arise due to misunderstandings, words spoken in haste or anger that one regrets, ego and power struggles, either side refusing to apologise or make amends. Fix broken relationships. Do not let your ego get in the way. This is a new year a new page. If you fix it, you will be rewarded as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said the better of the two who have arguments is the one who initiates the salam i.e. breaks the ice or apologises to repair the relationship.
Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari (may Allah be pleased with him) said the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
“It is not lawful for a Muslim to desert (stop talking to) his brother beyond three nights, the one turning one way and the other turning to the other way when they meet, the better of the two is one who is the first to greet the other.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Priorities help us create balance
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) encouraged his Companions to be balanced. Reviewing your goals and prioritising them, creates balance in your life. Salah creates balance in your life because it adds the spiritual dimension to the physical dimension and provides relief from the rat race that typifies the fast-paced, headless chicken lifestyle that typifies our cities and offices, and lives.
Paying zakah creates balance by adding the social dimension to our spending, keeping us in contact with our community and helping those who are in need, rather than being centred on your own wants and wishes, cut off from what is happening in the lives of those around us, who have much less. Having a good relationship with your family – parents, spouse, siblings, relatives keeps you from being isolate.
Time will end
When the trumpet is blown, time will end and the universe as we know it will collapse, when Allah Almighty asks souls how long they spent on Earth, they will say it felt like a day, or just part of a day. Those who utilised the precious commodity of time well will have something to show for it, those who let time slip through their fingers like sand have squandered their capital. Time is your capital. Spend it wisely. When you read the biography of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), his Companions, and great scholars, you see how they particular they were about it. In every breath they took, they invested their time. Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) reported:
عَنْ عَائِشَةَ قَالَتْ كَانَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَذْكُرُ اللَّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ أَحْيَانِهِ
The Prophet (peace be upon him) would remember Allah at all times. [Muslim]
He used to remember Allah Almighty all the time, in every breath. This is the best investment in your time.
With each new day, new week and new year, we are moving closer to the end of our time on Earth. Are we prepared for this departure? Are we prepared for meeting Allah Almighty? Let’s be optimistic and wise. Let’s prioritise what we will be held accountable for. Let’s improve our connection with Allah, focusing on our salah in particular and our recitation of the Quran and our reflection on the Quran. Let’s be careful how we earn and spend our wealth. Let’s improve our relationships with those closest to us, and those whom we have been commanded to maintain good relationships with.
We ask Allah Almighty to grant us tawfiq and be pleased with us.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim – Al Manaar New Muslim Group 3rd January 2023
Transcribed by S Jawaid
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