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The Art of Working on Yourself— Tips for Ramadan and Beyond

Ramadan is the month that inspires us to get back to what matters most – our relationship with Allah SWT. When we reflect on the changes we want to make and the goals we’d like to set, we may find ourselves discouraged, overwhelmed, or unsure what to prioritize. These tips will help you use Ramadan to set goals and create habits that improve your unique and personal relationship with Allah (SWT) so that you may grow spiritually beyond Ramadan.

 

Push the Reset Button on Your Goals

Take a moment to revisit your niyyah (intention) and goals you set for this month. Evaluate your progress thus far. How many of your goals depended on getting that spiritual high from others (i.e., Mosque, family, friends)? How many of your goals were set based on what others are doing and not in tune with where you are spiritually? How many of your goals were too big and unrealistic to maintain? Now is the time to reframe your goals and expectations to focus on your relationship with Allah (SWT). Think about building habits to meet those goals, which can be continued beyond Ramadan.

 

 

Pick Goals That Motivate You and Are Important to You

Many of us pick goals based on what we see others doing or what we’ve been told to do— but this may not always match our reality and where we are spiritually. Perhaps reading the Qur’an is not realistic for you because your relationship with the Qur’an isn’t that strong right now, and reading it in Arabic doesn’t do it for you. Perhaps you can focus on small amounts of tafsir (meaning of Quran) because that’s what increases your understanding and gives you spiritual fulfillment. Without motivation to meet your goal, it will be much harder to succeed.

Take inventory of where you are right now and what you personally want to work on. Practice the pause and ask yourself:

فَأَيْنَ تَذْهَبُونَ

So where are you going?

[Qur’an: Chapter 81, Verse 26]

 

Set SMART Goals

Learn more about SMART goals at the link above but here’s an example about applying this concept for a goal in Ramadan:

  • Specific: I want to learn the meaning of the Qur’an so I will start with Surah Al Mulk.
  • Measurable: I can do this by going through the tafsir/translation of 1 Ayah (verse) a day till the end of Ramadan.
  • Achievable: Based on my schedule, this goal is achievable because I will do one ayah per day.
  • Relevant: The tafsir of the Qur’an matters to me more right now because I feel more connected to Allah (SWT) when I connect to His words in a meaningful way.
  • Time-bound: I have set my timeline as the end of Ramadan for this goal.

You can adapt the above example to any goal you have, as small as focusing on one prayer per day or as large as praying taraweeh every day. The idea is to make your goal specific to your reality and ignore the pressure to set goals based on what others are doing.

 

 

Create an Action Plan

Be intentional about planning out the steps that are needed to meet your goal. Work backwards from your endpoint and create your plan. Focus on small actions that you can do regularly!

The Prophet (PBUH) said:

…Allah does not get tired (of giving rewards) but (surely) you will get tired and the best deed (act of Worship) in the sight of Allah is that which is done regularly.” [Sahih Bukhari]

…the most beloved deed to Allah’s is the most regular and  constant even though it were little.” [Sahih Bukhari]

Create a plan based on habits that may be small but are regular. It is in the Sunnah to create a routine of good deeds (even if small), which we keep up for the rest of our lives. Perhaps you decide to learn new du’aa that you continue after Ramadan. You can make a du’aa journal with a list of important du’aa to recite during Ramadan. Choose from the common du’aas recited by the previous prophets, including Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and your own personalized du’aa.

 

Tips For Success

  1. Write out your goal and plan so that it feels more real and tangible.
  2. Post them publicly somewhere in your home to serve as a constant reminder.
  3. Share your goal with a group of friends who can help hold you accountable. 
 

Assess and Adjust

Finally, be intentional about assessing your progress and adjusting if you need to. Take yourself back to your initial niyyah (intention) when you set the goal and action plan, and see what you need to adjust. Build in reminders to keep yourself on track and assess your progress. In the tafsir example above, perhaps the tafsir content you found is really interesting but takes you more time than you anticipated. You can readjust your action plan and learn 3 surahs rather than 4, as long as you feel like your goal of connecting to the Qur’an is still being met.

Most importantly, make du’aa and ask Allah SWT to facilitate growth and spiritual openings for you this month. Ask Him to grant you patience and perseverance to stick to growing closer to Him, even after Ramadan. “(O Muhammad), when My servants ask you about Me, tell them I am quite near; I hear and answer the call of the caller whenever he calls Me. Let them listen to My call and believe in Me;1 perhaps they will be guided aright.” Quran 2:186

Blog Author:

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Madiha Tahseen

Dr. Madiha Tahseen is the Research Director and a Community Educator at The Family and Youth Institute. She holds a Ph.D. in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Her research expertise is in positive youth development amongst Muslim-American youth, particularly focusing on the role of cultural and religious contexts in character development among minority populations.

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The Prophet (SAS) said, “There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days”
(Bukhari).

Guarantee your blessings!

Zakat eligibility of The FYI

The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.

It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
(Al-Tawbah 9:60)

According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.

Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD

About Shaikh Ali

Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina.  He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).