As we enter another calendar year, it’s an opportunity for us to reflect on the year which has passed us. A year to review what we have written in our personal book of deeds to Allah(SWT) so that we are not shocked or surprised when we see it is filled with things we dislike.
And, although no one can go back and make a brand new start on their life, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. In a lengthy hadith, the Prophet (ﷺ) stated,
“A person may do deeds that seem to the people as the deeds of the people of Paradise while in fact, he is from the dwellers of the (Hell) Fire: and similarly a person may do deeds that seem to the people as the deeds of the people of the (Hell) Fire while in fact, he is from the dwellers of Paradise. Verily, the (results of) deeds done, depend upon the last actions.” [Sahih al-Bukhari 6493]
It is of the greatest losses in life, that we find ourselves at the end of our journey of life, having climbed the ladder of perceived success, only to reach the top and realise that it was leaning against the wrong building!
A dire situation on the Day of Judgement
We read in Surah Al Kahf, Ayah 103
Say: “Shall We tell you the greatest losers in respect of (their) deeds. Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life while they thought that they were acquiring good by their deeds.
They are those who deny the Ayat of their Lord and the meeting with Him. So their works are in vain, and on the Day of Resurrection, We shall assign no weight for them.
That shall be their recompense, Hell; because they disbelieved and took My Ayat and My Messengers for jest.”
In the Tafsir of this verse, Imam Bukhari records that this was revaled in Makkah and Mus`ab asked his father, the famous companion of the Prophet(SAW), Sa`d bin Abi Waqqas, who these people were that would be the greatest losers on the Day of Judgement. Sa’d (RA) said that they were three groups:
- the Jews as they disbelieved in the Prophet Muhammad (SAW
- the Christians as they disbelieved in Paradise and said that there is no food or drink there
- and a third group (Haruriyyah): the corrupt ones who break Allah’s contract after committing to it.
So, Imam Ibn Kathir explains that this aayah is general and refers to everyone who worships Allah in a way that is not acceptable, thinking that he is right in doing that and that his deeds will be accepted, but he is mistaken and his deeds will be rejected. They did deeds that did not amount to any value.
The purpose of life is a life of purpose
Know that everyone lives life according to a plan – the question to ask is “Are you living your life according to your plan or someone else’s?”
It is said that in life there are three types of people – those who guess what is happening, those who know what is happening and those who wonder what just happened. Make sure you’re in the right category.
I like to use this time of the year to review the year gone by, set some goals and resolve to be better. This year, I have noticed:
- To really smash your goals, you need to apply focus and effort.
- If you’re struggling to remember your goals, its unlikely they really mean enough to you. Time is short – know what you really want.
- This year, more than most, I’ve noticed that I need to go easier on myself with periods of rest in order to prevent burnout and remain motivated and able to give my best when on task. only given 6 hours to chop down a tree, the wise person will spend the first four sharpening the axe. I have also experienced my first restful break after many years by only setting myself ONE task (approx. 1 hour of focused work) and then letting the rest of the day be filled with my big rocks – making it to the masjid to pray in congregation, doing all my adkhar, revising Qur’an for about an hour, exercising, getting outdoors for at least 30 mins, playing with my son, talking to the family, reading, connecting with my most important people etc. Less truly is more if you’re productive and pick the most valuable things to focus on.
- I didn’t spend much time checking on my goals because there were too many of them and I didn’t always have something to show every week. I have realised I’m still quite rubbish at estimating how long something will take and now apply a rule that if I think it will last an hour, it will probably a day (i.e. a multiple of 7). This has helped me to rethink whether I want to focus on a single habit/goal every month rather than trying to run all of them in tandem.
- These goals should be the things you are making dua for every day – if they aren’t, then are they helping you to achieve your real lifes purpose and readiness for the Day of Accounting? These should be activities which will get you closer to being the ideal you – the person you want to meet Allah(SWT) as.
To this end, I’ve decided to try to focus on 5 primary areas, which have the biggest impact to my preparation for the Day of Judgement, personal wellbeing and growth plans. These are connection, good habits, bad habits, health and wealth.
1. Connect with Allah(SWT)
The first thing we will be asked about on the day of Judgement is how many calls we made. In 2020, we have all become more dependent and hooked on our phones. Research shows we check our phone every 6.5 minutes – 58 times a day, more than the 50 salawaat originally stated on the Mi’raj journey of the Prophet(SAW)! And the first question we will be asked by Allah(SWT) is about how many times we connected with Allah(SWT) – calling out in our salaah (prayers).
I read a reminder today that said its strange how sensitive our ears are to the beeping of a phone, yet deaf to the call for prayer. All that Allah(SWT) asks for us is to remember him, be grateful for what he has given us and live a good life by following the wisest guidance there is. Ask yourself how you can improve your salaah – do you need to learn the meaning? Do you need to be more focused in salaah? Do you need to learn more Qur’an to enrich your salah? Set your personal goal to improve this connection.
2. Build a good habit
The key to real personal change is to develop positive habits. Pick something you can make a daily practise – it may be reading 1 page of the Qur’an, getting to the masjid at least once daily for salaah, trying to pray 12 sunnah every day, switching off your phone to talk to your family.
3. Break a bad habit
I think it’s safe to say we all have a bad habit or two that we’d like to kick, whether it be excessive scree-time (Netflix bingeing), social media addiction, music, smoking, bad company or chronic lateness. No doubt, most of us have probably tried and given up more than a few times. Just, don’t give up!
One of our greatest blessings after iman is good health. Take care of your body and it will take care of you – it is the only place you have to live in. If you are healthier, you will be able to worship better, serve humanity and not depend on others. What could you change about your diet – reducing the biscuits, take-away or snacking? Drinking more water?
Of the few opportunities we still have left in lockdown/Tier 4 is to exercise. Walk, jog, cycle – just get out and take a breath. It will transform you mentally as well as physically.
Sleep no more than 8 hours, for that is one third of our life spent unconscious and we don’t have much else left.
5. Wealth – three stories
Promotion? Side-hustle? Investment? Create a monthly budget, not just for what you will spend on yourself but more importantly, what you’ll pay forward to be waiting for when you meet Allah(SWT).
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to ask Shaykh Hany how I know if I’m on the path of guidance or not. He responded by sharing a beautiful story. Some years ago, a group of friends decided to collaborate on an investment partnership. They sought to purchase a property so they could continue to benefit from its rent for years to come. However, the property was selling for £100,000 and there were only 9 of them, with a maximum saving of £10,000. Weeks passed by and they worried that the property would be sold, until one day, a member of the group said he the final contribution. When the others asked who the 10th partner was, he replied “Allah”. This was a sadaqah donation and all of the profits from this tenth share went back to good causes and their investments flourished.
The richest man in Malaysia, Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, is valued at more than $17 billion today. He tells the story of how, as a young boy, he landed on shores of Malaysia as a refugee from Yemen with his mother, with little more than the clothes they were wearing. He was wearing some leather shoes which he sold for 10 Malaysian Ringgit (RM). With this money, he brought some rice and sold it on building more profit at each sale, until he brought home his first salary of RM1,500 .
His mother, Sharifah Rokiah, reminded him that while they lived a humble life, there were others in the community who were poorer. So she encouraged him to keep half for the family, and distribute the remaining RM750 to 15 needy families in their community, as sadaqah. He responded, I want to give sadaqah, I really do, but let me reinvest this half until it really grows to something of high value and then give all of it in sadaqah. His mother replied “No, son. It is Allah, the Rabb(Lord) of Opportunity, that gave you the opportunity to make this money. Imagine, if you make Allah happy, how much more opportunity He will give you to make more money.” So he said, I listened to my mother, and ever since then, I have never stopped.
The third story I want to share is of a brother who knew of another family that had moved into the area and thought to give them some food. As he prepared the food package with his wife, he remembered that she had prepared his favourite dessert, a pecan pie. As Allah(SWT) states, you will not attain righteousness until you spend out of what you love [Quran 3:92], the brother said, lets give them the pecan pie as well. Some days passed by, and he had placed an order at a take-away but discovered that they had missed some of his order, and so he returned to the shop to let them know. The owner was very apologetic and for the inconvenience also gifted him an addition to his order. On returning home, to his surprise, he found it was a full pecan pie. Smiling to himself, he rushed to tell his wife that Allah(SWT) had returned the pie in full to them and that He(SWT) was always Generous in returning sadaqah. His wife was smiling even more when he told her, and she then revealed that her sister had also baked and sent over a pecan pie on that same day too.
Key practises to support goal achievement
- Write them down – it will change your mindset and behaviour. We are an ummah of Iqra’ and al Qalam so read and write.
- Don’t give up. Making a mistake is just that – a mis-take, so retake it as you still have opportunity while you still have life.
- Share them with those who you trust and who can help you to keep honest to them. Mentorship, jamaa’ah (congregation), suhbah (good company) and irshad (guidance) are critical to help you achieve.
- Invest in each goal. If you wanted to run a marathon, you would invest in the right shoes. Similarly, if you want to memorise the Qur’an, invest in the right teacher or reading partner. Invest and know that this will pay itself manifold in return.
- Although you may aspire to be like someone who has achieved your goal, know that you will do this in your own way and at your own pace. Take your time – the benefits in the journey.
- Make dua for each of your goals – we say to Allah(SWT) iyaaka nasta’een – only You will ask from, so talk to Allah(SWT) about these goals regularly and ask regularly.
- Multiply your intentions with each of your goals. As an example, when you read your daily portion of Qur’an, as well as gaining the reward for each letter and worshipping Allah(SWT), intend that it is a means of your intercession on the Day of Judgement, a saviour from Hellfire, that you intend to act on each of its commands, that its a cure for your heart and your body, your guiding light and that your life ends while you are reciting this beautiful Word of Allah(SWT).
- Journal your progress as the year passes, perhaps monthly, if weekly is too intense.
True wealth and context, in the words of the Sahaba
Abdullāh b. Mas’ood (RA) said: Fulfil what Allah has obliged you to do and you will be from the most devout of people. Stay away from what Allah has forbidden you and you will be from the most careful of people. Be satisfied with what Allah has apportioned for you and you will be from the richest of people. [Hannād b. Al-Sarī, Al-Zuhd, article 1032]
It is reported that Jundub b. ‘Abdillah – Allah be pleased with him – was once asked for advice and instruction. He said: I advise you to fear Allāh and obey Him (taqwā) and I advise you to adhere to the Qur’an, for it is a light in the dark night and a guidance during the day, so implement it no matter how much struggle and poverty you have to face. If a calamity befalls you, put your wealth forward to protect your religion, and if the calamity continues, put forward your wealth and your life to save your religion [but never risk your religion], for the ruined is he whose religion is ruined, and the looted is he whose religion is taken. And know that there is no poverty after Paradise, and no riches after the Fire. [Al-Dhahabī, Siyar A’lām Al-Nubalā` 3:174.]