“Say, [O Muhammad], “Shall we [believers] inform you of the greatest losers as to [their] deeds?
[They are] those whose effort is lost in worldly life, while they think that they are doing well in work.” Surah Al Kahf: Aayaat 103-104
This description, quoted from the closing ayaat of Surah Al Kahf, describes the one who stands before his Lord, considering himself to have been successful, only to realise his deviation once it is too late. I read these aayaat and worry about my own self and it’s direction – today, tomorrow and in my remaining time in this world. How can I ensure this is not going to be my state?
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!
The purpose of life is a life of purpose
If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.
– Jim Rohn
There are 3 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.
At this time of the year, many set aside a review of the year gone by, make resolutions and resolve to be better. A few key tips I have personally benefitted from on goal-setting:
- Write them down. Writing is a psychosomatic exercise which etches your writing on your mind and initiates it subconsciously in your body. It makes it easier for review and its best you read your own book of deeds before they are handed to you. Writing is also key as you can only achieve what you can measure and remember. Use this record to analyse your time, see what makes you unproductive and eliminate it.
- But few write down goals for the year ahead and even less critically evaluate what went right and wrong in the time passed by.
- Habit-focused. In the world of commerce, it is said that culture eats strategy for lunch every time – so too in personal development. Habits (form culture and acceptable norms) will help transform your life rather than big-bang activities. Make sure your goals are achievable and break them down in things you can do in a month, week and daily so that you can form life-changing habits. There are many good app-based Habit trackers which I’d strongly recommend you use as we are all so glued to our phones. Set a daily reminder and focus on a few practises which you can build regular streaks on until they become part of your routine, without which you can’t go to sleep without completing.
- Make dua for the fulfilment of this goal for surely Allah(SWT) is the only One in control of the outcomes and success. Watch how when you review these goals in the coming months and years, you will see these dua of yours have all been answered. This in itself will initiate gratitude.
- Share your goals with others where they are not too personal. Once you have shared your goal, you are motivated to achieve it simply because you feel more accountable to others than yourself.
Imam Ahmed (rh) narrates from Wahb ibn Munabbah (rh): ‘It is written in the wise sayings of the family of Dawood (AS): ‘An intelligent person should not be distracted on four occasions:
- When he is supplicating his Lord;
- When he is auditing himself;
- When he is being informed by his friends about his shortcomings and
- When he is alone with himself.’
O you who have believed, fear Allah. And let every soul look to what it has put forth for tomorrow – and have taqwa (fear, mindfulness) of Allah. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.
– Surah Al Hashr 59:18
What types of goals should I set?
There are broadly 7 types of goals:
- CAREER GOALS – promotion, increase creativity, become an expert in a specific field, etc.
- FINANCIAL GOALS – large purchase, savings, independence
- PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT – writing, speed reading, read more, morning routine, travel
- EDUCATIONAL GOALS – specific learning courses or targets
- RELATIONSHIP GOALS Family time, Friends network
- HEALTH GOALS – vital signs in the normal range, fit and active, exercise routine, keep immune system at peak, have energy, cut the sugar etc.
- SPIRITUAL GOALS – daily mindfulness of Allah, tahajjud, attending masjid daily
Although these are quite standard and we will probably pick one of the many examples as our new resolution or goal, it’s important to align this with your personal values – what is important to you? To assess this, you may find the following questions helpful:
- What are the top three qualities of a person that you admire most? Is it a wise person, someone with good manners, a visionary? Seek to nurture these in yourself and spend more time with these people.
- Be specific. Oftentimes, we want more but we don’t know what will satisfy us. Ask yourself, if you had £1 million, what would you spend it on? Now, list those items and ask yourself if achieving them would make you happy. Set a plan to achieve them over a number of years but also recognise that happiness doesn’t come through material objects. The best things in life aren’t things – they are experiences, relationships and fulfilling a meaningful purpose.
- If you received £100,000 to give away to charity, which one would you give it to? Now, ask yourself what you could do to support that charity on a regular basis, perhaps monthly till you leave this world.
- What would you do if you have only one year left to live?
If today were the last day of your life, would you want to be doing what you’re doing?The late co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, would ask this question daily and went on to explain: “… and whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” Because he argued that: “Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new”If you think that’s a somewhat morbid view, an alternative was mentioned to me by a close friend who explained that he was planning on managing his time better with 8 hours sleep, 8 hours work leaving 8 hours of personal time. This helps brings some perspective to the amount of available time we all have to invest in what is meaningful.
- What are the three accomplishments you think you will take pride in on your deathbed?
- How do you want others to describe your life’s purpose and achievement at your eulogy? Ask yourself:
– What are the lessons that people say they learn from you?
– What are the most unforgettable accomplishments that you achieved in life?
– How do you want your character described by people?
– What is the most important specific thing that people remember about you?
– How do you want others to describe your life’s purpose and fulfillment?
- Do more of what (halal activities 😉 make you happy. Ask yourself when you last had:
– An amazing and happy feeling
– Felt truly at peace with myself
– Learned and developed a new skill e.g. speed reading, healthy cooking, coding, photography, self-defence
– Felt completely focus on a task or project
– Felt proud of myself
– Did something out of being forced (obviously avoid this in future if possible)
- Describe your ideal day and try to work towards making this your morning routine
– What will be your first activity in the morning?
– What time will you wake up?
– Will you have a cup of coffee? Do wudhu? Pray tahajjud?
– Are you going to take a walk or exercise?
How do I set my spiritual goal?
Ultimately, when we stand before Allah(SWT) on our exam day – the Day of Judgement, it will come down to our relationship with Allah(SWT) during our lives. I think of this relationship similar to the close bonds I have with my parent or best friend. Do we:
1. Spend time together
Did we talk to Allah(SWT) like we do our best friends – sharing our worries, needs, desires and shortcomings? Asking him for solace and support? Recognising our dependence on Him(SWT)? Holding Him(SWT) in the highest regard and with due respect?
How much time do you spend talking to your best friend? Allah(SWT) expects that we talk to Him(SWT) just five times a day and in those moments, He will be closer to us than in any moment when we fall in submission to Him(SWT) recognising our reliance and dependence on Him(SWT) only.
It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
The first thing among their deeds for which the people will be brought to account on the Day of Resurrection will be prayer. Our Lord will say to His angels, although He knows best, ‘Look at My slave’s prayer, is it complete or lacking?’
If it is complete, it will be recorded as complete, but if it is lacking, He will say, ‘Look and see whether my slave did any voluntary (naafil) prayers.’ If he had done voluntary prayers, He will say, ‘Complete the obligatory prayers of My slave from his voluntary prayers.’
Then the rest of his deeds will be examined in a similar manner.”
– Sunan Abu Dawood, 4753
2. Know His likes and dislikes
So if salaah is your opportunity to speak, how do we receive a response? Allah(SWT) does have a specific message for you, and He (SWT) has spoken this message Himself. And then revealed it and preserved it. Allah(SWT) is not bound by time, place, language or culture and this message transcends any such parameter.
This response is the Qur’an.
One of the reasons why humanity has been preferred over other creation is that they have the ability to pronounce the Qur’an on their tongues. And as Allah(SWT) reminds us the Qur’an has been made easy for us, but who is there that will take heed?
Just open it asking for guidance and you will receive your response.
3. Serve Him through worship
Umar ibn ul Khattab (RA) was known to say: “Whoever is irresponsible about their prayer (salaah) will be even more irresponsible about everything else in their life
If someone can’t be good to Allah(SWT) – the One who gave them every good – then how can you expect them to be good to anybody else?”
There is a Sahabi – companion of the Prophet(SAW) – who is rarely talked about but quite important – his name was Rabi’ah bin Ka’b (RA). He wasn’t one of the elites like the ten promised Jannah or the Sahaba of Badr or Hudhaybiyah but his goals were of the highest. One day he said to himself that he should volunteer to be the servant of the Prophet ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).
When the Prophet (SAW) saw him so dedicated, he said, “O Rabi’ah, ask and I will give you.” The connotation is very clear that if he wanted a horse, camel, or something else he would get it. Rabi’ah said, “Ya Rasūlullāh, I want one thing. I want to be along with you in Jannah.”
The Prophet (SAW) has the highest of the high levels in Jannah. In Firdaws, there is a whole level dedicated to the Prophet (SAW) called al-wasilah and al-fadilah. The Prophet (SAW) said, “Al-wasilah is the highest level of Jannah and dedicated for one person [and in his modesty he said] I hope I am that person.” Rabi’ah is saying he wants to be with him there. Obviously he won’t be there because it is dedicated for the Prophet (SAW). He set his goal high. When you set your goal that high, even if you fail, you will be way higher than anyone else.
The Prophet ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was astonished because he was expecting something of the dunya and said, “Anything else?” He said, “That is all I want, ya Rasūlullāh.” The Prophet ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “If that is the case, you need to help me.” He ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Help me to help you by doing a lot of sajdahs.”