Publish Date: Monday,24 August, 2009, at 11:52 PM Doha Time
By Abdullah Khan
Another sense of precedence for setting goals in the holy month of Ramadan should come from the fact that Allah Almighty has made certain things obligatory for Muslims while encouraging them toward other levels of worship (Sunan and Nawaafil, that is, the desirable and the additional). Some Muslims focus more on the later (like the Taraaweeh prayers) to the neglect of the obligation (like the five daily prayers). It is important to fulfil the obligation, before attempting to practise the Sunan and Nawaafil.
When setting goals for Ramadan, then, remember to set smart (sensible, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals:
Specific: A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal you must answer the six “W” questions:
Who: Who is involved? (remember, you are a Muslim, a servant of Allah)
What: What do I want to accomplish? (for Ramadan - attain Taqwa; in life - seek the pleasure of Allah)
When: Establish a timeframe
Where: Identify a location (work, home, etc.)
How: Identify requirements and constraints (if the goal is to memorise certain parts of the Qur’an then the requirement is to know proper Tajweed. If so, one constraint that one may face is the amount of Qur’an one can memorise depending on their fluency in reciting Qur’an)
Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal
Measurable: Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of your goals. To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions like How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished? Hence, a measurable, spiritual goal for Ramadan can be, say: I will perform all the Sunnah prayers before and after each obligatory prayer everyday during the month of Ramadan.
Attainable: You can attain most any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a timeframe that allows you to carry out those steps. Goals that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them.
A believer is susceptible to falling into the fallacy of considering him - or herself unworthy of a certain level of spirituality because of past sins committed. This is an old device of Satan, to weigh us down and cause us to despond of the mercy of Allah. To succumb to this whispering is to forget that our Lord, Allah, Most High, is all forgiving and Most Merciful.
Allah states in a Sacred Hadith: “I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself. And if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] Therefore, as the servant of Allah exerts himself or herself spiritually, Allah expedites the attainment of that spiritual goal.
Realistic: This is not a synonym for “easy.” Realistic, in this case, means “doable.” To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work.
One way to know if your goal is realistic is to determine if you have accomplished anything similar in the past. Also, ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to achieve this goal.
Timely: Binding a goal to a time-frame will give a sense of urgency in attaining it. Learning to recite the Qur’an “someday” won’t work. It is important to identify by what date you will learn to recite the Qur’an. This due date will not only motivate you to work to reach that goal but also help you to determine if you have fulfilled your goal or not. And, of course, a goal of this magnitude should be broken up into smaller smart goals, to ensure advancement and assessment.
The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and his Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, used to prepare for Ramadan well before start the month. One way of doing so is to identify and formalise goals for it now, if you haven’t already. For goals not only help us prioritise our life but also enable us to undergo the requisite purification of intention. This, in turn, assists us in becoming focused in and with our lives. Thus goals are an integral part of having a plan, a purpose, for our life.
Heed this last point well, for a life without a plan is a plan for certain failure. We ask Allah to direct us toward those goals that will help us earn His pleasure, for, indeed, that is the ultimate goal that He Almighty has commanded all of us to seek in this fleeting life.
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