How To Focus On Your Islamic Goals
It's funny. As each day, week and month passes I feel an overwhelming sense of 'I'm not doing everything I should be doing as a Muslim'. I'm not praying on time, I'm not praying my Fajr everyday, I haven't picked up the Qur'an in a while .... and the list goes on and on.
But at the same time I was listening to the Qur'an in the car, I wasn't praying with Khushoo but I kept up the habit of praying, my manners and character were strong and upright. I recognise this but still I'm left with this feeling that I haven't committed or worshipped Allah enough.
The funny thing is that Allah doesn't need our worship, we need Him. Throughout life and our childhood we're constantly pushed to focusing on the quantity of our worship rather than the quality of our worship.
If the Prophet Muhammad said that those deeds are best are ones that are consistent even if they are small, then why do we still end up with this feeling that we aren't doing what we should be doing.
Since last year and the new January 2020, there are many things that I decided to do, perspectives I decided to shift, and habits I decided to change. I started doing these things since the end of last year because I wanted to start the new year with all of those changes having been implemented and practiced for quite some time.
Here are the 3 things that I've learned on how to be consistent, focused and on track with the Islamic and religious goals that you set yourself in order make positive changes in your life.
1. Be committed to putting your insecurities and limiting beliefs aside.
We all have insecurities and limiting beliefs that developed and got stuck inside of us during unpleasant times in our lives. We can't read the Qur'an properly, we don't have a good enough brain to memorise, we've sinned too much to be forgiven etc. Past negative experiences subconsciously tell us to fear, be cautious, and be careful. But as we start doing more inner work, we may realize that being cautious hasn’t got us anywhere. Being cautious leads us to people who are cautious. Being fearful leads us to people who are fearful. Insecurity only breeds insecurity. Fear only breeds fear. This only confirms that our fearful belief is right.
Hence, we repeat the same pattern over and over until we realize that: “Hey, this is not what I want! Maybe I have to try something new!”
Doing something new is being brave and proving yourself wrong and proving to Allah that you love Him. We all have limiting beliefs about ourselves, especially when it comes to our deen we are all lacking in a certain area. However it's important to be brave and tackle these areas in order to improve your self-confidence, self-worth and relationship with Allah.
In Ramadan we truly believe we can become the best version of ourselves and using the Ramadan Planner last year was so helpful in realising my goals. But outwith Ramadan is another story!
2. Pick an experience not a goal on it's own
Read that again.
If you want to achieve something, focus on the joy and experience it will bring to your life not the achievement itself.
We all want to achieve certain religious goals in life but focusing on the goal may be the wrong approach, what I've learned instead is that it is important to focus on the experience and feeling of when you achieve that goal.
Let me give you an example.
Let's say you want to memorise a large surah in the Qur'an like Surah al-Kahf. You want to memorise it because it's a biggie, because you can then tell your friends, because you will then 'bank' this surah in your list of all the other surah's that you know. Will this intention and drive get you to finish all 110 verses?
Now let's say you want to memorise the same surah but instead your drive and intention is to have ease, peace and serenity every Friday for the rest of your life. When you wake up in the morning and are driving to work or taking the bus you can easily recite the surah to yourself to give yourself light, protection and the love of Allah from one Friday to the next for the rest of your life. Will this intention and drive get you to finish all 110 verses? I think so.
Your Islamic and religious goals and plans need to be inspiring and motivating enough for you to complete them to the end.
3. Be committed to your goals and focus on ONE thing.
When it comes to our deen we have our fardh (obligatory) acts of worship and we have our recommended and voluntary acts of worship. It's important that we keep up our fardh acts as a baseline foundation to keep our soul bright and charged.
The religious and Islamic goals that we set ourselves on top of our fardh acts of worship need to inspiring but focused enough in order for us to achieve them.
Take for example my friend Ali.
Ali wants to memorise some surah's in the Qur'an, he wants to learn new du'as, he wants to study Islamic history, he's looking to improve his tajweed, he wants to pray better .... however he feels as if he isn't making progress on anything. After a whole year of experimenting and trying to better himself in various ways he's still confused and no further forward in his Islamic goals. He was juggling various books, videos, classes and teachers to do this.
Then take for example my friend Sarah.
Sarah wants to learn all of the du'as that she needs to have a perfect day including morning du'as, when she gets to work, du'as after prayer and ones to recite at night. She wants to memorise them, learn what they mean and consistently say them during the times she needs them. She listened to videos, books, podcasts and read blogs on effective du'as. After 3 months, Sarah has achieved this and it has become a natural part of her daily worship.
Which is the better approach?
It's important to focus on one thing that will make a significant impact to your life but also focusing on something which you can fully direct your efforts towards.
Stage 1: When you are setting an Islamic goal pick something which you believe you can't do but secretly inside you know you've always wanted to do it for e.g. going to the mosque for Fajr!
Stage 2: When you select your goal(s) focus on the experience and joy it will bring to your life and not the achievement of the goal itself.
Stage 3: Make your goal your #1 focus and priority and master what you want to learn before you move on. Decide on what you will direct your efforts towards in the next 3 months of 6 months or the year and stick with it!
It is still hard nonetheless. Sometimes we feel as if we are never making progress whether we have many goals or just one. But always remember the famous hadith.
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.”
Source: Sunan Ibn Mājah 4240
Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Al-Albani