News & Islam From the Imam’s desk... Boost yourself spiritually for 2021 By Khidr Mohammad With 2021 starting off with another lockdown, it is the perfect time to work on our Iman (faith) and spiritual connection with Allah. 2020 was a tough challenge for many of us and things still seem uncertain for 2021. We’ve all had to adjust to new ways of working, living and interacting. No doubt many of us are feeling a little burnt out having gone through two previous lockdowns. We’ve all had to made huge adjustments to our daily life – from staying indoors and not meeting friends to working / studying at home or even being cooped in with the kids 24/7. So with all that’s going on, remembering Allah often and having Taqwa can become quite challenging. So, here are some pointers to help you get focused again. Making the intention (niyah) to improve yourself The Prophet ﷺ said, “Actions are by intentions.” We should always begin everything we do with the right intention. This way, Allah will bless our actions and insha’Allah we will receive more reward for everything we do. Make the intention to improve yourself for His sake alone, for His pleasure and for His acceptance – not so that others may call you religious or anything worldly Make a plan As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Sometimes we do the odd thing here and there, but don’t see any results – it’s because we don’t outline our goals, coordinate our actions, nor do we think about how we’re going to get there. We plan for everything else in life, so why not our Akhirah? Spell out your SMART goals! SMART goals are a way to help you achieve your objectives. Let’s use the example of someone wanting to read more Qur’an. Specific Ensure you outline exactly what you aim to achieve, don’t be vague! Vague: Read more Qur’an Specific: I want read Qur’an regularly in Arabic and English to become closer to Allah and improve my understanding of Islam. Notice how by making it specific, there is no room for misinterpretation. Measureable Whatever objective you set should be measureable so that you can track your progress, e.g. ‘Read Qur’an’ is too vague and difficult to track how much you should read – a better objective would be: ‘Read one page of Qur’an per day.’ This is something you could track on a chart! Achievable You know your day better than anyone else – you know how busy you are and how much free time you have. Don’t overburden yourself otherwise you won’t be motivated to complete your objective, e.g. reading one juz of the Qur’an a day might be unrealistic for many people. So set something that is doable – it should be easy enough to be able to complete daily, but not too easy that you were practically doing it anyway – make it a little challenging. Once you’re in the habit of doing it for a few weeks, if you want you can up the amount slowly. Relevant Make sure whatever tasks you set actually help you reach your goal. Don’t add a task in your plan that is irrelevant to your overall objective.Irrelevant: Read two raka’h (units) of prayer before starting Qur’an Relevant: Read Qur’an with translation Time-bound By setting yourself a fixed time to achieve your objective, you’ll be able to access how close you are to completing your goal. It will help keep you motivated to track your progress and keep going, as well as assessing your own progress in relation to your timeline. Action! “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Without action, we will never get anywhere – so take that leap of faith, start with Bismillah, and begin your plan. Don’t let Shaytan dissuade you and demoralise you. You may miss days, you may even find it hard, but continue for the sake of Allah’s pleasure, and you’ll find that He will make the path easier for you. If it becomes too hard to keep to your plan, then hit the drawing boards and re-evaluate, make it easier, reconsider your objectives, and then make minor adjustments and modify until it is more practical. Stick to it The key to progress is consistency. Shaytan will do everything he can to dissuade you, dishearten you and make you think that you’re not worthy of good. But Allah says differently: “Whoever comes with a good deed will have the reward of ten like it and even more. Whoever comes with an evil deed will be recompensed for one evil deed like it or he will be forgiven. Whoever draws close to Me by the length of a hand, I will draw close to him by the length of an arm. Whoever draws close to Me the by length of an arm, I will draw close to him by the length of a fathom. Whoever comes to Me walking, I will come to him running. Whoever meets Me with enough sins to fill the earth, not associating any idols with me, I will meet him with as much forgiveness.” [Muslim] We should all strive towards excellence for the sake of Allah; even if we do not reach perfection, Allah will see our effort, and as long as we live, we should strive to please Him. The effort is ours, and the outcome is with Allah. The options don’t have to relate to Qur’an reading – you could aim to fast more, give more in charity, or even smile more often; the possibilities are endless! May Allah bless our time in lockdown and enable us to truly realise its benefits. Khidr Mohammad is the media and communications manager at the East London Mosque, as well as a writer and blogger.