By Shaykh Muzzammil Ahmad | 02 FEB 2024

With Ramadan just over a month away, I took the opportunity during this week’s Khutbah (sermon) to share some reflections on the importance of setting goals and building good habits.

The weeks leading up to the blessed month presents a precious opportunity to set meaningful goals, reorient our hearts and minds towards Allah, establish habits that will enrich our worship and help us connect with the Most High.

As Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him) taught us:

Actions are but by their endings.

It’s not enough to simply set lofty goals and make new resolutions, as is often the case during the new year. The key to elevating ourselves as human beings rests on having the right mindset, setting a plan to achieve the goals we set for ourselves and taking accountability for our actions.

In my Khutbah, I discussed research showing that most people fail on their new year’s resolutions within weeks. By the end of January over 80% have failed, and less than 10% manage to uphold their commitments. This is why we must turn to the Prophet’s ﷺ example. The life of the Messenger ﷺ embodied focus and meaningfulness in the worship of Allah and not fleeting whims and fancies.

Making real change requires planting seeds. If we are to get the best out of Ramadan, then we must begin our mental and spiritual preparation during this month of Rajab. The resolutions we commit to must be nourished through the month of Sha‘ban with regular actions, by building good habits and practices so that Ramadan can bear the fruits of our efforts.

We must not view our growth – spiritual, mental or physical – as a short sprint. Such an approach is doomed to fail, just as 80% of those who make new year’s resolution fail within weeks of their pledge. Lasting change happens through a patient marathon focused on quality over quantity.

As the Prophet ﷺ taught us:

The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer.

This means that we must continually push ourselves in building spiritual, physical and mental strength.

During my Khutbah, I listed tools that are essential for achieving the goals we set for ourselves.

The company we keep profoundly influences our chance of success. When seeking positive change, whether strengthening our faith or improving our health, the supportive presence of friends who uplift us can make all the difference.

Imagine aiming to lose weight while surrounded by friends that do not share the same goal as you nor value the goal you have set for yourself. Imagine the difference in your chance of success if you surround yourself with friends who have set the same goal as you and encourage you to remain motivated in pursuit of that goal.

We must consciously choose environments that support us in achieving our resolutions and encourage positive behaviours. We become like those we associate with. Choosing friends and associating with people that encourage you to stay on the course is your best guarantee for success.

The famous story of the man from Bani Israel who killed 99 people and sought forgiveness and redemption underscores the importance of changing one's environment for sincere repentance. Only by changing his environment was the man able to find redemption. If we wish to succeed in our resolutions, we must assess the influence of our surroundings and make necessary changes.

Another key to success is accountability. The Prophet ﷺ emphasised the importance of holding oneself accountable before Allah holds us to account:

Hold yourselves accountable before you are held accountable. Weigh yourselves before you are weighed. It will be easier for you tomorrow in the Reckoning.

The probability of success in whatever goals we set for ourselves increases when we have a partner who shares similar goals and when both individuals mutually hold each other to account.

In our modern society, we must revive the spirit of collective accountability.

“Help your brother whether he is an oppressor or is oppressed,” said the Messenger ﷺ. A companion asked: “O Messenger of Allah, I can help the one who is oppressed, but how can I help an oppressor?” The Prophet ﷺ said: “Stop him from oppressing others, and that will be your help to him.”

This Hadith shows how in Islam, believers have a collective duty to hold each other to account and promote good and forbid evil in society.

To sum up, I reminded the congregation to work towards self-improvement, setting realistic resolutions that align with our purpose of worshipping Allah. Evaluate your environment, surround yourself with positive influences, and encourage accountability to ensure collective growth and success in achieving your resolutions.

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