Every occasion you use for self-improvement is a good one, so if having a New Year’s resolution works for you and gives you the drive to be better than you were last year, perfect. Keep doing what you’re doing.
Forget your New Year's resolution: Ramadan is around the corner
Every occasion you use for self-improvement is a good one, so if having a New Year’s resolution works for you and gives you the drive to be better than you were last year, perfect. Keep doing what you’re doing. The problem with most people is that they start a new year with the motivation to change something but it barely carries over.
According to a YouGov poll, the most common New Year’s resolution in the UK in 2022 is to exercise more, followed by losing weight and then eating healthy. Frequent gym-goers notice a spike in people exercising in January, but by the end of the month or early February, this slows down and the gym goes back to its regular capacity.
The poll said only 31 percent of those who made resolutions last year kept all of them. This isn’t to say self-development is difficult, but they can’t be made on a whim because the collective says the new year is a time to change your life.
In Islam, we know it’s not timing that can change your life, it’s intention.
Imam Al-Fudayl ibn ‘Iyaad once says “what Allah wants from you is your intention and will”, meaning real change starts with an intention the way a New Year’s resolution can bring, but if the intention is not fuelled with willpower, it stays weak and won’t manifest as well.
If a New Year’s resolution doesn’t have willpower, it will be much less likely carry through. It's very unlikely that your resolution will give you the discipline to wake up at 6am to go to the gym in the rain. Character building and discipline will take you there and these two qualities will only develop if you go on a journey of overcoming mental and emotional obstacles that stop you from being the best version of yourself.
This is where Ramadan comes in. The companions of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) started preparing for Ramadan six months in advance. They did this by doing voluntary fasts, fine tuning their character, addressing their relationship with food, giving charity and improving the quality of their prayers.
Ideally, all Muslims should be preparing for Ramadan in some capacity and should strive for ihsan – excellence. For some, this looks like improving their spiritual practice, but for others who aren’t as connected to their faith, it could be as simple as cutting down on caffeine running up to the holy month.
Islam isn’t a renunciate religion. It is beautiful because we are told to find the middle path and live our lives alongside our spiritual practice, and that our daily life can be enriched by remembering Allah.
Our life goals don’t have to distract us from our faith, they can enrich our faith if we bring God into everything by using them as subjects for prayer and making them with the intention to become better people for the benefit of this life and the next. This is where discipline grows.
Rather than making a resolution because everyone else has one, take the pressure off and use the time building up to Ramadan to become a better person so you can build a more solid foundation to achieve your dreams and focus on your relationship with the Almighty at the same time.
If you want wealth, use this pre-Ramadan period to give to charity. If you want to get fit, use this time to build a training schedule so you can continue to train during Ramadan. If you want to eat healthy, use this time to learn about the root cause behind your eating habits and why you may feel so emotionally attached to certain types of food so you can let them go during Ramadan.
If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution, use this period running up to Ramadan to perfect your character and build discipline so you can keep going. Renew your intentions and use the tools our religion has given us to build the discipline to work hard and keep unshakable faith in your Lord to deliver your blessings.
There are many routes to self-improvement and they don’t all start on 1 January. Keep striving, and do it with God’s power and love on your side.
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