As Muslims, Shawwal is usually our “fresh start” month for the year ahead. It’s a time when you feel spiritually cleansed of your sins and physically detoxed of your bad habits by the past month of Ramadan. It’s our time to instill our “new year’s resolutions” that’s all the hype for others each January.
Rewind to Shabaan, and that’s the month most people feel quite anxious by the approaching Ramadan. Usually, we’re not ready to face the month ahead because of having missed fasts to repay, or bad eating habits that are too ingrained from the past eleven months. Then too, our hectic lifestyles from the rest of the year may have kept us from keeping up with the spiritual goals we wanted to start, but “didn’t get around to do” like we had planned!
Alhumdullillah once Ramadan begins, the barakah of that month is so immense, that somehow all our anxiousness dissipate and we start to enjoy the blessings. Our fatigue from waking up for suhoor is minimal and the caffeine withdrawal we dreaded doesn’t last. Our salah seems more meaningful, and we begin to feel the cleansing nature of fasting on our body and mind. As the month progresses, our time has more barakah and everything we do seems more blessed and hassle-free.
Each year, I appreciate Ramadan so much more that I’ve come to look forward to this blessed month and literally cry when it’s over. Alhumdulillah this year was a spiritually productive Ramadan for me because I was able to control myself and unplug mentally from the world more than usual. I came to find that it was even possible to do so with kids around! I simply did things like, not check my phone a lot, chatter too much with friends, browse the internet for this or that, not watch TV etc. Instead, I spent a lot of my time reading on Islam, contemplating about my spiritual goals for the future, and having more heartfelt conversations, patience, and kindness with my family.
So, I wanted to share some of the goals I started to implement for myself for the rest of the year and beyond inshAllah. Don’t feel daunted by any of the suggestions I’ve mentioned, because it is a wishlist and it is always better to do less and be consistent than to do more and be inconsistent. The real challenge for anyone is in formulating your goals into habits and not become forgetful or lax. I hope my list gives you some ideas so you’ll feel inspired to set some goals for yourself (if you haven’t already). I assure you, when you set spiritual resolutions for yourself, it will make you feel productive and not stuck in the same ol’ routine ridden with guilt. For more tips, read a previous article I wrote one Ramadan about Post Ramadan Goal Ideas.
10 Spiritual Resolution Ideas
1. Ask forgiveness for your past
Look back to your past and think of all the nasty, mean, and hurtful things you did until now. Think of the big and small sins you’ve committed as well, and write them down. Make your tawba by asking Allah SWT for forgiveness for each and every one them. It may bring a sense of guilt and you’ll want to avoid the memory, but don’t! Face what you’ve done and start your journey towards repentance today before you meet your Lord.
The best repentance is to intend not to return to the sin and turn to Allah SWT, expressing your remorse with heartfelt words. Then it is advised to make the prayer of repentance. The Prophet SAW said,
“There is no one who commits a sin, goes and performs ritual ablutions, and then prays two rakats after which they seek Allah’s forgiveness except that He forgives them.”
After this, the Prophet SAW recited,
“And those who, when they do an evil thing or wrong themselves, remember Allah and implore forgiveness for their sins – Who forgives sins save Allah only? – and will not knowingly repeat (the wrong) they did.” [Qur’an, 3.135]
2. Calculate qada and make it up
To perform qada is to repay your missed obligations. This is usually the fard salah, Ramadan fasts, and annual zakat you’ve missed from the age of puberty until now. The way this can be done is by making a calculated guess and estimating your missed fards over the course of your life so far. I have explained this in more detail in my post, A Muslima’s Guide to Qada. You will also find a free Salah and Saum Qada log resource that I have included to help you get started.
3. Become more grateful
We tend to look mostly at what we don’t have, or how much we still want in life, and we constantly compare ourselves to others. This causes a feeling of ingratitude for our blessings. Feeling content with what you have and thanking Allah SWT for his bounty, is a trait that we all can work on performing a lot more. Expressing gratitude to Allah SWT is one of the best ways to attain closeness to Him SWT and was a regular trait of the Prophet SAW.
You can show gratitude (shukr) either with the heart by being submissive, tranquil and content, with the tongue by praising Allah SWT and acknowledging His favors, and with the limbs by performing acts of worship and showing obedience. The best way to show gratitude to Allah SWT is through our hearts, tongues, and limbs.
You can recite al-Hamdu lillah (all praise is for Allah) or al-Shukr lillah (all thanks is for Allah), or even better the Prophet SAW said,
“One of the slaves of Allah said: O Allah, for You is all praise as befits the Glory of Your Countenance and the Greatness of Your Might. The angels were then uncertain and did not know what (reward) to record for this praise. They ascended to the heaven and said: O our Lord, Your slave has said a praise that we do not know how to record. Allah replied – and He knows best what His slave said – “What did My slave say?” They said: O Lord, he said: O Allah, for You is all praise as befits the Glory of Your Countenance and the Greatness of Your Might. Allah then replied: Record it as My slave pronounced it, until he meets Me and I shall [personally] reward him for it.”
Of course, we can never thank Allah enough, and whenever we thank Allah, it is through His guidance and favour. Thus every praise and thanks requires us to thank and praise Allah again. So the more we thank him, the more reward.
4. Improve your modesty
You can pick something that you are aware is not modest about yourself and pledge to change it. So whether you start to wear longer tops or less tight pants, make a change for your Lord! A long time ago, I committed to stop shaking hands with the opposite gender no matter what the situation. This is hard for many in the workplace or who live in western countries. It’s difficult because the other party doesn’t usually understand the reasons and may feel insulted – which isn’t great for a first meeting! But if you do it with the proper etiquette and a warm smile, it isn’t so bad! More importantly, the feeling you get in your heart for pleasing your Creator trumps the awkwardness and embarrassment aspect any day. For an idea what to do, I follow what Shaykh Faraz Rabbani mentions,
“It is better to just do the right thing. One way is to inform them beforehand and to explain why. Then, when the time comes, just to make eye contact, smile, and place one’s hand on one’s chest. It helps when explaining it to mention that this is also the practice of others (like conservative Jews and persons of some other faith backgrounds, as a conservative Muslim I don’t shake hands with unrelated individuals of the opposite sex, as an expression of respect and modesty. Or something like that.)”
5. Call on Allah through His Names
A beautiful habit to formulate is to recite the 99 Names of Allah SWT daily, and to get your children to do the same. It takes less than five minutes. Since I have started to say His SWT’s Names, I feel closer to Allah as I understand who He SWT is. Also, when I call upon Allah to help me, I will use a specific Name of Allah for the kind of protection I need. So, for example if you’re making dua to Allah for relief from someone who is wronging you, call upon Allah using one of his Names like “Al-‘Adl” the Utterly Just.
6. Make dhikr part of your day
Some people think dhikr is hectic, when it’s really not. If you aim to say “Alhumdulillah” 33 times, Subhanallah 33 times and Allahu Akbar 34 times after your fard salah it takes less than 2 mins! You can start by saying it after one salah at first and add it to your other salah slowly one at a time. Keep a tasbih in your handbag or you can wear it as a bracelet so you have one on hand when you are waiting in the car or at an appointment, or just use your fingers! I also try to say “astaghfirullah” in increments of 33 times when I have a moment because we sin all the time and should be constantly asking Allah for forgiveness. The Prophet SAW said;
“I swear by Allah that I seek Allah’s Pardon and turn to Him in repentance more than seventy times a day.” (Al-Bukhari).
7. Make special dua for your children
Our biggest concern as parents is for our children to grow up righteous and honorable. The dua of a parent is strong and so we should take advantage of this opportunity to pray for our children. Many times, I think we just don’t remember or know what to say. To make it easier, I found this beautiful resource and now I try to say this dua each day for my children. You do not need to say it all because it is rather long instead, you can say the parts that you want and also add what you want to it. I found this dua quite comprehensive so I like to say it all when I can. However, on busy days you can pick to say the most important parts.Read the dua here The Powerful Dua of a Parent.
8. Fit in tahajjud
Don’t forget about the amazing benefits of tahajjud salah. You can even pray this salah before Fajr salah or after isha salah, though it is best to pray it in the deeper part of the night. However, if it is a hardship it is better not to miss it. The Messenger of Allah SAW said,
“The best prayer after the obligatory prayers is the night prayer.” [Muslim]
“Hold fast to night prayer, for it was the way of the righteous before you, a way of drawing closer to your Lord, an expiation for wrong deeds, and a shield from sin.” [Tirmidhi] In some narrations, there is an addition, “And it repels sickness from the body.”
Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him) said, “The virtues of night prayer over day prayer is like the virtue of secret charity over open charity.” [Tabarani]
The tahajjud prayer is life-changing, so if you are going through any hardship, try this prayer and feel the difference. It’s extremely powerful and grants peace in one’s heart.
9. Try praying salat-al haja
The prayer of need (salat-al haja) is to raise your need to Allah SWT through prayer and heartfelt dua. The Prophet SAW said;
“Whoever has a need with Allah, or with any human being, then let them perform ritual ablutions well and then pray two rakats. After that, let them praise Allah and send blessings on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). After this, let them say, There there no god but Allah the Clement and Wise. There is no god but Allah the High and Mighty. Glory be to Allah, Lord of the Tremendous Throne. All praise is to Allah, Lord of the worlds. I ask you (O Allah) everything that leads to your mercy, and your tremendous forgiveness, enrichment in all good, and freedom from all sin. Do not leave a sin of mine (O Allah), except that you forgive it, nor any concern except that you create for it an opening, nor any need in which there is your good pleasure except that you fulfill it, O Most Merciful!” (Related by Tirmidhi and Ibn Maja)
When you make this prayer and your supplication is heartfelt, it will expose your neediness and absolute slavehood to Allah SWT. You are consigning your matters to Allah and believing that the only one who gives or benefits is Allah SWT. After you pray and supplicate, you should be certain that Allah SWT will answer your duas, but in the way He knows is best for you. Salat-al haja is another amazing prayer to instill in your life.
10. Be aware of backbiting
Sometimes you may not be aware that you are backbiting. It takes concerted effort not to say something about someone, especially if you mix with people a lot or follow your friends and family on social media. The Prophet SAW said,
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should say the good or remain silent.” [Bukhari]
The general rule is that you can talk about others as long as the conversation is generic and not revealing their sin, making a complaint or mockery of them, or mentioning anything concerning a person that he would dislike. So if you feel yourself slipping or slip up by backbiting someone, seek Allah’s Forgiveness immediately, remember that we all have faults and things are not always what it seems. Make this change with the intention of seeking Allah’s SWT Good Pleasure.
Set some resolutions today and don’t make excuses why you can’t do it. Start with even one and turn it into a habit. Add another as you can manage. I speak from experience when I say it will bring you success and increase your wisdom. For more ideas, read my next post, 10 More Spiritual Resolutions for a Muslima.