Believe It, (pun intended 😊 ) or not, setting goals is the easiest part of achieving them. Anyone, anywhere can set a goal right here and right now. However, the hardest part of the goal is actually being disciplined in the small step by step progress that it takes to achieve the goal. We know in Islam that intention is everything in the way we practice our deen and carries a heavy weight in the ahkira (the afterlife). For example: Perhaps you made a large donation for a Muslim organization or charity. Ask yourself- genuinely- what was your intention for giving in charity? Was it for the benefit of fame and recognition in the dunya (worldly life)? Or was it genuinely for the kindness of helping others- with the hopes that it will count on the scales of deeds? If your intention is for the dunya, you’ll receive the reward for the dunya. If your intention is for the ahkira, you will find it in the ahkira- inshaAllah. Of course, Allah knows best and is the ultimate Decider.
The purpose of this article is to cultivate an awareness of creating genuine intentions- Allah focused- that need to be part of your goal setting.
Intention is classically defined by the dictionary as clearer formulation or greater deliberation. Islamically, intention- also known as Niyyah- is the Islamic concept where the intention in one’s heart is to do an act for the sake of Allah.
1. Evaluate Your Spiritual Heart Health
“And there is no blame upon you for that in which you have erred, but [only for] what your hearts intended” (Quran 33:5).
Before approaching your goal, do a spiritual wellness check of your heart. Just as you would have a physical examination of your heart’s performance and all of the functions pertaining to a healthy heart-(cardio fitness, stress test, nutritional evaluation, cholesterol levels etc)- it is very important to evaluate the spiritual wellness of your heart. Below are a few True and False questions you can ask yourself to guage how you feel. It may be beneficial to have a pen and paper with you so you can document how you answer/feel about each one.
I feel very close to Allah
I seek my relationship with Allah daily
I am very satisfied with the amount of Quran I ready daily
I never miss a prayer
I always pray Tahajjud
I fast Monday and Thursday
I willingly give in charity and in secret
I feel grounded in my faith
I do salwat frequently
I say tasbih daily
I know the sunnah of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)
I try my best to implement the teachings in my daily life
These are just a few questions that you can ask yourself in assessing your spiritual heart wellness. If you answered false for any of the questions- evaluate the why and the how. Why isn’t this a true statement for you? How can you strive to make it become a true statement for you? How can you improve your relationship with Allah and how can you nourish your soul? This could be as easy as listening to Islamic lectures on the way to work or more hands on by reading 5 pages of Qur’an per day. Stay tuned for my later article on Building Spiritual Habits with Qur’an.
2. Know Your Why
When setting a goal, it is incredibly important to understand your “why” of doing it. Why do you want to achieve this goal? Understanding why allows you to attach a tangible value to an intangible thought.
Goal: “I want to learn Arabic.”
This is a basic goal that doesn’t have any dates attached to it for accountability, nor is it personalized- so the person feels detached. A goal doesn’t feel attainable because it hasn’t been sincerely thought of and is as plain as the statement is “the sky is blue”. It has no relevance or meaning to you. You need to attach a “why” to your goal which in turn will clarify your intention.
Why: “I want to learn Arabic in one year so I can read Qur’an and speak to my mother in law.”
The “why” of your goal makes it personal. Therefore, your chances of success increase- and it also becomes part of your intention. By setting a timeframe, you hold yourself accountable. We will discuss how to set realistic expectations in later articles, but for now, try to set a date to achieve your goal.
3. Take It to Salat
You have your goal, you understand your spiritual heart health, and you know your why. Now it is time to take your goal to your prayer rug. Islam is a very active word- it is a physical word. It is the complete submission to Allah. The pillars of Islam are outlined and each one requires a physical action. Allah wants you to ask Him for your biggest dreams. Allah wants you to seek Him to grant you all the success. But- you have to ask for it. Every time you make salat- make dua for your goal to be achieved. And then, ask for more. In society- to ask for more is frowned upon- but Allah wants you to ask for more. For Allah merely says, “Be” and it is. All things are possible with Allah- if you truly Believe It to be.
4. Progress is Progress
We get so hung up on the end goal that we tend to ignore and overlook the daily progress, no matter how little it may be, that we take in the bigger picture of achieving our goal. The age-old phrase, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, is so popular because it is indeed accurate. Progress is staying consistent, disciplined, and continually seeking Allah in all aspects of ibadah to attain our goals. Ramadan can’t be done all in one day. There is a reason it is 30 days of fasting and each day deserving of its own intention for the day of fasting. Everything takes time- and the journey is half the fun of it. Be easy on yourself, (not too easy!), but recognize what progress looks like for you.