بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.
لِّلَّهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۗ وَإِن تُبْدُوا مَا فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوْ تُخْفُوهُ يُحَاسِبْكُم بِهِ اللَّهُ ۖ فَيَغْفِرُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ وَيُعَذِّبُ مَن يَشَاءُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
Lillahi ma fee alssamawati wama fee alardi wain tubdoo ma fee anfusikum aw tukhfoohu yuhasibkum bihi Allahu fayaghfiru liman yashao wayuAAaththibu man yashao waAllahu AAala kulli shayin qadeerun
“To Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. Whether you show what is within yourselves or conceal it, Allah will bring you to account for it. Then He will forgive whom He wills and punish whom He wills, and Allah is over all things competent.”
(Surah Baqarah, Quran 2:284)
Allah is Al-Hakeem, the All Wise. Anything that happens in our life, it is something that is planned by Allah. We have to do our part and take our action, but at the end of the day, it is Allah’s will, which moves everything.
It was Umar who said,
حاسبوا أنفسكم قبل أن تحاسبو
“Take account of yourself before your account is taken.”
There was also a famous rapper who said, “check yourself before you wreck yourself”. Take yourself to account, hold yourself to account. That is what Umar told us. Because there will come a day when Allah will take your account. So you want to be ready for that moment. We’re approaching the end of this year and onto the new year, and I wanted to talk about that opportunity, which is that taking of self accounts. You might think to yourself, “well, this is not the Islamic calendar so it doesn’t matter”.
But the Prophet (pbuh) told us that the wisdom is the last item of the believer, that wherever the believer finds wisdom, an opportunity, a sign, and the believer takes that opportunity, the believer knows that Allah leaves this ayah for us. He leaves His signs for us in our lives. And so take any opportunity, whether that be daily, monthly, weekly, or yearly – take that opportunity for self reflection, whatever the case may be.
In our culture here in the US, part of that culture is taking that account at least once a year, at the end of the year, when it’s time to make a new year’s resolutions, right? Take that opportunity for Al-Muhasibah. That self accounting is so important. How can we do that? How can we go about thinking about what we did this past year? Where was I a year ago? And where am I today? How am I different today than I was a year ago? There was so many different events in COVID and so on. But even with all of that, how far have I come this year? What were the things I did well and what were my shortcomings? What were the mistakes that I made?
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It’s important to have that accountability. It’s important to self-reflect because that is a process of humility. What does the arrogant one say? What does Shaytan want us to say? “No, you didn’t make any mistake. You have no regrets. There’s nothing you did wrong.” That’s Shaytan’s speaking, that’s arrogance speaking, but for us to go through that process of reflection and think about how this year went, thoroughly and deeply, not hiding anything, but honestly – that is how we can begin to make changes. That is how we can begin to improve and to learn as part of our human nature. It is what differentiates us from, for example, the angels. The angels’ actions do not differ. Their actions are exactly the same. Each of them has a role and they fulfil that role to a T, exactly how Allah commands.
But human beings, we have a capacity for mistakes, but we also have the capacity to learn. That is in our nature, and our history – with the very first human being, Adam. Iblees also made a mistake, but Iblees did not repent for his mistake. He did not learn from his mistake. Rather he doubled down and he said, “No, I don’t care. I’m doing this. And I don’t care”.
But Adam and Hawa understood their mistake. They appreciated their forgiveness. And they sought forgiveness from Allah and Allah accepted their forgiveness, but they had the propensity to learn from their mistakes and as human beings that is within our nature. That is within our good nature that Allah has blessed us with. That moment in our history with Adam and Hawa was not a moment of a sin, as much as it was a moment of learning and forgiveness from Allah.
So from that time, until this time, and until the last day, we are meant to improve and to learn. We are meant to be better. So take that process, whether that is a daily process, like I said, or at the very least an annual process, at the very minimum, take that moment to reflect on ourself. For most people, what are their new year’s resolutions? Their new year’s resolutions are to save more money or to organize themselves or to get fit and exercise, meal plans, changing your nutrition, your diet and so on. But for us as Muslims, we should want to go beyond that.
Those are all good and fine. It’s good to save more money. It’s good to get fit. Of course, it’s good to exercise. But as Muslims, beyond that, what was our connection and our relationship with Allah? Yes, we had COVID. Yes, we had so many things but are we going to continue to use that as an excuse? Or are we going to accept our new reality and reconnect with Allah? Are we going to accept our circumstance that we’re in with everything that’s happening, accepting that reality, accepting that external thing which we cannot control? Most of it is out of our control, so we have to accept that reality and now say, “Now what do we need to do in order to connect to Allah? How was my last year when it came to my connection to Allah? And how will this year be?”
We have Ramadan coming up in three months. Are we prepared? Are we ready for Ramadan? The preparation of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) for Ramdan started six months in advance. They would say Ramadan is coming. Because they knew, to really make the most of that month, to make the most of that sacred time, they had to prepare in advance. So can we think about the last Ramadan, in 2021, and how this Ramadan will be different for us? How will we do a little more? Take that opportunity for self-reflection in this moment. It’s so important.
Once we’ve reflected on the past, and once we’ve reflected on everything that’s happened already, then it is the time to make some intentions. Not resolutions, but intentions.
Part of our deen is Allah rewarding us for making good intentions, and that is such a powerful thing. Many books have been written on the power of intention. Many studies have taken place on the power of good intention, but our own deen, our own religion has taught us this hundreds of years ago. The power of intention, the power of imagining something and having that intention to do something – Allah will reward you just for the thought, just for the idea.
The execution of that idea is worth 10 times or more, but even just the idea, just the thought, just the good intention is enough for you to be rewarded. So let your intentions be great and let your intentions be what others might call out of reach or impossible. Let your intentions be high achieving. Let your intentions be great for you will be rewarded for your intention.
You might resolve to:
- be better with your salah or to pray the salah more on time
- improve your connection to Allah
- do your duas in the morning and in the evening
- remember Allah when you wake up and before you go to bed
- read more Quran
- read more of the meaning of the Quran
- adapt your social circle to one that reminds you of Allah more
Whatever your resolution is, it is said only one out of 10 Americans actually achieve that resolution they make. The first thing that we learn from the Quran is that Allah does not change people until they change themselves. No one can force change upon you. You cannot force change upon anyone else.
People ask, “How can I change my husband’s behavior? How can I change my wife’s behavior? How can I change my child’s behavior?” The fact of the matter is that you mostly cannot change other people. Can you influence or convince them? Yes, you can. You can talk to them. Sure. But you cannot force someone. The change has to come from within. Some people, when they are in the process of getting married, they say, “This person isn’t where I want them to be, but they will change into that person”. No, that’s not good. Marry the person who they are today and they might change for good. You have no control over that process.
So when we want to change, it has to come from within ourselves. I used to travel from community to community and we would talk to communities who didn’t have a lot of activities or didn’t have a lot going on. They said maybe send us something and that someone will change things. They weren’t really taking the initiative, which Allah wants us to take. There was no committee to search for this kind of person. There was no action being taken on what bringing this kind of person would take. As Muslims, we know that that’s not enough to say that “maybe Allah will make a change somehow”, but rather we have to take those steps. That is why Allah says,
إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ
inna Allaha la yughayyiru ma biqawmin hatta yughayyiroo ma bianfusihim
“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.”
(Surah Ar-Ra’d, Quran 13:11)
That change must come from within. It can not come from someone else. When I mentioned the salah, and the parent looks at the child. Or when the Imam says respect your parents and the parent looks at the child, but that change has to come from within.
Another thing we learned from the life of the Prophet (pbuh) is that the change that happened in the time of the Prophet (pbuh) was a huge change. It was a magnificent change – that in 23 years, the Prophet (pbuh) went from being the only Muslim, the only believer and by the end of his life, there were tens of thousands of believers in that whole Arabian peninsula. That was such a huge deal. How did that change? People went from burying their daughters to changing all of their jahilah, pre-Islamic practices that were oppressive and tyrannical and coming under the justice system of Islam.
How did that happen? That happened because the Prophet (pbuh) took it step by step. A lot of times we have a big goal and that’s fine to have that big goal, but are we able to break it up into small pieces? We might be very good at doing this at work. We take this huge project and work ourselves backwards. What are the different steps that we need to get to that end result? So if I want to make my prayers on time, am I taking those steps? I want to increase my salah’s that I’m doing every single day. Am I adding one salah as I go and making it a habit as I go. Am I connecting it to an existing habit?
How can we reconnect with Allah? We might complain that, “My Imaan is not high enough for me to connect with Allah. My Imaan is simply not high enough for me to pray. And once my Imaan gets high enough, then I will praise the Lord”. But how will our Imaan get high enough if we are not in the act of worship, if we are not in the place where our Imaan will be lifted? if we are not in that place, which is our daily salah, how can we ever imagine to get to the next step?
So taking that first step and taking that action and taking it one step at a time becomes very important. That is why Prophet (pbuh) says, “The most beloved deeds to Allah are the deeds, which are consistent”. Even if they are few, even if they are little, every single day you can build on them.
Another thing which is important on making this path easier is that what we learn from the Prophet’s (pbuh) life. He was embarking on this task for huge societal change, actual societal change, in a period when people were illiterate. They could not read. The Prophet (pbuh) himself could not read or write. After Islam, they become a literate society. They become a society concerned with the ability to read because the first verse in the Quran is to read.
How did that change take place? One of the things that the Prophet (pbuh) did is he brought others into his mission. He brought others into his goals. He brought the Sahaba in to try to achieve that same goal. So when we have a goal, are we able to bring the people around us to be a part of that? So as a family, for example, Allah does not simply say pray, but what does he say?
“Establish the prayer.”
What does it mean to establish the prayer? What does it mean to establish something? When you establish a masjid is it something you have one day and you don’t have the next day? No. When you establish something it’s there. It’s consistent. It’s happening. So as a family, can we establish the prayer in our house? Can we make it something that’s part of our daily family life? And we should also forget the past. We should let go of the blame game. Instead start from today. As a family, let’s all come together and let’s embark on this mission of establishing something new in our lives and something that we do together. And finally, the thing which the Prophet (pbuh) had, which helped him to make this huge societal change is of course, conviction, is Imaan.
Even though the Muslims numbers were small and the Quraysh were great and the Muslim’s had very little reputation and very little allies, and the Quraysh who were warring with them had a great reputation in so many allies, the Prophet (pbuh) and those believers had conviction and they had belief in Allah. When we are resolving ourselves in making that good intention to bring change into our lives, we must lead it with our belief. We must lead it in the belief that Allah wants what’s best for us. You know what encourages me to be able to have that belief is a Hadith of Prophet (pbuh), when he says that Allah says, “I am what my servant thinks of me”.
Do we think of Allah as Al-Hadi, as a guide? Do we think of Allah as Al-Kabir, the Great, who can do anything? If yes, then He will be in our life. He will give us the capacity to do anything, to achieve anything. Do we believe that Allah is Ar-Raheem, the Most Merciful? If we truly believe that Allah is the most merciful, then He will have mercy on us. And He will forgive us for our past. He will forgive us for our mistakes and our shortcoming, but we must have that firm conviction. We must have that firm belief that He is Al-Hakeem, that he is the All Wise, that everything He does, He does this for a reason.
Then the Prophet (pbuh) continues, “And if my servant mentions me, then I mention him to myself.” So whenever we remember Allah – even though we are so small and the universe is so big, there’s so many planets and so much creation, and every creation is so complex and sophisticated – even though we are just one of many billions of human beings and many trillions of entities and animals and plants and all kinds of things on this earth – whenever we mention Allah, then Allah mentions us. And Allah then says, “When my servant mentions me, then I mention them in my assembly”.
“And if my servant draws near to me a hands length, then I draw near to them an arm’s length and if my servant comes to me walking, then I come to them running”.
That is what Allah tells us but He’s waiting for us to just take that first step. Like for Musa when he threw the staff into the sea. The people behind him thought, “What are you doing? Throwing a staff into the sea. What are you doing? Musa? What is that going to do?” But Musa had the belief that what Allah told him will happen, would happen. It didn’t just happen, he had to take some action. He had to take some action in order to provoke the miracle, even though it was a small act.
So there’s a miracle that’s waiting for us in our own lives.
All we have to do is to take that first step, may Allah help us to do that. May Allah help us to have good intentions, and multiply our good deeds. May Allah forgive our mistakes. Allah protect our families and guide us. May Allah cure the sick. May Allah honor, forgive and have mercy on those that have passed. Ameen.
In conclusion, as we embark on this new year and we make good intentions for this year and we involve our families into this new year, I would like to leave you with one conversation that I would like all the families and groups of friends to have.
Most of us immigrant families who aren’t used to that kind of thing – to be honest, communication is a big problem, right? Take that moment to talk about what are the things that each member of the family would like. Have that as a dinner conversation, where we’re all going to sit together. We’re not going to have one person at the couch and one person in the kitchen and one person in their room. We’re all going to sit together and let’s have a conversation about what our resolutions look like for next year and, for those that are parents, ask your children what the resolutions are that they’d like to work on, and what the things that are that they would like to see as a family. If not with your family, then with your close friends. Have that conversation with people close to you.
Make the intention together and grow together in 2022.
May Allah help us to do that. May Allah help us strengthen our families.
رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّآ إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ السَّمِیعُ العَلِیمُ وَتُبْ عَلَیْنَآ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِیمُ
رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِىْ الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِىْ الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَّقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
عِبَادَ اللّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
Servants of Allah. Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.
اُذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ الْعَظِيمَ يَذْكُرْكُمْ واشْكُرُوهُ يَزِدْكُمْ واسْتَغْفِرُوهُ يَغْفِرْ لكُمْ واتّقُوهُ يَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَمْرِكُمْ مَخْرَجًا
Remember Allah, the Great – He will remember you. Thank Him for His favors – He will increase you therein. Seek forgiveness from Him – He will forgive you. Be conscious of Him – He will provide you a way out of difficult matters.
And, establish the prayer.