Goal Setting

Discovering Personal Development

Personal Development

Discovering Personal Development

This is the story about how I discovered Personal Development. It was around the beginning of 2011 that I found myself in a dilemma. I had a really wonderful new job as a TA at the Islamic Online University but was a bit overwhelmed by the workload and found myself dealing with people from cultures which were foreign to me, and thus making a lot of mistakes in my interaction with them. I was reflecting over the situation and trying to think up solutions.

Keep in mind that back then, I was just teaching four courses for IOU and some local Arabic classes for Deen Class, which is nothing compared to my current workload which includes teaching five courses for IOU (which much larger student numbers), being the Head TA at IOU, blogging, writing books, running this website, formulating strategies to attain my goals, lecturing weekly on Radio Al-Ansaar, writing for Al-Ummah Magazine and IOU Insights, and homeschooling my children, Alhamdulillah.

So what happened that helped me make this transition and fill my day with even more projects than I thought was possible? I discovered the joy and excitement of personal development.

It was in early 2011 that I decided, after ten years of almost only studying Islamic material, that it was time to focus on other fields of study. More specifically, to focus on developing habits and skills to help me become more efficient and a better person. This focus on continuously striving for excellence is actually a forgotten Sunnah called Ihsaan, but that is the subject of another post, inshaa Allah.

The first thing I did was read two self-help books which every young person should read, ‘How to win friends and influence people’ by Dale Carnegie and ‘The 7 habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey. In these two books alone, I had learned such life-changing ideas that I became addicted to personal development. So began what is now a life-long journey of personal growth, as every year I find myself discovering things which help me to accomplish more and more on a daily basis.

In the past five years, I have read books and studied courses in Leadership, Inspirational Leadership, Psychology, Management, Social Psychology, Counseling, Educational Theory, Public Speaking and many more fields and every step helps me in my quest to become a better person.

Let me give you just three examples of things I learned that changed my life forever:

1. Scheduling

This is something heavily emphasized as one of the 7 Habits in Stephen Covey’s book and it has become a crucial part of my lifestyle. I have designed a weekly and daily schedule breaking down the day in hourly chunks and scheduling everything from sleep time, to family time, to personal time.

As a result, I am able to utilize every hour of the day in a productive manner, because even getting adequate sleep is productive. It is truly amazing how much time is wasted on movies, video games, surfing the internet, etc if we don’t hold ourselves to a tight schedule. Scheduling is now a permanent part of my lifestyle and something I encourage everybody to do.

2. Delegating

This process was highly emphasized in many books that I read so I decided to give it a try. My website Abumuawiyah.com is a result of delegation. Every aspect from the recording of the MP3s, the editing of the MP3s, the logo design, the website design and the hosting of the website were all done by other than myself. By delegating these tasks to people who are good at them, I was able to focus on other projects while knowing these things are getting done, and professionally too.

Even now, I have many of my important projects delegated to people I trust, thus allowing me to accomplish even more in a day than I thought was possible. Learning to delegate has bought me a lot of time which to me is the most valuable commodity.

3. Speed-listening

I ha’ve already been speed-reading since I was a child, Alhamdulillah. However, in December 2012 at a leadership retreat, life coach Junaid Bayat taught us that if you listen to a lecture at speed 2X (you can do this using VLC Player), you still hear everything clearly, remember everything, and accomplished the task in half the time. I was really excited to learn this so I went straight back to my room to try it out.

The result: I never went back to listening to lectures at normal speed again, and am now able to listen to four hours of lectures in two hours and still benefit from every minute. This is a huge time saver, and has helped me to study twice as much in a day than I previously thought was possible!

The above three are just three examples of the many things I have learned over the past three years. I hope it is enough to get you interested in personal development too. Focusing on constantly improving yourself is a choice you can never regret.

To end, here is a list of some resources to help you get started on personal development. Please feel free to add your own as I am always looking for more resources:

1. Dale Carnegie Training

The books and courses offered by Dale Carnegie institutes are amazing resources for personal growth. I was initially introduced to this institute by my late friend Feroz Ganie. (May Allah reward him for all the good I gained through his suggestion) Although I never attended any of their courses yet, I have benefited greatly from the books published by them, especially ‘How to win friends and influence people’.

2. The books of Stephen Covey, especially ‘The 7 Habit of Highly Effective People’ which is guaranteed lifestyle changer.

3. The books of Mirza Yawar Baig, especially ‘An Entrepreneur’s Diary’, ‘The Business of Family Business’ and ’20.10.2010-55′ (strange name but amazing book).

4. Productive Muslim – This website is an amazing resource for Muslims who want to improve productivity.

5. Mind Tools – another amazing website with many great articles on personal development in multiple fields.

6. Coursera – This website contains hundreds of free courses in every field of study. I usually sign up for a course of interest to me, download all the lectures and listen to them at speed 2X. Thus far, from this website I have studied Inspiration Leadership, Psychology, Public Speaking, Educational Theory and many more interesting courses.

7. Islamic Self Help – Home to my  articles and books all dedicated to sharing my tools and techniques for personal development the Islamic way.

I hope this post convinces you to invest in yourself. Remember that money and time spent on improving ourselves is never wasted, and we always end up profiting multiple times over. Feel free to share your personal stories, tools and resources in the comment section so we too can benefit.

Shaykh Ismail Kamdar is the author of Having Fun the Halal Way, Getting The Barakah, and Best of Creation: an Islamic Guide to Self-Confidence.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Goal Setting, Time Management, 3 comments
10 Time Management Tips for Ramadan – Part 2

10 Time Management Tips for Ramadan – Part 2

Ramadan Time Management Tips – Part 2

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3

This is Part 2 of my series on Time Management Tips for Ramadan, click the above link if you haven’t read Part 1 yet.

4. Allocate time to each goal

Now that your goals for Ramadan are clearly defined and you know how much time you have daily for Ibaadah, the next step is to combine this by allocating specific times daily for chasing each goal. Eg: If you have the goal of reading 30 pages of Tafsir daily and that will take you an hour, and you know that you have an hour a day free every evening before Tarawih, then allocate that time to be your Tafsir time.

Likewise, allocate specific times of each day things for each important act of worship. This means that you will set a specific time of the day for reciting Qur’an (perhaps before or after Fajr), making dua (before Iftar), having a family Halaqa (perhaps after Asr or after Tarawih) and any other goals you are working towards. Be specific as possible and stick to your times.

There may be days when you are unable to stick to the times completely due to elements beyond your control, but at least by having such a schedule, even on such days, you will make time to get these things done. If you are having an unusually busy day, instead of abandoning these goals completely, try halving them. So instead of not reading Tafsir at all for a day, try reading for half an hour or at least twenty minutes. In this way, you stay on track, even on your busiest days.

5. Utilize the early hours of the morning

Depending on whether Ramadan falls in Summer and Winter in your country, this would refer to the time before or after Suhoor. In Summer countries, Suhoor is quite early and many people can’t wake up too early before it. In that case, I recommend utilizing an hour after Suhoor for Ibaadah.

In Winter countries, Suhoor is quite late so waking up an hour before it is easier. In such countries, I recommend waking up an hour earlier (or at least half an hour early) and dedicating that time to Qiyam Al-Layl (Tahajjud), dua and reciting Qur’an.

The reason I emphasize the early mornings is because it is a time known for having Barakah. It is a time when we are not preoccupied with work and family obligations. Making it the best time of the day to dedicate to intense ibaadah, a private time alone with Allah.

6. Schedule in a family Halaqa

If this is not already one of your established habits, I recommend starting it this year. Ramadan is the perfect time for the family to bond and grow in Imaan together. The devils are locked up and everybody is more spiritual. This spirituality needs to be nurtured so that we can benefit from it after Ramadan. One way to do this is to establish a family Halaqa (study circle).

This can be done by getting to together before Iftar or after Taraweh, reading a chapter of an Islamic book (or listening to a lecture) then discussing its contents with each other. Involve every member of the family in the discussion. This will train the younger minds of the family to think and reflect, helping them grow into practicing thinking Muslims. The habit of having a family Halaqa is one that should continue after Ramadan.

7. Dedicate time daily for Qur’an

Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an and so it is obvious that time must be dedicated daily to the Qur’an. In some communities, the practice exists of reciting the Qur’an very quickly each Ramadan to get it over with. Instead of doing this, focus on reciting properly, studying the Tafsir and reflecting on its meanings. This will have a longer lasting effect on one’s Imaan and Taqwa.

In Part 3 of this series, we will discuss some more time management tips for staying on schedule and getting things done this Ramadan. 

Shaykh Ismail Kamdar is the author of Getting The Barakah: An Islamic Guide to Time Management, available exclusively through this website. Learn more Time Management Tips by purchasing this ebook.

Buy Now

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3


Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Goal Setting, Time Management, 0 comments
10 Time Management Tips for Ramadan – Part 1

10 Time Management Tips for Ramadan – Part 1

Time Management Tips for Ramadan

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3

The countdown has begun and we have less than one and half months left until the greatest month of the year, Ramadan! I’m sure by now most of you are stock-piling the goodies for iftaar and downloading as many resources as possible for Ramadan preparation but the question remains “How can I manage my time well enough to get it all done?” That is what this series of articles is going to assist you with, inshaa Allah. Without any further intro, let’s jump right into our Time Management Tips for Ramadan:

1. Plan in Advance

Time Management is divided between planning and application. Without adequate planning, there isn’t anything much to apply and the result is another Ramadan that just flies by. Don’t allow this to be such a Ramadan. You have a few weeks to plan this properly, so let’s start working on our plans now.

To plan for Ramadan, we need to be clear regarding the goals (Maqasid) of Ramadan. As per the Qur’an, we know that fasting has been obligated on us to increase our Taqwa (God-consciousness) and that the Qur’an was revealed in Ramadan as a guidance for mankind. (See Surah Al-Baqarah, verses 183 and 185)

This means our overall objective of Ramadan should be an increase in Guidance and Taqwa. Every goal you formulate must work towards these two ends. With this end goal being clear, let’s move on to the next step.

2. Calculate how much Ibaadah time you will have daily

Ideally, we all want to spend Ramadan performing acts of worship 24/7, but this isn’t realistic and most of us have other obligations that we need to take care of as well. As the zeal dies down towards the middle of Ramadan, many people get caught up in their work, family responsibilities and rest, resulting in less Ibaadah (acts of worship) being done than initially desired.

This can be avoided by working out in advance how much time you will have daily for Ibaadah, then setting goals to get that much Ibaadah done minimum daily. The formula is simple: 24 Hours – (Sleep time, Work Time, Family Responsibility) = Ibaadah time.

For example, if you need six hours of sleep daily, work an eight-hour job every day and spent at least an hour helping the children with their homework, add in time for eating Suhoor and Iftaar, time spent in traffic and rest time after eating. The average person can free up between four to six hours a day for Ibaadah in Ramadan. (Makes me wonder why we can’t do the same outside Ramadan)

Let’s work with a smaller number though, as many people have other responsibilities like preparing meals and visiting relatives. Let’s bring it down to a minimum of three hours Ibaadah daily. If you work out that you just have three hours for extra Ibaadah every day in Ramadan, that is still enough time to accomplish some major goals. Multiply three by 29 and you get 87 hours of Ibaadah. 87 hours of optional Ibaadah in one month can transform your life and increase your Taqwa dramatically.

This means if you just schedule in an hour of Qur’an reciting, an hour of studying Islam and an hour for dua and Dhikr, you can really get a lot done if you stick with that for the entire month. This brings us to point number three.

3. Set Clear Goals

Now that you know the overall goals of Ramadan and how much time you have available daily to chase these goals, the next step is to set S.M.A.R.T goals to dedicate this time to. S.M.A.R.T means that the goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Let me give you an example.

If you make it a goal to study some Tafsir this Ramadan, the problem with this goal is that it is too vague (which Tafsir), not measurable (How many pages), and not attainable or realistic (does one page of Tafsir fulfill the goal or five books of Tafsir?)

A S.M.A.R.T goal would be: I want to complete studying this 800-page book of Tafsir this Ramadan. In order to complete 800 pages in 29 days, I need to read an average of 28 pages a day. This goal is:

Specific – It is a specific book of Tafsir you plan to read
Measurable – It is easy to measure and keep track of 28 pages daily
Attainable – It is possible to read 28 pages of Tafsir every day if you dedicate an hour to reading daily
Realistic – The book is at your level so it won’t be too difficult to read
Time-Bound – Ramadan takes care of this naturally as all Ramadan goals are time-bound to 29 days

Set a series of goals like this and you will have a clear concrete plan to follow for the entire month of Ramadan. As for which times of the day to dedicate to each goal, that will be discussed in Part 2 of our tips for Ramadan.

Shaykh Ismail Kamdar is the author of Getting The Barakah: An Islamic Guide to Time Management, available exclusively via Islamic Self Help.

Buy Now

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Goal Setting, Time Management, 2 comments

Defying Stereotypes – How to live outside expectations

Defying Stereotypes

By defying stereotypes, these are the kind of stereotypes I am referring to:

By studying Islam, you are subjecting yourself to a life of poverty!

If you get married too young, you will not be able to have fun!

You can’t study, work and take care of a family at the same time!

If you don’t dress the way society wants you to, nobody will take you seriously!

If you homeschool your children, they will become unsociable!

These are just some of the many stereotypical expectations which I have strived to prove wrong over the past few years. Humans have a strange habit of limiting what we are capable of doing by enforcing man-made stereotypes and expectations. In many ways, we create our own limits and live our lives imprisoned by them.

Alhamdulillah, I have been gifted with a rebellious nature, which means whenever people tell me you can’t do this or that, without giving a genuine reason, I get a strong itch to prove them wrong!

Allah has created us with the potential to accomplish so much and gifted us with a religion that allows us to do any worldly thing that isn’t explicitly prohibited or harmful. This creates a situation in which there are so many possibilities and very few limits to what we can accomplish in our lives.

Yet for some reason, we were not content with the laws of Allah and decided to invent our own limitations, making life unnecessarily difficult and robbing ourselves of our own potential.

These limitations are generally linked to race, country, gender, age, family or career paths. You are told you can’t do that because you are a female, too young, too old, from a specific race, or because your family doesn’t do it that way. A lifetime of indoctrination of such self-limiting beliefs leads to young people who lack belief in themselves and are chained to cultural expectations.

It doesn’t have to be this way though. Allah has given each of us a brain to think for ourselves and the abilities to accomplish amazing things. It is up to every individual to use these skills to evaluate what to believe and what is just man-made nonsense.

From this day forward, do not allow the expectations of people to stop you from accomplishing anything great. The next time someone tells you, “You can’t do this because xyz reason,” ask them why! Is it something prohibited by the Creator? If so, thank them for reminding you and stay away from it. If not, then they need to provide a clear logical reason, otherwise it is just a self-limiting belief invented by someone.

Whenever you feel chained to such self-doubting beliefs, remember the following points:

1. Allah created you and has given you great skills and opportunities
2. Allah has given us a religion that allows us to do anything Halal we desire
3. Islam encourages us to strive for excellence (Ihsaan) in every aspect of our lives
4. You are primarily responsible for fulfilling your obligations to Allah and being your best self, not living by the expectations of His creation.

Allah has created you with gifts, skills and abilities to accomplish amazing things. Listen carefully to constructive criticism but ignore the doubters who tell you you can’t do it, simply because they did not chase their own goals and dreams.

Break that stereotype, defy those expectations and let the world see that, with the help of Allah, we have the ability to accomplish far more than we thought possible.

Best Of Creation: An Islamic Guide to Self-Confidence is available for purchase and download here.

Defying Stereotypes

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Goal Setting, Self Confidence, 2 comments

Dawah and Long Term Goals


Over the past decade, I have seen many du’aat give up in their goals and vision because they were not seeing immediate results. This hasty attitude towards Dawah shows a lack of understanding of history and how the world works.

A critical analysis of the life of any great reviver of Islam will show us that their efforts to revive Islam took place over several decades, decades full of trials, patience, and constant growth and effort. It is very rare to find a reviver of Islam who accomplished much in a short period of time.

Some may claim that Umar Ibn Abdul Azeez revived Islam in two years, but they don’t take into consideration that it was the last two years of his life. And that it was after decades of studying Islam and serving in positions like Governor of Madinah or Vizier to King Sulaiman Ibn Abdul Malik. It took him a long time before he became Caliph and had the authority to revive Islam like that.

If you are serious about reviving Islam then you need to be ready for a life long commitment to the Dawah. This means you need to be ready to dedicate the next five decades at least to serving Allah’s Deen, whether you are witnessing results or not. This is the only way to cause real change in society, through constant life-long efforts with one’s trust in Allah. In fact, it is likely that the fruits of one’s efforts may only be witnessed in old age (like Ahmed Deedat), or may only really take place after one’s death (like Ibn Taymiyyah).

It doesn’t really matter when you accomplish such goals because your real goal is to do the Dawah for the sake of Allah and to earn His Pleasure in the Afterlife. We need to be real and focused on what matters most. Only then will we experience the true benefits of our Dawah in both worlds.

A reminder about the importance of Dawah in Surah Al-Asr

By Time
Indeed, mankind is at a loss
Except for those who believe, do righteous deeds, assist each other in the truth and assist each other in being patient and persistent.
(Surah Al-Asr 103:1-3)

Buy Now

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Goal Setting, 0 comments