5 Steps for maintaining spiritual momentum post-Ramadan

The Ramadan Zeal

Ramadan is no doubt a special time of the year. With the devils locked up and the gates of Paradise wide open, people are motivated to go the extra mile in doing good deeds and being our best selves. This high spiritual momentum is temporary and for many people, it is gone the day Ramadan ends.

Now, to expect to maintain the same level of spirituality outside of Ramadan is not realistic. Ramadan is a special environment and outside of it, we can’t be the same. However, this does not mean we should not try.

The key to maintaining spiritual momentum post-Ramadan is to set realistic ideas of what you can do and to focus on those few things. Here are a few steps to help you figure out what to focus on.

5 Steps for maintaining spiritual momentum post-Ramadan

To keep this as simple and as practical as possible, I will focus only on five steps. These are the five simplest steps to keep our Imaan strong after Ramadan, and also the most important.

1. Continue reciting Quran

The first step to maintaining momentum is to continue growing in your relationship with the Quran. If you were readispiritual momentumng a Juz a day in Ramadan, continue reading at least 2 pages a day.

If you were listening to a one hour Tafseer a day during Ramadan, continue listening to 15 minute Tafseers after Ramadan.

Whatever you were doing, keep it going even if it is less. The key is to stay connected to the Quran. It doesn’t matter how little you are doing, what matters is that you are doing something on a daily basis, so you grow in your closeness to and understanding of the Quran with each day.

“The best of you are those who learn the Quran and teach it.” (Sahih Bukhari 4739)

2. Fast the six days of Shawwal

This is a tough one for many of us, but the rewards are great. Fasting is Ramadan is easier as everybody is doing it. Fasting so soon after Ramadan requires great will power and determination.

The reward of fasting the month of Ramadan plus the six days of Shawwal is equal to fasting an entire year. That alone is motivation. Add in the spiritual benefits of fasting and this will definitely help you stay on track after Ramadan.

“Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of fasting in the month of Shawwal, it will be as if he had fasted the year through.” (Sahih Muslim 1163)

3. Be realistic is your self-expectations

Sometimes we expect too much from ourselves. We expect to be sinless and perfect from this Ramadan onward until the day we die. And when it doesn’t happen, we lose hope and fall back into our own lifestyles. The way to Paradise is not through being perfect. It is through sustained daily growth.

Be realistic and set high goals for yourself. But don’t be too hard on yourself when you don’t always attain those goals. You are human. You will err, you will make mistakes, and you will grow from each experience. Focus on being on your best, not on being perfect. At the end, if you sincerely try your best, Allah will forgive the rest.

Aisha reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Be deliberate in worship, draw near to Allah, and give glad tidings. Verily, none of you will enter Paradise because of his deeds alone.” They said, “Not even you, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet said, “Not even me, unless Allah grants me mercy from himself. Know that the most beloved deed to Allah is that which is done regularly even if it is small.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari 6099, Sahih Muslim 2818)

4. Repent Often

We all make mistakes. We all fall into sins. We all have our faults. The difference between a righteous person and an open-sinner is not the lack of sin. It is the concealment of sins and consistent repentance. After Ramadan, you may fall back into some sin or another that you had before Ramadan.

When this happens, do not lose hope. When this happens, do not give up. When this happens, do not let Shaytaan win. Get back up and try again. Repent, and never lose hope. Because you worship Al-Ghafoor (The Most Forgiving), Ar-Raheem (the Most Merciful).

“I swear by Him in whose hand is my soul, if you were a people who did not commit sin, Allah would take you away and replace you with a people who would sin and then seek Allah’s forgiveness so He could forgive them.” (Sahih Muslim 2687)

5. Prioritize the five daily Salah

I left this for last as it is the single most important piece of advice in this article. No matter what happens. No matter how spiritually low you feel. No matter how much you want to give up. Never, ever, abandon your five daily Salah!

These Salah are your connection to Allah. Your means of forgiveness. Your ticket to Paradise. Your daily conversation with your Creator. Your hope during tough days. Your peace during sad days. Your reminder during good days. And your evidence that you believe in Allah. If nothing else, at the very least remain firm in praying five time a day once Ramadan has passed.

“The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.”(Al-Tabarani)

These five tips will hopefully help you maintain your momentum throughout the year. May Allah forgive our faults and accept our deeds.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity
What is a S.M.A.R.T. goal?

What is a S.M.A.R.T. goal?

S.M.A.R.T. Goal Setting

Most Self-Help books offer the S.M.A.R.T. Goal setting formula, because it is simple and effective. It covers the five main criterion to consider when setting a goal. The acronym S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

Let’s take a look at each of these criterion in details:

Specific – This means that your goal shouldn’t be something vague. You should know exactly what you want to work towards. “I want to be an author” is a vague goal, but “I want to write a book about self-confidence from an Islamic perspective” is a very specific goal. The second is much easier to work towards, the key here is to be as detailed as possible.

Measurable – This means that your goal should be something you can keep track off to measure how close you are to completing your goal. Goals are generally long term projects and without any form of measurement, it is difficult to know whether you are closer to accomplishing it or not.

An example of a measurable goal is setting a goal to write 100 pages a month by writing three and half pages a day. This way you know daily whether you are making progress towards that goal or not.

Attainable – This means your goal should be something you can work towards and attain. If your goal is to build a multi-million dollar Islamic Centre and you don’t have the resources to do so, then this is not an attainable goal and should either be left for later in life or tweaked to become more attainable.

Realistic – This means your goal must be something you have the ability to do and something you are willing to do. If you hate writing, then making it a goal to write a 500 page book is not realistic, even though it is attainable. Being realistic means knowing what you are good at, what you are willing to sacrifice for, and making your goals in line with that.

Timely – Finally, a goal must have a time limit. As long as you leave something without any time limit, you will not feel the urgency to work on it. Saying that “Someday I want to write a 300 page book” is not going to help you write it. Setting a goal to write the book within three months by writing four pages a day is a timely goal, and creates the sense of urgency needed to get things done.

These five qualities help us make our goals achievable by creating the kind of description, pattern and system necessary to make sure we get it done. When setting your goals, weigh each goal in light of all five criterion to fine-tune it until you have a concrete plan to work with.

The benefits of setting goals in this manner are many. By setting specific goals, you know exactly what you want to accomplish without any ambiguity. By setting measurable goals, you are able to keep track of your progress and how close you are to attaining your goal.

By setting attainable goals, you are focusing on is possible right now and working on those goals first. By setting realistic goals, you are focusing on your strengths and gifts, leading to an increased chance of meeting that goal. Finally, by setting a deadline or time limit, you are forcing yourself to make time for that goal and complete it within the given amount of time.

So this is what a S.M.A.R.T. goal is. Go ahead and try redefining your current goals using these criterion, and let me know if it made a difference.


Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Goal Setting, Time Management
5 Ways To Overcome Failure

5 Ways To Overcome Failure

Ways to overcome failure:

There are many ways to overcome failure. Failing to meet a goal is a natural part of progress. As the old proverb states: “If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying anything new”. When it comes to our goals, we often are held back by one of two extremes:

1. We are afraid to fail, so we don’t even try
2. We are so sure we won’t fail, that we get disillusioned and give up as soon as we face our first taste of failure

Being afraid to fail is something I tackled in details in my book Best Of Creation: An Islamic Guide To Self-Confidence. In this post, I want to tackle the second issue, dealing with failure itself when it hits us. So here are my five steps for overcoming failure:

1. Expect it to happen

It is naive to think that we can accomplish all of our goals in life without facing any tests and setbacks along the way. Tests and setbacks are a natural part of life, so we should expect them, plan for them, and deal with them wisely. Whether it comes to our spiritual goals or worldly goals, we will be tested, and it is these moments of test that show who we really are inside.

One of the ways to overcome failure is to expect things to go wrong. If they do, deal with them as planned. If they don’t, be grateful to Allah and take it as gift from Allah. This makes it a Win/Win situation for you.

2. Accept Your Qadar

Qadar (Destiny) is a very misunderstood concept, regarding which people swing between a fatalistic viewpoint and its opposite. Islam teaches us the middle way, but this is not the place for a detailed discussion on Qadar.

Related to our topic, if you made your plans, made your best effort and stilled failed to attain your goal, then do not despair or feel angry. There are things which are beyond our control and we must accept that what Allah decrees for us is best for us.

If your goal is noble, keep pursuing it knowing that when the time is right, Allah will open the door to help you achieve it. Accepting Qadar and knowing that Allah knows what is best for us gives us a sense of peace and contentment when we do not get what we want in this world.

3. Have a Plan B, C, D, E….

One of the ways to overcome failure is to have backup plans. The chances of accomplishing your goal at the very first instance is highly unlikely. So as brilliant as your current plan may be, you need to plan for when things don’t go your way. Think about anything that could possibly go wrong and how you can deal with it. Make a backup plan, and a backup plan for that backup plan, so that no matter what goes wrong, you continue towards your goal through alternative routes.

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions set off from Madinah to perform Umrah in Makkah, they were prevented from entering Makkah. This led to Plan B, signing a peace treaty with the leaders of Makkah, allowing them to perform the Umrah the next year. It meant fulfilling their goal of making Umrah one year later, but they accomplished their goal nonetheless, and so much more too. They did not turn back and give up, they found another way to accomplish the goal later.

4. The Sabr Factor – Keep moving forward

Reflect on the Battle of Uhud. The Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions faced a huge setback at Uhud and lost many good men. They did not despair or give up, the next day they were back on the march despite being injured. They pushed on towards their goal even when things weren’t going their way, and that is one of the factors that opened the doors of victory for them.

This is the Sabr factor. Sabr is not a passive act of sitting back and doing nothing, expecting help to arrive in a miraculous fashion. Sabr is the active attribute of persevering, patiently planning, resisting the temptation to give up and moving forward in spite of the odds. If we want to accomplish anything, we need Sabr as there is no shortcut to true success in this world or the next. Every goal worth accomplishing requires bucketloads of Sabr, so make sure you stock up!

5. Be Flexible

While pursuing your goals, keep an eye out for better goals, nobler pursuits, greater callings or alternative routes to attain your goals. It may be that the goal you set for yourself at age 20 is not something you want to stick to for life. If while chasing that goal, you are introduced to something even better for you, then consider shifting focus. It may be that the earlier goal was temporary to lead you towards this better goal.

In the early years of Islam, many companions moved to Abyssinia, and settled there. Many years later, many of them migrated to Madinah as it had become a better environment to practice and serve Islam in. Likewise, it may be your goal to move to a certain land or practice a certain profession now, yet later in life better opportunities may open up for you. Consider shifting focus as life is constantly changing, so do not stay too focused on the past, look for what is best for your family and yourself in the Afterlife primarily, and in this world as well.

These are five ways to overcome failure that keep me moving forward whenever I fail to meet a goal. I hope in inspires you to do the same. 🙂

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Self Confidence, Stress Management, Time Management

Exclusive Preview: Getting The Barakah An Islamic Guide To Time Management

The following is an extract from my book
Getting The Barakah An Islamic Guide to Time Management, now available for download!

Getting The Barakah An Islamic Guide To Time Management

Common Distractions and their dangers

The Email Trap

Schedule specific times of the day for checking emails and social media and for receiving and making phone calls.

Many of us make the mistake of checking our phones, PDAs or PCs at every notification. We want to read every email as soon as we receive it and this is multiplied if you have multiple inboxes and accounts.

There are two major problems that come from this. The first is that it can literally take up your entire day. Every time you are settling into a task, you receive a notification and feel the need to check it out and often reply to it. If you add up the amount of minutes you spend doing this daily, it is literally hours.

The solution is to regulate your communication work into batches. By setting specific times of the day to check each inbox, you will save time in multiple ways:

  1. You will be looking at all of the emails at one time so it does not interrupt other work, and that helps increase the quality of the other work.
  2. You can answer each email faster as it is the task you are focused on in the moment
  3. If multiple emails require similar responses, you can utilize the copy/paste function to save even more time.

It is equally important to decide what time of the days you check your email. A common mistake we make is to check our email at the start of the day. The problem with this is that it dulls the mind as answering email can be a very boring part of your job, and doing so makes it difficult to revive your mental faculties for more creative work later.

Furthermore, if any email contains information that is going to stress you out or affect your mood, it is now going to affect your entire day.

A recent study shows that many of the most efficient people in the world only check their emails around midday. This allows them to get all of their most creative and important work done in the early mornings while their minds are still fresh, and all their emails get answered anyway but without affecting the rest of the workload.

So there are essential two ways to optimize email work:

  1. Work in batches
  2. Answer emails late in the day

The Phone Trap

In addition to emails, today are SMSs, phone calls, voicemail, regular mail, social media notifications, etc. You need to resist the urge to take a call or check your phone at every notification. Instead, close all social media sites and switch your phone to silent while working on important projects. Then check your phone and social media for five minutes every hour.

You will notice that the world did not come to an end in those 55 minutes that you were offline. Instead, you able to get quality work done, and still have enough time to respond to all notifications during those five-minute intervals.

You can also use other methods to get around this. If you can afford to, hire a secretary to take your phone calls and give you a list of phone calls that you need to return at the end of the day. You can also activate Voicemail and just check your voicemail every few hours to find out which calls need to be returned.

Furthermore, when taking a call, do not lose track of time or get lost in unnecessary conversations. Inform the other person that you have five minutes to speak (or whatever you feel is right for that specific call) and then you need to get back to work. This will encourage them to summarize what they need to discuss and will save you a lot of valuable time that is wasted in unnecessary discussion.

Personally, I try to limit conversations by informing people that my preferred medium of communication is email and that they are more likely to get a detailed response to an email, than with a phone call. This way, once people understand this, the number of phone calls you receive is reduced and you will deal with more emails instead. This is actually better, as emails are usually to be point and do not include the amount of unnecessary conversation you will have to deal with during a phone call.

Extract from Getting The Barakah An Islamic Guide to time management, pp. 77-80

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Books, Time Management

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