Following up from part 1, we now continue our journey to prepare early for Ramadan 2012. At this point, we have – insha-Allah – about four months left until the whole (Muslim) world begins this most auspicious month. But if you’re taking up this Early Bird Challenge, you’re eager to get a head start on the rest of the ummah.
Last month, we took the ‘pillar’ of the deen – salaah – as our point of improvement. This month, we take another critical element – one which, according to hadith, is the ‘essence’ of worship: dua (supplication).
The ticket to everything you want
Humans – by their nature – have been created to want, and want more, and more. And while sometimes this is good, many times it isn’t – because we too often focus intensely on the material things we want, while neglecting the spiritual things we need.
Regardless of this, the fact remains that we want – whether what we want is material, spiritual, or both. And when we want, we need to seek what we want from the source of that thing.
As Muslims, we know that everything comes from Allah. So anything we want – be it material sustenance, freedom from hardships or debts, cure from illness, that dream job, marriage, children, knowledge, achievement, spiritual purity, or anything else – we need to ask it from Allah (as long as it’s not haraam, of course).
Renewing the link
Unfortunately, in our fast-paced lives of today, we often fall victim to thinking that we’re too busy to make dua. With so much to do, so much demanding our attention, and almost constant time pressures, it can be rare that we get a moment to stop and make a really intense, in-depth, and heartfelt dua.
Or maybe we do make duas often, but confine these to our ‘automated’ duas – the ones that we mechanically repeat in Arabic and/or English as part of a routine, without really feeling much sincerity when we make them.
Or maybe we always rely on the imam to make the dua, and simply repeat our ‘ameen’ after him – thinking that that’s enough for us when it comes to dua. And while there certainly is virtue in making dua behind an imam, the reality is that that imam isn’t you – so he can’t make the personal duas that are most important to you; your heart’s deepest needs and desires, which are kept between only you and Allah.
The link with Allah is the most important aspect of a Muslim’s life, and dua is the means by which this link is maintained and nurtured. Allah loves for us to ask from Him, and actually gets angry if we don’t ask (as stated in a hadith).
So it’s clear that dua should really be at the core of our lives, because it’s the essence of our life’s purpose (i.e. worship) – and the means by which we can attain anything we need (or want).
The Early Bird solution
As explained in the first post, our approach in this series is to follow a five-step process to gradually improving ourselves:
- Selection of an area: For this month, the topic is dua
- Diagnosis: Analyse what your current condition is in the area (quality, frequency, etc), and list your weaknesses
- Root cause analysis: Get to the root of your weaknesses / problems
- Solutions: Come up with practical methods to overcome those root causes
- Planning and implementation: Set up a realistic plan of action to implement those solutions gradually in the coming months, then at a higher pace in Ramadan
- Do I really understand how important dua is in life?
- Do I make time each day to make dua(s) to Allah?
- If I do make duas, are these automated duas, or those of the imam alone?
- Do I take time out to think about what I truly need and want, and make specific duas for that?
- Do I believe that my duas have to be in Arabic only?
- Do I truly believe that Allah will answer my duas?
- What actions cause Allah to reject duas?
- Am I doing anything – intentionally or out of forgetfulness – that would cause Allah to reject my duas?
- When are the best times to make dua (i.e. the times when they are accepted)?
- What actions cause Allah to readily accept duas?
- Am I carrying out these actions on a regular basis?
- Do I know the etiquettes of dua?
- Aside from personal duas, do I know duas from the Quran and Sunnah? (Either in English or Arabic.)
Using this month’s worksheet, think through each question, and record your answers. Be honest with yourself – and do this either completely in private, without sharing it with anyone (if you prefer it that way), or with someone else (if you think that’s more beneficial).List all your weaknesses or problems.
Root cause analysis:
Now go through each of your listed weaknesses or problems you need to address, and write down its outward symptoms that you notice (e.g. I don’t put enough effort into making personal duas consistently). Then try to find what the root causes of those problems are by interrogating each symptom: ask yourself “why?” that symptom persists, and keep asking “why?” of each answer until you get to the root cause.
With the problems diagnosed, the symptoms identified, and root causes found, now think of practical ways to solve those problems from the root.
For example, if you don’t put enough time and effort into tailoring your duas to your most dearly-held needs and desires, one solution is to take time out from life to sit and write down the areas that are important to you (this month’s worksheet can help with that), and the duas you’d like to make in those areas. Let your imagination run wild – without getting into haram, of course J – and then find a period each day to make some of those important duas.
Planning and implementation:
With solutions identified, now analyse what your schedule and life is like at this moment, and come up with a realistic plan of how you can implement the solutions over a period of time. Remember to plan this is ways that are realistic – achievable – for you, even if it means you’ll be taking tiny steps over a long period of time. Doing things gradually – in small and consistent steps – is the best way to achieve sustainable, permanent solutions.
Also include, in your plan, the ways you’d like to intensify your efforts when Ramadan comes.
If, after a while, you find that you’ve incorrectly estimated your ability to follow the plan, simply make adjustments as needed. The goal for this month, and the four that follow, is to implement steps that are realistic for you – what you can manage, and not what will overburden you.
To help with this month’s exercise, you can download and use the following document: RamadanEarlyBird worksheet (2nd edition).
To help you with this month’s focus, check out the following:
- Mufti Ismail Menk audio lecture on ‘Supplication’ – from Ramadan 2009
- Shaykh Yasir Qadhi video lecture on dua
And again, the most important resources of all are the right intentions, sincere dua asking for success in this venture, and then consistent effort to do your best.
With four months left until Ramadan, now is the perfect time to start strengthening this critical area of life. Ramadan is a time when duas are even more valuable, especially so for the night of Laylatul-Qadr.
All the best with this step in Ramadan prep; and feel free to share your feedback or progress in the Comments section.
Other parts in this 5-part series are posted here.