A Muslim’s guide to meaningful New Year’s resolutions

Asif Arif, USA

With the onset of each new year, the world buzzes with excitement, and calls for global peace abound. The customary “Happy New Year and wish you good health” resonates with everybody. Yet, as Muslims, we are called upon to go beyond mere resolutions. Our outlook on life must necessarily align with the state of the world. Rather than settle for resolutions, we must take concrete actions to progress spiritually.

Every Ahmadi Muslim recalls an incident recounted by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh, the fourth Caliph of the Promised Messiahas. He was at a train station when midnight struck, unfurling his prayer mat to pray for the new year and the state of the world. At that moment, a tearful individual approached him, expressing gratitude that, amidst a world indulging in revelry and intoxication, he was the first person seen remembering the Creator. (Friday Sermon, 20 August 1982, Khutbat-e-Tahir, Vol. 1, pp. 119-120)

In a world dominated by materialism and atheism, the remembrance [zikr] of God is notably absent from people’s New Year resolutions. Contrarily, wishes would revolve around a new year of “happiness,” abundant wealth, and peace. However, it is evident that as the years pass, our happiness dwindles (as seen in depression statistics), the “wealthy” world is heading towards impoverishment, and peace appears to be a distant concept that few may encounter.

While this observation is rather bleak, God has not left the believer without tools to counter the gloomy atmosphere. In the Holy Quran, God states, “Aye! it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort.” (Surah ar-Ra‘ad, Ch.13:V.29) Though seemingly simple, this statement is infused with profound wisdom whose contours are challenging to trace due to its depth.

As Muslims, if we decide in this new year to find tranquility in the remembrance of God, we naturally attract happiness. This requires some elucidation. The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa advised always maintaining an optimistic view of life. (Sahih Ibn Hibban, Hadith 896) In the face of the greatest battles, he displayed unwavering optimism. Contentment with what we have, not aspiring for more but constantly looking at those with less and thanking God for what He has given us, is a crucial step towards happiness. Uttering “Alhamdulillah” (all praise belongs to Allah) should not be dismissed as mere rhetoric; it is, in fact, a first step towards happiness as we are content with what Allah has bestowed upon us, avoiding the constant pursuit of hypothetical and materialistic happiness.

Furthermore, the pious wish for a year rich in fortune and material wealth has, over the years, demonstrated that global poverty is increasing while a tiny minority becomes richer. Following a single verse in the Holy Quran that urges believers to remember Allah, we learn to be content with what Allah has given us. By doing so, we not only refrain from envying a wealthier neighbour with materialistic intentions, but we also attract the satisfaction of God, who, in His great mercy, may reward us with even more wealth. If we seek worldly riches independently, this pursuit is futile and leads to a mirage of prosperity.

Another common resolution is the hope for peace in the world. However, the world seems to be moving in the opposite direction. World powers follow typical recipes that create and perpetuate disorder on Earth. Our beloved Imam, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, constantly emphasises this, yet few leaders heed the call. Again, by following the Quran’s injunction to remember Allah and seek His forgiveness and mercy, we can establish inner peace, which may lead to external peace.

Finally, in all our resolutions, we also wish for excellent health. However, in Surah at-Taubah, verse 116, God states, “Surely, it is Allah to Whom belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. He gives life and causes death. And you have no friend nor helper beside Allah.” This verse implies several consequences. When ill, we tend to remember neglected family members or place our trust in Allah. However, these family members may resent being contacted only during sickness, and doctors may offer a professional diagnosis from an anatomical perspective. Allah reminds us that throughout our lives and at our deaths, we have no friends other than Him. Regardless of government decisions on euthanasia or the perception of it as a fundamental freedom, it remains tied to a purely materialistic conception of life.

Faced with the failure of annual resolutions and the ambition for their realisation in the coming year, it is time to acknowledge their shortcomings. It is equally important to focus on the remembrance of Allah, the only remedy for the ailments our hearts may feel and the troubles the world is going through, which we witness as spectators. May God forgive us and provide us the opportunity to remember Him deeply and entirely, as enjoined by the Promised Messiahas. Amin.

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