Tahira Sharif, Hounslow, UK
As another year draws to a close, people turn their attention to the New Year. For most, this involves a celebratory gathering, staying up past midnight and seeing the New Year in with a drink and surrounded by people you are acquainted with. Firework displays are done across the globe, each nation trying to outdo the other. Often people muse over New Year’s resolutions – healthy eating, going to the gym, perhaps.
My question is, does this New Year gathering impact your behaviour in June? Or even February? Research conducted in 2020 by Strava – an activity tracking app – found 40% of people who made resolutions had given up by “quitters day’” which is roughly two weeks into the new year. Most resolutions don’t last past January!
The idea of a “new year” is to forget the previous year and start afresh, any wrongdoings or mistakes swept under the rug, forgotten and never to be talked about again. Sometimes, people see New Year’s celebrations as a bit of a “free pass”, perhaps engaging in activities they normally wouldn’t, such as inappropriate behaviour, or illicit activities under the guise of “It’s New Years, it doesn’t count”, an excuse to indulge before putting a “final stop”.
Does this behaviour really stop, or is it another excuse? Do these illicit activities really cease, or do they resurface? As we have seen in the media, these harmful activities and behaviours are damaging, even months later. News reports on 1 January often shows images of broken and vandalised city centres, with drunken and drug-fuelled behaviour likely at the root. The high number of hospital admissions, police arrests and needless lawless behaviour, are all wasting precious resources needed for real emergencies. When all is revealed, the excuse of “It was New Year’s” seems a little weak.
As Ahmadi Muslims, our purpose in life has been made very clear; to worship Allah, to do good works to others and the world around us and to try to improve ourselves. As the year draws to a close, we are encouraged to reflect on our behaviour for the past year – did I prioritise my prayers over worldly things? Did I give as much to charity as I could have? Did I improve my religious knowledge?
We recognise where we have improved, and thank Allah for giving us the wisdom to do this. We identify our weaknesses, and pray to Allah for forgiveness and help to be better. Either way, we thank Allah and pray for strength, support and guidance.
We are encouraged to end the year with acts of kindness – examples include giving season’s greetings to the neighbours, donating to the homeless, setting up a garden to be more eco-friendly, spending more on charity and even New Year’s litter picking. Actions speak louder than words, and these acts of kindness fill us with positivity and hope, and a resolve to do them more often.
Ahmadi Muslims are advised to get up at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and offer extra prayers. We pray for ourselves, we pray for our loved ones (past and present), for our communities and for the future of our world. We pray for a better year, filled with goodness, the best of health and blessings for us all. We read the Holy Quran, reminding us of our duties, and give sadaqa – or money to charity – to start the year with a sense of sacrifice for the greater good.
I do enjoy the fireworks, but the prayers and small acts of kindness have a bigger impact on my life. Why not try ending and starting the year with a charitable, reflective activity? Its positive effect would be felt by those around you, as well as deep in your own soul. Who knows, you may even inspire others to do the same.
“‘Those who believe and do good works – happiness shall be theirs, and an excellent place of return.’” (Surah al-Ra‘d, Ch.13: V.30)
Happy New Year to all! May your year be filled with happiness, good health and fortune.