Connect with us

Development

Martial Arts – A Grand Master’s Big Bow and the Muslim Take

We were standing outside the dojang (dojo). They were taking the old sign down and the new owners were putting up a new sign. My children take tae kwon do classes. When I signed them for classes in this particular dojo years ago, it was run by a man from Jordan, (a non-practicing brother, named Master Jordan, who made a musalla (prayer area)  in his office for us).

Along with the new uniforms and saying good bye to their beloved instructor, my children faced a big change in their martial arts instruction.  They had to relearn many of the forms and learn their names in Korean. The friendly atmosphere had been replaced by formality. Last testing, when the kids were being handed their new belts, I saw that the Grandmaster was making everyone bow (almost like a sajdah) to him. Master Jordan never asked the kids (any kid) to bow down to him or to any another sensei. I walked up to the manager and told her that that my children would not be doing the bow.

Unceremoniously, an instructor (not the Grandmaster) handed the belts/certificate out to my children.

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

The dojo had been bought by a Korean family who were very traditional in the manner that they ran the practice.

After the ceremony, we went into the office and thanked the Grandmaster for the certificates.  I explained the whys: why we do not bow down to anyone aside God, it is for religious reasons,  etc. I offered several other culturally acceptable methods of showing our respect. We received a terse nod of acknowledgement and were asked to leave.

Lost in Translation

“Mama, they won’t let me test! I am so prepared for my blue belt.” My daughter was on the phone.  A few months later and it was testing time again, and this time my husband had taken the kids to the center. “Give the phone to Mrs. Lee,” I said.

“Sorry, sorry, they have to come back on Friday, we test them when no one else is here!!” I could barely understand her. She was the wife and the manager and had moved to the U.S. from Korea 12 years ago.

“Please, Mrs. Lee,” I pressed,”the girls are so excited and they worked really hard; they are mentally ready to spar.”

She whispered something in Korean to her 18 year old son, he is 4th degree black belt and an instructor. Soon he was on the phone and his normally friendly voice was very contrived and terse. “This is Korean culture, you have to bow. I am doing you a favor by setting up separate testing.”

‘But Master Jordan never…”

“Don’t speak to me about him, he didn’t run this place in a ‘traditional Korean’ way.”

I interjected, “But none of your flyers, paperwork list any such rules.”

“Listen lady, I don’t want to argue with you.” He said that he had never heard of this religion issue. Generally, Korean society is pretty homogeneous but never heard of bowing only to God!?

I knew I was going to lose my cool; so I asked my husband to just bring the girls home. I wasn’t thinking about the instructor or his father, the Grandmaster; all I could think of was my disappointed kids.

My husband was upset, the girls were upset, and the Grandmaster was upset.

And I was really upset and frustrated as I had paid the fees upfront for the whole year. But to me bowing and sajdah are acts done solely for the sake of Allah, to Allah. The thought of making sujood to a human being had me riled up.

These thoughts rushed through my head as I wrote a quick email to my MuslimMatters resources. I didn’t want my behavior to reflect badly on all Muslims that the dojo may come in contact with but I wanted to make my point clear.

I didn’t want to create a scene, so I decided not to go in right then and make a fuss in front of all the parents who were there for an important time in their kids’ life, but I didn’t think it was fair for them to send my children home after calling them to test. I didn’t want my kids being treated like pariahs, testing separately like there was something wrong with them. Part of the fun of martial arts is the whole dojo testing together.

Why did they need to bow?sparring, do I have to bow, respect

 

I understand that in a dojo martial artists hit & choke each other, they toss each other to the ground; they swing sticks, brandish swords and exchange a gamut of sophisticated bodily punishment. Without an honest and sincere demonstration of respect before and after an exchange, before and after class, they risk the creation of a contentious environment that promotes brawling and discourages mutual benefit. This is the reasoning behind the ‘small bow’.

As I researched further, I understood that paying respect can mean to thank someone for training with you.  Martial artists also bow to their opponents and to fellow artists (this bow is more like a bending of the torso).  “It can mean that you desire intensity of training. It can mean you desire slowness in training. It can mean that you admire someone for their abilities. It can mean that you want them to improve. It can mean that you want to see the best they have to offer. It can mean you want them to hit you as hard as they can. It can also mean you want them to go lightly on you. The word respect, to me, implies that you are cognizant of what is going on around you and you are intending to learn from it. It is an act of active participation, versus passive participation,” writes a martial artist. Bows are used to begin and end practice, sparring bouts and competitions, and when entering and leaving the dojo, or practice room.

More ever, a low, deep bow from Koreans at the end of a meeting indicates a successful meeting. A quick, short parting bow could mean dissatisfaction with meetings. Like traditional Muslim culture, elders are treated with respect due to to their age. I finally realized that in the GM’s eyes, I had disrespected him when I asked that my kids not bow to him.

Several of MM brothers and their families do martial arts as well and had similar experiences: Br. Iesa said that “when I took Aikido the sensei told me create a salute but I moved before I did, but nowadays in my jujitsu and kick-boxing classes the instructors don’t really care so I just nod my head when the rest of them bow.”

Br Siraaj said “My kids do wushu,the  instructors are Non-Muslim and understand why we don’t do this (multiple families coming and explaining)”

images

Shaykh Yasir Qadhi replied to my email:

Bowing down in front of others for respect is haram (not shirk). At the same time your kids (not baligh) so rules are lax for them; maybe they could get by if they just ‘nodded’ and didn’t actually bend their backs?!? I had the same issue with my nephews and nieces and we talked to the sensei and he agreed to let them into class a few minutes late because they would bow at the beginning of the ceremony. They are not baligh so the Shariah would not be as strict on them. Parents needs to be as careful as possible and teach them what is appropriate. I wouldn’t want my kids to do that. 

(Please excuse the frankness of our discussions, we love our shuyookh and love that we can ask them questions) As our discussion grew, Br. Wael, a martial artist asked  “why would you say that bowing for respect is haram? There is a big difference between someone arrogantly demanding that others bow for him (or rise for him) when he enters a room, and two people bowing to each other as a greeting.  The martial arts bow is mutual. The instructor bows to the students, and the students bow to the instructor. Then, when students pair up to work on techniques, they bow to each other. Quite obviously it is not worship, and has nothing to do with worship. No one in Asian culture imagines or thinks that bowing is related to worship in any way.  Secondly, the martial arts bow (or Asian cultural bow) is not a deep, 90 degree angle bow like our ruku’. It is a relatively shallow bow. We need to put things in their cultural context. If a Western “noble” walked in the room and expected people to bow, obviously as Muslims we cannot do that. But in East Asia, bowing is a simple greeting. It’s a deeply ingrained part of Asian culture. In Japan and Korea (and China to a lesser degree) people bow when greeting a friend or a colleague, or even just running into a friend on the street. Indigenous East Asian Muslims do it as much as anyone else. Are they all committing sins every day by greeting each other in this way? In many parts of South East Asia, people (including Muslims) greet each other or show respect by putting their palms together in front of the chest. In the West, people shake hands. Arabs often hug. Well, East Asians bow. Are we to declare all other greeting traditions valid, and the East Asian tradition haram?”

Some sisters shared Islam Q&A fatwas through which this  hadith was shared:

 Al-Tirmidhi (2728) narrated that Anas ibn Maalik [ra] said: A man said: O Messenger of Allah, when one of us meets his brother or friend, should he bow to him? He said: “No.” He said: Should he embrace him and kiss him? He said: “No.” He said: Should he shake hands with him? He said: “Yes.”
Wael asked the shuyookh “Is the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) flatly prohibiting bowing in this hadith, or is he simply describing what type of greeting is best for Muslims? Because if it’s a flat prohibition, then must we also understand that embracing your brother is haram? So a Muslim cannot hug his brother, it’s forbidden?  The other fatwas keep saying that “bowing is a kind of worship”. My point is that our ruku’ is certainly worship; but the shallow bow that martial arts practitioners give each other is not. No one in martial arts intends or conceives of it as worship. Otherwise we would be worshipping each other, which makes no sense.”

 

Shaykh Yasir replied: “Any type of lowering of the head (ruku and sujud) was allowed in previous nations if done out of respect (angels to Adam; Yaqub and sons to Yusuf). When Muadh tried to do it to Prophet (saw) he saw, “Do not do so.” And in another hadith, “I do not permit any man prostrating to another, but were I to permit it I would do so for the wife. I don’t know of any scholar who would say bowing the head is something permissible. It is not done in our religion. Maybe you’ll find some who say its strongly discouraged.”

 

A great part of being  MM Family is the access to a variety of scholars, so here is Shaykh Yahya Ibrahim’s take which slightly differed from Shaykh Yasir’s:

Bismillah,

Some take a very conservative stance and refuse any form of bowing.  That of course is acceptable and prudent.
However, if the children are young, taught well about our worship and how none deserve it but Allah, I find it is acceptable to acknowledge others with a movement of the head and torso that meets the expectation of respect without compromising our faith and education of our kids.  I think the compromise offered is great. I grew up, for 6 years, in tae kwon do gyms… I bowed with a movement from the head and torso slightly throughout.

Wa allahu a’laam

 

The Big Bow

But the big bow as it is called in many dojos was the major issue. This bow is literally called the “90 degree bow” (90도 인사) in Korean because it is. It’s a form of utter respect, an intentional showing of service and obedience.  Sabae (큰절) or deep bows that are reserved for special occasions, for example the Korean News Year’s. Many Korean traditions stem from Confucianism. Although Confucianism is sometimes described as a religion because of it allusions to ancestor worship Confucius himself never endorsed ancestor worship. He stressed devotion to ancestors out of reverence to their wisdom and moral leadership not as a means of worshiping their spirits.

Here is what Shaykh Abdul Rahman Mangera says:

In the name of Allah the Inspirer of truth. It is not permissible to bow in these circumstances. Although it may not have any religious significance to the art, however, as a Muslim it is an empathetically prohibited act for you. It is an act reserved for Allah alone, and doing it for other than Allah is either unlawful, or can leads one to kufr if done with intention to worship. If it had been permissible, even as to honor someone, it would have been permissible to do it for the Prophet (upon him be peace) or one’s elders, which is not the case.
Wael had some practical advice for me: “Sister Hena, I just noticed that you are referring to the full prostrating bow, which resembles our sajda. In this case I agree that it’s not appropriate for a Muslim. It sounds like the new instructor is very traditional and formal. This may not be the right class for a Muslim. You might think about switching your kids to another school, or to a different martial arts style. Some styles, such as those that come from Indonesia or the Philippines, do not require bowing because it’s not a part of their culture. There are also schools that do not require bowing because they are Christian-run and have eliminated Asian cultural trappings. And some that are simply Americanized.”

The Sajdah

I realized what a great learning opportunity this is for my kids. The kids and I spoke about Sujud- the meaning of the word, sajdah:

S J D-lowly, humble, submissive, worship, adore, prostrate, make obeisance, lower/bend oneself down towards the ground, lower the head, to salute/honor/magnify, to pay respect, to stand up, to look continually and tranquilly.

A sajdah is our body hymning the submission of our souls. How metaphorically we do Sajadah when we obey Allah. We spoke of how one can do superficial prostration while disobeying God.

In our discussion on the MM listserv, we did veer off topic and talked about how sad it is that most parents will not or can not get their kids to make even ruku’ to Allah, but will find time and put in the effort to put their kids in karate schools to make ruku’ to an instructor. And the reality is most Muslim families are not even getting their kids to pray five times a day.

I wanted to share this topic with our readers as many of us face live in a multicultural environment where our actions/interactions may upset another based on their cultural norms. Bowing to other than God is not a modern issue but its ramifications in a martial arts setting maybe new. I want to share how my family and friends have handled this situation and how shurah with people that you trust can help guide you through a complex situation that may initially seem black and white. My children learnt the important of sajdah, a seemingly physical act and it’s profound metaphysical and spiritual meaning in a way that I could not have explained to them if they didn’t have this experience. They also learnt how respect is expressed in other cultures.

My children continue to stand up for their belief and refuse to bow down to anyone except to their Lord. They tested separately until the Grandmaster yielded.  As a sign of respect, we took flowers for their instructor to show them respect at their ceremonial testing (American style). Until we left California, when we entered and exited the dojo we did a quick nod of greeting and respect. We hope that their instructors are richer in learning that there are others whose views may differ from theirs, and that respect can be expressed in many beautiful ways. As I search for a new dojo for them in our new city, I will keep my MM brothers’ advice in mind.

For my children only Allah is the Grandmaster, Alhamdulillah. May Allah always keep them firm in their iman.

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She leads the DC office of the human rights organization, Justice For All, focusing on stopping the genocide of the Rohingya under Burma Task Force, advocacy for the Uighur people with the Save Uighur Campaign and Free Kashmir Action. She was a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

40 Comments

40 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Shahin

    May 17, 2013 at 1:14 AM

    This was a verrry interesting discussion. I’m so glad your children chose what they did, Alhamdulillah :)

  2. Avatar

    sstrunks4

    May 17, 2013 at 3:37 AM

    Sun7an Allah I learned so much from this, thank you for sharing. I have been in similar occasions with the exact same reply of action :D!

  3. Avatar

    Fareed

    May 17, 2013 at 3:41 AM

    Ameen. May Allah guide us all

  4. Avatar

    Kirana

    May 17, 2013 at 6:51 AM

    See, this is why hadith experts are supposed to train in all sorts, including arab culture of the time of the Prophet, arab language at that time, etc. True, we have the *words* that the Prophet said at the time, but words mean very different things in different cultural contexts, or they may imply an obvious context to someone of the same worldview, yet this context implied by the words is quite lost on someone from another culture or time. Just having the hadith text, especially for acts whose meaning is so culturally-specific and perhaps even era-specific, and then just sort of ‘guessing’ why based on one’s own time and culture, is not at all a reliable means of understanding it.

    bowing in a ‘hello’ context, bowing so that your exercise partner can leapfrog over you, and bowing to signify another person’s authority over you – they are clearly quite different contexts, and i should think only the last one is inappropriate for a Muslim. i’m not sure that bowing like sajdah is a problem if it’s mutual and in a cultural context where it is a normal gesture – mutuality implies a gesture between peers. but bowing like sajdah where only one party bows and the other occupies a higher social position, that probably crosses the line. yoga exercise options are a related issue – some places teach it as just exercise and meditation techniques, but some include certain elements that might be shirik. i personally think that often the best option that offends everyone least, is to choose a different place/activity/style when you find an element that’s problematic. it can really hurt people if you insist on different treatment – it’s like saying, i want your knowledge, but i will continue to disrespect your beliefs and culture while i learn it. if you’ve explained your position, and it’s still ‘no deal’ with the dojo, it is better and respectful to accept that and walk away.

    as a cultural example, to expand views: bowing as a social sign of respect to elders is extremely common among Southeast Asian Muslim peoples in Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. the bow is slight to almost a ruku’ angle while clasping an elder’s hand with both of yours and kissing (or pretending to kiss) it – the elder person usually indicates magnanimous dismissal of the gesture by pulling his/her hand away before the younger actually kisses it. if you are dealing with an elder of another race/culture, or if you are a young person of a different race, our norm in Malaysia is that this will usually be exempted without social criticism. anyway, this bow is unanimously not considered the same as ruku’ in salat – in fact i would wager that if you were to suggest it to a random Muslim person in these nations, that would be the first time such a comparison would have ever occurred to them. not least by some of the youngest, who conform to the practice with mischievously defiant grins before jetting off to some new naughtiness.

    another example on the flip side: some forms of the Malay martial art of ‘silat’ have Islamic concepts and faith embedded in the training. obviously a non-Muslim can’t be trained in this form without endangering his faith in whatever his religion is, and should opt for a form which teaches it as a merely physical art or as a pre-Islamic form or an alternative martial art like aikido or karate or silambam – which is what happens in practice.

  5. Avatar

    Waleed Rahman

    May 17, 2013 at 6:52 AM

    SubhanAllah. Perfect timing. My little brother was telling me just yesterday how his old (Muslim, too) teacher used to make the students bow in Taekwondo and now the new doesn’t allow it one bit. Says you bow down only to Allah (SWT).

  6. Avatar

    Dawud

    May 17, 2013 at 6:52 AM

    We faced the same issues. However, my children and others now do the “Hotep” salute with their fists in the dojo
    .

  7. Avatar

    Liv

    May 17, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    May Allah reward you. My kids also did martial arts and it was very important to me that I found a studio that was accomodating about this and not hardcore cultural. I hope you can find a place that works for you inshallah.

  8. Avatar

    Ilham

    May 17, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    Assalamu alaikum, thank you for such an amazing and intriguing article. This is definitely an issue many muslims practicing martial arts encounter.
    But I must say I am quite shocked at the response from the instructors at your dojang. I have been doing taekwondo for 2 years now, and I have never heard of such cultural insensitivity before. The day my sister and I began class as white belts, both the instructor and the Grand Master himself asked us if we were comfortable bowing. When we explained that 90 degree bows are not permissible in our religion, he respected our beliefs and acknowledge that we were not in anyway trying to disrespect him or the sport.
    From my own research, bowing 90 degrees at the torso ( similar to ruku’) is not permissible as it is similar to that performed in prayer. So it is better for one to bow no lower that 45 degrees at the torso, but again, as mentioned previously, social context plays a major role as well.

    Jazakum Allah Khayra, I pray Allah (swt) makes it easy for Muslims practicing martial arts and keeps us strong in our faith. Ameen

  9. Avatar

    ZAI

    May 17, 2013 at 2:55 PM

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a shallow bow (ruku’ style).
    Something like a sajdah would be more of an issue though…I’m not a scholar, but I’d surmise
    it’s haraam.

    Is something that traditional really a part of Tae Kwon Do instruction here in the states?
    As a kid, I learned wushu for years and neither the Chinese instructors nor the African-American who bought the studio later cared about infusing that level of cultural tradition into the lessons. Most we ever did was a shallow bow w/ fist…It was the same both in the ring and in studio when I learned and competed in MMA in my late teens and twenties…

    Maybe Muslims would be better off seeking out non-Asian instructors who aren’t picky
    about the cultural aspects of these martial arts…or seek out non-Asian martial arts like
    Brazilian jujitsu…

    It’s becoming a more complex and tricky world though…
    I can’t make any suggestions as to shari’ah as I’m not a scholar,
    but I’d tend to lean towards what some of the shaykhs who advised you suggested: that intent
    and cultural context might be important in making these decisions. We have similar issues with
    shaking hands with opposite gender folks, etc. cropping up because of these differences.

    Not being a scholar, I cannot say anything definitively…but in GENERAL I think we Muslims
    will earn a lot of resentment from others if we adopt a stand that we’re not going to respect
    others traditions whatsoever, but that they must respect ours…Some level of flexibility and accommodation is needed on both sides of the issue. Non Muslims should not expect us to go so far as compromising our deen or iman, but we should be more flexible in areas where we can be to the utmost degree…perhaps by thinking more deeply about some issues or considering what have been minority scholarly opinions thus far, as the shuyookh suggested.

  10. Avatar

    Cartoon Muslim

    May 17, 2013 at 9:14 PM

    To those taking martial arts classes, are instructors give you a hard time if you request training only with the same gender?

    • Avatar

      ZAI

      May 17, 2013 at 10:31 PM

      From my experience,
      It is not an issue if you are older…late teens or adults.
      They will usually separate men’s/women’s classes because as men’s strength outpaces women’s
      with age, you can’t really train mixed gender. Children’s classes are usually mixed though…

      Again…this has been MY experience with wushu and MMA dojos I have trained at in Chicago…
      So, it’s anecdotal. Research a place and ask questions…

    • Avatar

      Jessi F.

      May 17, 2013 at 11:23 PM

      Here in Irving, Texas we have arranged with a nearby dojo to give us a class for women only, on Sunday when they are normally closed. First it began as a self-defense and fitness class, but many of us found we desired to achieve ranking in the belts, The teacher is a female blackbelt that normally teaches at that dojo.

      The windows are covered, so we can train without the headscarf if we wish.

  11. Avatar

    life is a test!

    May 17, 2013 at 9:54 PM

    Cartoon Muslim, Look for a place that does not require sparring but it might be hard to find.I stopped when I started wearing hijab because of the uniform requirements.

  12. Avatar

    Asma

    May 18, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    i think it all depends upon your intentions. As Quranic verse states states that all actions will be judged on the basis of the intention, i guess if your kids had to bow down it would have been ok. Allah understands but the people dont. that is why it is even allowed to lie about your iman if your life is in danger. I understand there is no life-death situation over here, but a middle way out like ruku style sajda would have been okay. however, i appreciate for you keeping your cool and not spoiling the day for other kids… see thats what a MUSLIM is!

    • Avatar

      Gibran

      May 18, 2013 at 12:31 PM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh’

      Where in the Quran does it say that?

      • Avatar

        Zainab

        July 29, 2013 at 2:23 PM

        In many places it says that in the Quran. everything in Islam is about intention, Allah always mentions how he knows what is in the heart. A simple example in reality would be if I killed a man on purpose or if I killed him by accident (e.g. like what happened with Musa Alayhisalam) or, another example – if i borrowed a pen and forgot to give it back compared to stealing a pen(ill intent) – or another example in the instance of worship – praying in front of people with the intention to look good (hypocrite) or praying in front of people with genuine intentions to fufill prayer.

        The Noble Quran, 2:186)”. Allah Almighty knows what’s in the heart and will judge us according to our intentions.

        • Avatar

          Muheeb

          July 29, 2013 at 2:26 PM

          Exactly.
          If one was bowing to the sensai with the intention to worship him, that would be bad – in comparison to bowing to the sensai with no ill intention. Allah judges our deeds with our intentions.

          Either way, I would accept my children to bow their heads only – but not like that or ruku or sajdah – just to teach them and make clear the concept of worshipping only to Allah and for the future.

          and Allah knows best.

        • Avatar

          Abdullaah Bilal

          April 5, 2014 at 12:48 AM

          @Zainab & Asma, why then will the Prophet (saw) expressly forbids it, if only intention matters? The point is it is not acceptable, very clear from the hadith mentioned, & all the scholars above. The Prophet (saw) knew Muadh meant respect, not worship, yet he forbade it.
          Applying this is left for you as a Muslim, but unanimously it is haram.

  13. Avatar

    Muhib Rahman

    May 18, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    Aqabah Karate in college park, MD is probably the only full time martial arts program in the US that operates with Islamic principles in mind. Actually, this whole bowing thing led me to establish this program with Darussalaam in Maryland. Styles taught are Korean Tang Soo Do and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. There is no bowing and there are separate classes for boys and girls. I love it when at competitions my students don’t bow and later gets a chance to explain to judges and fellow competitors that we only bow to God. Awesome Dawah in action!

  14. Avatar

    N Iqbal

    May 19, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    The issue here, as with all issues, is to refer to the Quran and Sunnah and not what is in our benefit. If following Quran and Sunnah means giving something up for the sake of Allah then we should happily give it up without any uneasiness or resentment. May Allah (SWT) give us guidance to strive for His deen.

  15. Avatar

    Murtala Alade Adedokun

    May 19, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    Assalam “alaykum. I really wonder how some of you still see nothing wrong in bowing to someone out of respect in spite of the hadith quoted above that a companion asked if one could bow in greeting a friend and the Prophet(s) said no. Of course the questioner couldn”t have meant bowing in worship since the context was clearly discussing forms of greeting. That the Prophet forbade it should be enough to make us reject it unless we’re compelled in a life/death situation. We africans do a lot of bowing in respect too; but it is not justified in the light of the hadith quoted above unless someone doubts the superiority of the Messengers guidance.

    • Avatar

      Gibran

      May 19, 2013 at 4:14 PM

      wa alaykumusalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      I was wondering that too. SubhanAllah, what is the matter with people who are willing to bow like this?

  16. Avatar

    Arif

    May 19, 2013 at 11:35 PM

    Alhamdulillah I don’t fully realize the blessings of going to a professional Muslim dojo until reading about situations like these :) http://www.facebook.com/aqabahkarate

    We also study Korean tang soo do, and have a peace sign we use with a fist in a closed hand embrace before we begin forms and sparring. Even the most traditional schools are cool with it.

  17. Avatar

    Fulaan

    May 20, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    Masha’allah, the one thing I kept thinking while reading the article is that the concept of “Sujood being SOLELY for Allah” is now so strongly and deeply ingrained in the kids’ minds through this experience, they’ll never forget it for the rest of their lives. In fact, they learned it through an experience that no other book, article, class, movie, lecture or teacher could have ever taught them. Alhamdulillah!

    The only martial arts I have experience with is Silat, from Indonesian. My instructor was Muslim (practicing) so the greeting was to simply put your palms together in front of your chest while facing the instructor with your full body.

  18. Avatar

    Murtala Alade Adedokun

    May 21, 2013 at 3:17 AM

    Dear Shaykh Yasir. Jazaakallaahu khayran for your efforts at da’awah. And may Allah pardon our shortcomings all.
    On second thoughts, I have this to share with you sincerely my brother:
    I’m a little disturbed by your use of “not baligh” in that answer you gave our sister. I hope people don’t generalize from here that whatever is haram for adults can be condoned and encouraged in our kids without there being a definite text exempting kids from that particular prohibition; for even if kids are not punishable for those acts, no correct logic can excuse the parents who encourage them on those haram acts. Imagine acts like stealing, lying, cheating, etc. which would equally not attract punishment if done by kids. Would a parent be blameless to encourage them to do these on the basis of “not baligh” also? The Prophet(s) says we share rewards or punishments with those we encourage to do whatever they do. How can we parents not be culpable then if we agree bowing is haram? I think the key factor to justify the permissibility of bowing (for kids and adults alike) is NECESSITY rather than their being “not baligh”; but how much necessity is there for us? That is the real question oh ikhwah.

  19. Avatar

    Ali Mze

    May 21, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    Great topic Mashallah May Allah strengthen our iman and increase us knowledge of our beautiful religion Al-Islam ameen And jazakallah khairan

  20. Avatar

    UmmNusayba

    May 21, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    Salaam alaykum wa rahmatullah;

    In Debating Non-Muslims-1
    Shaykhul Islaam ibn Taymiyyah [rahimahullaah]

    Reference: Minhaaj as Sunnah: Vol 2 P. 58

    …like the well known story of al Qaadee Abu Bakr ibn at Tayyib when he was sent to the Christian King in Constantinople. The Christians respected him and knew of his standing so they feared that he would not bow to the king when he entered upon him, so they made him enter through a small door so that he would enter bowing down. However, he became aware of their plot so he passed through the door backwards, facing them with his backside, he did the opposite of what they intended.

  21. Avatar

    umaneesa

    May 23, 2013 at 11:04 PM

    Alhamdulillah in Toronto we have separate martial arts for brothers and sisters, across the city. Instead of bowing, respect is ‘saluted’ by a fist held up, covered by the other hand. http://www.ummamartialarts.com

  22. Avatar

    East Asian in a Muslim World

    August 14, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    To a Muslim, the teachings in your Quran are final and you will not do anything that goes against what is written in it since it is the word of Allah.

    However, culture is a very important value to people originating from East Asia, especially to those who stick very close to their traditions.

    The Grandmaster insists that everyone must do the bow to show respect, but you find that the Grandmaster was somewhat unreasonable since he cannot accomodate your unwillingness to do the bow, although it is a bow out of respect and not worship.

    Yet from the Grandmaster’s point of view, you are being unreasonable for not respecting their culture since he is not asking you to worship him through the bow.

    From the point of Islam, It is a good thing that your children did stand up for their beliefs by not bowing. However, although the Grandmaster did eventually give in, he might have been slighted and not been impressed by it.

    Imagine your feelings if you were forced to do something which is against the teachings of Islam. That is how some traditional East Asians would feel if their culture is not respected. I am in no way trying to equate a religion to a culture/tradition but I’m trying to emphasize on the importance of culture to East Asians.

    You have already tried to explain to him the reason behind not doing the bow and he still insist on your children doing the bow. In my humble opinion, you should have left this dojo and find another one which is hopefully taught by a Muslim or someone who does not incorporate these traditions in their teaching of Martial Arts. Although it is a good thing to stand up for your belief, I believe that it should be done without creating conflict (or at least, minimal).

    • Avatar

      Abdullaah Bilal

      April 5, 2014 at 1:12 AM

      It is not only Asians that care so much about their cultures, all cultures are the same, but as Muslims you must know that some dawwah will start from you, it maybe very hard at the beginning, but in the end the awareness is created & others might enjoy your effort which amounts to reward for you till eternity. In Africa for example, the greeting is total prostration, in fact, you roll on the flour if it were to be in front of Kings etc, but some people started the dawwah, and today it is known that the Muslims do not bow or prostrate for others. It is not always the best to run away, what if there is none nearby?
      Do we want to continue under other cultures rather the culture of true Islam? If we take that approach people wont be able to differentiate between Muslims culture & what Islam forbids.

  23. Avatar

    April Lamda

    August 18, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    I don’t get it. IF you don’t want to bow then why are you in tae kwon doe? Also your children are too young to think about shirk or even be thinking of doing shirk! How is bowing for respect and culture worshiping them? Just as shaking hands with the opposite gender is not ;lustful, just a western greeting (if you live in the west)!

  24. Avatar

    E. Wilson

    September 11, 2013 at 5:19 PM

    Here is an excellent article which reveals many things in the martial arts, like bowing to the sensei or sifu, which are hidden to the casual observer. I pray that it will be of help to you.

    secretdangersofmartialarts (dot) wordpress (dot) com
    Sincerely,
    E.Wilson

  25. Avatar

    M. Joseph

    December 17, 2013 at 7:51 PM

    I take issue with this prohibition on bowing AND a waste of time to make ANY sort of big deal. It seems EVEN more arrogant that you would complain about this cultural practice that has always been a part of any traditional Chinese Korean or Japanese tradition of martial arts. Did you expect to take the cultural practice of the art form itself and then expect that the Master will shave off parts of the discipline just to fit YOUR worldview? This is the height of arrogance. Maybe you should just have your children only attend Muslim martial arts training if you’re so incensed by the beautiful and disciplined practices. I am sorry but you’re misguided here.

  26. Avatar

    Abdullaah Bilal

    April 5, 2014 at 1:19 AM

    When Islam meets any culture, it sought to retain all the beautiful things in the culture & remove all the evils therein. She is paying for the service, it is not a free gift!

  27. Avatar

    AbdulAfees.

    April 5, 2015 at 7:15 AM

    It is not allowed to be bowing to people in order to respect or worship them. This act shld b given ONLY to Allah.

  28. Avatar

    Adam Kaan

    December 4, 2015 at 4:48 AM

    Sajda = prostration
    Ruku = 90 degree bow

    The bowing in most martial arts doesn’t resemble any of them and the context and intent is completely different so I don’t see any problem with it whatsoever, although it’s preferable if it they didn’t have to. I used to believe its haram because of the rigid black and white interpretations of Islam but I’ve changed my opinion, I try to see Islam from a broader context. I think we make things difficult for ourselves and make Islam extremely incompatible with modern civilisation this goes against the ethos of Islam

  29. Avatar

    David

    September 3, 2016 at 5:28 AM

    This is exactly the problem with Muslims. You are so hellbent on following your sharia and what not, completely and arrogantly dismisses to follow local customs. You can’t behave like that. This is why you are so disliked in the non Muslim world.

  30. Avatar

    Dery Alim

    September 7, 2016 at 1:28 AM

    Very interesting. Thank you.
    It got me talking with my friend.

    I know that bowing in martial arts is a form of respect and in history the students would bow to show their allegiance to the school. If another “rival” school student came in to challenge, they may not have bowed – to show that they were not part of that school and that they did not RESPECT them.
    So the solution I came to was this. Simply show them respect without bowing.
    Bowing is only one form of showing respect to someone. Unfortunately this option is not permissible in islam for a greater wisdom (that God knows best – perhaps it prevents later generations of shirk kreeping in?)
    So there are other options. Giving a gift perhaps?

    This is not too different to if two kings in different lands sent messengers to each other. Let us say the king of korea and the king of arabia. The Korean messenger bows to the Arabian king as this is their custom of showing respect. The Arabian king is pleased as they recognise they are giving their respect. So he sends his own messenger to the Korean king. The Arabian messenger gives a gift to the Korean king and he is pleased as he recognises this is their custom for showing respect

  31. Avatar

    Mostefa Farrokhi

    September 25, 2016 at 10:34 PM

    I saw the great master of Japanese karate, Watanabe called Islam (Shiite) honored to visit and his name is Muhammad laid. Moffitt very happy and I wish for them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

#Life

What Repentance Can Teach You About Success

When losing weight, one piece of advice you’ll hear often is the following – if you fall off your eating plan one day, pick yourself back up and think of the next day as a fresh start.

Annoying, isn’t it?

You’ll hear this advice from people who have “made it” – they’ve lost a lot of weight, their lives have changed, and they’ll tell you to stick through it, and you’ll be like, yeah, I have, I tried, and I keep failing. I keep trying, I can’t sustain the motivation, I have life factors, I have stuff going on that makes this difficult.

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

And you’re right.

You don’t have millions of dollars, a dedicated personal trainer and chef, the free time and lack of commitments others do, the lack of sleep, the injuries, or personal life circumstances that advantage others, nor do they have those that disadvantage you.

That’s not the point.

When you make a mistake, if you run through the process of regret, repentance, and retrying to do the right thing, Allah (swt) is pleased with you. And if you keep failing, repenting, and trying again, and again, and again, until you die, Allah keeps forgiving you.

The process of both recognizing your weakness, of getting out of denial, and humbling yourself and not thinking yourself so high and mighty has its own sobering effect. Not only does it help you in dealing with that atom’s weight of arrogance you don’t want to meet Allah (swt) with on the Day of Judgment, it helps make you a better human being, a more compassionate one, a more empathetic one, when calling others away from mistakes.

I’m not perfect, and you’re not perfect. Perfection is only for Allah (swt). But we’re trying. And the process of recognizing your weakness and at least attempting to rectify it means that maybe you’ll sin a little less, maybe you’ll still not invent excuses for mistakes and you’ll teach others, “Hey man, I know this is a sin, I know this is wrong, I hope you can do better than me.” And maybe they do change, and you’re both better for it.

Maybe in trying and failing again and again, what you end up doing is coming a little bit closer to success, and that process of trying and failing is the teacher you needed to get you out of your weakness and to then help others do likewise. Maybe that learning process serves you in succeeding elsewhere down the road in other treacherous turns and trials of life.

Whether it’s in losing weight, fixing broken relationships, pulling away from a heavy nafs addiction (eg pornography), don’t ever put yourself mentally in a position where “you’ve lost” and “you may as well give up” because “there’s no hope for me”. Don’t identify yourself by your failures.

So then, what is the point?

The point isn’t that you hit your goal perfectly. The point is that give your best, even with the little that you have, and that is good enough for you and for all of us. Ask Allah (swt) to help you better yourself, and in these 10 Days of Dhul-Hijjah, increase in your du’a, cry to Him for help, in whatever area of life it is you’re trying to improve.

And whatever you fail at, don’t fall off for weeks on end. Acknowledge your mistake, own it completely and take full responsibility. Try to figure out where you went wrong in your process, get help from others if you need to. Forgive yourself, and don’t resign yourself to an identity based on your mistakes.

Never get tired of failing, getting knocked down, and picking yourself back up and trying to do and be better again.

It’s always a brand new day tomorrow.

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading

#Islam

How to Optimize Your Free Time

Time passes by. Many of us muddle through time, day in and day out. Only the wise and the prophets talked about the art of utilizing time in order to exist. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“Take advantage of five matters before five other matters: your youth before you become old; your health, before you fall sick; your wealth, before you become poor; your free time before you become preoccupied, and your life, before your death.”

Time, therefore, is the commodity of all endeavors. We all have 24 hours a day, and we choose how to use them. If you think you have wasted much time on miscellaneous activities last night, weekend, month, or even the years that have passed, then be hopeful that tomorrow inshaAllah you will have a balance of 24 hours. A new slate of opportunity. How will you make use of it?

Let’s take a case study of how an average professional spends his time through a weekday.

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Ahmed is in his mid-20s and works as an engineer. He wakes up for Fajr at 6am, and then gets ready for work to leave home at 8am. The 45 minutes he takes to commute to and from work each day is his favorite time to scroll through his social media and stay up-to-date with the latest news. He spends 8 hours at work. He arrives home in the evening at 6pm, and then eats dinner with his family. He dabbles in and out of conversations with his parents or siblings, and at 7pm he begins watching his favorite show on Netflix -and that’s an hour or two depending on the persuasion of the “Next Episode” button. His social media presence is most alive at 9pm, during the minutes after his show and before his bedtime. He looks at the clock on his wall and thinks about getting to bed soon. At 10pm he takes a dive into YouTube, and sometimes reads an article or two. Ahmed loses his sense of time between shows, likes, and endless scrolls. By the time he regains his consciousness of time, everyone else has fallen asleep.

What Ahmed is unaware of, is that millions of dollars are spent on algorithms for social media and entertainment platforms to keep people engaged. They are all competing for our time, and in exchange, provide us with only instant gratification. Finally, Ahmed falls asleep at 11pm to wake up early again for Fajr the next day.

Shall we do the count? Before we do, let us take no interest in how Ahmed spends his 8 hours at work, including his lunch hour. But the rest are for us to dissect.

Ahmed arrives home at 6pm and goes to bed at 11 pm; 5 hours each day that passes by untamed. In order to bring about any change to his day, Ahmed must then assume that there is another day that starts at 6pm. A day within a day[1]. He says he comes home tired, but we are only urging him to make use of 90 minutes out of the 5 hours. As for the rest, he can do with them as he pleases. Ahmed agrees, but asks what to do about the temptation to be on social media. Here are some tips:

  • Create friction between your finger and the undesired applications on your phone. Don’t place social media applications on your home page; this will give your brain the chance to think twice before utilizing them.
  • Most smart phones allow you to set screen time for each application. Set a daily time limit of one hour for all them.
  • Fast from social media for a duration of 24 hours once a week, and utilize that time to appreciate the small things. Make a conscious effort to spend quality time with family or call an old friend.

Now shall we talk about the 90 minutes?

Now that Ahmed has generously vowed to account for 90 minutes of his day, I want to give back to him the days of his weekend.

هَلْ جَزَاءُ الْإِحْسَانِ إِلَّا الْإِحْسَانُ 

“Is there any reward for good other than good?” [Surah Ar-Rahman; 60]

Therefore, let us deal with the daily 90 minutes between Monday and Friday. 90 minutes a day over 5 days gives you nearly 8 hours. Those 8 hours are your self-realization hours. They are your bread and butter. They are yours. Do with them what your natural inclination calls for; go to the gym, write poetry, write stories, get a start at memorizing the Quran, read, attempt a new language, start a business , volunteer at your local masjid or nonprofit, help organize fundraisers for humanitarian causes, or even start a conviction circle. Let these hours be sacred for you to protect with sword and shield.

I speak humbly from experience. For me, these 8 hours are my reading time. For example, in the past I used 2 months of 90 minutes a day reading on Islamic history, therefore, I read Lost Islamic History, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Islam Between East and West. I hadn’t planned on reading those particular books, but one led to the other. I could have also finished Lost Islamic History and chosen a  few of the sources from its bibliography. My next topic was Art, and currently it’s Seerah; I started with Yasir Qadhi’s – Seerah series, then I plan to read Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources by Martin Lings (for this subject such order is important). I have also used the 90 minutes attending reading groups, organizing weekly halaqas, and strategizing with my local masjid board on how to increase voter turnout during elections.

You’re probably assuming that I have figured out the formula of time management. I must tell you I don’t. It’s all a matter of process, and I took am still working on it.

So, whenever it is that you decide to start productively using time that can be spared, my personal experience has shown that it’s best not to ask questions or plan a year ahead. Just start as if you’re jumping inside a pool, and as the days pass, you will develop the appreciation of time passing by. You will acquire the muscle to make use of it. Also, start slow. Don’t listen to your blind motivation in the beginning; do little, but be consistent, for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) loves this too. As The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“The most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little.”

Eventually, making better use of those 90 minutes will become a habit, but when it does, don’t worship it. If you are sick or have a family obligation, take it as a reminder of your humanity. We are wingless creatures that strive for the stars, and some days we must fall on our faces. Brush off the dust and aim to do it again the next day.

One last note: be humble. Don’t be self-righteous, and begin to talk about how many books you’re reading or reps you’re reaching.

وَلَا تَمْشِ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَرَحًا ۖ إِنَّكَ لَن تَخْرِقَ الْأَرْضَ وَلَن تَبْلُغَ الْجِبَالَ طُولًا 

“Walk not on the earth with arrogance. Verily, you can neither penetrate the earth, nor can you attain a stature like the mountains in height.” [Surah Al-Isra; 37]

It helps me breathe and reorient my priorities. Be still, keep your feet on the ground and vision aimed at the skies.

Ahmed, my old friend, now is your turn to begin to feel time— pass by.

 

 

[1] Bennett, Arnold. How to live on 24 Hours a day, George H. Doran Company 1910.

 

 

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading

#Life

7 Powerful Techniques For Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

Studies show the most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around finances and health.  Unfortunately, they also show only a relatively small number will keep most or all of them. The rest will mostly fail within the first few weeks. Here are 7 powerful techniques to make sure you’re not one of them.

New Year's Resolutions
Who uses sticky notes on a cork board #stockimagefail

It’s the end of the year, and I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking – after wondering if New Year’s is halal to celebrate, you probably want to lose some weight, make more money, talk to family more, or be a better Muslim in some way.  The New Year for many of us is a moment to turn a fresh page and re-imagine a better self. We make resolutions and hope despite the statistics we’ll be the outliers that don’t fail at keeping our New Year’s resolutions.

Studies show the most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around finances and health. Unfortunately, they also show only a relatively small number will keep most or all of them. The rest will mostly fail within the first few weeks.

Given such a high failure rate, let’s talk about how you can be among the few who set and achieve your goals successfully.

1. Be Thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Allah Gives You More if You’re Thankful

You’ve been successful this past year in a number of areas. Think of your worship, career, relationships, personality, education, health (physical, mental, social, and spiritual), and finances. Take a moment to reflect on where you’ve succeeded, no matter how trivial, even if it’s just maintaining the status quo, and be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for those successes.

When you’re thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), He increases you in blessings.  Allah says in the Qur’an:

“And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you give thanks (by accepting faith and worshipping none but Allah), I will give you more (of My blessings); but if you are thankless (i.e. disbelievers), verily, My punishment is indeed severe’” [14:7] 

In recent years, there’s been more discussion on the benefits of practicing gratitude, though oftentimes it’s not clear to whom or what you’re to be grateful towards. We, of course, know that we’re not grateful simply to the great unconscious cosmos, but to our Creator.

Despite this difference, there exist interesting studies on how the practice of gratitude affect us. Some of the benefits include:

  • Better relationships with those thanked
  • Improved physical health
  • Improved psychological health
  • Enhanced empathy and reduced aggression
  • Better sleep
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved mental strength

Building on Your Successes

In addition to being thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), reflect on why you were successful in those areas.  What was it you did day in and day out to succeed? Analyze it carefully and think of how you can either build on top of those present successes, or how you can transport the lessons from those successes to new areas of your life to succeed there as well.

In the book Switch by Dan and Chip Heath, they note that we have a tendency to try to solve big problems with big solutions, but a better technique that has actual real-world success in solving complex problems is to instead focus on bright spots and build on those bright spots instead. You have bright spots in how you’ve worked and operated, so reflect on your successes and try to build on top of them.

2. Pick One Powerful, Impactful Goal

Oftentimes when we want to change, we try to change too many areas.  This can lead to failure quickly because change in one area is not easy, and attempting to do it in multiple areas simultaneously will simply accelerate failure.

Instead, pick one goal – a goal that you are strongly motivated to fulfill, and one that you know if you were to make that goal, it would have a profoundly positive impact on your life as well as on others whom you are responsible to.

In making the case based on scientific studies, James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, writes:

Research has shown that you are 2x to 3x more likely to stick with your habits if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you will perform the behavior. For example, in one study scientists asked people to fill out this sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].”

Further down, he states:

“However (and this is crucial to understand) follow-up research has discovered implementation intentions only work when you focus on one thing at a time.”

When setting your goal, be sure to set a SMART goal, one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Bound.  “I want to lose weight” is not a SMART goal.  “I want to achieve 10% bodyfat at 200 lbs in 9 months” is specific (you know the metrics to achieve), measurable (you can check if you hit those metrics), achievable (according to health experts, it can be done, realistic (it’s something you can do), and time-bound (9 months).

3. Repeatedly Make Du’a with Specificity

Once you lock onto your goal, you should ask for success in your goal every day, multiple times a day.  Increasing in your du’a and asking Allah for success not only brings you the help of the Most High in getting to your goal, it also ensures it remains top of mind consistently.

A few of the best ways to increase the chances of a supplication being accepted:

  • Increase the frequency of raising your hands after salah and asking for your intended outcome.
  • Asking while you are in sujood during prayers.
  • Praying and supplicating in the last 3rd of the night during qiyam ul-layl.

When you make your du’a, be specific in what you ask for, and in turn, you will have a specific rather than a vague goal at the forefront of your mind which is important because one of the major causes of failure for resolutions themselves is lacking specificity.

4. Schedule Your Goal for Consistency

The most powerful impact on the accomplishment of any goal isn’t in having the optimal technique to achieve the goal – it is rather how consistent you are in trying to achieve it.  The time and frequency given to achievement regularly establishes habits that move from struggle to lifestyle. As mentioned in the previous section, day, time, and place were all important to getting the goal, habit, or task accomplished.

In order to be consistent, schedule it in your calendar of choice. When you schedule it, make sure you:

  • Pick the time you’re most energetic and likely to do it.
  • Work out with family, friends, and work that that time is blocked out and shouldn’t be interrupted.
  • Show up even if you’re tired and unmotivated – do something tiny, just to make sure you maintain the habit.

A Word on Automation

Much continues to be written about jobs lost to automation, but there are jobs we should love losing to automation, namely, work that we do that can be done freely or very cheaply by a program.  For example, I use Mint to capture all my accounts (bank, credit card, investments, etc) and rather than the old method of gathering receipts and tracking transactions, all of it is captured online and easily accessible from any device.

Let’s say you wanted to give to charity, and you wanted to give a recurring donation of $5 a month to keep MuslimMatters free – all you have to do is set up an automated recurring donation at the link and you’re done.

Likewise, if you’re saving money for a goal, you can easily do so by automating a specific amount of money coming out of your bank account into another account via the online banking tools your bank provides.  You can automate bill payments and other tasks to clear your schedule, achieve your goals, and keep you focused on working the most important items.

5. Focus on Behaviors, Not Outcomes

We’re often told we should set up SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound.  However, one way to quickly fail a goal is by defining success according to outcomes, which aren’t necessarily in your hand.  For example, you might say as above:

“I want to be at 10% body fat in 9 months at 200 lbs.”

This is a SMART goal, and it’s what you should aim for, but when you assess success, you shouldn’t focus on the result as it’s somewhat outside the scope of your control. What you can do is focus on behaviors that help you achieve that goal, or get close to it, and then reset success around whether you’re completing your behaviors.  As an example:

“I want to complete the P90X workout and diet in 90 days.”

Here, you’re focused on generally accepted notions on behaviors that will get you close to your goal.  Why? Because you control your behaviors, but you can’t really control the outcomes. Reward yourself when you follow through on your behavior goals, and the day-to-day commitments you make.  If you find that compliance is good, and you’re getting closer to your goal, keep at it.

Read the following if you want to really understand the difference in depth.

6. Set Realistic Expectations – Plan to Fail, and Strategize Recovery

After too many failures, most people give up and fall off the wagon.  You will fail – we all do. Think of a time you’ve failed – what should you have done to get back on your goal and complete it?  Now reflect on the upcoming goal – reflect on the obstacles that will come your way and cause you to fail, and how when you do fail, you’ll get right back on it.

Once you fail, ask yourself, was it because of internal motivation, an external circumstance, a relationship where expectations weren’t made clear, poor estimation of effort – be honest, own what you can do better, and set about attempting to circumvent the obstacle and try again.

7. Assess Your Progress at Realistic Intervals

Once you’re tracking behaviors, simply mark down in an app or tracker that you completed the behavior.  Once you see you’re consistent in your behaviors over the long-term, you’ll have the ability to meaingfully review your plan and assess goal progress.

This is important because as you attempt to perform the work necessary to accomplish the goal, you’ll find that your initial assessments for completion could be wrong. Maybe you need more time, maybe you need a different time. Maybe you need a different process for accomplishing your goals. Assess your success at both weekly and monthly intervals, and ask yourself:

  • How often was I able to fulfill accomplish my required behaviors?  How often did I miss?
  • What was the reason for those misses?
  • Can I improve what I’m doing incrementally and change those failures to successes?  Or is the whole thing wrong and not working?

Don’t make changes when motivation dies after a few days.  Don’t make big changes on a weekly basis. Set an appointment on a weekly basis simply to review successes and challenges, making small tweaks while maintaining the overall plan. Set a monthly appointment with yourself to review and decide what you’ll change, if anything, in how you operate.

Be something of a Tiger mom about it – aim for 90% completion of behaviors, or an A grade, when assessing whether you’ve done well or not.  Anything below 90% is a failing grade.

(ok, so Tiger Moms want 100% or more, but let’s assume this is a somewhat forgiving Tiger Mom)

Putting it All Together

Set ‘Em Up

  • First, take a moment to reflect and be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for what you’ve achieved, and reflect on what it is you’ve accomplished and what you’ve done in the way you worked and operated that helped you succeed.
  • Next, pick one goal and one goal alone to achieve, and use the SMART goal methodology to be clear about what it is.
  • Once this is done, make du’a with strong specificity on a regular basis during all times, and especially during the times when du’as are most likely to be accepted.

Knock ‘Em Down

  • Schedule your goal into a calendar, making sure you clear the time with any individuals who will be impacted by your changed routines and habits.
  • On a daily basis, focus on completing behaviors, not the outcomes you’re aiming for – the behaviors get you to the outcomes.
  • Plan on failing occasionally, especially a week after motivation disappears, and plan for how you’ll bounce back immediately and recover from it.
  • Finally, on a daily and weekly basis, assess yourself to see if you’re keeping on track with your behaviors and make adjustments to do better. On a monthly basis, assess how much closer you are to your goal, and if you’re making good progress, or if you’re not making good progress, and try to understand why and what adjustments you’ll make.

What goals do you plan to achieve in the coming year?

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading
.
.

MuslimMatters NewsLetter in Your Inbox

Sign up below to get started

Trending

you're currently offline