Common Word, Common Lord

In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

Whenever a transition in time occurs, such as the passing of the New Year, it is natural for human beings to reflect over the past and look forward to the future. Hence, many people will be making New Year’s resolutions, and there will be no shortage of people telling  you and me how best to improve ourselves in the coming year. This is all well and good.

Yet, the best “expert” on self-improvement is looking straight at us in the mirror. We know ourselves the best, and we are the best judge of what flaws we have that need improvement. And we can let Scripture help us on this journey of self-betterment.

Just as I wrote during the Islamic New Year, the Qur’an offers several verses and passages that can be used as “personal improvement checklists.” Here is such a verse:

For submitting men and submitting women, believing men and believing women, devout men and devout women, truthful men and truthful women, patient men and patient women, humble men and humble women, charitable men and charitable women, men who fast and women who fast, men who guard their private parts [i.e., chastity] and women who guard [i.e., their chastity], men who remember God often and women who remember [God often], God has prepared forgiveness and a great reward. (33:35)

Here God states that He will prepare “forgiveness and a great reward” for those men and women who:

  1. Submit to God
  2. Believe in God
  3. Possess devotion to God
  4. Are truthful
  5. Have patience
  6. Have humility
  7. Are charitable
  8. Fast (and more generally, willfully deprive themselves for the sake of God)
  9. Guard their chastity
  10. Remember God often

We can use this as a “rubric” against which we can grade ourselves on a moral and spiritual level. How much do we believe in God? How much does that belief translate into action? How devout are we? How much devotion to God do we have? How truthful are we? How humble are we? And so on.

The beauty of this, and other such “checklists” derived from Scripture, is that they can be done in private, with only our own inner voices – guided by the Word and Wisdom of God – speaking to us. There is no one else pointing a finger at us, where are liable to get defensive and shut down our listening.

And, using this checklist, we can set personal goals for the coming year, and the hope is that, by this time next year, we will have achieved those goals and be better people than we are today. For some of us: we may need to work on one thing; for others of us, we may have to fix several flaws. The number doesn’t matter. What matters, rather, is that we are always working to make ourselves better human beings.

Now, some of us may say to ourselves, “Well, I am perfect the way I am. I do not need to use this or any other checklist.” Here, we have to be honest with ourselves: none of us is perfect. The only Perfect One is God Himself.

There is always room for improvement, on both an individual and collective level. Human society and civilization would never have progressed to where it is today if there was not a constant quest for betterment. We should never delude ourselves into thinking that we cannot become better people. If we are not moving forwards, then we are greatly liable to move backwards.

Thus, as we mark the end of one year and the beginning of another, it is my hope and prayer that each one of us can take some time to reflect and find ways in which we can improve and become better people. And with Scripture as our guide, our journey toward self-betterment will be both blessed and successful.

Happy New Year, everyone. May 2016 be filled with love, happiness, plenty, blessing, and incredible self-improvement for all of us.


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