Customs and Rituals · Islam · New Year

The New Year—an Opportunity to Mould a New and Reformed Self

New Year Picture (1)

Basira Ajmal, Bournemouth

Once again, a New Year is just around the corner—a time when words like resolution, goals, change, plan etc. echo the planet Earth. A new year marks the time when our beloved home planet has travelled one whole orbit around the Sun. But what’s so special and ‘NEW’ in it for us—the ones inhabiting the Earth? Does something new per se happens in our life? Not really, but what we do get is a chance, a plausibility and above all, a motivation to try and achieve a new, better and reformed version of ourselves. It gives us a break in the continuous routine of life running on autopilot.

Surprisingly, it’s a time when a huge section of the society consciously engages in pondering over their lives in a fashion that they usually don’t. They set themselves resolutions. They take vows to ameliorate themselves, to make positive amendments and improvements. Everyone makes a different and distinctive set of goals, however, while reading through many peoples’ resolutions posted on social media every New Year, I notice that the one thing common among all these plans and resolutions is their key objective and target which is to achieve more happiness, more meaningfulness and more satisfaction in life whether it is through an improved physique, a better job, better grades, voluntary work etc.

Science tells us satisfaction and gratification is closely connected to religion and spirituality. Scientists have repeatedly demonstrated through their research and investigation that those with a spiritual practice or who follow religious beliefs tend to be happier than those who don’t. Study after study has found that religious people tend to be less depressed and less anxious than non-believers. A 2015 survey found that participating in a religious organization was the only social activity associated with sustained happiness—even more than volunteering for a charity. It’s as if a sense of spirituality and an active, social religious practice were an effective vaccine against the virus of unhappiness.[i] Thus religious people have higher level of life satisfaction but more interestingly a study also says that simply having a religious identity without any spirituality will not make one feel more meaningful or satisfied.[ii]

So the question arises how do we enhance or get a deeper sense of spirituality? What are the spiritual standards that we need to strive for and against which we need to evaluate ourselves? Fortunately, having accepted Imam of the age, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) and as followers of true Islam the answer for us Ahmadi Muslims is quite easy to find. Shedding light to this matter and guiding us on how to enhance our spirituality, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, says that we Ahmadis are very fortunate that Allah has given us the instruction of the following of the Promised Messiah (peace be on Him) who presented to us the summary of the teachings of Allah and His Prophet (peace be Upon Him) and also showed us the high standards to evaluate our deeds and spiritualty. If this standard is kept in assessment then we can surely achieve the standards of true believers. These are the conditions to rightly judge your standards of good deeds. Every Ahmadi undertook the Bai’at and thus through this the Promised Messiah (peace be on Him) gave us the instructions to follow and thus also expected from every Ahmadi to self-evaluate themselves every day, every week, every month and every year. Thus, if we spend the last night of the previous year and the new day of the New Year pondering over our spiritual conditions and by spending time supplicating towards Allah then we will be the ones who will be working towards a good life hereafter. And if we also indulge in worldly wishes and affairs, then we will lose a lot and gain nothing. If the weaknesses still prevail and the self-evaluation does not give us peace then we should pray to Allah that the coming year may not be the one that would show us a reduction in spiritual enhancement. [iii]

Therefore being Ahmadi Muslims, our standard of spirituality is fully clarified in the ten conditions of Bai’at. In order to gain true happiness and contentment in this life and the hereafter, we need to act in accordance to these conditions which we have pledged to obey. If we look into these conditions, they tell us nothing but to restrain ourselves from all kind of evils; idolatry, falsehood, fornication, adultery, cruelty, dishonesty, mischief etc., and practice virtue; humbleness, cheerfulness, forbearance, benefiting mankind, patience, tolerance etc. They tell us to fulfil rights of God Almighty and His Creation, to supplicate towards Allah alone and be always grateful and faithful to Him. Thus, we need to assess and analyze our past year against these standards and as Muslims, our resolution and goal for the New Year should be to elevate our levels of spirituality to the ones told to us by the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) so that we can have a life full of true satisfaction and gratification.