Byline: Dr M Ali Hamza
It is a common practice in western countries to set resolutions for the upcoming year. This practice is seeping into our part of the world as well. Setting a resolution is sort of taking a pledge or recommitment of a person to change an undesired attribute or conduct and to carry out a goal of improving one's life. With the new year of 2020 upon us, it is to reflect on the past year and how one can improve their life in the coming year.
New Year resolution is not a new custom. In 1894 BC people of Babylonia used to make promises to their deities at the start of each year, that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. Romans began each year by making promises to their god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. In the medieval era, the knights took the 'peacock vow' at the end of each year to reiterate their loyalty to gallantry. This tradition has many religious parallels as well, but the concept, regardless of doctrine, religion or creed, is to reflect upon self-improvement annually. The start of a new year does not have any specific celebrations or acts of worship attached to Muslims. However, it is a praiseworthy act any time of the year to engage in self-reflection, to feel proud and grateful for our good deeds and to acknowledge where we may be falling short and in need of improvement. Making resolutions can help pinpoint what we want to achieve, thus making it easier to come up with plans to reach these goals.
The intention is something to keep in mind when making resolutions, regardless of the time of year. Intentions have a significant role, and in Islamic law, there are different degrees of making intentions to do things. Oaths, for example, involve a person saying out loud that they swear by Allah to do or not do a certain thing, and an oath is a promise made before some institutional authority. Vows involve a person saying out loud that they swear that if the desired event happens, they will perform an act of worship. Vows and oaths, since they are laid out loud and involve swearing to Allah to do something, are considered legal binding and entering into a kind of contract with Allah. If a person breaks their vow or oath, they are required to pay expiation for it, which varies case by case. What do we have in our constitution regarding breaking oath or vow? Maybe nothing, therefore our politicians promise and brag very conveniently.
In fact, when making a resolution, it is important to...