Monday 26 December 2011

Planning for the REALLY Long-term

Most people think about planning their goals and activities in the context of a month, a year or even five years. There are a few people who like to think about the longer picture and plan the course of their career to retirement or even what they want to achieve over the course of a lifetime. But what is different about Muslims is that our real planning is for after this life is over. We are taught to prepare for another, eternal life, through our actions in this one.

So you can manage your time for a day or week, you can project plan for a month, but imagine planning the biggest, most important project of your (after)life? Alhamdulillah, we have the Quran and the Sunnah (life and traditions) of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to guide us on how to live the life to achieve the best prospects in the afterlife.

This has got me thinking. Our days and our weeks pass so quickly. We have so many plans, both for things we want to do in this world (the big house, the new car, the degree course) and the things we want to do to benefit us in the next life (“one day I will start that Islamic that mosque...start that charity”). Those that we can see the benefits of immediately, such as a degree, we plan in detail, work out the logistics and work hard to achieve. Those where the benefits are not immediate, we put off and are vague about and never seem to start – so we have plans to wear hijab, or start praying tahajjud (the night prayer) or memorise the Quran but never seem to get round to it.

I am starting to come to the realisation that these are the best years of my life and they will pass me by in the blink of an eye, I may achieve some short-term goals – a promotion, a degree, but the long-term ones will remain pipe dreams and the ones that really count, i.e. in the next life will go to the grave with me as half-baked good intentions.

So insh’Allah, I am thinking about planning for the long-term and asking the question – what do I need to do to achieve those things that might help me succeed in the akhirah (after-life)? None of us is promised a hundred years of life to achieve everything they wish to; in fact we have no guarantee that we will see the end of this day, or even this hour:

Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased, who said, "The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: The usual life span in my Ummah is between sixty and seventy years, and only a few pass this age.'' (At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah, in the Book of Zuhd of his Sunan).

But I believe we can make sincere intentions and work towards them, so that even if we die before we achieve them, we will be rewarded for them. How will we know our intentions are sincere and not just pipe-dreams? We allocate time to them, even if its 30 minutes a day. We step outside of our comfort zone and do something that helps us towards our goal which makes us uncomfortable or frightens us, but we do it anyway. We do the research required to find the best way of doing something and avoid the mistakes of others and we plan our time and resources so that we can take one manageable step at a time towards achieving our goal.

Insh’Allah, in order to benefit from our actions in the next life, we make sure that everything we do is for the sake of pleasing Allah (SWT):

On the authority of Omar bin Al-Khattab, who said : I heard the messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) say: "Actions are but by intention and every man shall have but that which he intended. Thus he whose migration was for Allah and His messenger, his migration was for Allah and His messenger, and he whose migration was to achieve some worldly benefit or to take some woman in marriage, his migration was for that for which he migrated." (Related by Bukhari and Muslim)

We check out intentions throughout the deed to ensure that no other reason has crept in (to impress people, to benefit financially) and we ask Allah (SWT) for forgiveness if it has.

Alhamdulillah, I was trying to find more information to help me plan better and I came across this video on Youtube by Productive Muslim. Brother Mohammed Faris talks about planning for the long-term including the akhirah and offers a template to do this. I have been using his table to help me plan and it has helped me immensely. In particular, it has raised the questions for me of whether my plans or intentions contribute in any way to my aakhirah, and if not, why am I doing these things?

How are you planning for success? What kinds of tools and methods do you use, what do you find helpful or a hindrance? Your advice and thoughts would be much appreciated.

Abdullah bin Abbas (Radiallau Anhu) reports that Rasulullah (peace be upon him) said “There are two bounties of Allah wherein most people are deceived, health and free time”.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "God said, 'The offspring of Adam abuse time, (even though) I am Time.'"


  1. I love, love this post. I am in the process of setting some goals, and like you've mentioned, I've had a few intentions like memorizing the Quran which haven't exactly been fruitful this past year. Thank you for giving some perspective and inspiration for this. I'm a fan of Productive Muslim and am planning to use their templates too. Again, thank you and may God bless you and help you achieve your goals.

  2. In this post its like you have given me a written answer for my thoughts, i Dont know about others but i become disappointed and lose focus to quickly at times- sometimes we need such a reminder that its not all about the dunya. Thank you for the wonderful reminder. love your blog its such an inspiration x