In part-1 of this series we looked at how a positive mindset can affect our well-being and spiritual condition for the better. We looked at 5 tips for cultivating this mindset:
- Gratitude - in everything
- Islamic classes & regular reminders
- Good company - and the importance of our friends & environment
- Positive thoughts — examining our "information diet"
- Intention — and seeking only Allah
In part-2 we’re looking at specific actions that can help to reinforce that mindset and help us to build mindfulness of Allah. As these sections are each a bit longer, I’ve kept it short and digestible, starting off with steps 6+7: litanies, remembrance and repentance.
What is Taqwa?
“And rush towards forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden vaster than the heavens and the earth, prepared for those mindful [of Allah].” — Qur’an 3:133
Mindfulness of Allah should encourage us to be the best possible version of ourselves, constantly striving to do our best. Aiming to be constantly aware of Him and always doing what’s most pleasing to Him. Not out of fear of Him, although that can sometimes be a factor, but out of love to connect with our creator. Doing what is most pleasing to Him is ultimately good for our own selves, bringing peace to our souls in this life and insha’Allah the next.
“O children of Adam! We have provided for you clothing to cover your nakedness and as an adornment. However, the best clothing is righteousness and mindfulness (Taqwa). This is one of Allah’s bounties, so perhaps you will be mindful.” — Qur’an 7:26
Just as clothing is described, taqwa (mindfulness of God) also covers and protects us; beautifying our outward appearance while providing us protection from harm. It is not just protecting us from punishment in the next life but it should also ennoble our actions and character in this life; while keeping us away from things we shouldn’t do, things that would harm us spiritually.
Mindset is a huge part of spirituality and we talked in part-1 about how we can insha’Allah cultivate a positive and beneficial mindset. Now we’ll look at some practical tips that we can schedule throughout our day to help remind us of Allah and bring us back on track if we’re distracted. Helping us to focus on the importance of our creator and His impact in our lives.
6. Reminders, Intention & Dua
Intention is key. Turning around our mindset so that we’re actively grateful when things go well. In tandem with that comes being patient when things are tough and turning back to God in patience and prayer.
"وَٱسْتَعِينُوا۟ بِٱلصَّبْرِ وَٱلصَّلَوٰةِ ۚ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى ٱلْخَٰشِعِينَ "— Qu’ran 2:45
"Seek help in patience and prayer; and truly it is hard save for the humble-minded"— Qu’ran 2:45
It isn’t always easy to do this. In the moment we can get lost in our delight and forget to thank the one who gave it to us. In testing times we can get frustrated easily and forget to be patient. However in today’s day and age, perhaps we can use a little bit of technology to help us along.
Using just a basic app like our calendar or our reminders app we can set reminders and notifications at different intervals in our day. We can start with a reminder for each morning: “Read a dua when waking up”. Setting our intention for the day as soon as we get up:
Dua for waking up:
الحَمْدُ لِلهِ الَّذِي أَحْيَانَا بَعْدَ مَا أَمَاتَنَا وَإِلَيْهِ النُّشُورُ
(alḥamdu lillaahil-ladhee aḥyaanaa ba‛da maa amaatanaa wa ilayhin-nushoor)
All praise is for Allah who gave us life after causing us to die, and unto Him is the resurrection.
This dua refers to sleep being considered the little brother of death in Islam. Just as we’re awoken from our sleep, one day we will be awoken from our graves; and called to account for our actions. It’s a good reminder of the larger picture in life and if we set our intention when waking up, we start our day off on the right-foot. Setting ourselves in the right mindset for success and being cognisant of our purpose.
It’s a short dua that we can set in our reminders app, nudging us to read it when we wake up insha’Allah. There are many other small prayers and litanies we can read throughout the day, for example when waking up, eating, entering bathroom, leaving the house and many more.
Each of these should only take around 30 seconds, but they’re easy to forget about if we’re not in the habit of reading them. Hopefully spacing them throughout our day, regularly aligns our mindset meaning we’re less likely to falter in between.
We can find an amazing list of these duas and litanies in the little pocket-book called "Fortress of a Muslim" (hisnul Muslim). Nowadays we always have our phones to hand and there are plenty of apps that compile duas:
Hisn al Muslim: Fortress by Quanticapps Ltd: https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/hisn-al-muslim-fortress/id684520441
Dua & Zikr (Hisnul Muslim) by Greentech Apps Foundation: https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/dua-zikr-hisnul-muslim/id1402550533
Dua & Azkar by the Dua and Adhkar Team:
Most apps, books and other resources will list the dua in English, Arabic and with transliteration. Learning the dua in arabic can be beautiful to recite, but ideally also make sure you know the meaning, even if it’s just an approximate translation. This is the key to helping you to engage and reflect with the dua in your heart and not just on your tongue insha’Allah.
For setting up the reminders I recommend an app like Reminders (installed by default on iPhone) or Todoist (available on , iPhone, Android and Windows phone). These app allows us to setup regular reminders/todo’s/notifications throughout the day. On Android there are also good apps such as Google Tasks & Google Calendar.
We can set regular reminders for more than just dua. Throughout the day we can remind ourselves of little acts of worship and also remind ourselves to rectify our intention. For example before work or school we can set a simple reminder:
"What is my intention from work? Be a better person • Make the world better • Draw closer to God"
It may only take 5 seconds to read and reflect on, but it helps to set our direction at the beginning of our day and may stop us from slipping later when we’re feeling stressed. Not only does this help us to align with Allah, but it helps us to stay focused on what we want from the day and our higher purpose.
As a general morning reminder, this quote from ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah may be helpful: The imam says that for any endeavour "[one] must either have an overwhelming love or that he endures an annoyance".
It’s a helpful reminder for every day life. Even on good days when we’re doing something that is mostly fun — there will always be something at least a little bit annoying or frustrating that comes up. I try to remember that and endeavour to not get down when it happens, it’s just part of life, everyone goes through it.
Finally, a quick list of some other handy reminders we can set up for appointed times throughout our day:
- Read one verse of Qur’an today - 11am - reminder to read and reflect on one verse of Qur’an - during one’s mid-morning coffee break.
- Dua list - 1pm - short list of prayers and requests to read for friends & family - after duhr.
- Islamic Podcast - 6pm - reminder to try and listen to a beneficial podcast or talk when heading home from work.
- Memorisation while sleeping - 12pm and 7am - Aim to read some Qur’an before sleeping and then the same section when waking up to hopefully maximise retention insha’Allah.
- Gratitude list - 11pm - List of things we are grateful for and want to remind ourselves of daily - handy to read before bed.
- Daily log - 11:45pm - Reflect on the day and journal what one is grateful for; also what one aims to improve in future insha’Allah.
- Brush Teeth — 11:30pm - Oral hygiene 🦷👌
7. Daily Tawbah and dhikr
Even through all apps and efforts we employ to better ourselves — it’s inevitable that at some point we may still slip or just let ourselves downs.
The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) told us that: "If you did not sin, Allah would replace you with a people that would sin and they would seek forgiveness from Allah and He would forgive them" [Sahih]
The limits of Islam, the halal and the haram are there to guide us. Guiding us to what is good for our soul and keeping us away from what is bad. In the short term it might not always seem that way, but we can see long term the halal actions are those things that nourish and bring light to our souls and the haram actions are those that debase us and leave us unfulfilled, unsatisfied and feeling broken.
Of course we aim to avoid sinning, but sometimes we do; and Allah tells us that our repentance (tawbah) is accepted:
"O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful." — Qur’an 39:53
- Stop the sin
- Affirm that you will not return to it
- Seek forgiveness from Allah for having committed the sin
Without getting into too many of the details, if the sin involved someone else then it’s important to also reach out to them and make amends where possible (and sensible).
It’s natural to make mistakes, we see in the Qur’an that even the prophets sometimes made mistakes (although it’s important to differentiate this from sin). We see that Yunus after he was swallowed by the Whale called out to Allah:
"There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers."
"أَن لَّآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّآ أَنتَ سُبْحَـٰنَكَ إِنِّى كُنتُ مِنَ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ" — Qur’an 21:87
Even one of the prophets admitted he had made a mistake and sought repentance in turning back to Allah. To help us overcome our own mistakes and shortcomings with respect to Allah, scholars recommend doing istighar (seeking repentance) 99 times a day. That may sound like a lot but repentance simply requires saying "astaghfirullah" / "أَسْتَغْفِرُ اللّٰهَ " / "I seek forgiveness from Allah".
It’s important to note that repentance (tawbah) shouldn’t be an exercise in excessive guilt but rather cleaning of the heart. Instead of dwelling for hours on our mistakes — we should learn from them, repent and then seek forgiveness for any general shortcomings while striving to be better.
We may have deep regrets in life or even just small things we wish we had done better but sometimes through doing a wrong deed and subsequent repentance — that repentance may allow us to draw closer to Allah. Through talking to Him, beseeching Him, seeking forgiveness from Him we may overall become more cognisant of Him and better reminded of our purpose. This can be a very positive process, even though this repentance stemmed from something negative.
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: "Cleanliness is half of faith. Saying 'al-Hamdu Lillah (all praise and gratitude is for Allah alone)' fills the scale, and saying 'Subhan Allah wal-Hamdu Lillah (Glory be to Allah — and all praise and gratitude is for Allah alone)' fills up what is between the heavens and the earth. Prayer is a light, and charity is proof and patience is illumination, and the Holy Qur'an is a proof on your behalf or against you." [Sahih]
From this hadith we are reminded of the importance of charity, prayer and reading the Qur’an but also informed of the abundant blessings and reward for reciting the following:
- ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّٰهِ - Al-Ḥamdulillāh - All praise is due to Allah
- سبحان الله و الحمد لله - Subhan Allah walhamdulillah - Glory be to Allah, all praise and gratitude is for Allah alone
These are just two of many, many beautiful dua (prayers) and adhkar (litanies) we can recite, an excellent summary of a few more can be found here.
Ideally we’re able to recite these while sitting, facing the qibla, in a state of purity (wudu), but we can also recite them quietly while going about our regular routine. Carrying a little tasbeeh (rosary beads), this sort of remembrance (dhikr) is the perfect activity for when walking through nature or commuting to work. Something to keep our heart and minds engaged while our feet wander the earth.