EMEL magazine has invited me to be one of their commentators, starting in their January edition which is out now. EMEL is a Muslim lifestyle magazine distributed widely across the UK and internationally, and now entering its sixth year, it is the first glossy magazine of its kind in this country.
Twas’ the night before Eid, and all round the house, there wasn’t a sound… except for the phone ringing with a call from the distinguished editors of EMEL magazine. I put on my best suit, and my most posh voice, for one must give such distinguished callers their full due. Would I like to write for the magazine starting from the January edition? they asked.
As a long time fan of EMEL, I was delighted. I was particularly thrilled because it meant that as the year begins I will immediately be starting something fresh and exciting. New year, new me, I declared smugly addressing the self-help gurus who will be plastered all over our pages in January, giving us advice on how to make new year resolutions and stick to them. Ha! I’ve beaten you at your game, you patronising pundits.
Those new year articles explaining how the coming twelve months can lead to a smarter, brighter, more beautiful you, always make me feel bad. I read them last year, and the year before, and probably the one before that. I failed to achieve superwoman status then, and this year will most likely be no different. They worsen the mid-winter gloom.
In 2009, the Islamic new year is at the same time as the calendar new year, and this means that the pressure will be intensified. My intentions every year are much the same: read more, get fit, and spend more time focusing on spirituality. It’s a simple strategy: one goal each for mind, body and spirit. These three are the foundation of a human being, and even though I recognise the importance of nourishing each of them, I feel frustrated that I can’t seem to actually do it.
I know that I’m on the right track, and that at some point I will meet my targets because I have made a niyyah to achieve these goals. Islamic teachings pointed out the importance of intention well before we ever heard the term PMA, (positive mental attitude). I will get round to it. I will, I will. Eventually, that is. It’s just that life is so busy. First the sales (pick up a few must-have discounted suits for work); then engage in some spring cleaning (it all went to pot during the festive season); also need to re-inject some momentum into work (shake off the bad habits of the slow holiday period); plan a holiday for the spring (make the most of the Easter days off); and before you know it, it’s almost summer and I’m still thinking I’ll get to address my resolutions at some point. I console myself with the thought that at least I’ve held onto them, instead of resigning myself to failure.
And therein lies the rub: the being busy. It gets in the way, without us even realising. I must meet this urgent deadline, I think, and then one more, and in the blink of an eye, we wonder where it has all gone. How long were you in the world, we’ll be asked. A day, or maybe half a day, we’ll respond. These words of the Qur’an cast a shadow over my life, especially at a moment where we turn back to review the months past, and prepare ourselves for the year to come. It is a sickening feeling to reach December and wonder what happened since last January. The busy-ness and the ease of procrastination are our greatest enemies. That’s what happens between niyyah and ‘amal, action; the difference between those who simply believe, and those who believe and do good deeds.
This January, much will be written about Barack Obama, as he is sworn into office. If there is any one person of our time who embodies the enormous change that can be created in twelve months, then Obama must surely be a contender. Last year he was barely considered a challenger for the Democratic nomination: this month he will become arguably the most powerful man on the planet.
Will his Presidency herald a new era for the world? Will this mean a new beginning for the USA? Much hope rests on his shoulders, but he will only be as good in leadership, as his constituents are in followership. If we feel swept away by his passion for hope and renewal, it only means that we’ve finally pushed aside all the delays, distractions and excuses, and got round to actually making the change. New year, new you? It’s there for the taking, if only we actually do something.