Are You Ready For CHANGE This Ramadan?
Posted July 30, 2012on:
Are You Ready For CHANGE This Ramadan?
For Muslims, Ramadan is the prime time for change. This intense, one-month boot camp dramatically alters our routines and schedules. From tight sleep schedules, to starvation for extended hours, to reduction in consumption of junk foods, to a technology diet, to withdrawal from caffeine addiction, to lengthy standing in Tarawih prayers at night, to extensive listening to the Quran. What a change indeed!
Beyond Routines And Rituals
The real change, however, Ramadan demands of us is the internal change – a change that positively transforms our lifestyle, character, attitudes, conversations, and habits. Allah has described this change in the month of Ramadan as follows: “so you may exercise self-restraint (Taqwa)” [Quran 2:183].
Slavery To Ramadan?
If our change is limited to outer physical practices only, we become slaves to Ramadan, instead of being servants to Ar-Rahman (Allah, the Merciful).
Prophet Muhammad has warned us about those who don’t fast from bad behavior: “Allah has no interest in any person’s abstention from eating and drinking, if that person does not give up lying and dishonest actions” [narrated by Abu Hurrah in Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 3, #127].
Every Ramadan we make resolutions and tell ourselves: “This Ramadan will be different. I’m going to change my ______ habit.” “I will give up ………”, “I will take my practice of Islam to the next level”. But how many of us are really able to follow through? Plenty of good intentions, many amazing wishes, but sadly enough, life goes on as usual the morning of Eid.
Are you ready to take that first step to transform your bad habits into good ones?
Ramadan offers a perfect and natural environment for moral training. Interestingly, researches from “positive psychology” (scientific study of successful people) have repeatedly shown it takes 30 days to kick a bad habit and develop a new one.
In addition to the physical discipline in the 30-day boot camp of Ramadan, the increased spiritual exercise and connection with Allah, can transform your habits for life.
Try these proven techniques for a successful positive change in your habits (during Ramadan and beyond!):
1. Acknowledge and identify your bad habits
First step is to admit you need to change. If you are in a state of denial, you won’t recognize that you have a bad habit to change.
2. Pick a habit for 30 days
Prioritize your bad habits and focus on one for 30 days. Take a 30-day trial to re-condition your habits. If you are committed to changing at least one habit, you will see remarkable results, God-willing.
3. Realize that it’s in us to change
Don’t believe the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” You can break a bad habit if you really want to. No one else can change your habits, if you don’t want to.
4. Plan to change
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” A healthy process of change in character requires a gradual pace, which entails planning. Develop concrete milestones to measure your progress. “Beware of Allah wherever you may be; follow up an evil deed with a good one which will wipe (the former) out, and behave good-naturedly towards people.” [Al-Tirmidhi relates it, saying: It is a good (hasan) Tradition. In some copies he says: It is a good and genuine (hasan and sahih) Hadith.]
5. Replace a bad habit with a good one
Completely eliminating a habit is more challenging than replacing it with a more productive habit. Moreover, it’s crucial to replace the lost natural needs, such as the need to socialize and to be entertained with something healthy.Interestingly, Prophet Muhammad, the greatest ‘psychologist’ of humanity, illustrated this principle in these words:
6. Change your environment
Resist the negative peer pressure by finding a better company of friends. Collective action to change is very powerful. Prophet Muhammad explained this peer pressure effect with this analogy: “A good friend and a bad friend are like a perfume-seller and a blacksmith: The perfume-seller might give you some perfume as a gift, or you might buy some from him, or at least you might smell its fragrance. As for the blacksmith, he might singe your clothes, and at the very least you will breathe in the fumes of the furnace.” [Sahih al-Bukhari Volume 3, Hadith 314; & Muslim]
7. Exercise (physical and spiritual)
A habit of regular physical exercise is obviously important for lasting weight loss. But you may not realize that exercise helps in eliminating a number of bad habits. For example, among smokers who become competitive runners, for example, over 80% give up smoking.Moreover, exercising your will power (struggle to fight temptations) for 30 days helps you kick all kinds of bad habits and form new good ones. Willpower is like a muscle; the more you exercise it, the more you strengthen it.
8. Think of yourself as a changed, different, new person
This simple psychological shift in your thinking about your own image can do wonders. Tell yourself, “I can’t continue this ill-behavior. I am better than that. I am stronger. I am wiser.”
9. Reward success
The most fundamental law in all of psychology is the “law of effect”, which simply states that actions followed by rewards are strengthened and likely to recur. Unfortunately, studies show that people rarely use this technique when trying to change personal habits.Setting up formal or informal rewards for success greatly increases your chances of transforming bad habits into good ones, and is far more effective than punishing yourself for bad habits or setbacks. As Muslims we should also remember that the ultimate reward is Allah’s Pleasure and Paradise in the Hereafter.
10. Schedule or limit your bad habits
If you are really struggling to kick a bad habit, try limiting the habit to a specific time and place. Research and case studies confirm that this rather unconventional approach can be a useful first step in changing bad habits or learning new good ones.
11. Tell someone about your effort to change if it helps
He or she may keep you on track. Shura, which means regular consultation and constructive feedback in any group environment (family, work place, and leadership), is one of the tools that the Companions of the Prophet used for their own improvement.
12. Remember, Allah loves those who commit mistakes and repent
Prophet Muhammad said:“By Him in Whose Hand is my life, if you were not to commit sin, Allah would sweep you out of existence and He would replace (you by) those people who would commit sin and seek forgiveness from Allah, and He would have pardoned them.” [Sahih Muslim]
13. Resolve to continue on and follow up
Giving up bad habits or learning good habits requires regular maintenance and determination. It is a long, ongoing process, also known as “Tazkiyya” in Islamic terminology. It’s more difficult than the first few steps of change. (“How many times have I dieted, for example, only to gain the weight back?”)
14. Remind yourself of death and hereafter often
“Remember often the terminator (or destroyer) of all the pleasures [i.e. death],” the Prophet once stated. [at-Tirmidhi.]
15. Develop a relapse strategy
How do you ensure not to return to your bad habit you are trying to change? Some people donate money to a good cause every time they return to sinning or a bad habit. This reminds them of the ‘cost’ of going back to old bad habits. Others try physically demanding acts to deter them from reverting to old ways.
16. Allah will help you change
Last but not least, make Asking for Allah’s Help an integral part of the overall change process. Ask for Allah’s guidance before, during and after every attempt at kicking a bad habit. Allah is Ever-Willing to respond to your needs; but it is you who must take the first step towards Him.
The Prophet told his close companion:
“By Allah! Whoever gives up something for the sake of Allah, Allah will replace it with something better than it!”
Taha Ghayyyur is the
Development Manager at Sound Vision.
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