Successful Positive Change this Ramadan
Rasulullah (SAW) has said, “Almighty Allah says, ‘I treat my servant according to his expectations from Me, and I am with him when he remembers me. If he remembers Me in his heart, I remember him in My heart…. if he walks towards Me, I run unto him.” (Hadith-Qudsi)
Make this Ramadaan the month of “Change”..Are You Ready for it???
“Change” is the vogue today. “Change” is being chanted by the Presidents to rally up public support; “Change” is being demanded by the masses suffering due to skyrocketing fuel and commodity prices; “Change”, a drastic one indeed, is what we are witnessing with awe in the global weather patterns. For Muslims, Ramadaan is the prime time for change. This month dramatically alters our routines and schedules. From tight sleep schedules, to hunger for extended hours, to reduction in consumption of junk foods, to a technology diet; to withdrawal from caffeine addiction, to lengthy standing in Taraaweeh prayers at night, to extensive listening to the Quran. What a change indeed!
Beyond Routines and Rituals
The real change, however, Ramadaan 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 Ramadaan as follows: “O you who believe, fasting has been ordained on you as it was decreed upon those before you so that you may adopt Taqwa” (Surah 2:183)
Slavery to Ramadaan?
If our change is limited to outer physical practices only, we become slaves to Ramadaan, instead of being servants to Ar-Rahman (Allah, the Merciful). Rasulullah (SAW) has warned us about those who don’t fast from bad behaviour: “Allah has no interest in any person’s abstention from eating and drinking, if that person does not give up lying and dishonest actions” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
Every Ramadaan we make resolutions and tell ourselves: “This Ramadaan 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. Ask yourself, how is my fasting benefitting my spiritual connection with Allah? How is my extensive worship in Ramadaan helping me discipline my tongue (taste and speech), eyes, ears, and habits? Are you ready to take that first step to transform your bad habits into good ones?
Ways to Kick Bad Habits
Few things are more demanding than eliminating bad habits, since they are part of our daily routines and personality. It takes days of patience and practice to break old habits.
However, the good news is, Ramadaan offers a perfect and natural environment for moral training. Interestingly, researches from “positive psychology” (scientific study of successful people) have repeatedly shown it takes between 30 to 40 days to kick a bad habit and develop a new one.
In addition to the physical discipline during the month of Ramadaan, 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 Ramadaan and beyond!
- 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.
- Pick a habit for this month: Prioritize your bad habits and focus on one for this month. If you are committed to changing at least one habit, you will see remarkable results, Allah-willing.
- 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.
- Remember, Allah loves those who commit mistakes and repent: Rasulullah (SAW) 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)
- Intention& 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.
- 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. For instance, it’s easier to replace your addiction to TV with a physical workout or reading the Qur’aan or a good Islamic book etc. Interestingly, Rasulullah (SAW) the greatest ‘psychologist’ of humanity illustrated this principle in these words: “Fear Allah wherever you may be; follows up an evil deed with a good one which will wipe (the former) out, and behave good-naturedly towards people.” (At-Tirmidhi).
- Change your Environment: Resist the negative peer pressure by finding a better company of friends. Collective action to change is very powerful. Rasulullah (SAW) explained this peer pressure effect with the 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 & Muslim)
- Exercise: Spiritual exercise is important for lasting change. You may not realize that by exerting your yourself in spiritual exercises like the reading of Qur’an and Hadith, fasting, giving charity, Zikr(remembering Allah),Spending time in the Path of Allah etc helps in eliminating a number of bad habits. Through the spiritual light of doing noble deeds, evil ones will gradually be eradicated from your life. Allah says: إِنَّ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ تَنۡهَىٰ عَنِ ٱلۡفَحۡشَآءِ وَٱلۡمُنكَرِۗ “Indeed, Salah restrains from Shameful and unjust deeds” (Surah Ankaboot: 29:45). A person complained to Rasulullah (SAW) about someone who read salaah and also committed theft. Rasulullah (SAW) said “His salaah will very soon wean him off that sin.” This shows that the evil habits can be got rid of by adhering to good practises. The doing of good deeds such as remembering Allah cleanses the heart. A clean heart encourages a person to do good deeds and refrains one from evil habits!! Moreover, exercising your will power (struggle to fight temptations) for this month 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.
- 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-behaviour. I am better than that. I am stronger. I am wiser.”
- Reward success: The most fundamental law in all of psychology is the “law of effect.” It 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.
- Get help: Tell someone about your effort to change if it helps. He or she may keep you on track and may offer some good advice. Read books that will encourage you to do virtues actions. Join the various programs in your local Masjid. Ladies should endeavour to join their local Taalimi Halqas. There are good and sincere people who are ready to assist. We are not an island- We are an Ummah!
- Boost your spiritual immune system: By fasting, doing good actions, Itikaaf(seclusion), spending time in the Masjid with the pious friends of Allah or going in the Path of Allah will boost your Imaan which will provide you with internal strength to overcome temptations to reverting to old bad habits.
- Remind yourself of Death and Hereafter often: Rasulullah (SAW) once stated. “Remember often the terminator (or destroyer) of all the pleasures (i.e. death).” (Tirmidhi)
- 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 “Tazkiyyah” 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?”). So ensure that you follow up. Link yourself to a good Allah-fearing Islamic Scholar, make a habit of spending time in the Path of Allah and constantly engage in noble and charitable work.
- 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. For example that if you do___ act than you will keep three fast or pay so much sadaqa(charity) etc
- Ask Allah for Help (Dua): MOST IMPORTANT!-Make Asking for Allah’s Help an integral part of the overall change process. Ask for Allah’s Help before, during and after every attempt at kicking a bad habit. Do so sincerely, even begging and crying, like a child does when he or she really wants something. Allah is Ever-Willing to Help and to Respond to our needs, but it is us who must take the first step towards Him. Allah will NEVER disappoint us! Allah says وَقَالَ رَبُّڪُمُ ٱدۡعُونِىٓ أَسۡتَجِبۡ لَكُمۡۚ “Ask me, and I will answer your call…” (Surah Ghafir 40:60)
وَيَرۡزُقۡهُ مِنۡ حَيۡثُ لَا يَحۡتَسِبُۚ وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلۡ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسۡبُهُ ۥۤۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ بَـٰلِغُ أَمۡرِهِۦۚ قَدۡ جَعَلَ ٱللَّهُ لِكُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ قَدۡرً۬ا
“And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And if anyone puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him. For Allah will surely accomplish His purpose: verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion.” (Surah Talaaq 65: 3)
Let US Trust and Pray to Allah and make that great change this Ramadaan. Aameen
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