In the month of Ramadan, we have a crucial choice to make: you can have a year like any other, or you can achieve ultimate happiness and success. How? Decide to live in the true spirit of Ramadan – all year round.
What is preventing us from living everyday with the same level of spirituality, self-control, and productivity we reach in Ramadan? Productivity, applied in an Islamic context, has a different, complete meaning. It implies living our lives in a manner that not only benefit us while we are in this earth, but that, by the mercy of Allah (glorified and exalted be He), will allow us to enter Paradise. Usually bad habits hinder us from that and Ramadan is our opportunity to break that downward spiral, to bring change to our lives, and alter every dimension of our being.
So, how can we maintain good habits?
Know what habits we should give up by Ramadan. Focus on the phrase “by Ramadan.” Be prepared to undertake this journey to instill your habit into your life. Don’t wait till the last day before Ramadan to eliminate undesired acts. Start thinking what you can do this very day to please Allah, to fight Shaytan. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) warned us: “Allah has no interest in any person’s abstention from eating and drinking, if that person does not give up lying and dishonest actions.”
What are the habits we should implement?
Below are some examples to get you started on your own list:
• Regular Prayer
• Du’aa, Adhkar
• Feeding the poor, caring for orphans
• Visiting relatives
• Visiting sick persons
• Waking up before Fajr
• Sleeping early
• Eating light, healthy food
• Forgiving people
To be able to sustain productive ramadan habits we need to understand why we perform them in the first place. Be knowledgeable and get informed; read Islamic books and articles. This way, you will be able to comprehend, implement, and teach other Muslims about what you learn.
This is a recharging month – the levels of energy increase if you live it properly. In Economics, there is a concept that is useful in explaining the effect that Ramadan should have on our lives: it refers to buying something in a specific period of time, but spreading the cost and benefits of it throughout the years. In Ramadan, all of a sudden we start praying taraweeh every night, reading the Quran with the intent of completing it in 30 days, giving frequent charity, and so forth. We gain so much spiritual energy; but this is not designed to fade after the Eid. This is supposed to charge us till next year, continuing the great will-power and positive habit we gained for the coming months.
The Quran says that Ramadan was prescribed to us so we obtain a greater amount of taqwa; to be able to reach such a condition that we purify our hearts, detach from this dunya and see life in perspective. Attaining this state of God-conciousness of Allah throughout our lives and Ramadan is a great time to develop our faith. We need to realize that this dunya is not the ultimate abode: we should be balanced in enjoying the bounties we are blessed with, taking what we need and leaving the rest – so as Muslims we are also minimalists.
It is also interesting to read that the Sahaba were very careful to carry on the same practices they performed during Ramadan for the following months, and then would prepare for Ramadan for months before it. Why this great attachment to Ramadan? What is surprising is not that they cared so much about it, but that most of us have not nearly the same consideration for the month of the Quran? Indeed, our enthusiasm is usually temporary, and the fall in our old selves seems inevitable (but it doesn’t need to be!)
Break bad habits
Ramadan is the ideal time to break bad habits because the devils are chained and are not able to tempt us. Any bad action we commit is not whispered by the shaytan, but from our nafs. They became habits and we started doing them without realizing it – automatically – so to fix the problem we need to become conscious of actions. Monitor yourself, make the intention, research, make du’a, and repent.
Shaytan will try to take you away from Allah, tricking you into thinking that you have made too many mistakes to be forgiven, or that you’re just too weak to change (‘you’ve tried before and failed, again and again’) – do not be fooled, ask Allah (glorified and exalted be He) for help and repent.
Think critically about your unproductive habits
What would happen in 3, 5, 10 years, or in akhirah(!) if you don’t break these habits? What’s the worst thing that could happen if you don’t give them up? What’s the best thing that could happen if do? Imagine how your life would be if you do keep up this habit. Recognize what it is that tempts you to go carry on the habit and clear your house from it and keep distance from it. Knowing the benefits of keeping up good habits can help you visualize yourself as having those habits.
Research the consequences of bad habits such as smoking, drinking caffeine-rich drinks, unhealthy eating behavior, violent or rude behavior. If you still decide to keep them, you will have no excuses in the Hereafter and it’s almost like you’re cheating yourself.
Don’t attempt to wear yourself out by doing everything perfectly at once, rather put the priority on consistency Our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) emphasized this by teaching us to do good deeds properly and sincerely; that the most beloved deed is that which is regular and consistent, even if small.
Seek His help
Write down a dua’a in which you ask Allah (glorified and exalted be He) to strengthen your faith and piety, and to bring you to closer to ihsan. Recite this dua throughout Ramadan, especially when the iftar time is close.
Replace them with good ones
The hard part in giving up a habit is not knowing what to do to fill that sudden void, what to do with the surplus time and energy. Find a replacement action that is positive or beneficial which you can stick to.
Hold yourself accountable
Remember that each and every habit can be broken. Brushing something off as an ‘addiction’ is no more than an excuse to not deal with the problem. Evaluate yourself, monitor your progress, reflect.
Take each day as your last day
Don’t take tomorrow as a guarantee. If you die tomorrow, have nothing to regret. Put your list somewhere visible so that you will continually reminded of your objectives. Make this a memorable ramadan by applying the above tips and sustaining your newly instilled habits that lead to your new life as a Productive Muslim!
About the Author:
Sister Jihan Anwar is an MIS student sharing her musing with the team at MuslimYouthMusings and working as a journalist at the National Yemen Newspaper.