What is it that keeps us from being the best Muslims, the best human beings possible? Excuses. Excuses are an enormous part of the internal struggle we engage in on a day-to-day basis. The most common excuses are related to having too many responsibilities, intending to do it later, not having enough energy, or time to get it all done. Now is the time to take control over our excuses.
How To Stop Making Excuses
You want to become a better Muslim. You want to start exercising. You want to read and increase your knowledge. You want to engage more in dhikr. But although you may intend for these things, you can’t seem to ever get to them.
It could be because you are letting your excuses control you.
So how does one overcome excuses? The process begins with identifying the type of excuse that is keeping you from performing the act and then using a tailored approach to break it.
So let’s identify the most common excuses that keep us from doing good and see what we can do to break them:
“There’s something else I need to do right now”
This excuse is perhaps the most prevalent when it comes to engaging in an act of dhikr such as reading the Quran or performing nafl (extra voluntary) prayers.
It is rare that we will consciously say such-and-such activity is more important than this extra prayer, but we either subconsciously believe that or follow waswasah (whispers from Shaytan).
Ask yourself, what is the alternative that you are focused on right now? Is it something important, like helping your parents, or is it something leisurely, like watching TV or surfing the Internet?
If it is a matter of fulfilling a responsibility to your parents or another commitment, then perhaps it makes sense to see this not as an excuse, but as a valid reason.
While limited leisurely activities are fine, it is important not to make them the focus of your day. More importantly, do not forgo good deeds for them. The solution to this would be to be very conscious and very wary of such whispers from the Shaytaan and the nafs. When the thought of opening the Quran is immediately followed by this whisper, your mind should stand upright. Seek refuge in Allah, The Exalted, and just dive in.
“I’ll do it, just not right now. I’ll do it later.”
This is closely connected to the excuse of having other things to do, but it should be listed separately because it is perhaps an even more deceptive excuse. By using this reasoning, one is putting a task to an indefinite unwarranted future. The best way to break this excuse would be to focus on the fact that one has the most control over the present.
Realizing the importance of making the most of the present also involves reflecting on the fact that we could be taken from this dunya at any time. Some of the early scholars of Islam used to say, “If the remembrance of death leaves our hearts for an hour, our hearts will become rotten.” [Dham Qaswat al-Qulub – Ibn Rajab)
If we want to strive to be intelligent Muslims, we must reflect on death, and as we do that we realize how important it is to not put off until later what we have the ability to do right now.
“I don’t have the resources.”
“I’ll start learning about fiqh when I can make hijrah and study with scholars.” “I need my own room to concentrate and study, and until that happens I can’t study the Quran.” “My laptop is dying, and until I get that fixed I won’t be able to do the research I was supposed to do.”
To break your excuses, remind yourself that where ‘there is a will, there is a way’. Are there too many distractions at home? Go to the library. Waiting on a book or any other resource? While you are waiting, look elsewhere to start learning about the topic before you receive it.
By making excuses due to your circumstances, you are putting yourself in a state of mind that is not ready to accept knowledge, iman, or self-improvement. If you find that you are lacking something you need to be a better person, pray earnestly to Allah (The Exalted), and at the same time refuse to be dissuaded and actively seek alternative means.
“I don’t have the energy.”
Physically speaking, low energy is often caused by not getting enough sleep or exercise, or by having a diet that is too rich in carbohydrates. To gain physical energy, you owe it to Allah to be in a good state of physical fitness.
You also need to tap into the resource of spiritual energy so that one is charged and fired up and ready to do a good act, regardless of one’s level of physical energy. I find that the most efficient way of breaking the low energy excuse to think of those who are in an incredibly high state of iman. Such people do not get drained by worship and good deeds; they are energized by it. Just like you shouldn’t think that giving zakat or sadaqah reduces your wealth, you shouldn’t think that engaging in good acts and improving yourself as a person will sap your strength. So you can try and emulate such people and make du’a that Allah make good deeds a source of nourishment for you.
Insha’Allah the more effort it takes for you to complete an act, the greater the reward you will receive for it.
“I don’t have enough time”
Have you ever noticed how some people manage to do so many things? How do you think they do it? It’s because they have made the most of the barakah in each given day. If you follow the general steps to being a more productive Muslim,you will find that time is something that can be in great abundance and barakah.
3 Steps to Stop Excuses and Finally Start Being Productive
Go to bed and wake up earlier.
When you sleep after ‘Isha and stay up after (Tahajjud or) Fajr, you will feel that there are much more hours in the day. By giving yourself extra time in the morning before work or school, you do the things you are usually too tired to do in the evenings: recite and reflect on the Quran, doing extra dhikr, exercising, etc.
Be efficient in your tasks
Is something that should take you only 30 minutes taking you 2 hours? Beware of time wasters; focus only on the task at hand and cut yourself off from all possible distractions, whether they involve instant messaging, browsing, or talking on the phone.
Know when to say No
Have you shouldered more than you can handle, or doing any extra activity that will not benefit you in the long run? When the above steps don’t work, you might need to examine your activities and make a decision about which one you will have to let go.
It is not until the ummah understands these excuses, and the power to overcome them, we can truly start benefiting from Allah’s immense mercy and bounty.
To end, I would like to remind us of Surat-ul-Asr:
Indeed, mankind is in loss,
Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.” (103:1-3)
Have you recently stopped making excuses and started getting things done? Share with us how you did it in the comments section below.
About the author
Sarah Farrukh is an Information Studies graduate student at the University of Toronto. Her interests include books, publishing and the digital age. She blogs at A Muslimah Writes. amuslimahwrites.wordpress.com