[Updated 13 May 2021]
There is no time of the year more awe-inspiring than Ramadan. For Muslims, it is the prime time for change, and a time of increased spiritual exercise and connection with Allah. From listening to the Quran, lengthy standing for prayers at night, avoiding junk foods and reducing usage of social media, this month does alter our routines and transform our habits. What a change indeed. We should cherish the blessed month and try to make use of the perfect time to break and make habits. Are you ready to take that step to transform your bad habits into good ones? Here are 8 tips that we hope will serve as a useful reminder to always strive to be better towards the path to Allah!
1. Set your intentions and identify habits you want to make
Anything that we want to achieve always requires focus and intent. During the fasting month, we make resolutions and tell ourselves, this Ramadan will be different. And the first step is for us to know our intentions, acknowledge habits that we want to change and set a specific goal. This is the time when the Shaitan are chained, barakah descends and we actually have a lot of time to be inspired to do good!
Credit: Tradisi Halaqah on Facebook
During this month, there are already some habits built into it such as fasting, listening to Quran and encouragement to make dhikrs. Here are some simple goals for daily actions of ibadah we can do during Ramadan, which you can also continue once the month ends:
- Read a portion of Quran, its translation and tafsir a day
- Read one hadith a day
- Perform a particular dhikr every day in the morning
- Give sadaqah (charitable act)
- Study an Islamic Science (e.g. Fiqh) through classes, talks, etc.
- Listen to a favourite scholar or Islamic podcasts (e.g. Nouman Ali Khan) while on the go
If you don't know where or how to start, you can begin with small changes, rather than attempting to do everything at one go. Making the right change in our lives and starting new habits is not an overnight process - we all need to start somewhere after all. Perhaps we can begin with a seemingly small but meaningful act of sadaqah a day, such as giving a portion of our savings to donate to the mosque or helping a fellow brother or sister. Abu Dhar reported that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
“Your smile to your brother is a sadaqah (charitable act) for you. Your commanding the right and forbidding the wrong is a sadaqah. Your guiding a man in the land of misguidance is a sadaqah for you. Your seeing (showing the way) for a man with bad eyesight is a sadaqah for you. Your removing a stone or thorn or bone from the road is a sadaqah for you. Your emptying your bucket of water into your brother’s (empty) bucket is a sadaqah for you.” [Tirmidhi]
An important point is that during this blessed month and the final 10 days in particular, try to set a goal for yourself to improve on more than one habit – take advantage of the barakah! ? Here are 8 beautiful blessings of Ramadan that we hope will inspire you this holy month!
2. Ask Allah for help (Make du'a!)
Credit: ccarlstead on Flickr
It is Allah who gave you the ability to make or break a habit in Ramadan, and only He can help you maintain it. Asking for His help is a very important part of the overall process, and do so sincerely. Allah is Ever-Willing to respond to our pleas and needs, but it is us who have to take the first step towards Him. Ask for forgiveness and make du'a before, during and after every attempt to kick a habit.
“And whosoever is conscious of Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He (Allah) will make a way for him to get out (from) every (difficulty), and He will provide him from (sources) he could never imagine.” [Quran 65:2-3]
3. Change your environment
Credit: Omar Chatriwalaon Flickr
“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]
When we are planning to kick a habit, we need to resist negative peer pressure and eliminate distractions that may trigger the habit. Even the people we “follow” online have an effect on how we form opinions and evaluate our habits. Hence, it is important for us to pick and choose who we follow online and use social media and technology for the benefit of ourselves and others! Take this time as an opportunity to clean out who you're following on social media, and keep only the accounts that inspire and make you feel positivity rather than envy or doubt. We can also read books that encourage us to do virtuous acts, or listen to more Islamic podcasts, to increase our knowledge and bring us closer to Allah. ?
4. Find support and get a friend to help
We’re all social creatures, be it in person or just online. Even with the COVID-19 situation in 2021, many of us are still connecting with our loved ones through online calls and hangouts. So, don’t be afraid to enlist the help and support of your family, friends and the community! It will be much easier to kick habits and form good ones with the support of others and the whole process would be a much more enjoyable experience if you embark on the process together with a friend. Be sure to reach out to those who will provide you with the encouragement that can help you move forward!
Credit: Muslim Youth Forum Singapore on Facebook
Being in the company of others who are mindful of Allah and strive to always do good really does help make a positive impact in your life. If for instance, you may find it challenging to pray 5 times a day yourself, find a friend who has that habit and go for prayers together or ask if they can remind you throughout the day. It is easier to be in the remembrance of The Creator when we constantly surround ourselves with company that does that. It will not only encourage you and keep you accountable, but it will also deepen your brother/sisterhood as well! ❤
My circle of friends in college have always shared with each other when there are events organised by the Muslim societies of the various universities, or if there are Islamic seminars and talks. As I stayed quite far from central and all the universities, I always felt lazy to attend the talks. But a few Ramadans ago, I decided to make a habit and make time to attend Islamic talks and classes, and it was much, much easier to do it with my closest friend in college. I told her my plans and likewise, she also told me she does get lazy sometimes as well, but we encouraged each other to go and alhamdulillah since then, we adjust our schedules and started attending weekly classes in my neighbourhood mosque. We also made it a point to go to Sultan Mosque together on Thursdays where there is the reading of Surah Kahf in congregation. Indeed, it is easier to break or make a habit that brings you closer to Allah when we surround ourselves with the company that always remind you of Allah, and for that, I want to thank you, my best friend! (you know who you are) ?
5. Evaluate and think about your day each night
Evaluating ourselves, actions and intents before we go to sleep is a useful way to sustain positive habits. It helps us see the bigger picture, and we can evaluate long-term on how well we have been keeping up with our habits. Not only does it help us track the progress and see where we are, it also reminds us of what we were supposed to do.
For instance, if we already started praying on time this Ramadan, we can consciously evaluate and ask a question or two on this specific habit. Ask yourself, how was the quality of the prayer? How many times today did I pray in congregation? These can help to improve our current habits and do better the next time. Keeping track of these changes in something like a journal can also inspire you in the future, as you can look back at how far you've come ?
6. Don’t fall apart if you make a mistake
In Islam, there lies the beauty of Taubah (repentance). Allah blesses us with this chance to go back to Him when we do something wrong. But we should understand that repentance is a consistent act that we need to do, as we are only human, and that we will err. Only Allah is Perfect. Repentance is a staple in our everyday act of worship and we should never give up if we made a mistake or went back to our habits on a couple of occasions. We must know when we are becoming sluggish in our deeds (for example just going through the motions in solat as opposed to being concentrated) or went back to old habits, seek Allah’s forgiveness sincerely and make repeated du'a so that we can change for the better.
Don’t let one of two slips turn into a reason that you can’t achieve something! If you made a mistake, just start again. He will always help us, God Willing. Here are some more ways on keeping your faith strong and ways to remember Allah even when you’re busy!
7. Take it one step at a time
Sometimes, kicking a habit or giving up an addictive act may seem almost impossible, and some may be more demanding if they are already part of our daily routines and personality. Indeed, it can take days of patience and ongoing practice to stop old habits. But don’t worry if it is challenging to break the habit initially. The blessed month of Ramadan actually offers the best and perfect environment and it takes about 30 to 40 days to break a bad habit and develop a new, better one! So take it one day at a time, with determination and consistency. Get through the first day, and then the second, and third and so on. This also applies the same when it comes to forming positive habits that you want to pick up this Ramadan.
Aisha reported that Rasulullah s.a.w said:
"Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and remember that you shall enter Paradise only through Allah’s mercy, and also remember that the most beloved deed to Allah is that which is regular and constant even if it is little." (Bukhari).
In addition to the discipline during the month of Ramadan and increased connection with Allah, you can transform your habits for life. ?
8. Resolve to continue and follow up (even after Ramadan!)
Sometimes, seemingly small inconsequential acts that we take for granted such as gossiping or wasting our time doing unproductive deeds may build up into bad habits again. Giving up such bad habits or trying to form good habits require regular maintenance and determination. Also called “Tazkiyyah” in Islamic terms (purification of the spiritual heart), this process can be a lengthy and ongoing one but always make du'a and remind yourself of Allah to ensure you continue towards betterment. Hence, we have to practice to have more awareness about when we carry out the bad habits, and to be more conscious of refraining from them. The more persistent and aware we are in refraining ourselves from doing it, the easier it’ll be even after Ramadan inshaa Allah!
Some people also develop a relapse strategy such as doing sadaqah if they went back to a bad habit, or doing an extra fast. Keeping a good support system and having a friend who can keep you on track and offer useful advice are all vital as well to ensure we follow up towards the path to Allah.
The effort is worth all the time and patience because forming these habits for the Creator is, in reality, a means of improving oneself, and putting the effort in transforming our lives in conformity to the Sunnah! As we are already into Ramadan, let’s increase our efforts to attain his pleasure! Do share with us any tips that are useful in breaking a bad habit or forming a good one! ?