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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kicking the Habit – The 6-Step Ramadan Advice

I would like to take this opportunity to greet you, to congratulate you on the advent of blessed Ramadan, to make my sincere dua for you, to express my deepest friendship and love for you and my sincere care and support for you and your families. I make a sincere dua to Allah alone that He makes this month a means to ease your worries, that he replaces it with goodness and transforms your world into a Jannah in this life. May Allah give you what your heart desires and amaze you with His bounty and grace. I wanted to share with you my answer to something that people ask every Ramadan, namely: How can I make this Ramadan special? The answer quite simply is: By developing good habits in this month.

We all have habits that we may not like or that which may not be liked by Allah. As a result of this, we feel its negative effect in our lives. By its nature, a habit is basically something ingrained and hardwired in our mind. The best way to get over it, is not to try to stop the habit straight away, rather by starting and working on a counter habit. If you want to lose some weight for example – don’t start by stopping to eat, rather start developing a habit of regular exercise and then slowly work on cutting down on the food. This is more effective, more lasting and will probably bring in the result you want. You see, it is difficult to overcome habits that are and have been long standing, but relatively easy to start new ones.

I wanted to share with you a process that I follow to work on starting a new habit that counters a bad habit that I have. It is the following 6 steps. These steps are essentially taken from the simple Islamic process of making repentance – firstly remembering the sin, regretting it by thinking about its implications, making a resolve to not repeat it, doing a good deed that will wipe out the sin, then surrounding yourself with ways of doing good and closing all doors to the bad and lastly being thankful to Allah for having guided you to the good and remembering that if you do the sin again, it is only going to be a new sin and not harm your previous repentance inshaAllah. In the context of habits, the steps are as follows:

1. Firstly, make yourself aware of that negative habit, when, where and how frequently do you happen to do it. How can you effectively make yourself aware of it? By telling others to spot it, by monitoring yourself as closely as possible, by jotting down every time that you remember that you did it. Example: Habit of missing the sunnah prayers.

2. Then, ask yourself about what impact that habit has on yourself and on your perception, personality and relationship with Allah. The more you focus on this, the more this becomes the lever of change. Example: Constantly missing the sunnah prayers makes a person a miser with his ibadah, not love the sunnah, legally removes his status as being just, removes the reward of having a new palace built for him/her in paradise daily – the more you focus on the problems of this bad habit, the more it will make you want to change it.

3. Next, focus on how willing and committed you are to making a change and on doing a counter habit. Think over the fence into the future – how it would be to not have the negative habit and to replace it with a positive one.

4. Then write a specific action that you will do to counter the habit and start the good habit. Be very specific and try to make it regular so that it actually becomes a habit. Remember – a habit is something that you do regularly! Example: specifically you will come to prayer 10mins early so you can do the sunnah prayer on time.

5. Next, support yourself to develop that new good habit. How? Hang around good friends, put up reminders anywhere and everywhere, get your family and friends to support you by reminding you about it.

6. Lastly, reward yourself every time you do a good habit and don’t be too hard on yourself if you end up doing the bad habit here and there. Remember, habit happens!

Remember that Allah loves those simple deeds that are done regularly rather than the major ones done irregularly. I invite you to use the above to remove a negative habit that you may have and then to develop a new good habit in this month. So make this Ramadan special by starting a new habit of making dhikr constantly; reciting surah ikhlas 30 times a day so you get the reward of reciting the whole Quran 10 times a day; helping one poor person with a daily meal; sponsoring an orphan; getting up for qiyamul layl in the last third of the night every night of Ramadan; making dua only for Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wa salam), etc. Whatever habit you work on, believe me, you will certainly find tremendous barakah and become truly beloved to Allah, if you focus on making it less adhoc and more regular and constant – a true good habit!


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