Shereeza Ibrahim. B.A.Psych, M.S.W, R.S.W.
Clinical Counsellor and Author
Allah revealed, “You are the best people raised for the good of mankind; you enjoin good and forbid evil and believe in Allah (3:110).” Are we the best of people raised for the good of mankind by keeping good habits for just 30 days of the year? Ramadan is a special month to draw closer to God and establish some good practices. One major thing we are to gain from this time is good habits. Perhaps you began to complete extra nafl prayers, give more in charity, keep in better contact with family members, read more Qur’an and make more dua etc. When the inspiration and motivation of Ramadan is over, sometimes we lose the habits soon after. So how do we keep it up?
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little (Bukhari).” The Prophet used three key words: sincerely, moderately and properly. Sincerity means to do something with an honest intention. In this case, not to be show off; not seeking attention or praise or for any other purpose than Allah. For example, you wouldn’t give the money to the beggar because you knew the family-friend was watching and it would look good on you and your family, but you gave it because Allah commanded you to give some of the wealth He has blessed you with to help those in need. Allah warned us, “So woe to the worshippers who are neglectful of their prayers—those who want to be seen (of men), but refuse (to supply) neighborly needs (107:4-7).” It’s simple: you do something good because Allah advised you to behave this way, you want Allah to be pleased with you and for the good of your own soul. How can you ensure your intention is sincere? Don’t tell anyone you’re doing it. The Prophet said a Muslim should give “such that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives in charity (Bukhari).” This is how discrete and sincere our deeds should be.
Next is “moderately”. This is important for you to successfully keep the habit alive. When we want to form a new habit, it’s important that we start out with reasonable expectations. Firstly, it’s best to pick something easy to follow through on. Don’t go big because it may be hard to keep up. The Prophet said, “Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded (Bukhari).” So I remind you, the Prophet said “the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little.” If you want to read the Quran regularly, don’t commit to 30 mins per night if you likely won’t keep it up. Instead at least read maybe 1-5 lines per night. That may seem insignificant to you, but the most beloved deed by Allah is the consistent deed. May I suggest a small habit to pick up? It was related in Bukhar that the Prophet said, “Two phrases that are beloved to the Most Merciful, and light on the tongue but heavy on the scale: Glory and praise to Allah (subhan Allahi wa bi hamdih), and glory to Allah Almighty (subhan Allahi al-‘Athim).”
Lastly is doing that habit properly. This can mean accurately or mindfully. I remind you to practice the habit full-heartedly rather than half-heartedly just to get it over with. Paying attention to what you’re saying if it’s your prayers. Make sure you’re pronouncing the recitations properly. Sometimes we pronounce the Quran wrong and we’re actually saying the wrong thing, sometimes an offensive thing, so take some time to review the proper teaching at Quran.com. You can click on the Arabic words and it will pronounce each word clearly for you so you can repeat it and make sure you’re saying it correctly. These are the words of God you are reciting so it should be correct, out of respect for the Creator. Additionally, doing it properly means not rushing. Ensure if you’re doing tasbeeh for example, you’re saying SubhanAllah and Alhamdulilah, not Subana or Hamdula. Remember it’s the one who created you and causes your heart to beat that you’re speaking with. Do it with love, devotion and respect. Speak properly and clearly and remember why you’re doing it.
I want to leave you with what Allah said, “Wealth and children are the adornments of the present life. But the things that last, the virtuous deeds, are better with your Lord for reward, and better for hope (18:46).” So yes take care of your day to day life, but also invest in yourself and your relationship with Allah, for the sake of your soul in the afterlife. Don’t get so distracted by the day to day that you can’t do your small habits, and don’t choose habits that will be too difficult to maintain on a day-to-day that you end up giving it up. Use these tips, and you will find success in keeping the spirit of Ramadan with you throughout the year.
Author Bio: Shereeza is a clinical counsellor and award-winning author, whom offers low- cost telephone counselling through GTA Wellness Consultation. She has been with the Islamic Institute of Toronto community for over 10 years and is now a regular contributor to the IIT Newsletter.