“Whoever knows himself knows God” –Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
“Whoever knows himself knows God” –Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
“An unexamined life is not worth living” –Socrates
Having the proper focus during Ramadan can have a significant impact on every area of our lives for the rest of the year. This is an ideal time for introspection. We need to remind ourselves that the main purposes of Ramadan are self-reflection and spiritual growth. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said “Anyone who fasts and engages in self-evaluation in Ramadan will find heaven.”
It is therefore essential to make the intention to focus inwardly and reflect upon our lives, consciously avoiding obsessing about food or dwelling on how difficult fasting is. If we let our minds constantly worry about the physical discomforts, we lose a great opportunity to improve ourselves and come to next Ramadan in a better station in life than we are at now.
If we don’t consider what our life is about, explains Dr. Sultan Abdulhameed, and deliberately think about a plan to get where we want, we are trapped by our present circumstances. If we only think of our daily concerns and present condition, we won’t achieve a big purpose. In order to realize our dreams, some of the most important actions we can take include clarifying them, reflecting upon them daily, and thinking about them so much that they become our predominant thought pattern, rather than letting our mind randomly wander to whatever calls its attention.
Dr. Sultan explains that “A person becomes what he or she thinks about most of the time. If the thoughts in your mind always revolve around what is going on at present, you remained trapped in it. In order to have a better life, you have to find time to think what it should be like. That is the purpose of self-evaluation. Dua or supplication is a means to ask God’s help in getting there.”
Every successful person has the habit of continuously evaluating his or her life. They think about their goals in specific ways and devise a plan to attain them. During Ramadan, we can create a plan so that our lives will be better in one year. Dr. Sultan recommends setting aside an hour every day to think about our lives until we have a written plan for every area for the coming year. After we have this plan on paper, he explains, “You should set aside one hour every week, to review your plans, note your progress, or lack thereof, and make adjustments to your plans.”
Every area of our lives can be improved. If we deliberately decide to focus on a particular area, it will undoubtedly get better. It is crucial to take our lives seriously, making continuous assessments about our spiritual growth, happiness in personal relationships, quality of our health, finances, and professional accomplishments. We must also be aware of how we spend our time, of our daily habits, decisions and thought patterns.
For example, I recently decided to work on my relationship with my family. I had let myself become busy and had been procrastinating on visiting them, was not calling them regularly, etc. I felt guilty about it and thought this new behavior would go away on its own. However, it was not happening. So, I made a conscious intention to become closer to my family and asked God for help. Soon after, I began to call my parents, sister and aunt on a weekly basis.
I quickly witnessed my feelings towards them growing more positive, my sense of connectedness increase and my relationships, particularly with my mother, drastically improve. This made me feel at peace and happier. After a few weeks, I decided to take a trip to visit my family, which, because of the present situation, I had been postponing. Despite the challenging circumstances, it was a beautiful and rewarding experience and many positive outcomes resulted from it. However, this would have been impossible if I hadn’t first made the conscious decision to improve my relationship with my family.
Fasting and Building Good Habits
Fasting during Ramadan greatly helps us develop discipline and strength. It also causes us to derive a sense of accomplishment. Fasting gives us the momentum to implement changes and new habits in other areas of our lives. Through fasting, we feel much more in control because we realize that we are able to choose when and what we eat, rather than being compelled to eat whenever we are bored or feel slightly hungry, or want instant gratification.
When we fast, we realize that habits are within our control. We recognize that we can change them if we decide to do so. Og Mandino writes that “in truth, the only difference between those who have failed and those who have succeeded lies in the difference of their habits. Good habits are the key to all success. Bad habits are the unlocked door to failure.”
In his wonderful book, “The Greatest Salesman in the World,” Mandino states that the key to success and the first law to obey is to “form good habits and become their slave.” Ramadan is the perfect time to evaluate which of our habits are less than ideal and take action to replace them.
Regardless of how difficult a habit seems to give up, it is completely possible. The best way to go about it is by replacing a bad habit with a good one. It is also useful to understand that it takes approximately 3 weeks for a new behavior to become a habit. So, it is normal to find it difficult and unpleasant at first. It is fine to feel the discomfort for a short period. We can tolerate this discomfort when it arises, feel confident God will help us to overcome it and feel certain we will become much stronger for it.
For example, a person addicted to sweets and fast food will suffer for about three weeks as she replaces these toxic foods with a natural wholesome diet. But after her body detoxes, her energy levels will drastically increase and her overall well-being will more than make up for the painful transition time.
As most of us know, fasting has many spiritual and health benefits. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to say “Fast so you can be healthy”. However, Dr. Sultan warns us that complaining about fasting eliminates its benefits. Therefore, in order to maximize the benefits of fasting, we must be aware of this potential pitfall and avoid negative thoughts, words and actions, including complaining, while we fast.
Focusing inwardly, praying mindfully and making concrete plans to improve each area of our lives will make Ramadan a powerful and transformational period that gets us closer and closer to the best version of ourselves:
“I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand. Henceforth will I apply ALL my efforts to become the highest mountain of all and I will strain my potential until it cries for mercy.” –Og Mandino.
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