Tag Archives: bad habit

Muslim Standard Time: How to Cure the Chronic Disease

By Taha Ghayyur

“Oh my God. I am running late, again! Well, it’s all good. No one is going to be there on time anyway.”

How many times have you heard this and similar phrases in the Muslim community? Perhaps you are guilty of uttering them yourself as a habit.

Sadly, starting off late, arriving late, and delaying our programs has become a norm for many of us.

It’s gotten so bad that we no longer even feel guilty about arriving late to a class, function, meeting, Jumah prayer or appointment. Many don’t even bother to apologize. We fail to realize how much time and resources of others we waste due to our own insensitivity and indifference.

I remember arriving at a wedding last summer about two hours late (due to a pre-planned legitimate reason), only to find over half the wedding hall full of non-Muslim guests still waiting for the bride and groom and their families to arrive. The most heartrending scene was of a group of non-Muslim friends laying on the ground asleep. It turned out they were out-of-town guests who had arrived a couple of hours prior to the “official’ start time.

Of course the blame goes both to the organizers of the events and the attendees. It’s easy to criticize the organizers, but we have to do our part of making the program or meeting professional. It begins with arriving on time and respecting everyone else’s time.

As Muslims, every time we arrive late we lose respect in the sight of others. Imam al-Ghazali, in his commentary to a Hadith describing the characteristics of hypocrites, states that the trait “when he makes a promise, he never fufills it” includes specially those who consistently say ‘In-sha-Allah’ and arrive late.

I know of  a great contemporary Muslim scholar who, when he used to enter a conference, meeting, or dinner, the audience or members would match and reset their watches to the minute he was supposed to arrive at because he was reputed to be strict with time-management.

What can you and your family do and how can you prepare to arrive on time at any event:

  1. Get the directions to where you are going in advance. The common excuse for arriving late we often present is “got lost” or “I didn’t have correct directions.”
  2. Arrange your ride at least two days in advance. Call around and find out who can give you a ride. Always have a backup plan for rides. “I didn’t get a ride” is one excuse given, to which I ask: did you ask around early enough? Don’t wait for others to offer you a ride.
  3. Start getting ready at least 30-45 min. before leaving home. Don’t run into the shower, squeeze in three Rak’at of Maghrib, or iron your clothes just three minutes before you are supposed to step out!
  4. Have a realistic estimate of travel time. If you know it takes 25 minutes to get to a place, you have to leave your home at least 35 minutes before arrival time.
  5. Consider weather and traffic conditions. Listen to the local news or watch the weather report before getting behind the wheel.
  6. The 10-minute Rule works! No matter what the occasion, always aim to get to the destination 10 minutes ahead of time. This allows you to accommodate any last-minute uncertainties: “Oh, I forgot my wallet at home,” “”Man, I have to pick Brother x on the way,” “Oops! I have to pray my ‘Asr before I get to….” etc.
  7. If it helps you, set your personal watch, cellphone or car time five minutes ahead.
  8. “Well it’s a typical Muslim party or conference! There is no way they will start on time!” Well, guess what, if we ALL adopt this attitude, no one would ever arrive on time and let the program start on time. We have to change this thinking and make a point to arrive on time. Being people of principle, we must remain consistent in all circumstances.
  9. Be honest! Be honest to yourself and others. If you know you are going to be late to a party or Halaqa, clearly set that expectation with your host, coordinator or meeting leader. What does it take to drop a message or call to let the other person know that you will be 10 to 15 minutes late (whether it’s due to expected or unexpected reasons).
  10. Don’t succumb to the “In-sha-Allah Syndrome.” Use In-sha-Allah only when you know you mean it.

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Perils of Procrastination

By Taha Ghayyur

“We still have half an hour to the next prayer”
“I can start the assignment next week”
“The early bird deadline is tomorrow. Insha Allah, I will try to purchase them soon”
“Last minute Eid shopping is so exciting!”

These are some examples of excuses we make to put off important responsibilities and tasks to a later time. This is called procrastination, which is usually accompanied by shifting our focus to some other distraction.

10 Reasons Why People Procrastinate

There are many reasons people procrastinate, some more dangerous than others. Here are common causes of procrastination cited by psychologists:

  1. Anxiety (it’s too overwhelming a task to even attempt!).
  2. Low sense of self-worth and self-defeating mentality (what difference can I make? I am not capable of contributing something useful to this project).
  3. Under-estimation (it’s an insignificant thing to waste time on. I have better things to do).
  4. Distractive and disorganized environment (a messy desk or unproductive company of people).
  5. Perfectionism (a tendency to negatively evaluate outcomes and one’s own performance. The thinking that, “since I can’t achieve perfection, why bother trying?”)
  6. Heightened social self-consciousness (intense fear and avoidance of evaluation of one’s abilities by others)
  7. Recurrent low mood and laziness (life is horrible. No need to do work on this project)
  8. Workaholism (I am too busy with ‘work’, I don’t have time for this right now!)
  9. Love for last minute thrill (my creative juices begin to flow only when I am forced to write my essay!)
  10. Indecisiveness (Not making a decision right now would absolve me of responsibility for the outcome of events!)

How Procrastinators Work

Here are insights into the workings of procrastinators by two leading experts on procrastination, Dr. Joseph Ferrari (De Paul University, Chicago) and Dr. Timorthy Pychyl, Ph.D. (Carleton University, Ottawa). [i]

20% of people are chronic procrastinators. For them procrastination is a lifestyle. And it cuts across all domains of their life. They don’t pay bills on time. They miss opportunities for buying tickets to concerts. They don’t cash gift certificates or checks. They file income tax returns late.

Procrastinators are not born. Procrastination is usually learned in the family environment. It is one response to an authoritarian parenting style. Having a harsh, controlling parent hinders children from developing the ability to regulate themselves, from articulating their intentions, and from making life decision for themselves.

Procrastinators tell lies to themselves. These include, “I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow” and “I work best under pressure.” But in fact they do not get the urge the next day or work well under pressure.

Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don’t take a lot of commitment on their part. Checking e-mail is a good example. They distract themselves to manage emotions like the fear of failure.

Dangers of Procrastination

Those who are used to delaying things till a later time or like doing things last minute don’t realize the costs of procrastination.

Chronic procrastinators suffer from multiple health problems. Just over the course of a single academic term, procrastinating college students had such evidence of compromised immune systems as more colds and flu, more gastrointestinal problems. Moreover, they had insomnia. [ii]

Procrastination has a high cost to others as well as to oneself; it shifts the burden of responsibilities onto others, who become resentful. Procrastination destroys teamwork in the workplace and private relationships.

Procrastinators think that tomorrow is guaranteed to them. How can they put off an immediate priority, an obligatory act, or a good deed till a time when they may not even be alive?

Even if they live till tomorrow, they cannot be certain that their day will free of obstacles and distractions. How can they be sure they will have the time and energy to carry out that action? The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, used to call on Muslims to take the initiative to do good deeds before any problems arise.

For instance, he said, “Lose no time to do good deeds before you are caught up by one of seven calamities awaiting you:

1. a starvation which may impair your wisdom;
2. a prosperity which may mislead you;
3. an ailment which may damage your health;
4. an old age which may harm your senses;
5. a sudden death;
6. the Dajjal (Antichrist);
7. or Doomsday, which is indeed the hardest and most bitter.”
(at-Tirmidhi, al-Baihaqi)

Procrastinators don’t appreciate the time, means, and opportunity Allah gives them to be productive. As Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, once stated, “Good health and spare time are two of the blessings of Allah with respect to which many people are deceived.” (Al-Bukhari)

Each day has its own share of work and each time has its own share of obligations. Therefore there is no such thing as idle time.

Postponement of good deeds and delaying of charitable acts leads people to become accustomed to ignoring them gradually. After a while they don’t even feel what good they are missing. Procrastination can eventually lead to sinning.


[i] Hara Estroff Marano, Procrastination: Ten Things To Know:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/rss/pto-20030823-000001.html

[ii]  H. Marano, Procrastination: Ten Things To Know.

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Are You Ready for CHANGE this Ramadan?

16 Proven Techniques to Help You Kick Bad Habits

“Change” is the vogue today. “Change” is being chanted by the presidential candidates to rally up public support; “Change” is being demanded by the masses suffering due to skyrocketing fuel and commodity prices; “Change”, a drastic one indeed, is what we are witnessing with awe in the global weather patterns.

For Muslims, Ramadan is the prime time for change. This intense, one-month boot camp dramatically alters our routines and schedules. From tight sleep schedules, to starvation for extended hours, to reduction in consumption of junk foods, to a technology diet, to withdrawal from caffeine addiction, to lengthy standing in Taraweeh prayers at night, to extensive listening to the Quran. What a change indeed!

Beyond Routines and Rituals

The real change, however, Ramadan demands of us is the internal change – a change that positively transforms our lifestyle, character, attitudes, conversations, and habits. Allah has described this change in the month of Ramadan as follows: “so you may exercise self-restraint (Taqwa)” [Quran 2:183].

Slavery to Ramadan?

If our change is limited to outer physical practices only, we become slaves to Ramadan, instead of being servants to Ar-Rahman (Allah, the Merciful).

Prophet Muhammad has warned us about those who don’t fast from bad behaviour:

“Allah has no interest in any person’s abstention from eating and drinking, if that person does not give up lying and dishonest actions” [Sahih al-Bukhari].

Ramadan Resolutions

Every Ramadan we make resolutions and tell ourselves: “This Ramadan will be different. I’m going to change my ______ habit.” “I will give up ………”, “I will take my practice of Islam to the next level”. But how many of us are really able to follow through? Plenty of good intentions, many amazing wishes, but sadly enough, life goes on as usual the morning of Eid.

Ask yourself, how is my fasting benefiting my spiritual connection with Allah? How is my extensive worship in Ramadan helping me discipline my tongue (taste and speech), eyes, ears, and habits?

Are you ready to take that first step to transform your bad habits into good ones?

16 Ways to Kick Bad Habits

Few things are more demanding than eliminating bad habits, since they are part of our daily routines and personality. It takes days of patience and practice to break old habits.

However, the good news is, Ramadan offers a perfect and natural environment for moral training. Interestingly, researches from “positive psychology” (scientific study of successful people) have repeatedly shown it takes 30 days to kick a bad habit and develop a new one.

In addition to the physical discipline in the 30-day boot camp of Ramadan, the increased spiritual exercise and connection with Allah, can transform your habits for life.

Try these proven techniques for a successful positive change in your habits (during Ramadan and beyond!):

1. Acknowledge and identify your bad habits: First step is to admit you need to change. If you are in a state of denial, you won’t recognize that you have a bad habit to change.

2. Pick a habit for 30 days: Prioritize your bad habits and focus on one for 30 days. Take a 30-day trial to re-condition your habits. If you are committed to changing at least one habit, you will see remarkable results, God-willing.

3. Realize that it’s in us to change: Don’t believe the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” You can break a bad habit if you really want to. No one else can change your habits, if you don’t want to.

4. Remember, Allah loves those who commit mistakes and repent: Prophet Muhammad said:

“By Him in Whose Hand is my life, if you were not to commit sin, Allah would sweep you out of existence and He would replace (you by) those people who would commit sin and seek forgiveness from Allah, and He would have pardoned them.” [Sahih Muslim]

5. Intention & plan to change: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” A healthy process of change in character requires a gradual pace, which entails planning. Develop concrete milestones to measure your progress.

6. Replace a bad habit with a good one: Completely eliminating a habit is more challenging than replacing it with a more productive habit. Moreover, it’s crucial to replace the lost natural needs, such as the need to socialize and to be entertained with something healthy.

For instance, it’s easier to replace or balance your addiction to TV with a physical workout or reading, than to suddenly remove the TV from your life. Interestingly, Prophet Muhammad, the greatest ‘psychologist’ of humanity, illustrated this principle in these words:

“Fear Allah wherever you may be; follow up an evil deed with a good one which will wipe (the former) out, and behave good-naturedly towards people.” [At-Tirmidhi]

7. Change your environment: Resist the negative peer pressure by finding a better company of friends. Collective action to change is very powerful. Prophet Muhammad explained this peer pressure effect with this analogy:

“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]

8. Exercise (physical and spiritual): A habit of regular physical exercise is obviously important for lasting weight loss. But you may not realize that exercise helps in eliminating a number of bad habits. For example, among smokers who become competitive runners, for example, over 80% give up smoking.

Moreover, exercising your will power (struggle to fight temptations) for 30 days helps you kick all kinds of bad habits and form new good ones. Willpower is like a muscle; the more you exercise it, the more you strengthen it.

9. Think of yourself as a changed, different, new person: This simple psychological shift in your thinking about your own image can do wonders. Tell yourself, “I can’t continue this ill-behaviour. I am better than that. I am stronger. I am wiser.”

10. Reward success: The most fundamental law in all of psychology is the “law of effect.” It simply states that actions followed by rewards are strengthened and likely to recur. Unfortunately, studies show that people rarely use this technique when trying to change personal habits.

Setting up formal or informal rewards for success greatly increases your chances of transforming bad habits into good ones, and is far more effective than punishing yourself for bad habits or setbacks. As Muslims we should also remember that the ultimate reward is Allah’s Pleasure and Paradise in the Hereafter.

11. Schedule / limit your bad habits: If you are really struggling to kick a bad habit, try limiting the habit to a specific time and place. Research and case studies confirm that this rather unconventional approach can be a useful first step in changing bad habits or learning new good ones.

12. Tell someone about your effort to change if it helps: He or she may keep you on track.

13. Resolve to continue on and follow up: Giving up bad habits or learning good habits requires regular maintenance and determination. It is a long, ongoing process, also known as “Tazkiyyah” in Islamic terminology. It’s more difficult than the first few steps of change. (“How many times have I dieted, for example, only to gain the weight back?”)

14. Remind yourself of death and hereafter often: “Remember often the terminator (or destroyer) of all the pleasures [i.e. death],” the Prophet once stated. [At-Tirmidhi.]

15. Develop a relapse strategy: How do you ensure not to return to your bad habit you are trying to change? Some people donate money to a good cause every time they return to sinning or a bad habit. This reminds them of the ‘cost’ of going back to old bad habits. Others try physically demanding acts to deter them from reverting to old ways.

16. Ask Allah for help: Last but not least, make Asking for Allah’s Help an integral part of the overall change process. Ask for Allah’s Help before, during and after every attempt at kicking a bad habit. Do so sincerely, even begging and crying, like a child does when he or she really wants something. Allah is Ever-Willing to Help and to Respond to our needs, but it is us who must take the first step towards Him.

“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]

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