Friday, December 30, 2011

Breaking Bad Habits

I've always scrutinized newly arrived pilgrims closely, expecting to spot signs of major spiritual transformation in them now that they'd completed their once-in-a-lifetime duty of hajj. Imagine my disappointment this year when I saw none---while looking at myself in the mirror.

A big part of me wishfully thought I'd return from Mecca a completely changed person, having sworn off all bad habits and resolved to adopt new ones after my past sins had been forgiven, God willing. But my sudden renunciation didn't last, at least not for long once I returned to the grind of the real world.

Like me, most people are unable to change all at one go so must take a longer, more gradual route to self-purification. Indeed, we are all obliged to cleanse ourselves from immoral characteristics and animal instincts and replace them with superior spiritual virtues, even if it is one step at a time.

God clearly tells us: "Successful is the one who is able to change his/her bad habits. And a failure is the one who is unable to change his/her bad habits." (Quran 91:9-10)

"A human being's life is nothing but  a set of habits," says lecturer Muhammad Kazmi.

It was to teach us how to perfect ourselves and gain closeness to Him that God sent mankind prophet after prophet, each guiding his people to overcome selfish whims and passions through reason, self-building and refinement.

"I was appointed to the prophethood so that I may accomplish the important task of moral perfection in human souls," Prophet Muhammad (S) said.

Prophet Moses (foster son of Asiya, one of the four perfect women of all times) showed us that no matter how rotten our ways, change is always possible. On his first encounter with Pharaoh, Moses asked him: "Are you interested in reforming yourself?" (79:19)

"As long as the soul remains in this world of change and transition, it is subject to time and renewal; and as long as it is associated with matter and potentiality, the human being can change all dispositions and transform them into their opposites," according to Imam Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Scholars list top five bad habits that must be stamped out: 1) jealousy, 2) arrogance, 3) love of self, 4) stinginess and 5) greed.

Just as these unwanted traits become engrained in our personalities unless we are vigilant, so too do they get entrenched in our societies if they are not resisted.  Indeed, there are many oppressive systems, traditions and norms in place all over the world that need our collective effort to root out.

While the world is waking up to these historic injustices, we must not neglect to reform  those inner habits that oppress our souls. Indeed, "God changes not the condition of a people until they change what is related to their own conduct and behavior." (13: 11)

No doubt, it's silly to talk about changing the world when we can't bring the slightest changes in ourselves, like kicking an unhealthy addiction to peanut butter cookies (from Aldi). Must add that to my list of resolutions...right after finishing my midnight snack.


Anonymous said...

Great Post and so true!

Salina Khan said...

Thank you! I like what Aristotle said: "Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts."

Anonymous said...

Amen to the Aldi cookies!

Nomad said...

Assalam Alikum Dear Sister,

Thank you for this post. This is my first time reading your blog. A powerful message for all of us. Insh'Allah I look forward reading how we can improve ourselves.


Salina Khan said...

Thank you, Nomad! I also look forward to your feedback.
Glad to know I am not the only one, Anonymous :)

Christina Grissom said...

Wow! I don't even know where to began... Ok,at first I thought to myself that making a new years resolution list was kind of a waste of time. On the other hand I realized that not making one would be lazy, and it would'nt help me keep track of my goals. Number 7 on my list was not to be lazy and always use my time wisely...Check! Reading this blog was defintely a wise way to use my time. This blog is not only inspiring ,but it answered alot of questions that I needed to know the answer to.There have been several times that I've thought to myself "is good behavior always rewarded?" Hence,"God changes not the condition of a people until they change what is related to their own conduct and behavior." (13: 11)
Love this!

Salina Khan said...

Thank you, Christina! I know you have great work ethics and wish you the best in reaching all your goals!!

Sara Mitchell said...

I have a lot of work to do on my bad habits, which include staying up too late reading. At least I'm reading about improving myself.

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