Ramadan is the season for changing bad habits and picking up good ones. During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, drink and sex from sunup to sundown. If we can deny that natural part of ourselves that calls for food and drink, then we should be able to deny other things.
Many people go into Ramadan with the willingness to change, but Ramadan goals can quickly become the Muslim version of New Year’s Resolutions. You say you’re going to do “X, Y, Z” and continue doing it after Ramadan is over, but we let our goals fall by the wayside.
Let’s make Ramadan 2019 a different Ramadan by actually picking up lifelong habits.
Here are five habits to pick up during Ramadan and to keep throughout the year.
1. Waking up early
The human being is Allah’s greatest creation, so why is the greatest creation waking up well after the rest of creation, like insects and birds? For those that eat suhoor, a light meal consumed in the early morning hours before sunlight, you wake up early during Ramadan. If you don’t eat suhoor, you likely gulp down gallons of water before the day is started. There is also the Ramadan Prayerline, an international early morning program that serves to unite the Muslim community. During Ramadan, we set our clocks to wake up early—really early, so why don’t we keep that habit? There are plenty of benefits to waking up in the morning, and you’re getting a head start on your day.
2. Reading the Holy Qur’an more often
Let’s be honest: we dust off our Holy Qur’ans for Ramadan, but we don’t pick it up for 335 days of the year. During Ramadan, if you read one part of the Holy Qur’an every day, you would have read the whole book in a 30-day time span. Reading the Qur’an goes along with waking up early. It is often better to read it in the morning, because when we wake up, our first initial thoughts can set the tone for the day. If we can read the fullness of the Qur’an in 30 days, we should be able to read it after Ramadan. We don’t necessarily have to read one part a day, but we can pace ourselves to our own beat. Set a schedule you know you are able to follow and make the obligation to read it, even if that’s one verse a day.
3. Eating meals with nutritional substance
Many Muslims, at least pertaining to the Nation of Islam, are pescatarian for 30 days. Ramadan is that time when we bring out navy bean soup and salad to accompany each meal. We have homemade breads, homemade desserts, and we simply eat healthier, overall. After Ramadan, though, we can find ourselves going back to Debbie cakes, fast food and TV dinners. Let’s not do that. For what reason? If we can eat healthy for 30 days, why is it so hard to maintain a healthy diet for the other 335 days?
4. Eating one meal a day
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches that eating once a day or less is better for our health. Combine eating one meal a day with eating healthy, and we would rarely find ourselves sick. If we can submit to the dietary rules of Ramadan, we should find eating one meal a day a piece of cake. Unlike Ramadan, when eating one meal a day, we are permitted to drink water or tea throughout the day. It is also not to the extreme hours that Ramadan is. We can drink during the daylight hours, and we can eat the one meal during the daylight. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan mandated one meal a day as a law that Muslims in the Nation of Islam should abide by. If we have fallen off of it, post-Ramadan is the perfect time to get back on track.
5. Praying five times a day
This is the big one. Prayer. I know, it’s hard, but don’t we owe it to God who has given us all life? Prayer is a direct communication with Allah. Praying five times a day is one of the five pillars of Islam. Ramadan is a spiritual holiday, and many of us find time to pray, but during non-Ramadan months, we let life get in the way of communicating with Allah. Allah would not know us if it were not for our prayers, and the remembrance of Allah is the greatest force. Praying five times a day goes along with waking up early and eating right. If we wake up early, we can pray Fajr prayer on time. If we truly cannot make one or more of the other prayers, say a short dua and make them later when you have time. Prayer accompanies eating right, because it is the spiritual substance that gives us high-octane energy for the day.
Let us not say we’re going to do this and that and then find ourselves not doing it. Rome wasn’t built in a day. We don’t have to make a 360, drastic change, but if we make a plan to gradually turn our lives around, we would find it easier to keep these habits post-Ramadan.
If you want to start waking up early after Ramadan and you usually wake up at 11:30am, set your alarm for 11:25am. Once you’re able to wake up five minutes earlier, set it to 11:20 and keep going through that process until you’re waking up at the time you want and need to. If you want to eat healthier, start with replacing the Debbie cakes with navy bean pie. If you want to eat one meal a day without snacking in between, instead of reaching for ice cream, reach for a healthy smoothie. Then, gradually lessen your reliance on drinks that are not water or tea. If you want to pray five times a day, start with once a day.
The point is to start small. It’s better to start immediately after Ramadan, because after going through the Holy Month, more than likely you’ll find it easier to keep all five habits. You might find yourself surprised, because Ramadan builds your will and your discipline. The problem arises when we do a reverse on the Ramadan lifestyle. Let’s make Ramadan 2019 a good one, and let’s truly do what we say we’re going to do.