Alhamdulillah, seeking beneficial knowledge is an important part of our path as Muslims. One area of knowledge that can help us improve our lives is understanding how to break bad habits and adopt positive routines through self-discipline. This is crucial for living a productive, purpose-driven life aligned with Islamic values. In this article, we will explore techniques based on psychological research and Islamic teachings to establish new habits and become our best selves, inshaAllah.

The Struggle of Breaking Habits

Habits become ingrained when we repeat actions frequently. We are creatures of habit by fitrah (nature) and often stick to familiar patterns, even if they are harmful. Breaking deeply entrenched habits requires effort, patience and perseverance.

Allah tells us in the Qur’an: “And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives. And that his effort is going to be seen.” (53:39-40)

This verse indicates we must strive to break bad habits and adopt good ones. Self-improvement requires struggle, and our sincere efforts will be seen by Allah. We should not lose hope when facing difficulty changing habits.

The Prophet (SAW) taught us: “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, while there is good in both.” (Muslim)

Strength of character allows us to conquer bad habits and replace them with good habits pleasing to Allah. With tawakkul, discipline and consistent effort, we can transform ourselves.

Identifying Bad Habits

The first step is identifying unwanted habits we want to change. Some examples of bad habits may include:

  • Procrastination
  • Overeating
  • Watching too much TV or web surfing
  • Spending too much time on social media
  • Smoking or substance abuse
  • Negative thinking patterns
  • Bad relationships or company
  • Skipping prayers
  • Poor sleep habits

Take an honest inventory of routines you engage in regularly that clash with Islamic values or impact your health and productivity. Make a list of habits you aim to break. Be specific in pinpointing the behaviors to target.

Ask yourself:

  • What triggers this habit?
  • What do I gain from this habit, if anything?
  • How does this habit make me feel about myself?
  • What Islamic teachings contradict this habit?
  • How will breaking this habit improve my life?

Understanding the drivers behind your habits empowers you to replace them consciously.

Replacing Bad Habits with Good Ones

Islam encourages us to leave sinful conduct and adopt righteous behavior.

Allah says in the Qur’an: “And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous. Who spend [in the cause of Allah] during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good.” (3:133-134)

Seeking Allah’s forgiveness, doing good deeds and having patience when avoiding bad habits are keys to success.

The Prophet (SAW) also advised: “Fear Allah wherever you are. Follow up a bad deed with a good deed and it will wipe it out. And behave well towards people.” (Tirmidhi)

When making tawbah (repentance) for bad habits, do a good deed afterwards such as giving charity, reading Qur’an or volunteering to redirect your energy into positive channels. Kindness and consideration toward others also helps expiate sins.

When eliminating a bad habit, intentionally adopt a good habit in its place. This could be reading Qur’an daily, doing dhikr, learning a skill, exercising more or volunteering in your community. Pray istikhara for guidance.

Some positive habits to cultivate include:

  • Regular meditation or yoga
  • Eating fruit and vegetables daily
  • Reading books that inspire you
  • Spending time in nature
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy exercises
  • Journaling
  • Acts of sadaqah
  • Sleeping early and waking up for fajr

Replace habitual behaviors dragging you down with those uplifting your iman (faith) and long-term well-being.

Implementing New Routines

Below are techniques from cognitive psychology and prophetic wisdom to actualize positive routines:

1. Make dua. Ask Allah to help you implement beneficial habits and remove harm. Dua strengthens intention and reliance on Him. The Prophet (SAW) said: “One of you continues to ask Allah until he is answered.” (Muslim)

2. Start small. Don’t expect perfection when forming a habit. Start with just 5-10 minutes per day of a new routine. This reduces pressure and increases consistency. Slowly increase over time.

The Prophet (SAW) said: “The most beloved of actions to Allah are those that are continuous, even if little.” (Bukhari)

3. Schedule it. Schedule time for your new habit daily or weekly. Link it to an existing habit such as reading Qur’an after fajr or meditating before work. Triggers help habits stick.

As told in the hadith: “Tie your camel, then put your trust in Allah.” (Tirmidhi)

4. Track progress. Note down each time you complete your new habit. Seeing visual progress provides a sense of accomplishment. Apps, checklists or calendars help track habits.

The Prophet (SAW) advised: “Write down knowledge.” (Abu Dawud) Recording progress aids memorization.

5. Accountability partners. Share your goals with family or friends. Ask them to check in on your progress. Accountability to others motivates consistency.

The Prophet (SAW) was reported to have said: “The believer to the believer is like the bricks of a wall, enforcing each other.” (Bukhari)

6. Reward yourself. Celebrate achieving milestones with non-material rewards like relaxing, going for coffee with a friend or enjoying nature. Positive reinforcement encourages habit formation.

The Qur’an teaches balance: “But seek, through that which Allah has given you, the home of the Hereafter, and [yet], do not forget your share of the world.” (28:77)

7. Review slip ups. If you occasionally skip the habit, reflect on what happened. Resolve to get back on track instead of self-blaming. Reviewing lessons reinforces determination.

Allah tells us in the Qur’an: “And those who, when they commit an immorality or wrong themselves, remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins – and who can forgive sins except Allah? – and [who] do not persist in what they have done while they know.” (3:135)

8. Be patient. Habits take time to become automatic. Persist through challenges and don’t quit. Have tawakkul while gradually strengthening new routines. Consistency is key.

The Qur’an states: “Indeed, Allah loves the steadfast.” (3:146) Those who persevere in establishing good habits attract Allah’s love.

Developing Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is restraining impulses and desires to achieve important goals. It prevents procrastination and self-sabotage. Some tips for increasing self-discipline include:

  • Finding motivation from your iman (faith) – behaving well out of love and fear of Allah.
  • Determining clear reasons why you want to cultivate discipline. Write down your short and long term goals.
  • Monitoring urges that derail progress – this self-awareness helps you manage them mindfully.
  • Reducing distractions and eliminating triggers that decrease self-control.
  • Fasting regularly – it builds mental fortitude to conquer bad habits and obey Allah’s commands.
  • Being consistent in avoiding sins and completing obligations no matter how you feel in the moment. Emotions fluctuate while principles are steadfast.
  • Having patience and keeping perspective – change takes time, so focus on incremental progress. Don’t give up after setbacks.

As Allah tells us in the Qur’an: “And be patient, [O Muhammad], for the decision of your Lord, for indeed, you are in Our eyes. And exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord when you arise. And in a part of the night exalt Him and after [the setting of] the stars.” (52:48-49) Patience in worship strengthens us.

Maintaining Change

The real challenge comes in making new habits last. Avoid return to old patterns by:

  • Staying consistent with new routines until they become effortless. It takes an average of 66 days for a habit to become automatic.
  • Being mindful of triggers and how to manage them – have strategies ready when impulse arises. AvoidAbsolute avoidance of triggers like smoking areas.
  • Rewarding milestones reached through acts of worship and celebration.
  • Reflecting on progress made so far to appreciate positive change.
  • Finding a community who uplifts your new habits through meetings, mentorship and support.
  • Keeping intrinsic motivation from your faith and values at the forefront. Review why change matters.
  • Making sincere tawbah and istighfar if habits relapse – change is a journey of ups and downs. Don’t give up!

Allah is with us through this never ending struggle. As mentioned in the Qur’an: “And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good.” (29:69)

When we sincerely work to better ourselves, Allah will open doors of guidance. Consistent good habits align us with our Creator and purpose in life.

In Closing

Developing positive habits, self-discipline and Routines brings us closer to Allah and our true potential. By identifying bad habits, replacing them intentionally with good habits, tracking progress and being patient with ourselves, we can break free of unwanted patterns. Let us keep tawakkul while striving to become better Muslims. Allah knows and appreciates each small effort to purify our hearts and actions for His sake. As the Prophet (SAW) taught us:

“Whoever intends to perform a good deed but does not do it, Allah still records it with Him as a complete good deed. If he intends to do it and does so, Allah records it with Him as ten good deeds, up to seven hundred times, up to many more times. If he intends to do an evil deed but does not do it, Allah records it with Him as a complete good deed. If he intends it and does so, Allah records it down as a single evil deed.” (Bukhari)

May the habits we cultivate draw us nearer to righteousness and make us true servants of the Most Merciful. Ameen.

BY: Aisha Ali

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