One of the most difficult things to overcome are bad habits that we've become accustomed to as they have become our daily habits, wherein they drain our mental and physical energies causing us to become negligent and complacent in fulfilling our obligations unto Allah. They keep us in the constant cycle of getting a quick dopamine fix. Even if we try to go towards good deeds then these bad habits keep manifesting themselves in our daily lives. Therefore in order to move forward and progress in our lives we must make a conscious and concerted effort to quit these bad habits/major sins. If we don't then they will continue to consume us and prevent us from building a relationship with Allah and fulfil our obligations unto him and do good deeds.
Surely feeling as though our sins are heavy and a burden upon us is a sign of Imaan (faith). It is also true that it can be an easy way out for us to always put the blame on Shaythan for all of our wrong doings. However Allah tells us that Shaytaan will disown his followers on the Day of Resurrection. He says: ‘And Shaytaan (Satan) will say when the matter has been decided:[COLOR="#FF0000"] “Verily, Allah promised you a promise of truth. And I too promised you, but I betrayed you. I had no authority over you except that I called you, and you responded to me. So blame me not, but blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I deny your former act in associating me (Satan) as a partner with Allah (by obeying me in the life of the world). Verily, there is a painful torment for the Zaalimoon (polytheists and wrongdoers).”[/COLOR] [B](Ibraheem 14:22)[/B]
Therefore it is us who make the choices and decisions to go down whichever path we chose to take throughout our lives. Shaythan can only whisper and suggest to us but it is we who have the power and choice whether to accept it or not. That is why Allah created us as beings with free will. He wants to see which of us chooses to obey him and strive against ourselves regardless of the whispers and desires to go towards bad habits and the wrong path in life:[COLOR="#FF0000"] “Verily, the (human) self is inclined to evil, except when my Lord bestows His Mercy (upon whom He wills). Verily, my Lord is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [/COLOR][B](Qur'an: 12: 53)[/B]
The Prophet (Sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said:[COLOR="#FF0000"] "The struggler is the one who strives against his soul/self in obedience to Allah, the Mighty and Majestic."[/COLOR] [B](At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah)[/B]
Sufyan ath-Thawri (Ra) said: [COLOR="#FF0000"]"I never dealt with anything stronger against me than my own soul/self; it was one time with me, and one time against me."[/COLOR]
Yahya ibn Mu' adh ar-Razi (Ra) said: [COLOR="#FF0000"]"Fight against your soul/self with the four swords of training: eat little, sleep little, speak little, and be patient when people harm you... Then the soul/self will walk the paths of obedience, like a fleeing horseman in the field of battle."[/COLOR]
The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said[COLOR="#FF0000"]“...The mujahid (one who exerts effort for Allah) is the one who strives with himself regarding obedience to Allah...”[/COLOR] [B](Sunan At-Tirmidhi)[/B]
The Prophet (Sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) also said: [COLOR="#FF0000"]"There are two impulses in the soul, one from an angel which calls towards good and confirms truth; whoever finds this let him know it is from Allah and praise Him. Another impulse comes from the enemy which leads to doubt and denies truth and forbids good; whoever finds this, let him seek refuge in Allah from the accursed devil." Then he recited the verse: "Satan threatens you with poverty and orders you to fahshah (immorality)."[/COLOR] [B] [Al-Qur'an 2:268] (At-Tirmidhi: hasan; Nasa'i)[/B]
However we must also know that we are created as weak: Allah says: [COLOR="#FF0000"]"Allah intends to make things easy on you. And man has been created weak.[/COLOR] [B](Qur'an 4:28)[/B]
The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), said: [COLOR="#FF0000"]"None of you should say: My soul has become wicked. Rather, let him say: My soul has faulted."[/COLOR] [B](Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5825)[/B]
All of us will sin at some point, but that is no reason to lose hope. Every sin can be forgiven by sincere repentance and making amends with those whom we wronged in the world.
The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: [COLOR="#FF0000"]"The All of the children of Adam are sinners, and the best sinners are those who repent."[/COLOR] [B](Tirmidhī 2499)[/B]
Allah created us flawed, weak, and sinful as part of our test here on earth. It is part of our nature to sin, just as it is part of our nature to act right. If we were sinless like the angels, Allah would replace us with sinners whom He would forgive.
The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said:[COLOR="#FF0000"] "By Him in whose hand is my soul, if you did not sin, Allah would replace you with people who would sin and they would seek forgiveness from Allah and He would forgive them."[/COLOR] [B](Muslim 2749)[/B]
We are created by our very nature as weak so that whenever we fault then we can constantly turn back towards Allah in sincere repentance. The best of sinners are those that constantly repent. So we must constantly and consistently turn back towards Allah in repentance and meekness asking for his help throughout our lives until our last breathe:[COLOR="#FF0000"]
Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves.[/COLOR] [B][Quran 2: 222][/B]
Say, "O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is The Forgiving, The Merciful."[/COLOR] [B][Quran 39: 53][/B]
However our enemy shaythan wants us to give up and become disillusioned, so that we settle into this lifestyle of bad habits and neglecting our duties unto Allah. Therefore we must never give up striving against ourselves and against the whispers of shaythan. Allah has said that in reality the power of shaythan is weak. He has given us the power to choose whatever path we go down and to change and become the best version of ourselves. So w need to keep struggling against ourselves until our last breathe:... [COLOR="#FF0000"]Surely the plotting of Ash-Shaytan has (always) been weak. [/COLOR][B](Qur'an: 4.76)[/B]
During Ramadan for example, the influence of shaythan is certainly weakened, but our Nafs (ego/desires) still continues to try and pull us towards the wrong direction. It can only do this if we are already in the habit of doing particular bad deeds and being neglectful towards our obligations unto Allah as we've become accustomed to in our daily lives. The Nafs is a bit like an immature child. It constantly wants what is easy for us, which is essentially constant dopamine hits. Hence why things like social media are so addictive as it has been created for us to constantly get that dopamine hit as is the case with many other addictions like sugar, nicotine, caffeine and porn. So It wants for us to keep doing what is easy and it does not like change. However we must be aware that Jahannam is surrounded by doing that which is easy:
The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), said, [COLOR="#FF0000"]“Paradise is surrounded by adversity, and Hellfire is surrounded by lusts.”[/COLOR] [B](Muslim 2823)[/B]
Everyone of us can certainly make any positive change and break habits and rewire our brains towards doing that which our Nafs does not want us to do. But in order to do that we need to "push through" the initial period of trying to make change and giving up bad habits. Making changes and giving up bad habits is certainly not easy. If it was then anyone and everyone could do it at anytime. But surely that is the purpose of the test of our life. To gain everlasting bliss in Jannah was never meant to be so easy. But in reality we only need to put in a little to receive far more than we can ever imagine in the Hereafter.
So must constantly strive against our Nafs and the whispers of shaythan which are constantly working against us. However Allah has given us the power to be able to make our own free choices to be able to make any changes we want to throughout our lives as well as give up any bad habit and make the necessary changes to our conditions. But it will require much effort and patient perseverance.
Ibn Qayyim (Ra) stated:[COLOR="#FF0000"] "One only finds difficulty in quitting bad habits when he leaves them for other than Allah. As for the one who quits them truthfully and sincerely from his heart for Allah, then he only finds difficulty in quitting at the very beginning, to ascertain whether he is truthful or lying about stopping. So if he is patient with that hardship for a little while, it will turn into delight. He also stated: Ward off passing thoughts, for if you do not, they will become ideas. Ward off ideas, for if you do not, they will become desires. Fight the desires, for if you do not, they will become resolve and determination. And if you do not ward them off, they will become actions. If you do not resist them with its opposite, they will become habits. And it will be difficult for you to get rid of them."[/COLOR]
The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said:[COLOR="#FF0000"] “Verily, you will never leave anything for the sake of Allah Almighty but that Allah will replace it with something better.”[/COLOR] [B](Aḥmad 22565)[/B]
We must always be aware that we are not alone in our daily struggles. Everyone of us is going through a unique set of trials, hardships and bad habits that are holding us back from becoming the best version of ourselves. No matter how "pious" or "religious" anyone looks or comes across, then know that everyone of us has their flaws, bad habits and "demons" to deal with.
[B]The steps to quitting bad habits and making changes:[/B]
So the first step for us to be able to make changes and break bad habits is for us to reflect on why we are inclined and going towards such bad habits in the first place? What is it that we are running from? why is this fear making us run away from reality? Surely bad habits can be a "crutch" that we turn towards whenever we are wanting to block out reality. For many of us these issues can stem from experiences in childhood and whilst growing up or trauma related. Therefore for many of us with more serious issues may require therapy/counselling in order to get to the root cause of the problem/s. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help. It is only the ego that wants us to be in denial so we prevent ourselves from making the necessary changes. So after much reflection and trying to get to the root cause of why we behave as we do, then if we deem it helpful for us to overcome our issues then we should seek the help of a good reputable Muslim therapist/counsellor. Much of the time it can be difficult to get to the root causes on our own and this is where a professional can be of great help.
After reflection on why we are inclined towards certain bad habits and being neglectful then we must make a firm resolve and intention that we will make changes and give up the particular bad habit/s for the sake of Allah. That we will never go back to it. That we are not that person anymore who does those things. If we only partly want to change then it will be very difficult for us to make changes. Therefore we must be committed to making the necessary changes. Being firm in our resolve and doing it solely for Allah will enable us to be able to push through the difficult initial period of change and rewiring our brain to give up the bad habit/s. We must also ask of Allah sincerely to help us make the necessary changes. After that we must identify the triggers. What triggers us to do such things? Why are we so neglectful of our obligations unto Allah? It really helps to write it down. Every person will have a unique set of triggers but they can also generally be the same sort of things that trigger most of us to do such bad habits.
So in order to break these habits and make the necessary changes then we must develop a strategy of how we will go about making the change and breaking the bad habit. We must learn from our past experiences. What worked for us and what didn't. It is inevitable that everyone of us will fall back into certain habits. However we must continue to push through regardless and get ourselves back up again and re-adapt our strategy. It also helps to keep ourselves constantly busy with doing good habits so that we don't get bored and go back to our bad habits again. We need to replace the bad habit with a equivalent good one. Replacing habits is also a very good and effective strategy.
So after making a firm resolve and intention to change for the sake of Allah and identifying the triggers and developing the strategy, then we must push through the difficult initial period of making changes and breaking bad habits. Our Nafs will want us to go back to those habits as it is what we were accustomed to. But we must ignore our Nafs. At first it will be hard but if we continue to push through the first week then it will get much easier after that. However we need to always be aware of the triggers and ensure we keep away from them as much as possible for at least the first couple of weeks until we become stronger. So we must be consistent and push through no matter what. Write down the reasons why you want to give up that bad habit and make a change. Then every time you get weak then go back to that list and keep referring to it. It will help to align our thoughts on the right direction.
Pushing through the difficult periods of change requires a lot of patience in terms of patiently persevering through the struggles both physically and mentally. Change was never meant to be easy. If it was then we wouldn't be able to taste the sweetness of it once we've made the change.
We must develop Taqwa (fearful awareness of Allah as that will enable us to always be aware of Allah around us so that we think before we make any choice. Regularly fasting and praying Tahajjud also helps to develop this awareness. Please refer to the following thread:
[B]10 Steps to Gaining Taqwa (Fearful awareness of Allah)
[COLOR="#FF0000"]“Indeed, Allah is with those who are patient.”[/COLOR] [B](Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:153)[/B]
Ibn Jawzi (Ra) said: [COLOR="#FF0000"]"My son, do not let your past carelessness make you lose hope of achieving good. For many people have come back to wakefulness after a long sleep"[/COLOR]
Allah knows that we are truly trying and making effort to change and quit bad habits. He is there for us and is close to those of us who patiently persevere through trials, struggles, hardships and our Nafs. Even if we keep failing then as long as we keep turning back towards him then he will forgive us. He is wanting us to change for the better and to get closer to him So we must seek patient perseverance through prayers and get closer to him through the recitation and reflection of the Qur'an and in his constant remembrance and glorification. However it is us who are holding ourselves back. So we must never blame him as that is what our enemy shaythan wants as he wants to break our relationship with Allah. He wants us to become disillusioned and to lose hope in the mercy of Allah. But we must never allow that to happen:
Ibn al Qayyum (Ra) said:[COLOR="#FF0000"] "Sadness weakens the heart, diminishes confidence and harms will power, and there is nothing more beloved to shaythan than the sadness of the believer. So for this reason rejoice and be optimistic, think well of Allah, trust that which is with Allah and rely only on him, and you will find happiness and contentment."[/COLOR]
So we must keep trying, striving and making effort and never give up. We must keep pushing through the struggles throughout our daily lives with patience and perseverance. If we fall then we must keep getting back up and learning from our mistakes. We must also constantly repent as Allah loves those who repent constantly. We must also be most thankful and grateful of the blessings of Allah as he keeps giving us chance after chance regardless of the magnitude and quantity of the sins we keep committing on a daily basis. This is because he loves to forgive. His mercy far outweighs his forgiveness:
The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said, [COLOR="#FF0000"]“When Allah completed the creation, He wrote in His book with Him upon the Throne: Verily, My mercy prevails over My wrath.”[/COLOR] [B] (Bukhārī 3194, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2751)[/B]
So we must make the best of these blessed days and nights to truly reflect on ourselves and our condition. We must internalise the changes we need to make and then push through the difficult period of change with patient perseverance. Everyone of us is more than capable of making whatever positive life changes we choose to. It is especially easier during this blessed month which is a true gift and mercy of Allah upon the believers. We can become like we were newly born with an entire lifetime of our sins forgiven:
The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) would say, [COLOR="#FF0000"]“Whoever stands in prayer during Ramadan due to faith and seeking reward, his previous sins will be forgiven.”[/COLOR] [B](Bukhārī,Muslim)[/B]
May Allah strengthen us to be able to strive against our nafs and the whsipers of shaythan and may he enable us to make the necessary changes to ourselves and forgive us for all our sins and enable us to become closer to him. Ameen
Please refer to the following threads to help us to increase our Imaan and get closer to Allah:
[B]10 Steps to Increasing our Iman(Faith)[/B]
10 Steps to Increase our Iman (Faith) - Updated version
[B][B]10 steps to getting closer to Allah[/B][/B]
10 steps to getting closer to Allah