Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan, featured daily on HuffPost Religion. For a complete record of his previous posts, click over to the Islamic Center at New York University or visit his author page, and to follow along with the rest of his reflections, sign up for an author e-mail alert above, visit his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.
A story that I was told when I was younger involves a young man who cared deeply for his entire family, and amongst them his wife and young son. One day, this young man's mother passes away and his elderly father needs a place to go, so he comes to live with this young man. The elderly father needs constant care and attention and the young man's wife provides it, but not without complaint. She tells the young man that he needs to do something about his father and he replies only with silence.
One night, they all sit down to eat dinner and the elderly man is so frail and fragile, that the weight of the plate that he holds in his hand is too much for him to handle, and it falls from his grasp onto the ground, shattering into pieces. "Look at what your father has done now," says the young man's wife. "Won't you do something about this?"
The young man tells his elderly father that since he cannot eat without making a mess, he will no longer be allowed to sit at the same table as the young man, his wife and son. Instead, going forward, he will sit at a table by himself in the corner. And since he cannot eat off of the same plates that the rest of them eat off of, from now on he will eat only from a wooden bowl. The elderly man, with a tear in his eye, does what he is told.
The next day, the young man comes upon his own son and sees him sitting on the ground playing with some scraps of wood. He wants to join in and so when he gets close to his son, he asks with love and adoration in his voice, "My son, what is it that you are doing?"
The boy, reciprocating the same love and adoration for his father, says, "Oh my father, I am making a wooden bowl for you to eat out of when you get older."
You and I learn explicitly and implicitly. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are influenced by each interaction we have had the fortune or misfortune of having in our lives. The person that I am today is definitely impacted by every yesterday that I lived in this world and who I am today will most definitely impact who I will be tomorrow. The same can be applied to those who are around me. This becomes important for me to understand because the habits that make me who I am are usually rooted in something, just as the ones that make you who you are come from somewhere. During Ramadan, many of us become more acutely aware of our habits and use the opportunity to break some, while making others.
Habits are things we do automatically and repeatedly, often without conscious awareness. Some are useful, other are not. Habits can be good, bad, physical and emotional. Even though they are not consciously done, they can be consciously formed and can be consciously deconstructed.
A starting point would be to sit down and reflect on what your habits actually are or what you would like them to be, and approaching that process broadly.
If building a good habit, there are a few specific things that you can do to help make it more concrete.
If you are breaking a bad habit, a few things to keep in mind:
I think here would be a good place to mention the quote that I shared in my first reflection, but thinking of it now from the standpoint of making and breaking habits:
There are as many forms of fasting as there are organs of perception and sensation, and each of these has many different levels. So we ask to fast from all that Allah does not love for us, and to feast on what the Beloved loves for us. Let us certainly fast from the limited mind, and all that it conjures up. Let us fast from fear, apart from fear and awe of Allah's majesty. Let us fast from thinking that we know, when Allah alone is the Knower. Let us fast from thinking negatively of anyone. Let us fast from our manipulations and strategies. Let us fast from all complaint about the life experiences that Allah gives us. Let us fast from our bad habits and our reactions. Let us fast from desiring what we do not have. Let us fast from obsession. Let us fast from despair. Let us fast from not loving our self, and from denying our heart. Let us fast from selfishness and self-centered behavior. Let us fast from thinking that only what serves us is important. Let us fast from seeing reality only from our own point of view. Let us fast from seeing any reality other than Allah, and from relying on anything other than Allah. Let us fast from desiring anything other than Allah and Allah's Prophets and friends, and our own true self. Essentially, let us fast from thinking that we have any existence separate from Allah!
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