Friday, May 29, 2009

Bad Habits

For reasons varying from being unhealthy to being haraam, it's good to eliminate bad habits, and also because they can sabotage us in the end. We pay a price in this life and in the Hereafter when we choose to engage in these unhealthy habits. It might be a financial cost (buying cigarettes, for instance, or related medical costs), it might be a social cost (gossip might make you popular at first but can quickly destroy friendships), or health costs (overeating and smoking can rob your body of health by increasing fat, decreasing energy, or damaging vital organs.)

I think it's interesting, then, to find this particular tip on a Self-Development site that is not at all related to Islam. It indicates that these bad habits are non-productive from even a non-religious point of view--and our religion tells us to avoid them, so we should be doubly aware!

Starting with overeating, we have the following hadith from the Prophet Muhammad (saws) to discourage us, and at the same time to give us a better habit regarding what we eat.
No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath. [Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasaa'I, Ibn Majah – Hadith sahih]
To learn about the dangers of overeating and the Islamic perspective, check out Obesity and Eating in Islam. Clearly overeating is a bad habit from which Muslims should abstain.

Secondly, it is common now to see fatawa indicating that smoking is prohibited in Islam. (What does Islam say about Smoking?, Ruling on Smoking) Evidence to support that view includes that smoking is harmful to the smoker and everyone around him who might be forced to inhale the toxins associated with it. So for Islamic reasons smoking is another bad habit which Muslims should give up.

And lastly, gossip is something clearly despicable in Islam, condemned in the Qur'an. At the very least bordering on vain talk, gossip might also fall under the category of backbiting or slander, two behaviors which are condemned in the Qur'an (Surat al Humazah) and counted among major sins in Islam, those which will land a person in hellfire. (Five Misconceptions of Backbiting.)

The Prophet Muhammad (saws) gave us good advice on this account also, in a hadith collected among Imam an-Nawawi's 40 Hadith (#15):
Let whosoever believes in Allah and in the Last Day either speak good or be silent.
So if we don't have something that is good and decent to say, then the solution is to keep quiet.

Ultimately, for our own good, and for the good of the Muslim ummah, we should try to overcome any bad habits we might have, especially those which have been prohibited by Islam. Remember that Allah prohibited what is bad for us, though we might not always be able to see the wisdom behind it.


Brad said...

Excellent post!

I think American Muslims have to work a little harder at avoiding overeating - given the abundance and cheap prices of fast food, junk food, snacks and so forth.

I am one who loves to eat (who doesn't), but my always giving into temptation and overeating all this junk food has caught up with me in the form of high cholesterol. I'm really working hard to cut back and eat more sensible diet.

Anonymous said...

I'm a smoker, for the last 30 years or so. I regretted taking up smoking. All the people of my age group I've met who are smokers shares the same sentiment. We all regretted it.

Stop? Not so easy. What abt will power? I'm using all of it to stop the more detrimental issues, like controlling anger. So there's none left to use for curbing smokes.


Anonymous said...

Btw, just dropping in to see how u doing?

Anonymous said...

Assalamu Aleikum,

As a sister with an eating disorder, this was a very timely post for me. It will do us all good to remember that Allah SWT is the healer who can ultimately cure us of these ills if we humbly and sincerely ask him to do so. Please keep blogging! :)

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...My bad habits always come to life when I am angry or frustrated or sad, but at all other times, I can maitain constant dhikr.....not sure what to do about mood-induced habits but I imagine many people have the same problem. Overeating, smoking etc. are often associate with emotional comforting. What do you think is the solution? I guess if you knew the answer, you could start your own program :-)

Amy said...

Thanks for the comments everyone.

Indeed bad habits are not easy to give up. And in some cases they might not just involve changing behaviors but dealing with serious side effects (as is the case with smoking.)

But it is one way to improve ourselves, and so it's important for that reason.

To the last anonymous poster--do you think maybe it's possible that life gets stressful when you leave dhikr, instead of the reverse? I find that when I am reading Qur'an often and immersed in Islam then I am less easily stressed, and I handle stress better than otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Good point. But then I have to ask, how do you keep dhikr all of the time everywhere especially at work, etc. or places where there is music or times when people start to pick on you for some reason??
Jazak'Allah Khair!!!

Anonymous said...

Ah I smoked for years. It is a nasty unhealthy habit and a powerful addiction. I would recommend a book by Alan Carr called "The Easy way to Stop smoking". For those of you who want to stop smoking remember that it is the nicotine that causes anxiety and the need to smoke. It is a false security. Smoking is only 5 percent physical. The other 95% is your brain tricking you. Hi Amy.


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