Prologue: A woman gives out gifts relatives and friends. why? its Christmas time. A man practises his religion meticulously. why? it is Ramadan. (Ramadan is the Fasting Month of Muslims; considered the holiest month in Islam)
Understanding the “spirit” of Christmas can be confusing. Same applies to the “spirit” of Ramadan. Both require the practitioner to perform a virtuous act, emphasizing this requirement for a duration of time (Christmas season or Ramadan month).
You are not expected to be santa clause through out the year, getting gifts for everyone around you because it is impractical. Christmas has its non materialistic values as well, its just difficult to discern that after it has been commercialized so much that we are waiting for someone to patent christmas soon. On the other hand muslims still emphasize the virtuous values that are demanded of a Muslim during Ramadan.
Muslims as well are aware, not appalled any more, by the sudden changes in actions of Muslims during Ramadan from actions before Ramadan, and to actions after Ramadan. Count the number of people praying at mosques during these three interesting times to get a feel of the fluctuation in characters.
Many Muslims take a rational and calculating attitude towards Ramadan. They do the math by noting that the rewards for good actions are multiplied during ramadan, compared to any other months. You might as well get a “rewards calculator” to keep track of your progress if that is how you swing.
The Missing Link
It turns out that the minimum number of days required for a habit change is 21 days, which is how long you require to make a daily action a habit. I believe this is one of the many blessings of Ramadan.
Dr Maxwell Maltz has written much on the subject. I haven’t read a book of his but with so many references to him, i believe he is the man in this field. Other experts who have worked further on the subject of habit change suggest 30 days. Among the advantages of 30 days is that it represents a month, so actually it could be 31, 28 or 29 days.
If you want the scientific take on it, here’s a quote from a blog discussing habit change:
“Brain circuits take engrams (memory traces), and produce neuroconnections and neuropathways only if they are bombarded for 21 days in a row. This means that our brain does not accept ?new? data for a change of habit unless it is repeated each day for 21 days (without missing a day).”
The Quran says: “Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety and rightousness” (Qur’an, al-Baqarah, 2:183)
In my opinion, the emphasis of the above verse is bold-ed. That is to say Muslims should use the opportunity for reformation of their habits. There are other known benefits to Ramadan but this just occurred to me recently.
The reason many find themselves going back to their old ways may be that they basically force their way back to their former lifestyle after Ramadan. One reason may be that one just wants to be back to “normal” again, for no reason other than it is normal; the assumption is that one has participated meticulously in Ramadan.
First ask yourself what habits of yours will you like to change; for life not just Ramadan. Pick one of these and make sure you don’t do it through out Ramadan, NO MATTER the reasons you give yourself. After Ramadan, simply continue your life however you want but leaving out the habit that you have decided to abandon.
The expected outcome is that you will find it really easy to not do it, it may take some effort on your part to actually do it. If it is easy to avoid it, Alhamdulillah, you ve done it! I suspect it will be easier than before Ramadan in any case. I will be trying the experiment as well IA.
Remember though, its your habit so you have to be sincere about wanting to abandon it. You don’t have to be a muslim to try the Ramadan Experiment; no need to fast, only that you might not have a religious dimension to the act. We may understand Ramadan more, after many years of shallow acquaintance.
PS: More importantly, a new habit can be acquired this way.