Do you wake up every morning thinking about becoming a better Muslim and go to bed every night—in exactly the same state-— still thinking about becoming a better Muslim…and keep that thought dancing on repeat all year?
Why is it that those noble thoughts stay entangled in a spiderly web with other less-important thoughts (like straightening the 1.5 inches of crumpled area in the corner of your bedspread, I get it-the struggle is real) and never seem to make their way out of our brain into the ground… where the real-life action happens?!
I have a guess.
Because we don’t know where to start.
So in this episode, I’ll help you figure out what’s the first/ next step you can take to become a better Muslim.
But first- do you want to become a better Muslim?
I’m guessing you do since you’re here reading this while others are partying.
But ‘wanting’ to become a better Muslim is not enough. It’s high-time we act on those noble intentions.
And I get it- it can be quite confusing…how do you get started? What do you do next? What’s the most logical step for you to take right now?
Setting goals is one thing. Prioritizing them is a whole other game.
I’ve put together three very short and easy questions for you, that you can ask yourself to figure out your next. You can listen to the episode below:
READ THE TRANSCRIPT OF Q&A FRIDAY: EPISODE 05
Assalamualaikum, Aimen here! You’re listening to the fourth episode of Q&A FRIDAY. In this podcast, I answer self-development questions from other growth-oriented Muslims, just like you. I just want to say that I am no guru at this, I do not call myself an expert of any kind, I am just another Muslim like you on the journey of self-improvement, trying to become better with every passing day Insha’Allah. Here I share with you things I’ve learned and picked along the way, insightful tips and research-backed info that I believe can help you become a better Muslim Insha’Allah.
To all those of you listening, I really appreciate you for being here. JazakAllahu Khayr.
Alright let’s begin.
So today’s question is one of the most common questions I receive all the time. I just picked one example to give you an idea of the topic of today’s podcast, which is how to become a better Muslim- where exactly do you start?
I hate everything about me and I don’t know how to deal with it. I’m not a good Muslim either I love my religion but I don’t pray often and I want to be better but I don’t know what to start with/ SAFAE
Now, for this question I’m not going to comment on the self-hate language used by the questioner because that’s another topic of discussion in and of itself.
Let’s primarily focus on the part about how we can get frustrated with ourselves when we don’t like who we are or who we have become. And that frustration can come out in the form of self-hate and depression or anger and rebellion.
Many of us consider ourselves as bad Muslims and we probably are- hahah- but the only thing that truly matters in the end is what are you going to do about it? Do you want to become better or do you want to go further away from your Deen Islam? We may say things like I don’t care about becoming better, I’m fine how I am. But our hearts tell a totally different story. That’s because our conscience will never let us be OKAY with being “a bad Muslim”, who doesn’t learn or implement Deen.
So no matter how many ways you look at it, believing Muslims have no choice. They have to improve themselves because they’ve already chosen this path. And, Allah S.W.T has already chosen them for this path. So the only way to move forward in life with a peaceful heart and mind, is to pack all the tools you’ll need, get your backpack ready and set off on the journey of self-improvement that you are destined to make.
With that out of the way, now let’s talk about how and where do you start?
So today I’ve put together three questions that you can ask yourself to get started. And this 3-question process can apply to anyone and everyone, no matter where you are in your self-improvement journey. Some of us are only just starting, others have covered some distance and a few of us are far ahead than the rest. It doesn’t matter what level you’re starting at, this can help you.
And a quick piece of advice- don’t look at other Muslims who are further ahead of you and feel depressed. Also, don’t look at other Muslims who are far behind you and feel proud. Focus only on your lane and try to take small steps to move forward. That’s the only way you’ll find sustainable growth or else, you’ll soon give up from laziness or overwhelm.
Okay, so now let’s talk about those questions. Because I love going the extra mile to help you, I have created free worksheets for you (no OPT-IN required) to follow along. I know you appreciate that and I appreciate you for appreciating that. And, I lose track of what I was saying.
Hmm, yeah- the process.
So the process is very simple. You have to ask yourself a few questions and your answers will tell you exactly the level you’re at and what to do next. Easy?
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:
- WHY DO YOU WANT TO BECOME A BETTER MUSLIM?
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Really, Aimen? Yes, really. Answer it because YOUR answer matters. The one that comes right out of your brain and your thoughts, not somebody else’s. The clearer you are on your WHYs, the more focused and self-motivated you’ll be in your self-improvement journey.
- FROM THE FOLLOWING AREAS, WHAT AREAS DO YOU NEED TO IMPROVE YOURSELF IN?
So here’s what I learned from my mentors. To become a better Muslim, there are three main areas that we can all improve ourselves in.
- Ibadah; this includes all spiritual acts of worship such as prayer, fasts etc.
- Islamic Knowledge; this area covers all the different branches of Islamic education that one can study such as Quran, Arabic, Fiqh, History etc.
- Service/ helping others; this includes interpersonal relationships, giving back to the Muslim community and helping others in any way.
Now ask yourself, which of these three areas are you weak at? The most common answer is- ALL OF THEM. And that’s not a lie, there’s truth in that response.
Yes, people who are good Muslims, their goodness usually extends to all areas of our Deen and those who consider themselves as bad Muslims feel the need to bring goodness in all areas. That’s not an absolute rule of course but it’s something that I’ve seen happen commonly.
But it’s also possible that you’re doing great in one area but kinda slacking in the other two. So for example, you’re doing good service to the people around you, including your family and even doing small dawah in your circle but you could do a lot better in Ibadah, and learning Islamic knowledge- the other two areas.
In any case, which ever area is weak for you that becomes your first priority. If it’s two areas, you can work on both those areas together.
And if it’s all three areas, then you can work on all those areas but here’s what you’ll ask yourself next:
3. WHAT IS THE ONE MOST IMPORTANT THING FROM THE WEAK AREA THAT YOU CAN START WITH?
Now this one is a little tricky. Because we are great at creating goals for ourselves but not so great at prioritizing them. Am I right? Raise your hand if you think I nailed it. Ooh, there you go… I can see none of your hands. Fair enough.
So, think about this. If you were allowed to pick only ONE thing from the area you’re lacking in, what would it be?
And if you want to work in all three, what is the ONE thing from each area: Ibadah, Islamic knowledge and service that you can start with right now?
I say one thing from each area because when we focus too much on one area and forget about the other two completely, that does not make us a good Muslim.
Islam is all about moderation. So if you’re doing great in the let’s say, Ibadah part, right, and totally ignoring the helping others part of Islam or seeking knowledge about Islam, do you think that qualifies somebody to be called a good Muslim? Nah. It doesn’t.
Islam is a way of living. It’s our Deen. It’s not a religion only that is confined to spiritual acts of worship. And it’s also not just community service (that you ignore the Ibadah part). Its teachings extend to all areas of our life.
So if somebody is doing OKAY in all areas, they are serving their Deen much better than a Muslim who is doing great in one area and completely neglecting the other areas.
So let me give you a quick case study and ask you a question to make things interesting. Listen carefully and answer the question: what do you think is the one thing from each area (Ibadah, Islamic knowledge and service) which this guy should improve himself in? (This guy/ girl…whatever, it’s a case study…it’s an example…it’s not real.
Muslim A does not pray fajr regularly on-time but he does pray the other 4 obligatory prayers. He also does not read Quran. He keeps the fasts in Ramadan but he does not fast the optional/ nafal fasts. He also does not know the Arabic of the Quran because of the language barrier so does not understand the Quran. He doesn’t have much knowledge of hadith, daily azkaar, fiqh or history. He has not read the Seerah book of the Prophet S.A.W or any hadith book in a really long time. And he is also not very good to his/ her family and does not do any dawah.
Now, from the looks of it, he can work on all 3 areas of self-improvement. But the question is: tell me the one thing from each area, which he can start with immediately?
I’m going to give you just one tiny second because technology has advanced and you can press pause on this audio to think of an answer.
Alright, I’m guessing you paused and came back, so I’m going to tell you what I think he can start with.
In the IBADAH area, he can start with fixing his Fajr Salah. This one was pretty obvious. Suppose he wasn’t praying any fard prayer at all, then he would start with fixing all of his prayers.
So back to this case of Muslim A, once he starts praying his fajr regularly, he can work on other areas of Ibadah like praying Tahajjud or Ishraq, keeping extra nafal fasts (like the first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah) etc.
If this Muslim A was not praying the 5 prayers and also not fasting in Ramadan- he would start with both of those things because when it comes to fard acts of Ibadah- everything becomes secondary and they become the primary focus of self-improvement.
Now, moving on to the second area of improvement- KNOWLEDGE. The one thing that I believe he could start with is reading Quran with meaning/ translation regularly. Now, once he has made that a daily habit, he could focus on reading a Seerah book of the Prophet S.A.W and making the habit of reading Hadith and learning daily Azkaar. Other goals for this ‘Knowledge’ area would be learning Arabic of the Quran to remove the language barrier, and then reading Tafseer can come after that.
I’ve put all of this in a sweet little image that I’ve added to the script below, so make sure to check that out.
Finally, the one thing that Muslim A could start with from the third area- SERVICE TO OTHERS– would be helping your family in daily activities. That’s a major part of our Deen and service starts from the family. But for somebody advanced who is already a highly active helper in family matters and feels like he wants to do dawah now, so his next logical step would be to start a dawah campaign among his social circle.
So in a nutshell, your answer to these three questions will show you your next logical step in your self-improvement journey.
Now here’s a final note: focusing on one part of each self-improvement area DOES NOT mean you have to force yourself to completely ignore the rest. Not at all.
So if you’re focusing on developing the habit of reading Quran regularly, that does not mean you purposely ignore reading hadith or Seerah till you’ve developed the habit of reading Quran.
It only means your prime focus for those few weeks is going to be the habit of reading Quran, but if somebody shares a hadith, let’s say, learn from it. If you see a reminder on social media, click through and read it. If you randomly remember to read the Seerah in the evening or something, give it 5mins at least and read it. If you read about a daily azkaar in a blog post, learn the dua immediately. These small choices will add up over time and you’ll be so far ahead than from where you started.
But when we say that focus on only one thing from each area, what that means is your daily planner, or to-do list needs to have that current goal that you’re pursuing on it. We need to go OUT OF YOUR WAY to make that into a habit, which means that our schedule needs to show that we’re working on it. That’s all.
Now I hope this small and simple three-question process helps you discover the first step you can start with right now to improve yourself.
I’m going to end this podcast by saying that self-improvement works much better if you begin with the right mindset. A positive-growth-oriented mindset.
I’ve written about mindsets before and you can read the articles on mindset by clicking the links provided in the script. Also, I’ve added the links to the in-depth articles on self-acceptance, self-esteem and self-love, which can really help you if you’re starting from a place of self-hatred and low self-esteem. *excessive use of the word self in that sentence*
Finally, before you go, don’t forget to download your free worksheets.
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Now I’d love to hear from you…
If there’s something you’d like to share that has helped you personally, I’d love to hear all about it! 🙂
And I wish you the best of luck. I pray Allah S.W.T helps us all become better Muslims.
If you have a question that you’d like for me to answer, click on the yellow button on the top bar that says ‘ASK ME YOUR QUESTION’ and it’ll redirect you to the page where you can send me your Q. I hope you found today’s episode useful. I’ll see you in the next episode. BarakAllahu feek.
JazakAllah for listening, reading and adding to the conversation. I really appreciate you!
I’ll talk to you in the next episode of Q&A Friday, Insha’Allah.BarakAllahu Feek. Assalamualaikum warahmatullahe Wabarakatuhu.