Habits in our brain
There is a spiritual aspect to building habits. Our metaphysical state changes, and so does our physiological state shift at the interchange of habits. When we want to rewire our brain, we first have to understand repetition of certain actions lead to our brain going into "autopilot" and the interruption of old habits will be followed by needing to replace the old habits with new ones. Our habits can be replaced by first identifying their triggers, and refocusing our energy.
"Messages that travel the same pathway in the brain over & over beginto transmit faster & faster. With enough repetition, they become automatic. That’s why we practice things like hitting a golf ball–with enough practice, we can go on automatic pilot."
Deann Ware, Ph.D
If you're struggling to pray consistently, identify bad habits preventing consistent prayer, identify their trigger(s) and redirect your attention at completing the prayer. Being aware that you open social media apps to distract from your prayer will be the first step, followed by focusing energy on thikr or meditation to smoothen the transition into prayer.
How long it takes to build a habit
Some sources report it takes 40 days to replace bad habits with good habits. The number 40 has significance within Islam. Our beloved prophets would be tested for forty days, resulting in personal changes similar to habit building. Musa alayhi al-salaam spent 40 days on Mount Sinai where he received the 10 commandments, prophet Yunus was in a whale's mouth for 40 days and from that we got one of the most important duas regarding seeking forgiveness for our shortcomings.
وَذَا ٱلنُّونِ إِذ ذَّهَبَ مُغَـٰضِبًۭا فَظَنَّ أَن لَّن نَّقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ فَنَادَىٰ فِى ٱلظُّلُمَـٰتِ أَن لَّآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّآ أَنتَ سُبْحَـٰنَكَ إِنِّى كُنتُ مِنَ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِين
And Thun-Nun, (Jonah) as he went away angered. So he surmised that Weshould never have mastery over him. Then he called out in the darkness(Literally: darkenesses) (saying), "There is no god except You. All Extolment be to You! Surely, I have been of the unjust."
Do not let the time it takes to build a habit disocurage you. Ramadan is a blessed month and reap the immense rewards by building a habit of prayer then.
Main aspects surrounding prayer
The second chapter of The Purification of the Soul, The Nature of Intention, hints at a major reason why we struggle with praying attentively.
"As for those whose hearts incline towards and are overwhelmed by worldly matters, they find this difficult to accomplish and even obligatory acts of worship may become difficult and tiresome."
The Purification of the Soul, Ahmad Farid
Habit building requires focus, and intentional actions at ever step of the way. If you were to attempt to stop eating sweats, you cannot think of sweets as you are eating rice cakes.
Our hearts cannot be focused on two things at once, letting go of our worldly affairs is a difficult task, yet we immediately reap the rewards in the Dunya & Akhira.
Reason to Pray
Understanding the benefits & virtues of prayer will help you motivate yourself & remain consistent.
I heard Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying, "When the time for a prescribed Salat is due and a Muslim performs its Wudu' and its acts of bowing and prostration properly, this Salat will be an expiation for his past sins, so long as he does not commit major sins, and this applies for ever."
Riyad as-Salihin 1046
While building your habit of prayer, it is important to have an inner motivation. Some find motivation from fearing the repercussions of failure to satisfy requirements, and others are motivated by the rewards of satisfying requirements. Whichever method you find motivating, use it to empower you.
Islam teaches us prayer is a veil in which the believer is protected against the attacks of Iblis (devil) and our Nafs (inner self, animalistic instinct). It is a time to realign with the principles we uphold, so when we return to prayer, we are forced to rethink our actions before and after they occur. Bear in mind, forgiveness & spiritual self-awareness are a sliver of the rewards Prayer holds.
Create an environment to nourish your new habit. Give yourself a boost of spirituality & realign yourself with a new page from the Quran every morning. From the night before, schedule your daily routine around prayers, that way you won't be forced to compromise your religious obligations.
For the allocated times to pray, add a few minutes of reflection. Many of our great scholars have emphasized the necessity of reflection before prayer, giving yourself 5 minutes to breathe, make thikr, and renewing your intentions will improve your Salah (prayer) experience. Khushu (tranquility) is achieved not only by veterans of the religion but by anyone who is sincere & focused in their Salah.
Take advantage of the ambiance that the blessed month of Ramadan brings to recite the Quran more often. Understanding, and reciting, the words of Allah will rejuvenate the spirit of prayer.
Goal setting helps in habit building, therefore try setting a goal to complete the Quran during Ramadan. If you recite 2 pages, before and after prayer, you'll complete the entire Quran within around 30 days.
We're working on Tarteel's Ramadan release that will include Quran streaks. We've leveraged gamification to help you stay consistent! Our research shows after 15 days of consistent recitation it'll be harder for you to break your developing habit.
If you set your mind to it, you could recite the entire Quran & build the habit of prayer this Ramadan!
Ask for help
Mistakes are inevitable and we all need to ask for help. Ask for the help of Allah. Recite the words of Allah, and surround yourself with good company. Download Tarteel and connect with virtual communities such as Tarteel's Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages to stay connected with our weekly events, reminders, and feature updates.
We ask Allah make your path to forming consistent prayer habits easy.
Keeping consistent prayer is a journey everyone takes, even those we admire. Let Tarteel help you connect with your Quran, thus improving your prayer through the words of Allah ﷻ.
Our mission at Tarteel is simple: Help Muslims enhance their relationship with the Quran. To help us achieve it, please send us your feedback by emailing [email protected] or from the feedback section of the app.
Jazakkum Allahu khair!
The Tarteel Team