Habits, Body, and Post-Ramadan Depression!

In the sacred month of Ramadan, a time meant for nourishing our faith and revitalizing our bodies, it’s elusory to see some Muslims grappling with post-Ramadan depression or physical debilitation.

While the focus for many is on deepening their spiritual connection during Ramadan, the importance of maintaining healthy daily habits often gets sidelined. This oversight can lead to a host of mind-body issues. Particularly concerning the physical realm, disrupted sleep patterns, inadequate hydration, excessive caffeine intake, poor nutrition stemming from overindulgence in empty carbohydrates or skipping the pre-dawn meal (Suhoor), deficiencies in vital nutrients like vitamin D—especially pronounced in winter when sunlight exposure is limited—and a lack of physical activity are all contributing factors.

“The soul should take care of the body, just as the pilgrim on his way to Makkah takes care of his camel; but if the pilgrim spends his whole time in feeding and adorning his camel, the caravan will leave him behind, and he will perish in the desert”. – Al Ghazali

Ancient scholars like Al Ghazali underscored the profound interconnectedness of the soul and body. Overlooking this winding bond often serves as a barrier to fully harnessing spiritual elevation during Ramadan. This sacred month demands not only spiritual vigour but also physical vitality to uphold and enhance worship practices. It necessitates mental acuity to ponder over the verses of the Quran, comprehending their significance and reflecting on their relevance to our lives. It requires the physical stamina to awaken for Tahajjud, seizing the opportunity to beseech Allah ﷻ for forgiveness during the most auspicious hours. Additionally, it mandates the resilience to withstand the weightiness that accompanies drawing closer to Allah ﷻ, immersing oneself in His light and divine wisdom. On this, scholars evoke the verse, “Indeed, We will cast upon you a heavy word” (73:5), likening it to the physical manifestations the Prophet ﷺ experienced upon receiving revelation, a mercy bestowed upon the worlds.

“A strong believer is better and is more lovable to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone, (but) cherish that which gives you benefit (in the Hereafter) and seek help from Allah and do not lose heart” – Allah’s Messenger ﷺ

In Islam, the concept of strength extends beyond mere physical ability to encompass the complex interplay of both physical and psychological dimensions. Within this framework, numerous character virtues emerge as pillars of a robust personality, including patience, discipline, self-control, resilience, and perseverance.

Ancient Greek philosophers, such as Aristotle, recognized this holistic connection, advocating for physical training as a means to cultivate ethical character. He emphasized the indispensable role of continuous practice, dedication and persistent commitment to one’s deliberate actions, in achieving a state of psychical excellence that is intrinsically tied to one’s physical well-being, underscoring the importance of maintaining equilibrium between these interconnected components that harmonize the soul (self).

In line with the teachings of Aristotle, attaining this delicate balance necessitates not only making the right choices but also habitualizing virtuous actions over time. To him, it is through consistent practice and deliberate cultivation that a stable and virtuous disposition of the soul is achieved. 

Felicitous was he! Certainly,  “..for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.” – Allah’s Messenger ﷺ

Within Western psychology, various theories, including implicit attitude and affective normative attitude, engage in discourse regarding the factors influencing the habituation of health behaviours, such as physical activity. It is argued whether such habits are more likely to form as a result of automatic triggers, such as immediate hedonistic responses, emotions, personal perceptions, or environmental cues, as opposed to conscious decision-making and intentionality.

Those favouring the former perspective centralize the role of automatic responses, which can shape behaviours beyond conscious awareness. However, from an Islamic perspective, this emphasis on automatic responses influencing behaviour outside of conscious awareness, partially, is considered epistemologically flawed. 

“And as for those who were in awe of standing before their Lord and restrained themselves from ˹evil˺ desires” – Surah An-Nazi’at – 40

Alternatively, the theory of planned behaviour stands out by asserting that intention serves as the primary predictor of behaviour. According to this theory, the intention is shaped by three belief-based constructs: attitude, which encompasses positive or negative evaluations of the behaviour; subjective norm, reflecting beliefs about whether significant others would want one to undertake the behaviour; and perceived behavioural control, representing beliefs about one’s capacity to perform the behaviour and overcome potential barriers. This notion of reasoned actions, rooted in strong intentions to choose a specific behavioural path, resonates explicitly with Islamic principles. Islam places significant emphasis on the importance of intentionality and mindfulness in guiding human behaviour and overcoming the impulses of weakness (Hawa) of the self.

Moreover, the Islamic ethical principle of intention (niyyah) extends beyond mere awareness of one’s motivations; it encompasses truthfulness and sincerity. As expressed by Ibn Ḥajar, “Intention signifies sincerity; it is a unitary act for the sake of God, the One without peers.” (Ibn Ḥajar 1969, 1:12). In essence, intentionality in Islamic teachings involves dedicating one’s actions solely to the pleasure of Allah ﷻ, with utmost sincerity and purity of heart.

Therefore, contrary to conventional psychological theories that prioritize perceived success as a determinant of action (where individuals are more likely to act upon their intentions when they believe such actions will be successful). Falahdeems the foundation concept from which Muslims strive to self-improvement and well-being regardless of worldly outcomes, centralizing the ultimate success in the Akhirah (hereafter).

They are guided by a profound sense of submission (Islam) and deep Tawakkul (trust in Allah). This unwavering trust is anchored in the belief in Al-Qawiyy Al-Qadir, the Most Strong, the All-Powerful, from where they derive their strength and prosperity. And a firm conviction that Allah desires the undertaking of virtuous behaviours that elevate them physically and spiritually. Such faith infuses their actions with a sense of purpose empowered by divine guidance.

As a result, for Muslims, the process of transforming undesirable habits and fostering new ones is fundamentally rooted in the conviction that perceptions and actions are guided by core beliefs and the desire to please Allah ﷻ, transcending the mere pursuit of hedonistic pleasure. Thus, in Surah Al-Balad (90:04), Allah emphasises the creation of humankind in constant struggle, being in a state of continuous Mujahadah —striving to restrain the Nafs from its desires and temptations and overcome its weaknesses, all in pursuit of excellence (Ihsan).

From such a holistic perspective of the interconnectedness between the soul and body, avoid post-Ramadan depression by setting your plan for a change program of your physical being. Utilize the blessed opportunity of Ramadan, where restraint is embraced, and renew your intention to habituate the soul and body to find a state of balance by aligning actions with sincere devotion and a profound commitment to cultivating behaviours that bring us closer to Allah ﷻ. Finally, be mindful that if half of Ramadan has already passed, it remains a lifetime of Ramadans to come that require you to be the best version of yourself today.

Beyond your limited perception, rely on The Source of Perfection, to elevate!

Engage yourself in healthy habits during Ramadan. Click to review the “Healthy Habits to Physically Fight Post-Ramadan Depression” infographic!

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