Yesterday, during my reading of the Quran, I came across this verse:
*Allah does not change a people until they change what is inside of them* – Verse 13:11
While, I’ve come across this verse many times before, I found it particularly interesting. I found it interesting this time specifically because we are being instructed to change what is inside of us. We are not being asked to change our actions, habits or behaviours per say.
And while I’m not saying that some of us don’t have bad habits or do things that are bad for ourselves or for others in our circle, to those of us who are involved in things that are downright wrong, unethical or criminal, I’m pointing out that this is not what we are instructed to change first.
The assumption here is that if we change what is inside of us, everything will flow on from there. And this is somewhat a universal belief.
To me, the inside of us can be a few different things. It can be our heart or soul, our thought patterns, nafs (ego in arabic) or a combinations of all of those things. In many conversations it is hard to seperate the soul from the ego anyway.
I’d argue that changing our thought patterns and ego is a lot harder than changing our behaviours. But, changing our internal state in a lot of cases leads to an automatic change in behaviours. And perhaps this is one of the reasons the verse encourages us to change our internal states first. Once our psyche changes, so will our behaviour, and so will the outcomes of our actions. The work we put in to change ourselves on the inside will have a ripple effect on our lives, the lives of those around us and our communities.
What I’ve discovered this Ramadan, is that changing ourselves on the inside is a work in progress (this may have been obvious). It is not something that we can achieve overnight to even in a month. I’ve heard scholars say that we should focus on a particular habit or aspect of ourselves that we want to change and that we should try to achieve that in Ramadan.
However, radical and deep change cannot be achieved in a month and just forgotten. These changes have to be maintained and supported in the long term, and long after Ramadan has ended. And the deeper the change you want to create in yourself, the more the habits and discipline you need to maintain the change. So, while Ramadan is a good place to start your transformational journey, it’s important to remember that it is that – a journey.
I hope that this Ramadan, and the whole year, will bring the transformational change that we all wish to create in ourselves and see in the world.