Studying and Spirituality: Finding the Right Balance
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As the new academic draws near, the stress will understandably be kicking in. Studying for coursework and exams is without doubt difficult and exhausting, and balancing our spiritual development alongside them can prove to be a continuous challenge. Sometimes striking that balance feels impossible, doesn’t it?
Firstly, let’s remind ourselves about the importance of seeking knowledge in Islam:
“Whoever treads a path in seeking knowledge, Allah will make easy for him the path to Paradise.” (Al-Tirmidthi)
Notice that this Hadith does not specify that only Islamic knowledge in particular should be attained, but rather emphasises the importance of seeking all types of beneficial knowledge in general. This means that we should endeavour to educate ourselves in numerous disciplines and use the talents Allah has blessed us with to benefit both ourselves and society.
Without doubt, we need qualified Imams and scholars, but society also needs doctors to treat the sick, architects to build the world we live in, lawyers to bring justice, and so on. Each of these professions can serve as an act of worship for us. However, in the pursuit of worldly education, our spiritual development should not be compromised.
Now, how does one find the balance between both areas? Below are some practical tips to help you along the way.
Tip #1 – Renew Your Intentions
A new academic year is a fresh start, so take this opportunity to renew your intentions. Remember that your intentions are the foundation of every action.
Fadl Ibn Ziyad (may Allah have mercy upon him) said: “I asked Abu Abdullaah (i.e. Imam Ahmad – may Allah have mercy upon him) about the intention in action, how should it be? He said: ‘One should concentrate on himself when he intends to do an action, not doing it for the sake of people (i.e. showing off).’”
On a similar note, learn to be low-key and private in all that you do. Keep your ambitions and achievements to yourself, and in doing so, you will prevent yourself from needless harm.
A great way to super-charge your intentions and multiply your rewards, especially whilst pursuing an education, is to utilise a technique called intention hacking.
Tip #2 – Create a Year Plan
It’s now time to put your ambitions and goals down in writing.
- Sit down and write your overall goals for this academic year. Your plan should encompass both academic aims as well as where you want to be in terms of your spirituality in a year’s time.
- Put this year plan on your bedroom wall or on your study desk etc. – anywhere that will allow you to be constantly reminded of the targets set for this year.
(Remember, be realistic when setting your goals. It’s better to set 1 or 2 goals that are achievable, rather than 5-6 goals that will cause stress and result in ultimate failure. At the same time, be sure to challenge yourself!)
Tip #3 – Keep a Day-To-Day Track of Your Deeds
Once you have a visual outline of what you want to achieve this year, you will need to keep an eye on your daily actions. This can be done in a couple of ways:
1) Purchase two separate diaries: one for your academic deadlines, and one for your spiritual goals. For example, if you have an Integral Calculus assignment due in a week’s time, scribble that down in one diary. In the other diary, write down how many Qur’an verses you will aim to memorise on a weekly basis for a particular Surah.
2) The other option is to keep only one diary and draw a vertical line down the middle of each page. One side will be dedicated to your academic ambitions and milestones, and the other side will be for keeping a track of your worship and relationship with Allah.
Other points to keep in mind:
- At the end of each week, reflect again. Think about how your week was spent. Was there anything you could have done better? Incorporate any tasks you have missed into the following week.
- When things get tough, always ask Allah to help you. Du’a is one of the most powerful and beloved forms of worship in the eyes of Allah. Doing this will not only strengthen your relationship with him while you study, but is also a surefire way to bring about the much needed blessings throughout the academic year.
TIP #4 – Surround Yourself With Good Company
It is inevitable that we will subconsciously imitate those who we spend time with; therefore maintaining good company plays a pivotal role in our spiritual development.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
“The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like that of the seller of musk, and the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows. So as for the seller of musk then either he will grant you some, or you buy some from him, or at least you enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him.” [Muslim]
How can we maintain good company?
- Be mindful of your character. Strive to be a good person. Go out of your way to help others, listen attentively, and lift people up rather than knocking them down. After all, our vibes attract our tribe!
- Become an active member in Islamic organisations. For example, your university Islamic Society or a charity organisation.
- Join regular Islamic classes and courses. Not only will this opportunity allow yourself to grow on a spiritual level and enhance your knowledge of the Deen, but you will also meet like-minded people in these gatherings.
TIP #5 – Take Care of Your Emotional, Mental and Spiritual Well-Being
This tip is often neglected, however it is extremely vital.
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
“Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be sound, all the body is sound and which, if it be diseased, all of it is diseased. Truly it is the heart.” [al-Bukhari, Muslim]
Here are some ways to keep yourself in check:
- Join a club that is different to your field of study – something you will enjoy. This can include taking up sports, attending arts & crafts classes, or even joining the spoken word society at your university! Remember to be consistent in attending these clubs and dedicate a particular time slot in your routine just for this. Studies show that students who engage in extracurricular activities are more likely to perform at a higher level in school.
- Exercise often and remain in shape. After all, a healthy body leads to a healthy mind.
- Wake up early and sleep early. This was the Prophet Muhammad’s routine (pbuh), and therefore this is also an act of Sunnah.
- Sleep with a clean heart. Before going to bed, ask for Allah’s forgiveness and forgive those who have wronged you. Eliminate ill-feelings from your heart, as holding grudges or constantly dwelling upon the hurt you have endured will have a detrimental effect on your mental health, as well as your emotional and spiritual well-being.
- Learn to recognise your accomplishments. You experienced a hectic week, but you still persevered, right? Well done! Go treat yourself. You deserve it.
Lastly, remember to make continuous Du’a for yourself and your loved ones. Best wishes for the year ahead!
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Share Your Ideas
Do you have any of your own tips and advice on how to balance our spiritual and educational development? Scroll down and leave a comment below.