Self-control (dicipline), is in the Islamic teachings. Our whole religion is based around it. One of the reasons we pray five times a day is to gain discipline. We fast in the month of Ramadan in order to “learn self-restraint.”
We partake in Hajj, partly, to practice fortitude. We “lower our gaze” to resist temptation. Even the pursuit of wealth is not by any means necessary: we are stringent about examining the how and why of whatever we earn and spend. We have to regulate what we consume. We have to regulate our speech. We have to constantly exert control over our thoughts and feelings. We have to control our anger, our jealousy; any feelings of pride or arrogance. We constantly have to check our actions against our intentions.
When we fall in love with our spouses, the expectation from our religion is to be temperate and keep the display of our affections limited to the domestic sphere.
When someone close to us dies, we are allowed to cry and show sadness, but we cannot wail and excessively lament. Even the duration of our mourning is limited to three days at which point we are expected to collect ourselves and move on.
The ethos of modern societies is to pursue with passion whatever you desire. But Islam emphasizes restraint, discipline and sabr (patience).
Moreover, in a review of thousands of studies, founder and president of The Families and Work Institute Dr. Ellen Galinsky concluded that there are seven essential life skills that every child needs in order to reach his or her fullest potential. What is the top entry on her list? You guessed it: self-control. And this is based on decades of frontline observations and volumes upon volumes of research.
More recently, one of the world’s most prolific psychologists, published a book entitled Willpower that basically summarized decades of his and his colleagues’ research in the field. What he essentially found is that success, no matter how you define it, often boils down to two things: intelligence and self-control. While you cannot increase your God-given intelligence, you can definitely improve your self-control. How important is willpower? According to him “self-regulation failure is the major social pathology of our time.” I’ll let you read that again in order for it to sink in. He goes on to discuss various proven ways to improve self-control including: eating and sleeping right, keeping a diary, establishing routines, getting organized, implementing personalized distraction techniques and practicing guided meditation. He also demonstrates how the effects of successfully disciplining yourself in one area of life spill over into other areas of your life, creating a domino effect of positive transformation. As a Muslim, that sounds very familiar.
Done with the right intentions, not only will self-control warrant success in this life, it will also guarantee success in the life to come.
May Allah (swt) make us of those who practice discipline and remain firm on the His path. Ameen.