Boosting Self-Esteem And Self-Belief For Hifz Success

Having positive self-belief and positive affirmations is important for your journey in memorising the Qur'ān. When one is shrouded by a limiting belief it has a knock-on effect on how productive you can be with hifz.

When I doubted myself and felt guilt, and wanted to quit. Every fibre of my being didn't want to click with doing hifz. It just wasn't working. When I challenged it, I removed it by building self-belief.

I've seen likewise the effects of thinking negatively about revision and how this creates a domino effect in procrastination or avoidance tactics.

I've seen someone who absolutely hates the process of hifz but enjoys revision finds memorisation to be difficult and revision to be easy. Whatever belief you carry, with positive affirmations and more, you can overcome them. You can align things with your personal values and take action.

I have strong memory! > Do it.
I can memorise! > Do it.
I will memorise! > Do it.

Evidence from empirical studies suggest that positive self-affirmation practices can be beneficial. They can decrease health-deteriorating stress and are linked positively to academic achievement. It has demonstrated (as self-affirmation) to lower stress and rumination. It can help with the tendency to linger on negative experiences. Studies have also shown a significantly positive correlation to feelings of hopefulness and benefits in terms of sleep quality.

What self-limiting beliefs do you face with your Hifz?

Common self-limiting beliefs that I have seen include:

  • I can't do it! I am not good enough. I have bad memory.
  • I won't fit in! Others won't see me as being able to do this either.
  • I can't say no! There's an expectation on me and being effective is being busy.
  • I'm not good enough! I'm unworthy and not pure enough. Mistakes define my life.
  • I carry too many doubts! What if I forget? What if... What if.. You have a fear of the unknown.
  • I forgot the Qur'ān! I'm stressed due to my past and struggle to move forward.

I want you to take a moment right now and write down anything that you feel about yourself (or you know to be true) that is self-limiting. Once you've done that, write down the opposite to those statements.

Now let me tell you a true story.

A man who believed it was impossible to do Hifz

This man told himself repeatedly,

"I can never be able to memorise the Qur'ān. I'm too old! I wasted my life."

He was 55 years old and he was still saying this. He made it his reality. He told himself so many times that it became a part of him.

Until one day, he was told: "In shā' Allāh, you can do better than a young person. Change your conviction about yourself and your abilities."

The man didn't understand how that was ever possible. He asked, "Better than a young person? Faster than a young person?" And he was told, "Yes!"

You might be shocked and in disbelief as much as this man was knowing that 3 days later, he memorised 5 pages faster than the youth around him.

Suddenly, his self-belief system was shattered!

Guess what? A year later this 55-year-old man went on to memorise half of the Qur'ān!

What changed? He did. He now believed it was possible based on belief and action.

Research shows most of our thoughts are negative, 77-80% of them. When we repeat them, they become a belief. The Qur'ān came to change this. It came to remove doubts and confusion. Start to be more positive with yourself my dear brothers and sisters!

Dive in with memorisation, no matter how hard it might be. Trust in Allāh. Keep good company, take time to reflect, and always renew your intentions.

Those statements that you wrote down, can be true of you.

What can cause low self-esteem and self-limiting beliefs?

Knowing the cause of any self-esteem and self-limiting beliefs can be a means of discovering a way out. There can be many reasons for this but the most common I have found among students are as follows.

Disconnection and isolation from people

This can be external, direct or indirect. These are things that can drive a person towards low self-esteem and self-limiting beliefs. They can turn someone to complete disconnection and isolation from people that in return can cause other physical, mental, and spiritual ills.

  • Neglect (or absence) - you are raised or live/work/study in conditions that make you feel unwanted, unloved, unworthy and bad.
  • Parental, peer or societal comparison - you are always compared on the basis of the physical, intellect, habits, skills, talents and personality. You are made to feel inferior.
  • Parental, peer or societal pressures - the point here is the level of pressure placed on your shoulders to do things in a certain timeframe and expectations. You live to gain approval from others.
  • Extremes in negativity - you experience negative extremes of communication and attitude that display lack of care, attention, or love. Teachers can really damage a student with constant negativity.
  • Being lonely - as Muslims, it is important that we have a community around us. To cooperate, share, look after each other and work together. Nature (fitrah) is connection. This doesn't have to be physical.

Disconnection from reality and meaning in what we do and value

These are things that you do but feel you're doing so without meaning or value. You don't really want to be doing it because it doesn't speak to who you truly are. You don't feel like you're making a difference.

  • Sinning - the more this happens, the more we lose meaning, purpose, and value. it causes guilt and self-esteem issues.
  • Consuming junk - we consume fake realities, desires and time consuming entertainment in the world of the internet that causes distortion and disconnection.
  • Over-planning - You expect yourself to do more than you can realistically do. You overwhelm yourself and forget to focus on where you truly are.
  • Extreme perfection - this can lead to so much inner critique that you become really unhappy.
  • Reactive to setbacks - any setback or failure stunts your progress, and in return you turn inwards and give up.

Disconnected thoughts

  • Too many thoughts, too much negativity - This is self-inflicted blame, shame, and cursing. This leads to huge self-esteem issues.
  • Ungratefulness - displaying dissatifcation in many aspects of life.

There are many others reasons that can be a cause including early childhood emotional neglect, physical, and emotional abuse. Parenting style, perceptions of successes and failures (especially in the domain of academics), and genetics also play a big role in self-esteem. Another contributor to low self-esteem can be the occurrence of a negative experience, like failure or rejection.

How can you boost your self-esteem and self-belief?

Positive affirmations in Allāh

Affirmations are positive statements that can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. Affirmations are things that you confirm. When you repeat them often and believe in them, you can start to make positive changes. There is a lot of information on this for you to read and listen to.

I believe most of the advice on positive affirmations is misplaced and only works for those that already have good self-esteem. Studies also confirm this. In fact, if you have low self-esteem, positive affirmations actually make you feel worse because they set up a conflict between the positive state you desire and the negative feelings you currently experience.

We need to revisit our tradition and the treasures of guidance we have been given. Everything is there for those that seek it.

For our purpose, we have guidance from Allāh. Everything goes back to Him. For us, positive affirmations should be with Allāh:

يَقُولُ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى أَنَا عِنْدَ ظَنِّ عَبْدِي بِي، وَأَنَا مَعَهُ إِذَا ذَكَرَنِي، فَإِنْ ذَكَرَنِي فِي نَفْسِهِ ذَكَرْتُهُ فِي نَفْسِي، وَإِنْ ذَكَرَنِي فِي مَلأٍ ذَكَرْتُهُ فِي مَلأٍ خَيْرٍ مِنْهُمْ، وَإِنْ تَقَرَّبَ إِلَىَّ بِشِبْرٍ تَقَرَّبْتُ إِلَيْهِ ذِرَاعًا، وَإِنْ تَقَرَّبَ إِلَىَّ ذِرَاعًا تَقَرَّبْتُ إِلَيْهِ بَاعًا، وَإِنْ أَتَانِي يَمْشِي أَتَيْتُهُ هَرْوَلَةً

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Allāh says: 'I am just as My slave thinks I am, (i.e. I am able to do for him what he thinks I can do for him) and I am with him if He remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I too, remember him in Myself; and if he remembers Me in a group of people, I remember him in a group that is better than they; and if he comes one span nearer to Me, I go one cubit nearer to him; and if he comes one cubit nearer to Me, I go a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.'"

This hadīth of Sahīh al-Bukhārī (and others) demonstrates the power of our thinking. Keeping positive and being in the remembrance of Allāh. People misuse this hadīth to confirm the idea of the 'Law of Attraction' that modern authors and influencers like to talk about an awful lot. Allāh combines two things: positive thought and His remembrance. They go together. The more effort you put into this, the more you will receive.

We are taught in the Qur'ān to say:

قُلِ ٱللَّهُمَّ مَـٰلِكَ ٱلْمُلْكِ تُؤْتِى ٱلْمُلْكَ مَن تَشَآءُ وَتَنزِعُ ٱلْمُلْكَ مِمَّن تَشَآءُ وَتُعِزُّ مَن تَشَآءُ وَتُذِلُّ مَن تَشَآءُ ۖ بِيَدِكَ ٱلْخَيْرُ ۖ إِنَّكَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍۢ قَدِيرٌۭ

"Say, ˹O Prophet,˺ “O Allāh! Lord over all authorities! You give authority to whoever You please and remove it from who You please; You honour whoever You please and disgrace who You please—all good is in Your Hands. Surely You ˹alone˺ are Most Capable of everything." (3:26)

This is a positive affirmation with Allāh. This is the Adab that we have been taught.

وَمَن يَتَّقِ ٱللَّهَ يَجْعَل لَّهُۥ مَخْرَجًا - وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ ۚ وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُۥٓ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ بَـٰلِغُ أَمْرِهِۦ ۚ قَدْ جَعَلَ ٱللَّهُ لِكُلِّ شَىْءٍ قَدْرًا

"[...] And whoever is mindful of Allāh, He will make a way out for them, and provide for them from sources they could never imagine. And whoever puts their trust in Allāh, then He ˹alone˺ is sufficient for them. Certainly, Allāh achieves His Will. Allāh has already set a destiny for everything." (65:2-3)

وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِى عَنِّى فَإِنِّى قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ ٱلدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا۟ لِى وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا۟ بِى لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ

"When My servants ask you ˹O Prophet˺ about Me: I am truly near. I respond to one’s prayer when they call upon Me. So let them respond ˹with obedience˺ to Me and believe in Me, perhaps they will be guided ˹to the Right Way˺." (2:186)

These āyāt carry an element of positive affirmations and positive belief with Allāh.

Is 'The Law of Attraction' Islamically sound?

People speak about the 'Law of Attraction' and manifestation but our concept of the Law of Attraction is completely different. We do not agree with manifesting. Yes, continuously thinking about something will have an impact and influence on you. That can either be positive or negative.

For us, having positive thoughts and expectation is with Allāh. Being mindful and close to Allāh (Taqwa) will give you everything you need or want. This means working on what you want and working on your relationship with His obedience.

There's a balance needed between positive thought and negative thought. The Sunnah of the Prophet (ﷺ) was the way of balance. He would always sway towards positive thoughts. When someone was ill, for example, he would be positive. He also reminds people of things not going our way (tribulations).

Part of positive affirmation in Allāh is recognising and being content with His Divine Decree. This means returning to sound faith (Imān) in what Allāh says in His Book. We realise that we are in need of Allāh Who is the Self-Sufficient.

يُسْتَجَابُ لأَحَدِكُمْ مَا لَمْ يَعْجَلْ، يَقُولُ‏:‏ دَعَوْتُ فَلَمْ يُسْتَجَبْ لِي
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "The supplication of any of you is answered as long as he does not get impatient and say, 'I made supplication and was not answered.'" (al-Adab al-Mufrad)

يُسْتَجَابُ لِلْعَبْدِ مَا لَمْ يَدْعُ بِإِثْمٍ أَوْ قَطِيعَةِ رَحِمٍ مَا لَمْ يَسْتَعْجِلْ
قِيلَ: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ مَا الِاسْتِعْجَالُ؟
قَالَ:" يَقُولُ: قَدْ دَعَوْتُ وَقَدْ دَعَوْتُ فَلَمْ أَرَ يُسْتَجَابُ لِي فَيَسْتَحْسِرُ عِنْدَ ذَلِكَ وَيَدَعُ الدُّعاءَ
“A servant is granted an answer provided he does not ask for anything sinful or for breaking ties of relationship, and provided he does not demand an answer quickly.” On being asked what demanding an answer quickly meant, the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) replied, “It is when he says he has prayed and prayed and does not think he will be answered, so he grows weary in such circumstances and gives up supplication.” (Muslim, Mishkāt al-Masābīh)

This is an example of not being pleased with the Decree of Allāh. Positive affirmations cannot be positive unless they are for something that is lawful, permissible, (or indifferent). They cannot be positive unless you allow believing in them and match it with positive attitudes and actions.

Practice gratitude

Gratitude leads to an increase, ingratitude leads to a decrease. I have another article on this that you should read on how gratitude plays a key role in your Hifz. This is a form of worship and positive affirmation in Allāh.

Think about it, shaytān's mission is to make us ungrateful. We turn to Allāh for safety and protection.

Part of our daily adhkār is to be grateful to Allāh morning and evening. Today, research supports that gratitude lists, grateful contemplation (reflecting globally on things you are grateful for), and gratitude visits (writing a letter to someone who has done something good for you and reading it to them) is effective in improving well-being.

I heard the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) say: “Whoever comes to his Muslim brother and visits him (when he is sick), he is walking among the harvest of Paradise until he sits down, and when he sits down he is covered with mercy. If it is morning, seventy thousand angels will send blessing upon him until evening, and if it is evening, seventy thousand angels will send blessing upon him until morning.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)

Work on making a continued effort, even if it's not perfect

Allāh says that it is our efforts that will be presented before us:

وَأَن لَّيْسَ لِلْإِنسَـٰنِ إِلَّا مَا سَعَىٰ
and that each person will only have what they endeavoured towards, (53:39)

وَأَنَّ سَعْيَهُۥ سَوْفَ يُرَىٰ
and that ˹the outcome of˺ their endeavours will be seen ˹in their record˺, (53:40)

ثُمَّ يُجْزَىٰهُ ٱلْجَزَآءَ ٱلْأَوْفَىٰ
then they will be fully rewarded, (53:41)

وَأَنَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ ٱلْمُنتَهَىٰ
and that to your Lord ˹alone˺ is the ultimate return ˹of all things˺. (53:42)

Look at everything as progress. Whenever you are memorising, it is progress. It is more time with the Qur'ān. It is an effort towards a noble goal.

Compare yourself to yesterday's self

There's no need to compare yourself to others. As mentioned you should seek to improve and progress. That is to be better than you were yesterday.

The problem we have today is that everything is before our eyes and in our hands. We see things that create jealousy and greed in our hearts on social media. The Prophet (ﷺ) said: "Look at those who are lower than you (financially) but do not look at those who are higher than you, lest you belittle the favours Allāh conferred upon you." (Sahīh Bukhārī and Muslim)

This is also part of gratitude.

Focus on the positives

As mentioned, the Prophet (ﷺ) was always positive. He would praise the Companions and highlight their virtues. He would speak about them with titles and endearing names. He would not be negative.

In fact, the Prophet (ﷺ) spoke against speaking negatively, to the extent, that you don't say that you are a bad person:

لَا يَقُولَنَّ أَحَدُكُمْ خَبُثَتْ نَفْسِي وَلَكِنْ لِيَقُلْ لَقِسَتْ نَفْسِي
“None of you should say: My soul has been wicked (or become bad). Rather, let him say: My soul has faulted.” (Sahīh Bukhārī and Muslim)

"Whoever believes in Allāh and the Last Day, let him speak goodness or remain silent."(Sahīh Bukhārī and Muslim)

"I am amazed by optimism, the good word, the kind word." (Sahīh Bukhārī and Muslim)

Be surrounded by righteousness, don't be isolated

In light of the above, you can see how important good company is. To help you focus on the positive, you should adopt the company of positive people that won't get affected by any negative. These are the people of Allāh.

The best company is Allāh through being present with the Qur'ān. You can read about the lives of the pious or read their works and be in their company. You can spend more time with elders that spent righteous lives. You can spend more time in Islamic gatherings. You can spend more time seeking knowledge. You can spend more time with Islamic charities or organisations that are active in the community. Become attached to good.

The effects of this are profound. As Muslims, we should never be isolated. We should remain connected to goodness in whatever form we are able to. This will keep you protected. Find company of the pious.

This is why being with a teacher for your memorisation is important.

Know that you are worthy

You would not have been chosen to be Muslim if you weren't worthy. You would not have been chosen to recite and memorise the Qur'ān if you weren't worthy. You would not have been inclined towards the Qur'ān if you weren't worthy.

You absolutely are worthy.

See the opportunity of memorising the Qur'ān as a calling, an invitation. You just need to show up and accept the invitation. You are a worthy guest that now needs to behave and show belief.

Remember, be positive.

Other things to think about

  • Recognise and accept what you can and can't do. Be realistic.
  • Identify and do more things that you are good at. Find your talents.
  • Aim to please Allāh, not people.
  • Take care of yourself, to the extent that you dress well.
  • If you sin, follow it by good: "Follow a bad deed with a good deed and it will erase it." (Tirmidhī)

May Allāh grant you increase and acceptance.

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