Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research
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Ep. 16: Overcoming Procrastination | Habits To Win Here and Hereafter

Hundreds of tips to overcome procrastination are just an internet search away. But what about the mindset behind procrastination, and what attitude should Muslims have towards it? Procrastination doesn’t just prevent productivity. It’s one of the spiritual diseases of the heart, and its cure includes active effort and a prophetic du’a.

How to avoid procrastination

Oftentimes people procrastinate because they’re intimidated by the size of the task at hand. One way to get past this intimidation is by breaking down big tasks into smaller chunks. The Prophet’s ﷺ advice to do small, but consistent actions is key. Working one or two hours on a project every day, for a few weeks will get you so much further than cramming in 20 hours two nights before.

The importance of preparing ahead of time

The Prophet ﷺ said, “The wise person, the successful person is one who holds themselves accountable for their actions, their time, their health – everything that we know that is a value – and they prepare for what comes after death.”

This means that the person we should all strive to be, is one who’s always thinking about how they spend their time, and for opportunities to engage in good habits that prepare them for what really matters. They think long term, and plan their days accordingly.

On the flip side, the foolish person is one who follows their own desires, and then relies on God. We can probably relate to this latter person more these days. It’s when we stay up all night rushing to get something done, then convince ourselves when it’s almost time, that we did our part and that we’re going to just put our trust in Allah.

The Prophet ﷺ called out this behaviour in a hadith when he said, that true reliance on God is about the long-term planning; the day-to-day good habits that we instil, in order to be successful in the long run, in this life and the next.

Du’a for overcoming procrastination

Procrastination is a disease of the heart. Just like any other struggle in this life, it is something that needs active work towards changing.

A du’a that is helpful, especially in dealing with the anxieties that we feel when starting ahead of time, is one in which the Prophet ﷺ seeks refuge in Allah (swt) from a number of afflictions.

In one part of the du’a he ﷺ says, “Oh Allah I seek refuge in you from al-ajz, the inability to do things, and al-qasl, laziness.” This particular du’a is one that the Prophet ﷺ recited in the mornings and evenings because the desire to not do anything isn’t something that we feel once in a while. It’s something that can, and often takes over our lives. It can be crippling.

The Prophet ﷺ knew this, as he was well acquainted with human nature. He ﷺ offered us many tools to get past this paralysis, beginning with this du’a.

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Dr. Tesneem Alkiek

Dr. Tesneem Alkiek

Fellow, Director of Expanded Learning | Tesneem obtained her undergraduate degree in Early Christianity and Islamic Studies from the University of Michigan. She went on to complete her Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at Georgetown University with a focus on Islamic law. Tesneem currently serves as the Director of Expanded Learning where she works with her team to create curricula and other resources for communities to engage with Yaqeen’s research. She is also a Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Rutgers University-Camden.