All praise be to Allah, and may peace and blessings be upon the most noble of the Prophets and Messengers
We all go through periods when we feel as though our eman, our faith, is at its peak. We are constantly in the remembrance of Allah, we have a cheery disposition with people, and the tears flow when we are praying. And it seems as though this feeling will never go away.
At other times, our eman is at a low. We can’t remember the last time we fully focused on our prayers, doing things for others becomes a burden and our du’as become shorter and less desperate. What’s up with that?
One of the causes is heedlessness- we see the signs but fail to take the medicine! Perhaps we used to pray the sunna, but slowly they faded away without us noticing. Or we wouldn’t allow ourselves to backbite or others to backbite around us, but slowly our nafs got the better of us and we began to listen. We then enter a downward spiral. Why can’t I concentrate in my prayers anymore? Maybe I’m just tired today…. And unfortunately for some people, that becomes semi-permanent, either because they don’t notice or because so many thoughts go through their heads. Most common? “I am so bad- look at what I’ve become! How can I even face Allah?”
Two other causes are tribulations and sinning- some tribulations make us feel that it is a punishment and we move further away from Allah as opposed to using the test as a means of growing closer to Him. Sinning is self-explanatory; we do the things we shouldn’t, and then feel that we don’t deserve to be forgiven, forgetting that the difference between Iblis and Adam (as) was that Adam (as) sought forgiveness and Iblis, out of arrogance and hatred, did not.
After that very long introduction (yes, it was only an intro), what is this tarbiya about? Bringing our faith back, putting our complete trust in Allah, and having hearts that overflow with awe and love for Allah.
As I write this tarbiya, and as people read it, we will be at different levels. Some of us will have that light in our hearts from being so close to Allah, others will be at a mediocre stage where we think we’re ok, and another group will be those who are down, who feel the plummet of our eman.
Yet whichever level we’re at, we all need to revitalize our eman. When our eman is high, let’s try to take it higher, when it’s medium or low, let’s bring it back up! Why? Because we all know that even the Prophet (pbuh) told us that our eman fluctuates- he told the Companions (ra) who came to him distressed because their state was different when they were with him than when they retreated to their families, “By the One in Whose hand is my soul, if you continued as you are when you are with me, and continued to remember (Paradise and Hell), the angels would shake hands with you in your homes and on the streets.” (Muslim)
One scholar, who I can’t remember the name of, istaghfarAllah, said that we need to think of the analogy of two houses. One is a house with no gate, while the other has a big garden surrounding the house as well as a gate encircling it. If a thief were to enter the first house, it would be easier for him to steal because by the time the inhabitants heard him, he would have already made away with some possessions. On the other hand, the house with the garden and the gate means that the thief would have to tread through all of those to even get inside the house, but by that time, the inhabitants would have already heard him and taken heed. That’s the way shaitan works too. We need to build our fortress so that even if it gets chipped, the house is still safe.
So what to do?
1- Learn about Allah and turn to Him
Who is Allah? Yes, we know He is our Creator… but what else? How would our relationship change once we know that He is Al-Mujeeb, the one who responds? That whenever Al-Mujeeb is mentioned in the Qur’an, this attribute is mentioned with Al-Qareeb, the Close One; “I am indeed close (to them): I respond to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me” (2.186).
Are you finding difficulties?? One of the Names that struck me while I was on Hajj was Al-Fattah (The Opener). The Da’iyat kept telling us to ask Him by His Name that He would open the ways for us. And we hardly ever got stuck in the crowd- and this year saw 800,000 more people than last year mashAllah. Even on the last day of the stoning (there are three days in which you throw stones “rami al-jamarat”), basically if you do not throw before sunset you have to stay the night in Mina and then come back to throw. And our flight was the next day in the morning. We had made it there literally maybe 20 minutes before sunset, and we still had a long way to walk. I kept saying “Ya Fattah Ya Fattah, iftah lana” and it was SO CROWDED. Only when we finished throwing and went down the slope and almost made it to the bus, did we hear the athan. So we made it, by the will of Allah. The nature of Al-Fattah is that “Fat-h” (Opening) is the opposite of Mughlaq (Closed). Thus by the nature of this attribute, Al-Fattah is He who opens what is closed. So when you find that the doors are closed, call Al-Fattah! ☺
Turning to Him is paramount. Nothing works without the help of Allah. If our eman is soaring this should be easy, but it’s more difficult if our eman is low. But we need to force ourselves. Remember that Allah Himself has said in a hadith Qudsi “He who draws close to Me a hand’s span, I will draw close to him an arm’s length. And whoever draws near Me an arm’s length, I will draw near him a fathom’s length. And whoever comes to Me walking, I will go to him running.” (Muslim)
There is no such thing as being too wretched. Just go to Allah. Be at His door. Be persistent. Never ever give up. Our problem is that we always feel we have done enough “but I asked Allah…”. What about our predecessors? The great scholars? They would ask and ask, their tears would flow, and they would be patient and would never give up. We need to have this certainty that as long as we are at Allah’s door, He will not turn us away. Whether in this life or the next, you have lost nothing, but are in the most beautiful place to be, which is at Allah’s door. The fact that you are there in the first place is a sign… so don’t leave.
Once you know all of these meanings, once you start learning about Allah, your heart should really be beating with love for the Creator. Next, try to learn about the Prophets (as) and their relationships with Him… we have been given every example. We know that difficulties have to come. We know that if Allah intends good for someone, He tests them. There is good in everything that happens to us… tests are for us to be patient and to purify us, and we will see the fruits of our labor, whether here or in the next life. InshAllah!
Worship? I pray, I fast, I’m planning to go on Hajj… nope that’s not what I mean! What is ‘ibadah/worship? Ibn Taymiya defined it as everything that Allah loves!! (Yes, everything; being kind to people, being socially active, helping people through politics, excelling at work etc etc)
Surat Al-Fatiha, according to many scholars such as Ibn Attiya, was sent down twice. It was sent down in Mecca AND in Medina. Yet the 5 pillars were only prescribed in Medina- so what was meant by “You alone do we worship and You alone do we beseech for help” in Mecca, when the basic acts weren’t even ordered then? It means even in Mecca those acts that were done were worship, so it is not restricted to the 5 pillars.
There is a very telling incident concerning Imam Malik. He was known to dress very nicely, and one of the people who thought that things of this life are worthless sent him a letter. In the letter he told Imam Malik to spend his nights in prayer and his days in fasting, as opposed to dressing nice. In the response, Imam Malik said that worship, like rizq, was apportioned by Allah. Allah had blessed that man to be of people who love to pray in the night and fast in the day, and He had blessed Imam Malik by giving him the love of gaining knowledge and teaching. And in all of those was a reward.
So, find something you love. And use it for Allah. Whenever you forget, you know yourself better than anyone, and you know how to push yourself and remind yourself. But you have to strive and struggle because that is the nature of the world, but we are fortunate enough to have a Merciful Lord who doesn’t test us with more than we can bear. We have all been created with a purpose and a unique set of skills, talents and passions. When we employ them in the cause of Allah, this is worship.
And always always have someone, or even better a whole group of people, who remind us. We are on the religion of our close friends, so let’s keep the good ones close. They are the ones who will really matter to us in the end.
Finally, the Prophet (pbuh) said:
“Renew your faith.”
“How can we renew our faith?” they asked.
The Prophet replied: “Say always: la ilaha ila Allah.”
Forgive me for my shortcomings, and I pray you are all well.
Whoops forgot to add something else I wanted to say:
We all get these sudden rushes, I know I do, when I read something uplifting. And it’s most frustrating when it goes away, even though we initially have all these plans to follow what we read. So I would suggest, and this is something that I’ve been *trying* to do, is to set ourselves goals. And not to be too ambitious initially, because these goals are what I call “base goals”. So for instance, say, the goal is to wake up for qiyaam every single night. This is something that you must do no matter what- even if you only wake up for 15mins. Because shaitan will try to tell you “but you slept late.. and Allah understands. I mean, it’s not a fardh or anything”, but remember that you are seeking the HIGHEST levels, and these thoughts are only moving you away from your goals! And why they are ‘base’ goals is because this the minimum. It doesn’t obviously exclude you from reading Qur’an and gaining knowledge, or writing articles for the local newspapers on social justice issues, or volunteering. When your heart is inclining towards being close to Allah, do what you can! But the point is not to fill your plate up too much. At the end of day, you know what you are capable of and what you can keep up.