بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
“Faith wears out in the heart of any one of you just as clothes wear out, so ask Allah to renew the faith in your hearts” (Mustadrak al-Haakim).
Clearly there are many reasons to renew one’s iman (faith); only two are ventured below.
1. In order to achieve sincerity (ikhlas) and to make sure that one’s actions are purely for the sake of Allah (SWT).
Once one is a Muslim, prays the obligatory prayers and fulfils the pillars, there is a tendency to become lazy (and I aim this primarily at myself, rather than anybody else.) There is temptation to meander along, doing the bare minimum and to stop striving- to stop improving and increasing one’s knowledge of Islam, and one’s taqwa and iman. It is a natural temptation, because (as Sheikh Hamza Yusuf points out) the nafs, by its nature, is lazy, and prompts the one to idleness. The problem is that when one stops increasing and improving his iman and striving in the way of Allah, his complacency may lead him to find that his acts are not accepted, and he is not actually in as good a position as he believed. This is because in order for one’s acts to be accepted, they must be done for the sake of Allah (SWT). If one’s heart is not full of iman and love of Allah (SWT) then self desires become uppermost in the heart and acts become impure and are no longer for the sake of Allah (SWT). (As Imam al-Harawi states, there are 7 types of self-desires:- To make oneself appear good in the hearts of others. To seek the praises of others. To avoid being blamed by others. To seek the glorification of others. To seek the wealth/money of others. To seek the services or love of others. To seek the help of others for oneself.) The higher one’s level of taqwa, the purer the one’s intentions. As none of us could claim that we have reached the highest level of taqwa, we are all in constant need of renewing and increasing our faith if we hope for any of our actions to be performed with sincerity and purely for the sake of Allah (SWT). Thus, to be satisfied with one’s level of iman actually shows a basic misunderstanding of the fundamentals of ikhlas. Imam Ibn A’Taylah expressed this when he said that “the company of an ignorant man who is not pleased with himself is better than the company of a scholar who is satisfied with himself. And which man of knowledge would ever be satisfied with himself?”
2. In order to maintain our relationship with Allah (SWT).
Becoming a believer is the greatest blessing which can be bestowed upon the person; however it entails a very real danger. This is exemplified in the following verses: “the repentance of those who having believed, then increase in their disbelief, will not be accepted. They are the ones who have gone far astray.”3:90; “You who believe, if any of you go back on your faith, Allah will soon replace you with people He loves and who love Him.”5:54. Nobody is immune from falling into disbelief, except those whom Allah (SWT) has given guidance “with which Allah guides to the ways of peace those who follow what pleases Him, bringing them from the darkness out into light, by His will and guiding them to a straight path.”5:17 This means two things. Firstly, one must constantly strive to be obedient to Allah (SWT) in order to continue to be guided to the right path because “Allah does not guide those who defy him.”5:67 and as all human beings make mistakes and are in a constant state of disobedience, one must constantly strive for obedience in order to attempt to avoid defiance of Allah (SWT). Secondly, when one has been guided to Islam, it is the height of ungratefulness not to continue to attempt to perfect their worship of Allah (SWT) and it must be remembered that the root of the word “Kufr” means ungratefulness. Thus, the two are inextricably linked and one must strenuously avoid the latter in order to keep away from the former.
A COMMON OBSTACLE TO RENEWING IMAN
Obviously, the obstacles are numerous as the straight path is also the steep path (“Yet he has not attempted the steep path.” 90:11) However, here I have simply detailed one common obstacle and possible solutions, very briefly.
Lack of motivation/ energy.
Sometimes, a person feels that they simply lack the necessary motivation to increase their worship- they feel that they are tired, they need a break- the “can’t make myself bother” syndrome. For example, a person will want to get up before fajr to make extra prayers, but when the alarm clock rings they simply cannot make themselves get out of bed. There are two surefire ways of instantly dispelling this obstacle, inshAllah. The first is proper fear of Allah. The second is remembrance of death.
1. Creating proper fear of Allah (SWT)-
Imam Muhammad Al-Shareef tells the story of a pupil of his who complained that he always seemed to be extremely tired, and did not seem able to function due to his constant lethargy. Imam Al-Shareef proceeded to tell this pupil a story about a horrific experience concerning what happened to the pupil himself when he incurred Allah’s (SWT) displeasure, after first assuring his pupil that nothing he was saying was true, it was just a story. Despite the pupil’s knowledge that the story was not true, he found that the fear created by the image still entirely dispelled his lethargy. When one truly awakes to the terrifying possibility of hellfire, lethargy becomes an impossibility and one gains a sense of urgency. Imam Al-Shareef advises that one must always remember the one of Allah’s attributes which, as he says, we often neglect to mention- “The Most Severe Punisher” and this attribute should come foremost to the mind whenever one feels that they lack the necessary motivation to perform an action which they believe would gain the pleasure of Allah. Also the remembrance of many verses, for example these: “Allah will say, “Join the crowds of jinn and humans who have gone before you into the fire.” Every crowd curses its fellow crowd as it enters,” 7:38 “If only you [Prophet] could see, when the angels take the souls of the disbelievers, how they strike their faces and backs: it will be said, “Taste the punishment of the fire.” 8:50; “on the Day it is heated up in the Hell’s Fire and used to brand their foreheads, sides, and backs, they will be told, “This is what you hoarded up for yourselves! Now feel the pain of what you hoarded.” 9:36 immediately instill fear of Allah (SWT) in the human heart and remembrance of such verses is a good guard against lethargy.
2. Remembrance of death-
We can all quote the hadith “Live in this world as though you were going to live forever. And live for the next as if you were to die tomorrow.” (Bukhari) But which of us actually live according to this dictum? If we do believe that death was just around the corner, if “When evening comes, [we] do not expect (to live till) morning, and when morning comes, [we] do not expect (to live till) evening.” as Ibn Umar (RA) advised (Bukhari), then surely our waking hours would be consumed with remembrance of Allah (SWT) and struggling to attain our highest ever level of taqwa, in order to be in the best possible state to meet Allah (SWT)? A good way of trying to follow these hadiths is to ask yourself before every salah: “Have I used the last couple of hours of my day in the same way that I would if I were going to die tomorrow?” Constantly questioning your actions in such a way is guaranteed to give you the motivation and sense of purpose required to renew your iman. The human being’s irrational belief in our own indestructibility (“Does he think that no one will have power over him?”90:5) seems to make life stretch endlessly before him, containing plentiful chances and imagined future actions far removed from present ones. However, remembering just how fleeting your life can be entails a feeling of urgency which gives one motivation. Sheikh Feiz tells the following true story:
A police officer, living in a Muslim country, who had lapsed in his practice of Islam wrote to the Sheikh, describing the events that led to his return to Islam. Seeing accidents and crash victims was a normal part of his day. However, one incident was different. Him and his partner were parked on the hard shoulder, chatting. Suddenly, the peacefulness of the scene shattered to the shriek of two metal bodies smashing against each other in a head-on collision. It transpired that one car had been going too fast and had failed to stop at an intersection. The result was indescribable carnage. Two young men were sprawled in the carnage of the first car. They quickly moved them to the side of the road and went back to the second car to assist the driver, but he was dead. They ran back to the 2 young men lying side by side on the pavement. Their bodies were distorted, covered in blood and barely grasping for life. It was clear they were dying. His partner urged them to say “La Illaha Illa Allah!” The men were not able to utter those words. Instead they started to mumble the hypnotic lyrics of a pop song. His partner repeated his request, but they just lay singing while they died. He continued to urge them to say it but they could not. They simply continued to sing. The singing finally lowered to silence as first one then the other died, singing to their last breath. This story always makes me wonder what I will say before I die, at that moment when what is uppermost in a person’s heart is laid bare. If there is a bigger motivation than the suddenness and likelihood of death to urge one to constantly struggle to achieve their highest state of belief at all times, then I haven’t heard of it!
Renewing iman requires constant hardship and struggle in the way of Allah (SWT) Ramadan is approaching, and so let us all pray that by the time it is upon us we are wearing new clothes and can become closer to Allah (SWT) than ever before.
Any good here is from Allah (SWT). The shortcomings are inevitably mine.