بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Often when we think we’ve found Allah, we have in reality merely uncovered a barrier within ourselves. The subtleties and permutations of the soul are seemingly endless and often blinding. We justify our extravagances out of weaknesses within ourselves; we claim to follow the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and yet really, how far are we from his dear footsteps? We forget about death and grow heedless of our duty to remember Allah because our minds and hearts are sullied from talk of politics and money and class and race and culture and division.
Such is the duniya. Yet inasmuch as the world encroaches upon our lives and hinders our only true purpose, which is to remember and worship Allah, all is not in vain. For Allah reminds us:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَاءَتْكُم مَّوْعِظَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَشِفَاءٌ لِّمَا فِي الصُّدُورِ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ
“O mankind, there has come to you a protection from your Lord and a healing for what is in your hearts, and for those who believe, a guidance and a mercy” (10:57)
The Quran, and any remembrance of Allah really, is like a special food unique to each soul, and the more you take of it, the more it will give – without limit. The one who seeks and asks Allah sincerely will receive His signs; however, to truly benefit the seeker must constantly prepare himself or herself by establishing a spiritual exercise, which takes the form of a consistent practise.
To truly benefit, remembrance and reflection must reach the heart and must change your state. Therefore, spiritual ‘nutrients’ must be taken in accordance with one’s aspirations which must be measured according to one’s level and ability. The runner does not begin with a marathon. At the same time, if he ever wants to run that marathon, he must certainly do more than simply walk.
At this point, you will be thinking one of three things: firstly are those of you who are on board and ready to tackle the challenge despite the difficulty; secondly are those who do sincerely want to improve but you might be thinking, ‘How do I increase and truly better myself when I have a job and obligations, I have to do this or that, I don’t have much time, etc.’; or thirdly, those whose eyes skim past these words thinking that this is ‘just another tarbiya’ – although if that’s the case, you probably wouldn’t be reading this now!
So alhamdillah, to those whose hearts desire to increase in the remembrance of Allah: know that as with everything else there are levels, and one cannot reach a higher level without conquering the one before. Just as the runner first tackles the 3k then the 5k and then the 10k and so forth until he is able to run a marathon, so too must the aspirant recognise his absolute poverty and neediness before Allah – and that truly, Allah is the one who debases and Allah is the one who raises, so nothing can be achieved without His tawfeeq, His enabling Grace.
Work and family obligations certainly do not preclude spiritual ascension. On the contrary, if seeking Allah’s countenance is your noble intention, and following the sunnah of the blessed Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is your way, then you could be doing anything and still be able to increase in your knowledge and remembrance of Allah. How many students of knowledge are there whose talk may revolve around the duniya? May Allah protect us from that! The Prophet (peace be upon him) said in a hadith:
اللهم إني أعوذ بك من علم لا ينفع ومن قلب لا يخشع ومن نفس لا تشبع ومن دعوة لا يستجاب لها
“O Allah! I seek refuge in You from knowledge that does not benefit, and from a heart that is not subdued and humble, and from a self that is never satisfied, and from a supplication that is not answered.” (Muslim)
What an beautiful du’a! Indeed, the runner does not start his day with a pint of chocolate ice cream. He remembers that he has a goal, and so he tries to cut out the food that will slow him down. Like this, we must polish our hearts and cut out anything that is not beneficial on the path to Allah. Sure, we enjoy ice cream, and we can indulge from time to time, but a runner – when he starts finding his rhythm and stride – feels like he can fly, and so it becomes easier to forego the chocolate.
Next, the seeker must realise that the foundation of everything is good character. Knowledge is empty and meaningless if it is not coupled with action. It is one thing to read about the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and quite another thing to try to live according to his example! But that is the purpose of these tarbiyas and of the lessons and advices we read about: We know that he was the best of creation and his wife sayyidtna A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) said that ‘His character was the Quran’; subhanAllah, what a beautiful statement… So when someone addresses you at work, simply turn your body towards him or her as did the Messenger of God (peace be upon him), or if someone asks for directions, point with your whole hand as was his wont. Use your interactions with people as your time and place to manifest the sunnah.
If you ride the train each day, use that time to memorise Quran or to read it with reflection and ponder over the meaning. One of the most blessed times to read Quran is the hour between maghrib and ‘isha in the masjid; even if you only read about 2 pages each day during this time, you would finish the Quran within a year. If you don’t know Arabic that well then all you need is an Arabic Dictionary and a basic knowledge of how the language works. At first it will be very difficult of course, perhaps only reading half a page in that time; but as you learn the words and become more familiar with the grammar, it will become progressively easier until one day, you will finish it. Remember the runner?
Thus, lastly, the most important thing: be with the people of Allah. Keep good company. Find the people of God and He will awaken your heart. They will train you into remembrance; and from them you will learn that time is a precious gift and if you want to improve your relationship with Allah, you must organise it well. Only then can you achieve great feats. To think: the two raka’ sunnah prayer before salat al-fajr is worth more than the duniya and everything in it! And praying in the last third of the night is one of the keys to drawing near to Allah. The Muslim’s greatest weapon is tears in the depths of the night.
One does not likely become a saint overnight just like one does not wake up and run 26.2 miles; but the ones who are successful are
الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللّهِ أَلاَ بِذِكْرِ اللّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ
“Those who believe and whose hearts achieve tranquility by the remembrance of Allah; only in the remembrance of Allah do the hearts find rest.” (al-Rad: 28)
May Allah illuminate us with remembrance of Him and enliven us with love of His Beloved; may He awaken our hearts and respond to our calls. We search and search for Allah only to realise that He has been there all along…
* * * * *
All night, a man called “Allah”
Until his lips were bleeding.
Then the Devil said, “Hey! Mr Gullible!
How come you’ve been calling all night
And never once heard Allah say, ‘Here, I am’?
You call out so earnestly and, in reply, what?
I’ll tell you what. Nothing!”
The man suddenly felt empty and abandoned.
Depressed, he threw himself on the ground
And fell into a deep sleep.
In a dream, he met Ibrahim, who asked,
“Why are you regretting praising Allah?”
The man said, “I called and called
But Allah never replied, “Here I am.”
Ibrahim then explained, “Allah has said:
‘Your calling my name is My reply.
Your longing for Me is My message to you.
All your attempts to reach Me
Are in reality My attempts to reach you.
Your fear and love are a noose to catch Me.
In the silence surrounding every call of “Allah”
Waits a thousand replies of “Here I am.” ‘