Tawheed – a liberation from oppression

“Lord of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them – so worship Him and have patience for His worship. Do you know of any similarity to Him?”
Maryam [16:65]

Growing up, the importance of worshiping Allah alone and not committing shirk (associating partners with Allah in worship), was constantly emphasized. My mum especially, would stress the importance of us learning the concept of tawheed in depth. When I went to Quran school and started learning Islam, it seemed, tawheed is all they would talk about. For a while, in my ignorance, I failed to comprehend why so much emphasis was given to something I felt was essentially simple to understand: worship Allah alone. Not complicated. Well, little did I know, for the past year especially, I have slowly began to understand a fraction of how powerful the concept of tawheed is, and how incredibly significant it is in a believers life.

Undeniably, this is a huge topic, one that scholars wrote numerous books on and studied their whole lives about, in comparison to the mountain of knowledge they possess, my knowledge is finite. And yet, understanding this one benefit of tawheed has clarified many things for me, it has shifted my perspective on some wordly affairs and enabled me to see things through a different lense. More importantly, learning about tawheed has helped me to understand my purpose in this life more clearly. By the will of Allah, I wish to pass on this benefit to you, and I hope that you will find this knowledge as liberating as I do.

The world has changed drastically. The believers now feel, as described by our prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wasalam (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), as though they are imprisoned in this earth: Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The world is a prison for the believer and a paradise for the unbeliever.”
[Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2956]

In many ways, people feel oppressed, which is somewhat paradoxical in a world shifting most of its focus on the importance of being free. Different individuals have their own interpretation as to what being free means, but most of us are deluding ourselves without even noticing it. We think we are liberating ourselves by becoming enslaved to our whims and desires, listening to everything they demand. Society has taught us not to obey limits, but rather to transgress the bounds of nature, to do and experiment everything. We have become indoctrinated into believing that this is happiness; and yet ironically enough, there has been a rise in people being depressed, having anxiety, committing suicide and so forth. If obeying our desires is supposedly beneficial to ones self, why are we so unhappy?

The fact is, that going by what our desires command isn’t freedom, it isn’t liberation. We were not created for this. Our hearts yearn for Allah and Allah alone, not wordly affairs. Many of us have corrupted ourselves by feeding our hearts with everything but the love of Allah, and we wonder why we feel so empty within. And this is where tawheed comes in. The concept of worshiping Allah alone, allowing your love of Him to prevail over everything else is profound. To submit yourself to your Creator only, not money, not fame, not alcohol or drugs, not music, not women, not materialism, not societal expectations and the list goes on, is very powerful.

Just think about how much internal conflict you could solve by ignoring what society dictates what you should do and how you should be. Many of us stress the importance of taking care of our bodies, but we neglect our hearts and souls. While our bodies are in need of physically sustenance, our hearts yearn for spiritual sustenance, and that lies with tawheed. With worshiping Allah alone. And this is one of the many reasons why tawheed is extremely important, to purify and illuminate our hearts. I mean, should not the Creator of your heart know what is best for it? I urge my brothers and sisters to liberatin themselves from the oppression of the self, reclaim your freedom and go back to Allah.

Choosing Allah

Tahajjud: its excellence and benefits

Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam said: “The best month for observing fast after Ramadhan is muharram, and the best salah after the prescribed salah is salah at night”

As servants of Allah, we should be always seeking ways of getting closer our Lord, and Islam teaches us that one of the easiest ways in which we can ignite a connection with Allah and grow closer to Him, is through the night prayer. When is the last time any of us left our beds for the sake of Allah, and stood in the depths of the night to pray? Last Ramadhan? Before an exam? Maybe there hasn’t even been a first time, and yet it is a beautiful act of worship with a huge amount of reward.

Salah, in general, is one of the most important actions a servant must perform in our religion, we know, it is the second pillar of Islam after the shahada (testimony), and this highlights its significance. Tahajjud is one of the supererogatory prayers we are constantly advised to perform, it is one of those actions that, when performed, enables us to become amongst the individuals mentioned in this beautiful qudsi hadith: Narrated on the authority of Abu Dhar: Allah’s Messenger said that Allah said: “He who comes with a good deed, its reward will be ten like that or even more. And he who comes with vice, his reward will be only one like that, or I can forgive him. 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. And whoever faces Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, I will meet him with forgiveness nearly as great as that, provided he does not worship something with me.” [Muslim]

This act is a beautiful deed which Allah swt loves. Just imagine, during the night when the world has settled and people are caught up in their sleep, you arise and begin to pray, you’re one of the very few servants of Allah who do this. Calmness and serenity settles within you because you are alone with Allah, you worship Him, remember Him, make dua to Him. Due to the night’s calm atmosphere and silence, you genuinely feel a sense of comfort. The Prophet (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “The Lord descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the night remains and says: ‘Who will call upon Me, that I may answer Him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness, that I may forgive him?”. What an incredible hadith subhanAllah! It is sad to think that so many of us miss this amazing opportunity because we choose sleep over prayer, and contrary to what Muslims believe, this act of worship is not tiring or difficult in anyway, in fact once it becomes a habit, it will be something you will find difficult to live without.

Praying tahajud is also one of the most excellent ways of manifesting your gratitude towards Allah swt and the uncountable blessings He has bestowed in your life. One of the best hadith that illustrates this is the one that follows: Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) kept standing (in prayer) so long that the skin of his feet would crack. I asked him: “Why do you do this, while you have been forgiven of your former and latter sins?” He said, “Should I not be a grateful slave of Allah?” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] This hadith teaches us so much, the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam, despite not possessing much, acknowledged the blessings of Allah swt upon Him, and stood in prayer until his skin got affected to show his gratitude to His lord, what excuse do we have? Our blessings are so much that it is impossible to count them,  “If you were to count Allah’s favors, you would not be able to number them; most surely humanity is very unjust, very ungrateful.” [Sūrah Ibrāhīm: 34] this verse should soften our hearts, and make us feel ashamed when we compare our ungrateful attitude towards Allah’s generosity towards us. Even though it would realistically impossible to thank Allah for all His blessings, let us implement the action of the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam, and pray tahajud as way of showing some gratitude towards Allah.

Ramadan: Practical Tips

Oh you who believe! Observing As-Sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious.)” [al-Baqarah 2:183]

Throughout the year, Allah blesses His servants with numerous opportunities to get closer to Him. Sometimes through a special day such as the day of Arafat before Eid, or a special time such as the hours before Maghrib on a Friday. Coming upon us is the month of Ramadhan, a month in which Allah forgives His slaves for their sins and enables them to grow closer to Him. A month in which we can rectify all our negative traits and abide by the laws prescribed by our Lord, and taught to us by his prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhu wasalam. Although we have a whole month to get the maximum benefit out of Ramadhan, we must be conscious of the fact that time goes very quickly, and before we know it, Eid will be announced. It is for this reason that we should try our best to fulfill as many as the obligatory and supererogatory acts of worship during Ramadhan to achieve the objective for which Allah has bestowed upon us. I will state some of the necessary acts of worship we must perform and fulfill to, insha’Allah, get the maximum benefit out of this blessed month.

Fixing our intention:

No matter what we do in life, we must always make sure that our intentions are present, sincere and correct. Many of us may neglect the importance of intending to fast during Ramadhan, and doing so for the sake of Allah.
It was narrated by Ibn ‘Umar from Hafsah (may Allaah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever does not have the intention of fasting before Fajr, there is no fast for him.” Narrated by Imam Ahmad, the authors of al-sunan etc. SubhanAllah! From this significant hadith, we learn about the importance of intending to fast to ensure that Allah swt accepts it from us. Remember, you can intend to fast the whole month, or have a fresh intention to fast every day of Ramadhan before Fajr. The former might be easier to achieve in case any of us are forgetful.

Fulfilling obligatory acts of worship:

Fasting: This may seem obvious, but sadly, many Muslims actually refuse to fast during Ramadhan for whatever reason. Fasting is not a choice during Ramadhan, it is obligatory. It is a pillar amongst the five pillars of Islam and those of us who do not fulfill it are committing a grave, grave sin. Some of the pious predecessors even held the view that those who do not fast during Ramadhan have disbelieved. If you have exams during this month or you are not used to fasting, do not allow your fears to deter you from obeying this important command of Allah.

Salah: Also, some may fast during Ramadhan because the rest of the Ummah is doing the same, we are swayed by the Ramadhan vibe and enjoy the spirit of it, all the while neglecting something even more important than fasting such as the prayer. Know, that your fast won’t be of much use to you if you are not fulfilling other obligatory actions. Unfortunately, many Muslims fast and do not pray not realizing that prayer is the second in the pillars of Islam whereas fasting the month of Ramadhan is the fourth, this in itself, illustrates the significance of the prayer. If you’re not consistent with your prayers, do not enter the month of Ramadhan telling yourself that there is no point in fasting since you do not pray; rather make this the time you finally train yourself to obey this imperative command of Allah.

Develop a relationship with the Quran: Sadly, for many of us, the Quran has become a book we simply place on shelves as a manifestation of our Islamic identity. We no longer read, ponder or implement what is in it. If you are amongst these people, Ramadhan is the opportunity for you to rectify your relationship with the Quran, the literal speech of Allah. Keep in mind that it is during this blessed month that Allah revealed it, and the Sahabah would dedicate hours and hours on end reading and pondering over the speech of Allah during this month. Try and complete the Quran at least once by reading twenty pages a day. This may seem overwhelming, but all it takes is for you to read four pages after each of your five daily prayers. The Quran has about six hundred pages, Ramadhan is roughly thirty days, divide six hundred by thirty and you have twenty.

“The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’aan, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong)…” [al-Baqarah 2:185]

Remembrance of Allah: Ramadhan is a month about remembering Allah, separating your mind from all that it is distracted with throughout the year, and focusing solely on your Creator. Contemplate His Greatness and Perfection. Ponder over all that He has blessed you with. When you break your fast at Maghrib, remember that there are people around the world remaining hungry with their throats dry. Engage in lots of dhikr, as taught to us by the prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasalam, and continuously praise your Lord.

Being good to others: As human beings, we are prone to hurting those around us; either verbally, physically, emotionally or mentally. Many of us fall short during the year and neglect the rights of our fellow human beings, the rights of our parents or our neighbors. The rights of our friends or family members. If you have wronged someone and you know it, Ramadhan is the time to swallow your ego and make peace with that person.

If someone has wronged you, now is the time to tell the person and forgive them instead of holding a grudge. If our minds and hearts are focused on the harm we have been inflicted with by others, we will not be able to focus on Allah properly. Likewise, always take care to use the best words when addressing people during and after Ramadhan, but take special care during this month. Fasting isn’t only about restraining ourselves from eating, but also restraining ourselves from committing evil deeds.

The Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasalam, said: “Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it, Allah has no need of his giving up his food and drink.” Narrated by al-Bukhari.

Praying extra prayers: Praying taraweeh, the night prayer after isha, is one of the gems and beauty that comes with the month of Ramadhan. Muslims all around the world come together in the Masajid to pray these extra raka’at, it was a practice of the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam and his companions, and the reward for it is great: Narrated Abu Huraira: I heard the messenger of Allah saying regarding Ramadan, “Whoever prayed at night in it (the month of Ramadan) out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.” [Bukhari]. Try and engage in extra prayers during the day too, as well as taraweeh, such as the Sunnah prayers after or before each obligatory prayers.

Giving charity: Being charitable during the month of Ramadhan is something extremely virtuous. We have been blessed with so much from Allah, if it is only to give from what He has given to us: “Those who spend their wealth in the Cause of Allah, and do not follow up their gifts with reminders of their generosity or with injury, their reward is with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve” [al-Baqarah 2:261-262]

If you do not have the means to give money to those less fortunate than us, then there are many alternative ways in which you can be charitable such as offering food, giving away genuine compliments or helping your fellow muslim brothers and sisters.

Seeking the forgiveness from Allah: Ramadhan is the month in which Allah forgives His repentant slaves extensively. We should continuously make istughfar throughout the day, and sincerely repent to Allah while we are praying or making dua, and always remember that no sin is too big for Allah to forgive.

“Lest a soul should say, “Oh [how great is] my regret over what I neglected in regard to Allah and that I was among the mockers.” [az-Zumar 39:56]

Dua: Dua is one of the weapons a believer has been blessed with. Dua can change Qadr (the divine decree). It is the way through which we can ask Allah swt everything and anything we desire in this life and in the next. Make dua consistently to Allah during Ramadhan, ask Him to bless you and give you what is good in this life and in the next. Remember our brothers and sisters are suffering around the world, and ask Allah to send His help their way. Pray for those whom you know and do not know, ask Allah to change the state of our Ummah and to help the Muslims to regain their strength. Never underestimate the power which your silent requests to Allah may have.

I once heard someone say that it takes thirty days to develop or break a habit. When you take into consideration that Ramadhan is thirty days, you realise that this is a blessing Allah has bestowed upon us, as it gives us enough time to develop or break a habit. SubhanAllah. Ramadhan is present given only once a year, and none of us are guaranteed to witness the next. If Allah has made you amogst those blessed and alive to be able to witness this Ramadhan, make sure you strive not to waste this golden opportunity.

Arrogance: A hated characteristic in Islam

There are several characteristics that are looked down upon and detested in Islam, one of the greatest being arrogance. Undoubtedly, arrogance is a sin that is hated by Allah swt, and has no place in the religion of Islam. Muslims are constantly encouraged to be humbled and modest before their Lord and with other human beings too. In an authentic hadith, the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam said: The one who has an atom’s weight of arrogance in his heart will not enter Jannah” [muslim] SubhanAllah! This alarming hadith shows the severity of this sin, contemplate the size of an atom for a minute, it is tiny! And yet the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam is warning us that even if we possess such a tiny amount of arrogance, we will not be amongst the inhabitants of paradise.

The reasons why arrogance is a toxic characteristic and sin are many, I will highlight a few below to enlighten us on this issue, and remind myself primarily, and other servants of Allah swt to beware about being arrogant.

Arrogance as a disease:

It is no secret that many diseases, although present within our bodies, are manifested externally. For example, an individual may have a cold or flu, and although it is a sickness from within the body, its symptoms and effects are visible outside too. One would be able to detect someone who has a cold due to the person sneezing, perhaps looking visibly weak, coughing and so forth. Arrogance is a disease amongst the diseases of the heart. Like soot, arrogance covers the heart in darkness once it penetrates it, and its symptoms and effects begin to manifest themselves. A person with arrogance isn’t appreciated in any community, they are perceived as being haughty and proud, ungenerous and neglectful in many regards. Arrogant people are careless about what they say and how they act, hurting many others in the process. Such a disease doesn’t affect a believer in this life only, but in the hereafter too.

Why is arrogance despised in Islam?

Arrogance is one of the sins that can lead to kufr (disbelief). The one who is too arrogant fails to realise what he or she was created for, and doesn’t fulfil their objective in life. They consider themselves too proud to worship Allah swt as commanded. The one who has arrogance is generally too caught up in his narcissistic self and trapped within his vain desires to adhere to the commands of Islam, arrogant people are constantly disobeying Allah swt, and too proud to seek His forgiveness.

Arrogance corrupted those before us.

As we know, the prophet muhammed sallallahu alayhi wasalam is the final of many messengers and prophets sent by Allah before him. Among them were Ibrahim alayhi salam, Musa alayhi salam, Nuh alayhi salam and so forth. If you read and ponder over their incredible stories, you will find that their primary goal was to make their people worship Allah swt alone without associating partners with Him. Many of the people who denied or rejected the clear claims of these messengers did so out of arrogance, they refused to single out Allah swt in worship, and chose the actions of their forefathers over their intellect. Arrogance is also a characteristic of Iblees, as we know from the Quran, he was too proud to obey the command of Allah swt and prostrate before Adam. So when any of us are behaving arrogantly, we must remind ourselves of where this sin might take us, and Allah’s protection is sought.

I hope that this short reminder has instilled fear within us, and reminded us on the importance of abstaining from being arrogant Muslims. Many of us have and can fall short on this aspect, and the way to cure it is through worship of Allah swt, humbleness, piety and gratitude. We must reflect upon our weaknesses and deficiencies, and realise the Greatness of our creator. We mustn’t look down upon others, keeping in mind that they could be better and more beloved in the sight of Allah than us.

Dua: its virtue and importance

Dua (supplication to Allah) is one of the many gifts Allah swt has bestowed upon His slaves. It captures the very essence of eebadah and Tawheed, and it is an act which Our Lord loves. The prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam said: “Nothing is more honourable to Allah the Most High than dua’a” [sahih al jami no.5268], illustrating that it is an action which holds much significance in our religion. To highlight this further, in another hadith, rasul sallallahu alayhi wasalam said: “The most excellent worship is dua’a” [sahih al-jami no.1133] and once again, this shows its importance. Like many things in Islam, the topic of dua’a is broad, it can be tackled from different angles and discussed in length. The purpose of this post is to encourage Muslims to remember this act of worship, and to make it something that we consistently perform in our day to day lives. I will discuss some of the benefits of dua’a below.

A believer is always in need of Allah. Whether we are going through hardship, or our lives are running smoothly, it is in our nature to need Allah: “O mankind! It is you who stand in need of Allah, but Allah is Rich (free of wants and needs) Worthy of All Praise”, notice that in this verse Allah is not solely addressing His slaves, but the whole of mankind, illustrating that it is the entire human race is in need of Our Creator. When we need something from Allah, we ask Him by way of dua: “Ask Allah for everything, even the lace of your shoes. If Allah does not provide, it will never be available.” [Ibn al-sunni, no.349- hassan. Supported by at-Tirmidhi and others.] SubhanAllah! The prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam is telling us to ask for everything, even something as small as a shoelace, because Allah swt is the All Provider. At this stage in your life, there may be things which you are desperate to have, have you considered asking Allah for them? Perhaps you consider it impossible to acquire, but it is important for us to think positive about Allah. Recognize that everything is in His hands, and that He can make the impossible possible. “And He will provide for Him from places he never imagined. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient.” [surah at-Talaq]

Dua is one of the ways through which we build our connection with Allah, it is a means by which we can grow closer to Him. A beautiful feeling settles upon a believer when he realises that Allah has responded to his request. A similar feeling should occur when Allah doesn’t respond, it could be that He is saving you from something great that you do know of or realise. Allah swt says: “And it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. And Allah knows but you do not know.” This verse brings comfort to a believer, knowing that whatever situation he finds himself in, then it is good for him. It could be, for example, that you want to marry a specific person. You ask Allah for that person but you don’t end up having them, before you become frustrated and upset at your Lord’s decree, take into consideration that He may be saving you from something great. We do not see or know what Allah swt Sees and Knows, from your perspective, this person is your dream spouse. However, Allah knows that he/she will make your life a misery if you end up with them, for example. He/she might not be able to offer you that happiness you want from them. It could be that this spouse was in fact okay, but Allahs swt has someone even better for you. A balance of patience and trust is what it takes, and do not worry because beautiful things await.

This life tires us. Some of us may not even be able to remember the last time we felt peace and tranquillity, everything from money to studies to kids stresses us. Dua’a is a relief from distress, worry and anxiety. When you make dua’a, you are settling your affairs with Allah, acknowledging that He has power over everything, and that He can make a way out of every stressful situation for you. Dua’a is an action, it is something that prophets and messenger always performed, and we see the benefit of this action as we read the Quran. They called upon Allah, He answered and helped them in unimaginable ways subhanAllah.

And so, brothers and sisters, I urge you to always make dua’a to Allah whether your life is running smoothly or you find yourself in a hard situation. Settle your affairs with him, and always remember to make dua’a for yourself, friends and family for the hereafter. When you see the Muslims being oppressed and harmed, do not feel hopeless at the fact that you cannot physically do something to help them, grant them your dua’as. Allah is in control after all, and you would be surprised the change that one dua’a can bring.

Hijab: trends or Islam?

One of the most beautiful things legislated in Islam for Muslim women is hijab. Contrary to what many people believe, the hijab is not merely a piece of cloth that we drape over ourselves as a symbol of oppression. It is not something we wear because we are forced to by male guardians, or because we have no rights. The hijab is worn because Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) has commanded us to wear it, it a reflection of our inner faith, and manifestation of our Islamic identity.

For many of us young women, wearing the appropriate hijab is a struggle. Sadly, we are not replicating the attitude of the female companions, who instantly wore it upon having the ayah of Quran revealed to them: “And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their modesty, and not to display their adornment except that which appears ordinarily thereof, and to draw their veils over their necks and bosoms…”. Rather, the hijab has become a kind of fashion statement for us. Many Muslim women observe it in a way that completely contradicts its intended modest purpose. Scholars (may Allah have mercy upon them) have written at length concerning hijab and how it should be worn, we have no excuses nor are we deprived of the knowledge; rather we are purposely making the choice and jumping into the bandwagon of trends, allowing societal standards to corrupt our Islamic identities. We have become ashamed of being distinguished, modest women.

Knowing Allah, and understanding some of the wisdom behind laws in Islam is essential if we want carry out the actions commanded by Allah. When you learn more about hijab, its revelation and benefits, you will be drawn to wear it always and proudly.

Observing the hijab enables us to become closer to Allah, we are performing a good deed by wearing it for His sake, and Allah loves that His slaves obey Him. Hijab symbolises liberation and freedom, we distinguish ourselves from other women. We don’t abide by fashion trends which other humans have decided, nor do we feel the need to copy or imitate. We are proud to wear that which the Creator has ordained, and not the creation.

By wearing hijab, we are judged by our intelligence and intellect because our beauty is shielded. In a society that is so fixated on ensuring that women look good, and judges you by your appearance, we are an exception to rule. People have no choice but judge us based on our conduct and speech, and not appearance.

Hijab is a type of shield and barrier against evil. We do not put ourselves in a vulnerable position by wearing immodest clothing and displaying too much of our body, thereupon looking appealing to men, being looked at or worse than that. We treat our bodies like jewels concealed in treasure boxes, they are not displayed whatsoever.

Another benefit is that our Islamic identities, which we should be very proud of, are manifested. Anyone can distinguish a doctor or policeman for example, because of the outfit they wear. Likewise, people can distinguish Muslim women based on their hijab. I once read a quote that goes as follows: “So what if their beauty is a topic in magazines? yours is a topic in the Quran!”, subhanAllah! If we understood the Greatness of Allah, and valued Islam as it should be valued, we would strive to expose our Islamic identities as ordained in the Quran and sunnah. We would not be afraid nor embarrassed about wearing other than what fashion commands, knowing that our brand is straight from the sunnah.

And so I remind myself, and my sisters to take care about Hijab and how we treat it, as mentioned above it is not merely a piece of cloth which we drape upon ourselves, it is a command from our lord. An outfit decided by Allah Himself, we should take care to wear it exactly as He wants, and encourage other women in the ummah to do so as well.

Tawakul: Putting your trust in Allah

It was exam season. Anxiety was running through me, pessimistic thoughts were settling into my mind and unwanted tears were falling from my eyes. I was revising for long hours, but I convinced myself that I would fail. In a room not far away from mine, my mother’s student, then pursuing a degree, was seated. I approached her and started complaining to her about how I felt, above all the advice she could have offered me, she started talking to me about a powerful concept in Islam: Tawakul, having trust in Allah .

In a happy and optimistic tone, she explained how it is essential for a believer to fully trust in Allah, and believe that He will aid him. She mentioned some of her own experiences with tawakul, explaining how even in what appeared to be hopeless situations, she had firm belief that Allah would help her, and He did. I left the room happy and optimistic that day, allowing the seeds of tawakul to settle within my heart.

Exam day came, and the experience was awful. Due to intense stress, I could not finish the paper and had a minor panic attack. I was so disappointed, feeling as though I had been let down, but I refused to eliminate my trust in Allah, and carried on believing that something good might miraculously happen. Exam results arrived, anxiety was running through me yet again, I was afraid, but to my huge surprise, I scored the highest grade. I can’t remember a time when I was happier other than that day, the relief was overwhelming. A few weeks later, it was the student’s graduation, she had passed and obtained her degree. I went to her and thanked her for offering me this life changing advice, in the same optimistic tone, she elaborated further on what she had previously told me.

Allah SWT says in surah at-Talaq: “And He will provide him from (sources) he never imagined. And whoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him.” This beautiful ayah shows us that if we settle our affairs with Allah, believing wholeheartedly that He will aid us, then He will. Now of course, trusting Allah doesn’t entail not doing anything ourselves. Anas ibn Malik reported: A man said, “O Messenger of Allah, should I tie my camel and trust in Allah, or should I leave her untied and trust in Allah?” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Tie her and trust in Allah”. [Source: sunan at-tirmidhi 25:17] This hadith shows us that we must do our part too, if you have an upcoming exam, do not waste your time doing nothing and think to yourself, “I put my trust in Allah He will help me.” No, you must do your part and revise. If you have a particular goal or objective in life, you work hard towards it, all the while having tawakul in your Lord. Neither of the two should be neglected as the two come hand in hand.

No matter what difficulties we face in life and what hopeless situation we find ourselves in, we must have firm conviction that Allah will help us. If you read through the lives of our beloved messenger sallallahu alayhi wasalam , the salaf or previous prophets, you will find that they were constantly tested and placed in difficult situations. Ayoub (alayhi salam) had his beloved son Yusuf taken away from him, Musa (alayhi salam) had to the face the tyrannical ruler fir’awn, Ibrahim (alayhi salam) was thrown into a fire, and these are just some of the many stories given to us in the Qur’an. In all those situations, the prophets put their trust in Allah, and were relieved from their hardship. Following their path and example, we too must do the same.

“Indeed, Allah loves those who put their trust in Him” [3:159]

Hope and fear in Allah: Establishing that balance

Ibn Qayyim (may Allah have mercy upon him), once articulated something beautiful concerning a believer and our stance towards love, hope and fear in Allah Exalted is He. He said: “The heart on its journey towards Allah the Exalted is like that of a bird. Love is its head, and fear and hope are its two wings. When the head is healthy, then the two wings will fly well. When the head is cut off, the bird will die. When either of two wings is damaged, the bird becomes vulnerable to every hunter and predator.” [Madarij as-salikeen].

He employs the beautiful example of a bird to illustrate how significant it is for a believer to balance these three powerful emotions correctly. He shows us that we must not allow one to take precedence over the other, such that we become engulfed by fear or too neglectful. If, for example, a believer fears Allah too much, practicing Islam might become overwhelming for him. He will lose hope in the Mercy of Allah. Likewise, if a slave becomes too hopeful in Allah’s Mercy, and ignores His punishment, he might fall short in some obligatory acts of worship, believing that Allah will definitely admit him to paradise even if he leads an unfulfilling life, constantly disobeying his Creator.

Often, growing up, I come across certain individuals who stress the importance of igniting a balance of both fear and love of Allah within their children. Sadly, this is a principle often dismissed. We always hear, and some of us have experienced this ourselves, that if we do not fulfil a particular Islamic obligation, or we do not abide by a certain way of life, then we will go to hell. Parents will teach their children things like, “You must pray or else you will go to hell”, or “You must wear hijab or else Allah will punish you severely”. Rather than constantly threatening believers with fear, we should emphasize the Merciful attributes of our Creator too. Instead of threatening children with hell, parents should choose a different approach at times, saying something like: “You must pray because it is a command from Allah, and look at all He has blessed you with. Do not perceive salah as a chore, but rather a unique opportunity to connect with your Lord, pray so that He can be merciful towards you, for salah is one of the keys of paradise.” And concerning hijab, we can outline the benefits of wearing hijab, reinforce that it is not an object of oppression, but rather freedom; that Allah, in His Infinite Wisdom, commands His female slaves to observe hijab because it serves as a shield from many dangers we may not perceive. A different approach, and reinforcement on the love of Allah as well as fear makes all the difference. If you think about it, when we love someone, we desire to please him or her always. So developing love in Allah would push us towards willingly obeying him (not because we are forced or our parents told us), we would delight in committing good deeds, whether obligatory or recommended, knowing that it will please our Creator. We would rush towards obedience, and abstain from evil sins as much as we can, we would rectify our intentions, find happiness in practicing Islam and developing pride in our Islamic identities.

You may be struggling with Islam and your identity as a Muslim presently, perhaps because you are one of those individuals who was taught Islam in this threatening and scary way. You were deprived of knowledge concerning your Kind and Merciful Lord. For me, reading and understanding the Quran, as well as studying this deen was the way through which I managed to eliminate any bad thoughts, and develop love in Allah balanced with fear. I urge the youth to do the same, as developing love for your Creator is one of the most beautiful feelings, your worries and struggles will gradually disappear, your primary focus and concern will be Allah. Fearing Him will enable you to quit crossing the boundaries of this religion and strive harder to attain paradise. Loving him will make everything in practicing Islam easier, and we will delight in committing good deeds for His sake.

My spiritual journey: Rekindling that connection with Allah

 

A believer’s faith fluctuates. This is an undeniable reality. Our faith is not an impenetrable brick wall that remains firm and illuminated throughout our precious time in this life, rather it shifts and changes. At times it is high, mostly when we are worshiping Allah as He should be worshiped and refraining from committing evil deeds, and at other times it takes an inevitable dip, and it is during those phases that we must remind ourselves of the purpose for our creation. We must not allow shaytan to fade that hope we have in Allah, making us believe that we are not worthy of worshiping Him. Allah Exalted is He, in His Knowledge and Mercy, comprehends our struggles, He promises forgiveness and an elimination of the wrongs we commit. With every new dawn that we are blessed to witness, we are offered another opportunity to mend our ways, to commence a journey towards our Creator and indeed rekindle that connection with Him.

Having the motivation to journey towards Allah is often present in a believer’s heart, however, we seldom know how to take the first step. As we begin to search extensively for advice, the amount we have to do may seem overwhelming initially, and this is why it is important to realise that we will not wake up the next day and be perfect Muslims, for indeed only Allah is Perfect. Nor will we wake up and have the ability to fulfill all His commands without occasionally committing mistakes. We must journey slowly and steadily, constantly taking ourselves into account and refusing to burden our souls. We must ensure that we comprehend our purpose, which Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) articulates clearly in His book: “And I have not created jinn and mankind, except that they should worship me alone” [surah a-Dhariyat verse:56].

 Establishing Tawheed, and frequently learning about Tawheed, is essential to this journey. Tawheed is the absolute foundation of our religion, its opposition: shirk, is the worst sin a believer can commit, hence we should take this matter seriously, and allow it to take precedence over everything else in our lives. Salah: this important obligation we are commanded to fulfill only five times a day is frequently neglected, we search day and night attempting to acquire success, and yet our Lord tells us Clearly in His book: “Successful indeed are the believers.”, “Those who offer their prayers with all solemnity and full submissiveness.” [Surah al mu’minoon verses 1 and 2].

We search for hours in vain, attempting to find an answer for that void in our hearts when it sits in the form of a book in our shelves. Believers, we have neglected the Quran too, when it is the ultimate source of guidance, a light in this path we seek to tread on towards Allah. There are many more actions to mention if we want to establish that connection with our Creator, but it is not possible state them entirely in this short post, as I have much to learn myself. And so I advise you to carry a special key with you that will open doors: knowledge. Islamic knowledge is paramount in our lives, it is the way in which we learn about how to worship Allah and grow closer to him. Be sure to acquire authentic knowledge, taught to us by our salaf and scholars, derived from the book of Allah and the Sunnah of His messenger sallallahu alayhi wasalam.

The journey to Allah is a beautiful one, it strengthens and firms you as individual, it enables you to relieve yourself from the desperate demands of society and succumb to the will of your Creator only. It is a path that infuses peace and tranquility in your heart, and a path that fulfills your needs and grants you constant happiness. The journey towards Allah should be our principle objective to achieve, so we can be amongst those whom He grants mercy to, amongst those are chosen to enter Jannah.