We all experience eeman highs and lows. Sometimes we are addicted to prayer and dhikr and then there are those times when we do them in ritualistic fashion. What cause these fluctuations? What can we do to change it? Read what Abeer has to say to the muslim student.
When I was asked to contribute to The Muslim Student, I instantly knew that I wanted to address what the average Muslim student needs to hear, yet if they were to be given this advice directly, they might not take it so well. I went back and forth to make sure I took full advantage of this excellent opportunity, and finally after months and months of thought I have decided on what I want to address.
So the following is directed at you, the Muslim student.
They say the person you become at university is the person you will be for the rest of your life. For many Muslim students, this is terrible news; university is the one place they get to ‘experiment’ and ‘enjoy their freedom’, away from the watchful eyes of parents and the prying eyes of relatives. But for many others, this is a prayer answered. For it was at university, away from the protective bubble they lived in that they discovered what they thought they already had: Islam.
In an environment that is deemed immoral by most standards, Muslims have created a niche based on morality, ethics and values outlined by Islam. This niche goes by the title of ‘Islamic Society’ (ISoc).
Most of these Islamic Societies have several core objectives: spreading the correct knowledge of Islam, providing for the spiritual needs of their members and providing alternate forms of entertainment (the halal kind). And it is the purity and the beauty of this Islamic environment that wins over the toughest of hearts and it has them transfixed and absolutely in love with Islam.
And so drastic, head to toe, changes are observed in these students; in the way they dress, in the way they speak, in their behavior, what they hear, what they see, where they go, what they eat, their outlook on life… everything! They become human beings this world needs; they become Muslims.
As good news as this is, a question comes to mind: does this change last?
Time tells. We wait and we observe, and we deduce based on our observations.
And the sad reality is; no (except for a few). This change wears off, and slowly these blessed souls go back to the lives they had.
The prayers become shorter and quicker, there is never ever enough time for the extra prayers.
The movies come back on – it was never realistic to leave movies anyway, and the music… that just comes with the movies.
The beard grows shorter, the Hijab goes tighter – you cannot walk around in a cape in the “real world”.
That was an unrealistic form of Islam; you cannot survive in this world without intermingling with the opposite sex.
The progress, year by year, weans.
What is sad is that these are not made up scenarios. I have observed this year in, year out. Muslims who had magnificent plans to make a difference in this world, to seek knowledge and to contribute intellectually to Islam (!!!), now realise that the only goal in life is to earn a living, climb the corporate ladder, get married and start a family. Everything else were unrealistic dreams conjured up by impassioned young minds.
Many will read this and think, ‘this cannot happen to me’, let me tell you this: these Muslims I knew were better than you and me, they were better than an average Muslim.
We are left to ruefully ask; what happened?
During my time spent at university, I saw a vaguely familiar trend: It was the blessed Islamic Society that changed them. And it was the Islamic Society that saw them through their struggles. And it was the Islamic Society that gave them a reality check, an eeman boost, whenever they needed one. All, with the mercy of Allah subhaneh wa ta’ala.
Once they left this environment, they were left to their own weak devices. And, they could not hold up to the mundane struggles of life. And so they gave in.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم.
الم. أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُوا أَن يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ. وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ ۖ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ.
[Alif, Lam, Meem.
Do people think that they will be left alone because they say, “We believe” and they will not be tested?
And Indeed, We have tested those before them, and surely Allah will know the sincere and He will surely know the liars.] ~ 29:1-3
This brings me to the title of this piece, your personal relationship with Allah. If there was one, then it only becomes stronger. Otherwise, … it is best to leave it at the fact that Allah will NEVER dishearten those who put their faith in Him.
An Islamic environment should be an aid in improving our spirituality; it should not become the means. We must not become dependent on such an environment to feel closer to Allah, as with everything in this world, this environment, too, will erode. Then what?
Sure, eeman levels fluctuate but we, as individuals, should have the resources within ourselves to bring it back up again. Most times, the eeman boosts that we face are after a lecture screening, a talk, a bonding session with other Muslims, an ISOC pizza dinner (…), time spent worshipping in the Masjid (specifically for sisters, who might not have this opportunity ‘back home’), etc.
And it is because of this unintentional heavy dependence on these eeman boosters that when we do not have them around, we find our eeman plummet, and plummet and we become at loss over how to rectify this situation. And even when we are aware of the small steps that will get us back up again, we become reluctant to take them, lazy to follow them through. And this is a sad reality.
A hefty task lies ahead of us; we must concentrate on building a personal relationship with Allah that can overcome the tests of time. And just like any long lasting relationship, we must develop our relationship with Allah on trust and understanding.
Trust Him, with every atom in your being that He will see you through your troubles and through any hardship. And trust Him that He will make it better, sooner or later.
You must acknowledge that whatever happens in your life, wherever you are, it is because He decreed it. It is because He allowed it to happen and He took you to that point. And because of that, there is khair (goodness) in it. And if it is a test, then you must realise that there are rewards to follow, so observe patience throughout the good and the bad times. There will be rewards in this Dunya and there will be rewards in the Akhira. A win-win situation. =)
Trust Him and keep building this trust, how? By keeping His promise, His words – the Quran – close to your heart: by reading it, by understanding it, by reflecting upon it and by saving it in your heart (memorising it).
And this is not a one off thing; it is the basic building block of a sturdy relationship with the Almighty and it is an ongoing effort.
And secondly, understanding.
Allah subhaneh wa ta’ala says in the Quran:
[إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ]
[It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allah] Faatir 35:28
It is the Fear (and love!) of Allah that keeps us from falling into Haram – or from falling out of halal. And this ayah is a clear indication of who truly fears Allah: those who have knowledge.
Understanding or knowledge of religion is a sure way to keep you going in the right direction; it is a sure way to help you build your relationship with Allah.
It is when you understand the magnitude of the Bigger Plan, that is when you realise all else is insignificant (I do not advice that you completely shun ‘all else’, but you must prioritise).
(At this point, I would like to point out that gaining Islamic knowledge and gaining worldly knowledge are not necessarily two different options, but they can be integrated, if you are to observe the greats in Islam’s golden era, you will notice that they were scholars of Islam, of Fiqh, of Hadith, of Tafseer and the same people were scholars of math, of medicine, of language. If they did it, we too can do it, and with Allah subhaneh wa taala’s mercy, we can do it better).
Thus, based on the above, your current degree should not be a barrier to gaining Islamic knowledge, do whatever time permits you (TEN minutes a day, however long), as long as you do something. And if you do not have access to a teacher, then the easiest way is simply reading a book of tafseer, that is the minimal that can be done.
And finally, there are the tried and tested techniques to help establish a stronger relationship with Allah:
– Talking to Allah.
Yes, you make dua to Him, but do you talk to Him? You ask Him, but do you tell Him?
Talk to Allah, about your problems, what hurts you, what displeases you, and ask Him to make it better and do it often, even outside of salah (but obviously, be wise about where you chose to do this).
– Seeking righteous companions, even if they live hundreds of miles away from you.
Talk to them and seek their advice. Believe me, good people rub off their goodness, even from miles and miles apart.
– Read Quran.
But I mentioned that.
– Write down what you do and why you do it.
You started wearing Hijab, write down exactly why you did it and review it from time to time. If you forget and rethink the decision then this will remind you. All the progress that you’ve made, write it down.
If you reflect over the ayat of the Quran, you will see that there is a repetition of certain topics, and the reason behind it is this: we are human beings, thus are forgetful and thus we need reminders.
If you have no one else to remind you; remind yourself. Write letters to your future self! Tell them what your goals are for them; spiritually and otherwise.
Remember, it is the small strokes that paint the bigger picture. And this goes both ways.
May Allah preserve all of us upon that which pleases Him.
Abeer S. is a qualified Industrial Economist (i.e. an unemployed one), a part time blogger, writer, Quran teacher to her little brother, baker, fitness enthusiast (fanatic, freak, etc.) and a full time student of knowledge doing a Bsc in Quranic Studies with a major in Tafseer.
Abeer wishes to see the day when women realise their true worth as outlined by the Almighty and not the ignorantly perceived notion propagated by ‘society’.