Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Internal Iman (Part One)

بسم الله و الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله
Have you ever built a sand castle on the beach? A castle made of sand, no matter how much effort and work you put into it, will still wash away with the first gust of wind or the first wave on the shore.  Because the substance you are working with is already weak. If we start with a weak foundation, it’s impossible to build anything strong and long lasting. That’s why we have to strengthen our faith from the foundation: from where it all begins: from the heart.

In the Qur’an the Day of Judgment is described as … “A day in which none shall be saved except the one who comes to Allah with a sound (pure) heart.” (26:88-87)
يَوْمَ لَا يَنْفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُونَ
إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ

During the time of the Prophet Muhammed صلى الله عليه وسلم, he stated the exact state our Ummah would be in today. He described us as being large in number but like the foam of the sea. "It is near that the nations will call one another against you…” Somebody asked: "Is this because we will be few in numbers that day?" He said: "Nay, but that day you shall be numerous, but you will be like the foam of the sea, and Allah and will place weakness into your hearts."
Foam of the sea is shapeless, weak, it has no defined direction, and it is only able to go where the waves of the sea take it. Without the bones, the flesh doesn't matter. A plant without roots can’t grow or survive. And Iman (faith) which doesn't start in the heart, will not grow or survive. For this reason, we need to remember to always emphasize internal Iman, not only physical acts of worship.      
Many of us are focusing only on the outward aspects of worship, but worship doesn't start in the limbs, it starts in the heart.
The poet Rumi said “Maybe you are searching among the branches for what only appears in the roots.”
If you are trying to strengthen your faith, and keep experiencing high points and low points in Iman, and are not able to keep your acts of worship constant, it may be that you are focusing too much on the outward and not enough on the inward.

Our society increasingly focuses on the ritual part of Islam while neglecting the matters of the spiritual side. We have become absorbed in the rules and Islamic guidelines and have forgotten that Islam is not about just the physical act of worship, but the internal act of worship as well. When you water our religion down to simply the physical, worship becomes a senseless habit which we perform without thinking.
Our religion very strongly stresses that we protect the condition of our heart, yet we tend to neglect it.
Forgetting about internal worship and only thinking of Islam as a set of mandates and rules is dangerous to our faith because we remove the central part of what makes it a nourishing and fulfilling religion and we remove the main line connecting us to our Creator.  
I really believe not understanding and emphasizing the internal is why we see so many people not practicing Islam. Because they are only achieving the physical part, they don't feel fulfilled and they think that's all there is to worship; it can't offer them more than that. If only you understood how much it can offer you, you would never abandon it. It wouldn't matter if you're tired, sick, or busy, you wouldn't sacrifice that connection with your Creator for anything.

Concern for doing outwards acts of good deeds and worship is a good thing, and can't be neglected, but we have to realize that the body is simply the follower and it is the soul that is in charge.
Sometimes this concern for the outward results in the inner meaning being forgotten. We all know the proper motions of prayer, the proper recitations and the proper dua, as Muslims we commit these things to memory; but do we know how to build khushoo in our prayer? Do we know how to practice devotion, sincerity, to recognize Allah's greatness and divinity and to keep out minds focused on Allah during prayer?
We can never fully achieve the beauty and tranquility of worship until we form a partnership between the body and the soul, neither part can be left out or true worship will not be achieved.
When you only have the physical aspect down, you are still missing a piece of the puzzle.  The puzzle can only be complete when we start emphasizing more on the spiritual and internal aspect of worship.  The internal worship is the light of the heart, it’s the reason so many people are able to find refuge and peace through prayer and remembrance of Allahسبحانه وتعالى  .  When we remove that part, we remove the nourishing part, and neglecting worship becomes much easier, we have less motivation because we don’t feel that spiritual connection. Therefore we then become lazy in our worship, and eventually, we may stop doing it at all. It’s like an exercise routine that leads to no results, why would you keep doing it if all you end up is feeling like you wasted energy?
We need to realize that nothing exists independently. The physical realm and the spiritual realm are intertwined. This is why we use physical acts of worship, in order to condition our hearts for internal worship and constant remembrance of Allah سبحانه وتعالى

The heart is the most important part of our physical body. Then we can assume of course, that it's the most important part of our spiritual self, and the key missing component towards reaching a higher state of Iman and Taqwa. 
"In the body there is a lump of flesh, if it is set right, the whole body is set right, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt; indeed it is the heart."  (Sahih Muslim, Sahih Bukhari)
Heart disease is the number one killer worldwide. And the diseases of the heart are the number one killer and threat to our Iman. Yet, these diseases often go un-diagnosed. The spiritual health of our hearts determines the strength of our faith. If our faith is weak, we can see it in our actions. We should not forget that worshiping Allah is meant to strengthen our connection with Him and not simply be a mechanical act. It requires thinking, focus, and reflection. 
Rewards and mercy from Allah سبحانه وتعالى  in the Akhira are why we worship Him, but those are the rewards of the afterlife, we don't attain the benefits now. The sole purpose in this life is being close to Allah, and if you are deprived of that, you will never be content. Every creature yearns to fulfill its purpose and our purpose is to worship Allah correctly.

Deeds are separated into ظاهري (outer deeds) and الباطني (the inner deeds) If we have an absence of inner faith, our outer deeds are futile. Yes, physical efforts of constant worship, fasting, and waking up for night time prayers are commendable and we should all make efforts to do these physical acts of worship, but these things are not actually difficult, it is easy to master the body compared to more difficult struggle of mastering over our nafs. Purifying our souls, perfecting our characters and curing inner diseases of the heart is where the real struggle lies.

I may sit at my desk, making an attempt to study, but at the same time my mind could be thinking of other things, I may not be focusing and in this case, I won't actually achieve the benefits of those efforts. Same is the case when it comes to our worship. Physical movements are the vehicle which we use to keep us from sins, but it won't bring us closer to Allah سبحانه وتعالى on its own if we don't have a combination of spiritual and physical. 
The companion Hudhayfah راضي الله عنه said, "The first thing you will lose of your religion will be khushoo and the last thing you will lose of your religion will be the prayer, and it is well possible that there is no good in a person who prays, and soon will come a time when you shall enter a large Masjid and not see a single person with khushu."
Why is it that khushu will be the first thing to be lost while prayer will be the last? Because the ability to be attentive during prayer is much more difficult than actually praying itself, and it is more susceptible to being lost if we don't take care. 

Our Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم tells us that Allah سبحانه وتعالى "Does not accept the dua of one whose heart is heedless of Him.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
He also tells us that, "Your reward is in accordance to your effort." So if you are making half the effort, by example, praying while your mind is wandering elsewhere or making tasbih without really thinking about the words you are saying, you will not receive the full reward. 
There is a hadith in which the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم sees Juwayriyah رضي الله عنها performing tasbih before noon, and when he came back at night he found her sitting in the same position, still making tasbih. He said to her:“I said four words three times that would outweigh all that you have said today.” 

On the same note, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم says about the one who finishes reading the Qur'an in 3 days: “The one who recites it in less than 3 days has not understood it."
So we see from these hadith that worship is not simply in the act itself but in making sure all aspects of our being (our body and our soul) are involved in the act of worship.

We need to force ourselves to be fully engaged in whatever acts we are doing-not start running on autopilot. Does Allah سبحانه وتعالى deserve anything less than your full attention?

Let's make our worship enriching and enlightening instead of a mindless ritual.
Let's live more from intention and less from habit. 
Let's worship from our hearts.
I ask Allah سبحانه وتعالى to make these words beneficial for myself and others, and I ask Him to guide us towards all which will bring us closer to Him.

All correct and beneficial knowledge is from the mercy and guidance of Allah, and all incorrect information is an unintentional error only from myself. And Allah knows best. والله أعلمُ بالـصـواب

This article is quite brief on a matter that is very extensive, I encourage everyone to read more about how to build internal foundations of belief, and the diseases of the heart. The following are some books I found helpful:

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