Friday, May 29, 2015

Making the Change-Internal Iman (Part 2)

بسم الله و الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

Since writing my last post about “Internal Iman” and it’s importance in keeping us constant in our worship and connected to our Creator, I've been brainstorming for “Part 2” and I realized this barrier to internal Iman has different causes for those of different circumstances. ان شاء الله, for this part I will be writing about those who are not practicing, how they can draw closer to Allah and increase their internal iman. Those who are already practicing face these barriers too, which will be addressed in a future post.

Have you ever been in a desperate situation, where you feel so helpless and weak, and you feel like nothing in this world can help you to overcome your difficulties? During these moments, most people, even those who are not religious, incline towards their inner nature and pray. They pray, to whichever God they worship.
When we need something, when we feel lost, or hopeless, or guilty, this is when we all bow our heads and pray.
Pay attention to your inner self, to when these emotions come up. Do they occur when you have finished praying, reading Qur'an, or doing good deeds? Do they occur after helping your family or organizing a charity event? No, these feelings sneak up on us when we have done something displeasing to Allah سبحانه وتعالى, and neglected your spiritual self.
Know that when you neglect Allah, you are neglecting yourself. This is why these feelings occur. 
وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ نَسُوا اللَّهَ فَأَنْسَاهُمْ أَنْفُسَهُمْ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ
"Be not like those who forgot Allah, and He made them forget themselves." (59:19)
We have all testified that Allah is our Lord,
And he has created within us, a fitrah (a human nature) which makes us naturally inclined towards worshiping him. This is why we feel emotions like guilt when we do something wrong, it's not meant to be ignored, it's meant to tell us something.

سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ ۗ أَوَلَمْ يَكْفِ بِرَبِّكَ أَنَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ

"We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth." (41:53)
So don't ignore these feelings, listen to them, find out what triggers them, and realize that when you give Allah central position in your heart and life, you are fulfilling your human nature and you will be able to lead a most more fulfilling and happier life. 
“The soul has been given its own ears to hear things the mind does not understand” –Rumi
Sometime our souls speak to us but we have to be focused enough to listen and pay attention to these signs telling us to turn back to Allah.

Everyone you meet is striving to be better. If you cannot maintain longterm worship and your Iman has highs and lows, this is probably because you have never established a real connection or Iman through worship. But the problem is, people expect to have this connection right away, they want to feel that deep spiritual connection after one prayer. That’s not how it works. You can’t have Iman in your heart if you don’t have Islam in your actions. This feeling is built after effort and work to establish consistent worship.

It's one thing to say you want to change, but another to actually take those steps. Know that everyone's path to reaching higher Iman is different, and some steps you must distinguish for yourself. Anyone can give you advice, but only YOU know where your real struggles lie and what you need to do to accomplish.

I want to become a better Muslim, I want to draw nearer to my Creator, Allah سبحانه وتعالى
but whenever I perform acts of worship, it feels like a burden.
I don't feel connection or peace in worship.
I'm not motivated to pray.
I feel like I'm forcing myself.
I can't remain consistent with prayer, dhikr, or other acts of worship
Whenever I try to change my habits, I maintain it for a short time, but then I fall back into the same patterns.
What can I do?

1. Recognize the central place Allah must hold in your life.
As long as you realize that you need Allah سبحانه وتعالى in your life, you're that much closer to attaining your spiritual goals.
The Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم said: "If someone wants to know what position he has in the eyes of Allah, he has only to look at what place he gives to Allah (in his heart and life)"(Hakim)
We always keep the Qur'an on the highest self, but we have to make sure we hold the Qur'an to the highest degree, not just literally but metaphorically as well. It should take the highest priority in your life. Just like you would never face any direction other than the Qiblah during prayer, your heart should always be in the direction of Allah. “Let Allah be the direction of your heart and soul." -Ibn Qayyim 

2. Recognize the bad within yourself
In modern society, we are taught that we should accept every aspect of ourselves, good or bad, the most important thing is “self-acceptance”, right? Well, this creates a society that never reflects upon their internal state, and therefore, never aims toward improvement. This encourages people to think of the negatives in themselves as simply part of their personality or character, something they have no control over and can't change. Change requires clearly identifying and recognizing the negative behavior or habit in order to move forward towards self-improvement and improved deen. We all have obstacles that can belittle our efforts, so we must find out "What is preventing me from becoming close to Allah and how can I overcome it?"
Sometimes, we have to be hard on ourselves in order to pinpoint the areas of weakness. We can never reach goodness until we recognize and remove the bad. 
Take yourself into account before you are taken into account and weigh your deeds yourself before it is weighed" (Caliph Omar bin Al-Khattab راضي الله عنه )
It’s not enough to simply WANT Allah’s mercy, we must want it and also strive towards it by rectifying our actions.
When we pinpoint our weaknesses we are that much closer to overcoming them. Muslims are those who reflect on their internal conditions. And if you can't do this, you can't make a change. 

3. Don't let Shaytan deceive you about the mercy of Allah. 
Iblees comes from the root word بلس , which means to despair. And this is one of the techniques Shaytan uses to convince us to keep committing sins. Shaytan doesn't want you to turn back to Allah سبحانه وتعالى , repent, and change your life for the better. He wants you to remain in the same toxic cycle. So he will try to convince you that you've committed so many sins, you'll never be able to change, and Allah will never forgive you.
لَا تَيْأَسُوا مِنْ رَوْحِ اللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّهُ لَا يَيْأَسُ مِنْ رَوْحِ اللَّهِ إِلَّا الْقَوْمُ الْكَافِرُونَ
 “And never give up hope of Allah's Mercy. Certainly no one despairs of Allah's Mercy, except the people who disbelieve.” (12:87)
Don't let Shaytan make you feel so  bad about your past that it prevents you from changing. Because so many of us fall into this trap. Yes, you should feel bad about your past sins, but feel bad in order to repent, not in order to be destructive to yourself. Some of us feel, "Well, I have committed so many sins, what's the point of changing now?" or "I'm a hypocrite." "I commit so many sins, I might as well take off my hijab", "I might as well not pray..." etc.
Repent, learn from your mistake, ask Allah sincerely for forgiveness, and MOVE ON.
A heart that is chained to the past can never move forward to seek closeness to Allah
So once you follow step 2 and you recognize your weaknesses and repent from them, move on in sincerity with the intention of not repeating it.

4. Release yourself from the chains
A heart enveloped in sin can never form a sincere love for Allah سبحانه وتعالى.
Recognize the poisons in your heart which are preventing you from coming close to Allah. Sometimes, we become accustomed to certain habits so we cease to see the destruction they cause.
Love of Allah and the love of sin and haram cannot coexist within your heart. You must choose one. We all want to become closer to Allah, but you can't develop that love for Allah when you also love the things which He hates. The more you involve yourself in the haram, the more space it takes in your heart, the harder it will be for you to fill your heart with love of Allah. Your heart absorbs what you feed it, the more you feed it haram, the more it will crave the haram. But if you surround yourself with worship, and accustom yourself to it, this is what you will crave and seek. We all know that committing haram actions is displeasing to Allah, but besides from that, they are haram because they cause a barrier, preventing your heart from being able to draw close to Allah.
If you have one foot in a boat heading for Dunya and one foot in the boat heading for Jannah can you continue riding on both? As the boats drift further apart eventually you will have to choose one or be torn apart.
A wound that is always reopened will never heal. We can clean our heart and be forgive for sins with istighfar and tawbah but if we continue placing the heart in bad and dirty environments and exposing it to sins over and over again, this is not sincere tawbah and what you are doing is digging the wound deeper and deeper and making it harder and harder for the wound to close and heal.
There is nothing holding you to sin, the chains are self inflcted and you have the key to unlock yourself from the hold, will you use the key or let it go to waste?

لَا تُلْقُوا بِأَيْدِيكُمْ إِلَى التَّهْلُكَةِ
"And make not your own hands contribute to your destruction." (2:195)

5. Constant dhikr
If you can't find a connection during prayer, if you don't feel peace and serenity during worship, it may not be the worship which is the problem. It may not be the Salah, or the Dua which is the problem, it may be what you do with your time before and after salah. I recently wrote in a previous post, that we all need to remember that "Islam" is not just during salah. So we need to remember Allah always, not just during salah. If you are heedless of Allah, and do things which displease Him during the day, don't be surprised when you can't feel khushoo in salah, or when you can't wake up for fajr. You are training your nafs to be forgetful of Him.
When you remember Allah سبحانه وتعالى throughout the day, and make dhikr often, you are conditioning your heart for the state of worship, and when you do this your heart will flee to Allah, and always feel joy from worship.
وَمَنْ أَعْرَضَ عَن ذِكْرِي فَإِنَّ لَهُ مَعِيشَةً ضَنكًا وَنَحْشُرُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ أَعْمَىٰ
"But he who turn away from my remembrance, his will be a narrow life, and I shall bring him blind to the assembly on the Day of Resurrection." (20:124)

6. Actions = Iman
This series is about Internal Iman, but it’s important to state that you can’t have Internal Iman unless you first establish “External Iman” by practicing. 
The block most people face when they are trying to “start practicing” to increase their iman, is that they expect to feel this rush of spirituality and contentment, comfort from prayer when they first start praying. When they don’t feel that, they become demotivated and decide to stop trying. You will feel that way, you will love prayer, and you will try your hardest to perform acts that bring you closer to Allah, but this takes time. You have to first make it a constant habit, then you can perfect it and work on the spiritual (internal) aspect of prayer.
When the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم was asked how he will know his followers on the Day of Judgement, he said:“They (my followers) will come with bright faces and white limbs because of the Wudu they used to perform’"
If you follow the Dunya, it will drag you in a million different directions
but follow the path to Allah, and there is only one way.
1st Step: Perfect the steps of prayer and form the habit
2nd Step: Perfect the internal aspects of salah, and develop khushoo  during salah
3rd Step: don’t confine remembrance (dhikr) to only prayer time. The more you remember Allah throughout the day the more you can perfect your salah and reap all the benefits of salah.
Allah does not create any lock without a key, and we need to keep in mind, that although the purpose of this series is to increase spiritual iman, the KEY that Allah has created for us to reach that iman is through our physical actions, so we cannot forfeit one and hope to attain the other.

"Why are you so loyal to this life? It has given you nothing but struggle. Why do you love this dunya so deeply? It has given you nothing but heartache. Why do you conform to the whispers of Shaytan? He wants nothing but hell for you. Why do you ignore the advice of Allah so foolishly? He wants nothing but Jannah for you." -Mobeen Hakeem

When you are submerged in darkness, your eyes have a way of adjusting, so you may think you are able to see still. But don't be fooled, one ray of Light and everything will be illuminated, and you will see everything around you in it's reality, with clarity and freedom. Step out of the darkness, you just have to walk towards the edge of the tunnel. Step out of the darkness, come into the Light, and illuminate your life with the Love of Allah.

Maybe the idea of changing overwhelms you, but anything done with firm trust in Allah سبحانه وتعالى , and with the sole intention of please Allah and becoming closer to Him, will be made easy for us in His willing.

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

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