Being born Muslim and having a Muslim upbringing –however exceptional or flawed– sometimes gives us a sense comfort that we have guidance, therefore we are good. We know the drill well: pray 5 times daily, fast Ramadan, give to charity, dress modestly–usually exclusively told to women-, memorize a few ayaat and surahs, repeat some sweet supplications, watch popular YouTube lectures, and we are set.
Maybe at one point in our life that was sufficient, and we were getting what we needed. However, overtime we became comfortable, then complacent, and now we are in trouble. A companion of the Prophetnamed Umair ibn Habib said, “Iman increases and decreases.” It was said, “How does it increase and decrease?” Umayr said, “If we remember our Lord and fear him, it will increase. If we are heedless and we forget and we waste our time, it will decrease.”1 Furthermore, our imaan (faith/spirituality) fluctuating, is normal and at times painfully obvious, but it doesn’t mean the labor on our soul stops, and we abandon being diligent.
There’s bad news though; there’s a problem. There’s a threat, and we are in trouble. We have a crisis in spirituality, and the warnings should not be underestimated. It is no surprise to any of us the plethora of problems we witness in society today: from the individual level, to the family, to the community, and beyond. Although this reality may be anxiety inducing, do not be anxious and let’s not lose hope. There is also good news and there is a solution –a powerful one!
Remembering the Real Enemy
However, first we must acknowledge the truth and face a serious fact. Because lies and being in denial is poisonous, and the bane of our collective existence. The devil is real and he is our SWORN enemy–not just of Muslims, but of humanity. His obsession is to lead us all astray –by all and any means necessary– far from the path of God’s guidance and ultimately away from His Mercy. Allahsays in the Qur’an:
“Surely Satan is an enemy to you, so take him as an enemy. He only invites his followers to become inmates of the Blaze.” [Surat Fāţir: 35;6]
We need to understand that the devil is not dumb. He knows we are born sin-free and with the God-given innate knowledge of His Oneness. Abu Hurairahnarrates from the Prophet that “no child is born except on true faith.”2
Depending on how and where we grow up, that knowledge either gets lost or strengthened. Regardless, the devil still has one job to do, and he won’t stop until he takes as many of us with him as possible. He knows our vices and exploits them; he is meticulous, patient, relentless, and sets all kinds of tailored and personalized traps for us.
But what’s the problem and why are we in trouble? The fact that we feel secure and we think we are safe –when in reality we are not. Living in the age of information, technology, and ever-changing ideologies, there’s a fierce competition for our unwavering attention, and frankly for our very being to be owned and controlled.
Being spiritually stagnant when everything and I mean EVERYTHING is being thrown at us is a dangerous place to be, and no longer an acceptable option –if we want to be saved that is. Nothing is spared from being corrupted. Just look at what’s in our food; we are being poisoned from the inside out, and that is not an exaggeration. Now think about all of the other things that have been corrupted and are damaging to our lives.
Furthermore, I’ve observed time and time again that there seems to be a growing obsession more with having the appearance of a Muslim rather than actually embodying what a Muslim is supposed to be. This overemphasis on appearance –whether done unintentionally or intentionally– and the abandonment of the true Muslim essence, has left us jaded. We’ve turned into shells. A Muslim shell. Holy on the outside and hollow on the inside.
A Sustainable Solution
So how do we move past being a Muslim shell? Good news! This is not a permanent state, and it is reversible. I mentioned earlier that there’s a solution and you already know it, but I’ll mention it anyway: It is the timeless guidance: The Qur’an. Allahsays in Surah Al-Baqarah:
“This is the Book! There is no doubt about it–a guide for those mindful of Allah.” [Surat Al-Baqarah: 2;2]
The same Qur’an Allahsent down to the beloved messenger Muhammad and transformed a corrupt and immoral society and brought about some of the best people to have ever lived; such as the family and companions of the Prophet , may Allah be please with them all. The same Qur’an that spread throughout the world and caused us to be guided by His mercy.
We know this, however so many of us have not internalized it fully. Allahis so merciful that He did not leave us hanging; rather He has armored us with His words of guidance and wisdom, and promised success to anyone who tries to live their lives directed by His guidance. It’s the right of every believer to have access to the meaning of the Qur’an, however it’s our responsibility to seek it. Allah repeats in Surah Al-Qamar:
“And We have certainly made the Quran easy to remember. So is there anyone who will be mindful?” [Surat Al-Qamar: 54;17]
Allahposes a question to each of us that we need to answer for ourselves.
Is it not the time to begin the work of building, filling, and nourishing our spirit with the Words of Allahand the teachings our beloved prophet Muhammad ? Isn’t it high time we move beyond being the shell of a Muslim and actually BE a Muslim? It’s no longer safe to be spiritually stagnant, because there are powerful forces –often sinister– that are working overtime to sell to us; but the question is: are we buying, and at what cost?
Practical Tips to Engage With Allah’swords
- Start small
We are on different levels in our individual Qur’an journeys. Whether you are a beginner or you want to build a more consistent habit, start with the smallest amount of Qur’an you can handle every day. Even if it’s one ayah a day, or just a couple of lines a day. Listen to the recitation, recite along (if you are able to read the Arabic), and follow along with a translation. This way you are getting your ears used to hearing the Qur’an, and your tongue familiarized with the recitation, and your mind making connections with the meaning.
- Keep it simple
Start with the shorter surahs, or the surahs you recite frequently in your prayers. Pick the most oft-recited ayaat or surah that teaches us about the fundamental aspects of our faith. Choose one area to focus on –for example, Who is Allah? Search for ayaat or surahs where Allah describes Himself; Surah Al-Ikhlas is the perfect example. Another way to keep it simple is by finding a translation that is easy to read and understand.
- Be consistent
This tip is difficult to implement for me, but it is crucial. A hadith narrated by Abu Hurairahmentions that the Prophet said, “Take on only as much as you can do of good needs, for the best of deeds is that which is done consistently, even if it is little.”3 By staying consistent, you’ll notice your life transform. What helps me stay consistent is having visual cues or alerts on my phone to remind me to recite an ayah. There are quite a few Islamic and Qur’an apps that you can set up to send you a Qur’an reminder every day.
- Build on it
So as not to become stagnant, we must build on our progress. Once we’ve established a strong foundation and formed a solid habit of reciting/listening to a certain amount of Qur’an daily, let’s build on it. Let’s challenge ourselves to add more and more Qur’an every day so we do not spiritually plateau.
- Make dua’
Most importantly, ask Allahto make it easy for you. Ask Allah to remove the locks in your heart. Ask Allah for you to be able to receive His message wholeheartedly. Ask Allah to protect us from the whispers of the devil. Ask Allah to remove any lingering and subtle doubts. Ask Allah