Naureen Aqueel discusses the highs and lows of Iman (faith)
I am often left in great awe about the experiences my heart goes through. At times, I’m overjoyed, while at others – perplexed. The feeling is inexplicable, but every Muslim experiences it. It’s the highs and lows of Iman (faith), as we tread through this journey of life. Sometimes the waves rise and wash away the dirt, driving us to greater and greater heights of good deeds. At other times of spiritual deprivation, the same waves lower, leaving us wondering how they had ever been so high.
This bumpy journey of faith is fascinating but at the same time puzzling. During the periods of low, it is spiritually distressing. And that becomes the best time for Shaitan to attack. Therefore, it becomes extremely important for us to understand these variations in the level of our Iman and the reasons causing them, so that we can be well-prepared to intercept Iman in its downward journey and bounce it back up, Insha’Allah.
It is natural for our Iman to go through these ups and downs. The Prophet (sa) informed us of this condition, when he said: “Faith wears out in the heart of anyone of you, just as clothes wear out, so ask Allah to renew the faith in your hearts.” (Hakim) Allah (swt) also mentions this condition: “…And when His Verses (this Quran) are recited to them, they (i.e. the Verses) increase their Faith…” (Al-Anfal 8:2)
The Messenger of Allah (sa) is reported to have said: “There is no heart that does not have clouds like the clouds that cover the moon. When the cloud covers it, it’s dark, and when the cloud moves away, it shines.” (Tabarani)
It is comfortably reassuring that the Companions of the Prophet (sa) went through the same fluctuations in their level of Iman. The Companions used to feel their Iman increase when they would sit in gatherings of righteousness, and when they were away from such gatherings, they felt their Iman was not so high. Abdullah Ibn Masood (rta) used to say: “Sit with us, so that we may increase in Iman.” (Ahmad)
We find similar reports about other Companions. An increase in their Iman was what they always sought. The fact that the Companions went through the same fluctuations in the level of faith is reassuring, only because it prevents us from falling into despair and gives us hope of reaching high ranks despite this natural human shortcoming. However, this should not make us passive and prevent us from striving to increase our Iman, for Iman often lowers due to sins and laziness.
Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “When the believer commits a sin, a black dot will be engraved on his heart. If he repents, refrains and regrets, his heart will be polished again. If he commits more errors, the dots will increase, until they cover his heart. This is the Ran (stain) that Allah described: ‘Nay! But on their hearts is the Ran (covering of sins and evil deeds) which they used to earn’ (Al-Mutaffifin 83:14).” (At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasai and Ibn Majah)
We often feel this rust on our hearts, when we fail to get the same concentration and spiritual replenishment through our Salah that we got previously. The same Quran that moved our hearts no longer brings those tears. We no longer feel the same excitement at learning a new Hadeeth, nor do we run to adopt a new Sunnah. We slack in carrying out voluntary acts of worship, and while we do perform the obligatory acts of worship, we find that vigour and spirituality painfully missing in us. Sounds familiar? Well, most of us experience one or more of these symptoms during different phases of our life.
The reasons for the falling of Iman are all basically centered around disobedience, laziness, heedlessness and being too involved in the Dunya (world). We often find ourselves so caught up in our worldly activities that we are unable to take out quality time for our Salah, gatherings of Zikr, the Quran and voluntary acts of worship. Our Salah becomes shorter, our daily Quran recitation and study become lesser, we do not have the time to attend Quran study circles, and slowly and gradually we get cut off from all that brings us near to Allah (swt). The result is a decrease in the level of our Iman, a weakening in our connection with Allah (swt) and eventually a heart covered by a dark and gloomy cloud of depression and frustration, resulting in a strange void inside us.
Ok, so we aware of the tell-tale signs signaling that our Iman is beginning to take a downward turn. We know the reasons for its lowering. Now what? Well, firstly, we have to take charge of our lives and not let our busy schedules, laziness or desires weaken our relationship with Allah (swt). It’s not like you won’t commit mistakes or that you’ll become a super time manager and find time for everything; however, you must not let these tactics of Shaitan keep you down for long. Repent and reform as soon as you realize your mistake. Squeeze out time from your busy life just to spend more time with the Quran and good companions. And above all – make Dua.
The Prophet (sa) taught us to ask Allah (swt) to renew our faith. He also taught us beautiful Duas for seeking Allah’s (swt) help concerning the matters of our Iman: “O Turner of hearts! Make my heart firm and steadfast on Your Deen (religion)!” (At-Tirmidhi) “Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth), after You have guided us, and grant us mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower!” (Al-Imran 3:8)
During periods of low Iman, you may find your daily Salah and your daily Quran recitation difficult and burdensome, but never let those feelings pull you down. Shaitan will tell you it’s no use praying or reading the Quran, when you no longer feel the way you did before. Don’t fall into that trap. Letting go of Salah and the Quran will only worsen your state. Also, increase the time of your listening to the Quran. This has an amazing effect on the heart. Attend Quran study circles and sit in the company of the righteous. You will feel a fascinating ray of Iman reaching into your heart, when you sit with the believers. Such congregations have a great effect in fortifying Iman, and even if your schedule feels tight, taking out time for such gatherings and for the Quran will leave you finding more time in your day, as you gain more energy and motivation from the Quran and the believers. Give it a try!
Wish you the best of Iman!