“Enjoin you Al-Birr (piety and righteousness and each and every act of obedience to Allah) on the people and you forget (to practise it) yourselves, while you recite the Scripture (the Taurat, Torah)! Have you then no sense? And seek help in patience and As-Salah (the prayer) and truly it is extremely heavy and hard except for Al-Khashiun [i.e. the true believers in Allah – those who obey Allah with full submission, fear much from His Punishment, and believe in His Promise (Paradise, etc.) and in His Warnings (Hell, etc.)].” (Al-Baqarah 2:44-45)
The Spiritual Hole
I would like to share with you yet another reminder. This one is particularly for those of you who are involved in any sort of Islamic activity: volunteering at a Sunday school or an Islamic school, helping out at the MSA, working at a youth group, helping put a conference together, bringing educational programmes to your community, trying to put together a soup kitchen or a humanitarian cause, or organizing a monthly Halaqah. You are involved in many activities and are doing it for the sake of Islam. It also includes learning the Deen and attending courses.
A lot of times what happens is, and I speak from personal experience, we get caught up with these activities and there is a deepening, widening, and gaping spiritual hole inside of us. You are doing all this stuff, but your prayers have become empty, you do not enjoy reciting the Quran, and in your downtime, you are addicted to entertainment. You cannot help but watch movie after movie or video after video and YouTube, like you are watching now. Or you do other things to entertain yourself, like video game after video game, and you just cannot help yourself. You are caught up in this cycle – every time you are by yourself, you are just doing these things that you hate yourself for. You know you should be doing something better with your time, but you just cannot get yourself to do it. You try to pick up the Quran and recite it, but you just do not do it. You are so busy volunteering, you are tied up in all these things that even in the most amazing course you have been in, you have not listened to anything because you were helping out. May Allah (swt) reward you for helping out, but you have other needs also, and there is this spiritual hole that needs to be filled.
Types of Services for the Deen
There are two kinds of services in this Deen:
- Services you provide to others for the sake of Allah (swt). For example, you serve the community or you serve a good cause.
- Things in this Deen that you do to make yourself a better person.
You need to have a balance between both of these things.
Allah’s (swt) Complaint to the Children of Israel
The Ayat I mentioned to you was a complaint Allah (swt) made to the children of Israel. He (swt) says: “Enjoin you Al-Birr (piety and righteousness and each and every act of obedience to Allah) on the people and you forget (to practice it) yourselves, while you recite the Scripture [the Taurat (Torah)]! Have you then no sense?” (Al Baqarah 2:44)
In other words, clearly, the person who runs the Halaqah and the one who is knowledgeable comprise the ones who tell other people to do good. But when they are by themselves, they forget so easily. Why did this person not get it? Why did he not understand?
So then Allah (swt) gives a remedy: if this is your problem, if in your public life you are very active (not to show off but sincerely active) but in your private life you have been devoid of spirituality and Khushu in your prayer, then what should you do?
“And seek help in patience and As-Salah (the prayer) and truly it is extremely heavy and hard except for Al-Khashi’un (i.e. the true believers in Allah – those who obey Allah with full submission, fear much from His Punishment, and believe in His Promise (Paradise, etc.) and in His Warnings (Hell, etc.)).” (Al-Baqarah 2:45)
Seek help in perseverance and patience. Part of the meaning of perseverance is being tough with yourself. Get yourself up to pray, force yourself. Just turn that thing off and go recite some Quran or memorize some Ayat or do some Ibadah, or make some Dua, memorize a new Dua or two. Force yourself to do Sabr.
And then He (swt) says: “Seek help in Salah.” The prayer is supposed to help you get out of this problem. You see, when Allah (swt) says “seek help”, there is a problem for which you seek help. The problem was (mentioned) in the previous Ayat: you tell people to do good, but you forget about it yourself. Allah (swt) says: in order to help yourself get out of this problem, turn to prayer; turn to Salah.
Some Practical Advice for Brothers
I would like to give some very practical advice especially for the brothers. There are many spiritual exercises in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (sa), many Azkar, and many practices of higher levels, like fasting every Monday and Thursday, and the Tahajjud and Ishraq prayers. But before you talk about any of that, let me just give you some very practical advice: if you can make it to Fajr and Isha to the Masjid and you can do so for a month, two months, or three months regularly, without missing a single one, you would have addressed your spiritual problem for the most part. You know the feeling that you have when you come back from the Masjid after praying Fajr. I cannot argue with you. I cannot give you evidence for it. Rather, you yourself will witness it.