Staying Spiritually Strong
No one has everything under control all the time but people can be very good at pretending they do.
Last week, I saw the quality of my ibadah (worship) go down—things happen for a reason and I made some important realisations during my spiritual-low. It’s easy to be committed to our relationship with Allāh when things are going great but when life is challenging you from all directions, it becomes difficult to decide what needs your attention most.
Oftentimes, we choose what is visible to the eye because it’s right there in front of us. So we give up all our time to address all our external stressors, whether it’s our studies or job, while neglecting the unrest taking place inside of our soul. I’ve realised that when I’m overly stressed, it’s because I have given my anxieties far too much power.
I think about it far too much until the problem appears bigger to me than it actually is. But when I put Allāh at the centre of my attention, nothing stresses me out as badly. Sometimes, we give our worries too much power over us—a power that it does not even deserve.
When I was feeling swamped last week, I was dragging my feet to prayer and not looking forward to any kind of spiritual activity at all. I was feeling overwhelmed and not in the mood to give my time to God. Astafirghullah, I know. ☹️As usual, when my anxiety plays up, it seems like a good idea to be distracted with things like binge-watching on Netflix or the infinite scrolling on Instagram instead of shifting my attention to Allāh. I know many of you have unhealthy coping mechanisms, too.
After a while, I realised that my time in solat didn’t feel the way that it should. It felt rushed and brief: void of my full presence. My physical body was there on the sejadah (prayer mat) but my heart and mind were divided among so many worldly issues. Then I told myself: You know what, THIS is the problem. This has to change.
My friend Nina’s golden advice couldn’t have come at a better time:
That’s the mistake many of us make when we are going through hardship. *super guilty* When we are overwhelmed with all of our problems, we neglect the quality of our worship because somehow, our problems appear more urgent than our need for spiritual fulfilment. Sometimes, we neglect our worship altogether! In reality, your soul is in need of MORE nourishment when life becomes more demanding.
When you’re feeling crushed by the weight of your dilemmas, that’s precisely the time you should immerse yourself in the sweetness of faith to get you through the bitterness of life.
It’s our iman (faith) that gets us through all of life’s obstacles. It’s our iman that keeps us going when our bodies are weakened and getting ourselves to the sejadah takes more effort than usual. I’ve witnessed both chronically ill friends and relatives who are still strong in their ibadah despite their deteriorating health.
It’s not because they’ve magic steroids injected into them, it’s because their heart is with Allāh. They are committed to Him. Their will to live and to fight is also strong because they draw their strength from Him. When we make Allāh a priority, have no doubt that He will assist you in the most beautiful of ways.
The body is just an instrument which we use to do good; the heart is its commander. We have to fill it with dhikr (remembrance of Allāh) to give it its strength. There’s only so much external help we can rely on—our strength has to come from something much bigger and everlasting.
Worship over worries
One of the most beautiful things a slave of Allāh can do is to stand broken before their Creator, ever so ready to pour their heart out because they know Allāh listens and He has power over all things. Allāh loves those who come before Him broken because it a sign of tawadhu' (humility); it indicates that they acknowledge all outcomes are a result of His Will and not their own efforts.
Those who lack tawadhu’ convince themselves they have everything under control and find it difficult to admit their constraints. They may think it’s a sign of strength but it’s a sign of the ego when one can’t see their own limitations.
I remember in a talk I once attended, the speaker said: “Don’t be broken before the world, be broken before Allāh.” There are many ways to interpret this but what I understood is: You get more in return when you are vulnerable with Him than you do when you bear your scars to the world.
Who better to soothe your heart than the One who is in control of it?
If you’re going through something difficult however small or however big, surrender your heart to Him. Trust that al-Musawwir, the Fashioner of forms, the One that fashioned your heart knows how to handle it with care. Trust the Source of all love to love and care for you the way that you need to be.