“I perceive Your glimpses at times, but why not always?
Why do clouds keep coming to my mind’s sky and prevent me from finding You?”
Why can’t we always be close to Allah?
Try to recall that feeling to your mind. We experience it when we first get interested in learning and practicing Islam. But it doesn’t end there. Allah keeps sending life events our way that shake our hearts awake.
It might be a terrible accident, or an extremely painful loss. It might be finding your soul mate, or visiting the House of Allah for Hajj.
It’s not the momentary high you find once in a while during the Friday sermon that makes you cry with the congregation, and then forget all about it by the time you’re home and having lunch and criticizing your wife’s cooking.
I’m talking about the more permanent kind of feeling, the days on end of bliss. When you feel all day long that peace in your heart that seldom leaves you even in turbulent hours of the day when things go wrong. When you feel like thanking Allah every so often. When watching a dog pick up some crumbs you threw away after lunch brings tears of gratitude to your eyes. When you feel a slight ache in your heart that you’re semiconscious of all day.
It’s similar to what one feels when in love. Like you’d be flying up among the clouds if only you’d got wings. Like every little thing reminds you of the object of your love. Like how the awareness that he’s watching you brings a sweet smile to your lips.
It’s like falling in love. But it’s a thousand times better.
You just have to open any book of poetry. People throughout time, Muslim and non-Muslim, young and old, of every place and era, have attempted to put the feeling into words, and have succeeded to some extent. That’s what makes poetry so beautiful after all. The first two lines I quoted, for example, were by Rabindranath Tagore (translated by me).
Ibn al-Qayyim said:
“Yearning for Allah and meeting Him is like a gentle breeze blowing upon the heart, blowing away the blazing desire for this world.” (Hardness of Heart)
And this is Rumi’s way of expressing it:
“That which God said to the rose, and caused it to laugh in full-blown beauty, He said to my heart, and made it a hundred times more beautiful.” (Goodreads)
Why Do We Keep Losing It?
How much do we really love Allah?
If we do love Him, why don’t we feel this love in our hearts all the time? Why do we keep losing this incredible feeling?
It’s because the world is full of distractions – and it is full of distraction for this very reason.
Indeed, We have made that which is on the earth adornment for it that We may test them [as to] which of them is best in deed. (Quran 18:7)
Allah says about the disbelievers on the Day of Judgment:
… Who took their religion as distraction and amusement and whom the worldly life deluded.’ So today We will forget them just as they forgot the meeting of this Day of theirs and for having rejected Our verses. (7:51)
We lose that incredible feeling when we get distracted by things – earning money, spending money, eating food, cooking food, selecting what to eat from a hundred different menus, games, relationships, clothes, shoes… all kinds of stuff.
And once we lose the feeling, we don’t remember what it felt like anymore, and don’t feel the urge to get it back either. We’d rather settle for less fulfilling pleasures. We’d rather opt for a temporary pacification of our desires than true, lasting peace of mind.
We’d rather stop being the moonlight and settle for being the pool of water that’s reflecting it, as Paulo Coelho says. “Tomorrow, the water will evaporate in the sun*”, as will our temporary pleasures.
The Key to Finding It
What’s the key to remaining connected to Allah? Allah gave it to us already – salah. The five daily obligatory sessions are to establish and maintain our direct connection with Allah, not just in these sessions, but throughout the day.
How do we establish prayer? By praying like the person who had the closest connection to Allah – Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
“Pray as you have seen me praying,” he said. (Bukhari 6008)
What was his prayer like? Of course, it is necessary to follow the rules of doing the ritual correctly, such as praying within the specified times, praying the correct number of units, saying the supplications in the correct order, etc.
But those are just like the bricks with which you build the prayer. The actual essence of the prayer lies, not in the physical movements, but in the heart of the worshiper.
The Prophet described the prayer as the “coolness of my eyes”. That exactly describes the feeling you get when you’re at an imaan-high. And that’s what we want to achieve.
Many great people much more learned and experienced than us have written on this topic, on how to find khushu’ and imaan in salah. I share the following advice with you in my humble effort to add to it a personal element.
The first thing that helps is bringing a sense of timelessness in your salah, to feel as if the rest of your time on earth is dedicated to praying this prayer only, and that nothing else comes after it.
The Prophet put it this way:
When you stand to pray, pray like a man bidding farewell. (Ibn Majah 4171)
This can seem incredibly difficult to achieve given our hectic lifestyles. And it might take a lot of willpower and mental energy. But even if you achieve one moment of it at a time, it’s worth all that effort. And it gets better insha’Allah.
Finding this sense of timelessness is made easy if you know what you’re saying in salah. So learn the basic Arabic you need to do that. Concentrate on the meanings of what you’re saying, trying to make it personal.
For example, when you say “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is Greater), think of the topmost worry in your mind right now, such as an assignment or your spouse’s illness, and assert in your heart that Allah is greater than all that.
Another way of making the prayer personal is by adding in personal supplications in the steps of prayer where supplications are recommended, such as during sujood (prostration).
The purpose of supplication is not to inform Allah of your thoughts and feelings, because Allah already knows all about those. It is to express to Allah our love for Him, our helplessness and neediness, our submission to Him.
The quotes given above show us some of the more successful human attempts at expressing our feelings for our Creator. If you want to give full expression to your feelings, there’s an easier and more effective way. Memorize duas from the Quran. These duas are actually Allah teaching us how to speak to Him in the best way.
I’ll leave you with an example of the best form of expression of our feelings for Allah:
Say, ‘O Allah, Owner of Sovereignty, You give sovereignty to whom You will and You take sovereignty away from whom You will. You honor whom You will and You humble whom You will. In Your hand is [all] good. Indeed, You are over all things competent. You cause the night to enter the day, and You cause the day to enter the night; and You bring the living out of the dead, and You bring the dead out of the living. And You give provision to whom You will without account.’ (Quran, 3:26-27)
* Manuscript Found in Accra