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The Light of Faith

The Light of Faith
We should have this same slow and steady approach to increasing our imaan. Rather than look at all of our shortcomings as one insurmountable whole, let us improve ourselves bit by bit.

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When I was fifteen, I spent a summer at my grandmother’s house in Egypt. Her house stood four stories tall and had a wide wooden staircase leading to the roof.

I remember one night, setting an alarm well before dawn in hopes that I could watch the sunrise from the rooftop. The house was quiet as I climbed the stairs in the darkness, up to the heavy door that led outside. I remember feeling a bit scared stepping out into the stillness of the night—I had never been up to the roof at that hour.

Below me, the city was veiled in black and grey. Even those things that should have looked familiar were hidden in the shadows. I felt the urge to run back inside, afraid of what I couldn’t see around me. But I did my best to stay calm.

As time passed, the sky began to brighten. Slowly, that which had been hidden in the darkness became obvious and clear. My uneasiness began to melt away. The sunlight didn’t change anything about my surroundings; it simply allowed me to see what was already there. My fear of what was uncertain and dark was replaced by the reassurance of things clearly visible in the sun.

Light is a remarkable thing and perhaps the most remarkable light of all is that of the sun. It brightens the world, bringing life and warmth to all it touches. But most amazingly is how it helps us see. Things we could never appreciate in the darkness, things that might actually seem frightening to us, become easily discernible in the sunlight.

The Light of Faith

In the Quran, Allah uses the example of physical light to help us understand things our spiritual realities:

The Quran tells us that Allah is the protector of the faithful: {Taking them out of deep darkness into the light} (Quran 2:257).

It describes scriptures like the Torah and the Gospels that were previously sent as “light” (5:44; 5:46), and refers specifically to the Quran as a light that helps guide those who chose to follow it (4:174; 42:52).

When the Quran talks about those who recognize the truth but refuse to follow it, it describes them as a people whose light was taken away so they can no longer see (2:17).

Importantly, the Quran likens those who have imaan, or faith, to those who have a light illuminating their way (57:28).

How is imaan similar to light?

Like light, imaan is intangible. However, the degree of its presence in our lives changes how we behave in the world. One of the effects of imaan is that it helps us “see” our spiritual realities. When we encounter hardships or challenges, imaan helps us appreciate the lessons in them, and helps us traverse them more easily.

Imaan also helps us feel less fearful of things whose knowledge is obscured from us. We are less nervous about the future or afraid of uncertainty because imaan give us confidence that Allah is taking care of our affairs. Imaan prevents anxieties from lurking like shadows in our minds. It helps us overcome the urge to run away from our problems. Imaan helps us stay calm, think clearly, and rely more fully on Allah.

Imaan: Not a Flip of a Switch

Often we express frustration when our spiritual realities aren’t what we want them to be. We feel like failures when we make mistakes or fall short of our own expectations. I’d like to remind myself and others that strong imaan does not come with the flip of a switch. We don’t establish a close relationship with our Creator overnight.

It’s helpful to remember that all physical processes in our world are gradual, and this is out of Allah’s mercy to His creation. The sun does not rise to its apex in the sky in a matter of seconds. It moves slowly and steadily, illuminating the world bit by bit, until everything is enveloped in its brightness.

We should have this same slow and steady approach to increasing our imaan. Rather than look at all of our shortcomings as one insurmountable whole, let us improve ourselves bit by bit. This steady progress in our imaan is exactly what the Prophet Muhammad prescribed for us:

“Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.” (Sunan Ibn Majah 4240)

And

“The most beloved of deeds to Allah are those that are most consistent, even if they are small”. (Collected by Bukhari and Muslim)

Each of us struggles with something related to imaan. But it is possible to make positive choices related to our imaan every day. These may be as simple as getting up to pray as soon as we hear the adhan, or calling a relative to ask how she is doing for no other reason than to maintain the ties of kinship. Such actions can be heavy on a heart that does not have strong imaan, but with time, they become easier and easier. 

The Importance of Remembrance

Improving ourselves and increasing the light of imaan in our lives isn’t always easy and much advice has been given about ways, both big and small, to accomplish this. However, scholars teach us that there is something that requires little effort, which if done consistently actually helps our imaan increase steadily. This small deed is the remembrance of Allah.

The Quran mentions the remembrance of Allah and qualifies it by saying it should be done in great amounts:

{O you who believe! Remember Allaah and remember Him a lot.} (33:41)

Whether we are asking His forgiveness by making istighfar, or glorifying Him by saying subhan’Allah, we should remember that thikr is the most beloved type of speech to Allah. Numerous narrations from the Prophet emphasize the importance of remembering Allah.

One of the reasons thikr is so important is that it allows our hearts to remain connected to Allah. This connection tethers us—kind of like a bungee cord tethers a bungee jumper. When the jumper falls, he isn’t anxious or upset; he knows he will not be destroyed by the fall. The cord holds his weight and allows him to bounce back up.

Similarly, thikr serves like a cord, tethering our hearts to Allah. We may face obstacles and challenges. We may even slip and fall. But we are able to bounce back. Our falls, even from great heights, don’t destroy us.

Years ago, I watched the sunrise from a rooftop and marveled at how differently the world around me looked in the presence of light. When we remember Allah and increase our imaan, we see the world around us differently.

Our obstacles are no longer insurmountable—they become opportunities to seek Allah’s aid. And our falls obliterate us—they give us the chance to bounce back to greater heights. Like light, imaan might not change things in our surroundings; rather, it helps us more clearly see what is already there.


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