But what many of us don’t think enough about is that a path in and of itself is useless if we do not move in the direction we wish to go. A path requires our effort, movement.
This is something many new Muslims (and even heritage Muslims) often get tripped up by. They are told to just jump on the path and life will be better, easier, more fulfilling. But this isn’t true if there is no effort or movement thereafter.
The part that is often missed is that living Islam, moving forward on the path, can actually make life easier and even miraculous. But it requires movement, effort on our part. Simply jumping on the path and standing still won’t cut it.
Looking for Peace in All the Right Places
Drawing closer to God isn’t just spirituality, it is our purpose:
I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me. (Quran 51:56)
And when we fulfill this purpose, we feel fulfilled in the deepest, most profound sense. Life comes into focus and we will feel at peace.
But, as new Muslims, what does it actually take to draw nearer to God, to build a relationship with God, to have this peace in our hearts?
How to Travel the Deen
God does not make us guess or use trial and error to figure out how to build a relationship with Him. He tells us again and again what this looks like.
Setting up and maintaining boundaries is an important part of any relationship. If boundaries are not communicated they will be trampled. If they are not maintained the relationship will crumble.
Allah (SWT) is very clear about the boundaries He sets up for our relationship with Him.
Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly gone far astray. (Quran 4:116)
Stepping over this boundary and associating anything with God not only stops one’s tracks on the path, it removes one from the path all together.
God is one. If we set up false partners to Him, if we put anything in God’s place, then we have not only invented a repulsive lie, we have stepped over the most important boundary.
In order to have a healthy relationship with anyone, we have to have and show respect. We have to think positively of the one with whom we are in a relationship and believe that he or she has good qualities worthy of our esteem and admiration.
To a much greater degree, this is true of our relationship with Allah (SWT). God tells us of His names and attributes so that we can know Him and understand the ultimate esteem and admiration He should be held in.
Learning the names and attributes of God will allow our respect and awe for Him to deepen.
In addition to learning the names and attributes, respect for Him also means thinking well of God. This is essential to our relationship with Him. The Prophet (PBUH) said that:
One of the signs of excellence of one’s worship is thinking well of Allah. (Narrated in Ahmad)
Trust is essential in every relationship that is lasting. It is a belief that the one with whom we are in a relationship will do things for our benefit and will not do anything malicious or harmful to us.
Our trust of God is the basis of our faith. It is what sets us down the path. And it must go well beyond the trust we have of any other. It is the belief that we can depend on Him to provide for us, grant us forgiveness, guide us to truth, and so much more.
And He will provide him from [sources] he could never imagine. And whoever puts their trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Indeed, Allah has set a measure for all things. (Quran 65:3)
Trust in God also means that we do not think ill of Him when we think our life isn’t going the way we want. Trust in God is believing that everything we experience in the path is good for us. If we find pain in the path and we have patience, we are rewarded. If we find ease and we are thankful, we are rewarded.
If you haven’t talked to someone you knew from High School for over ten years, would you think that you were in any kind of relationship with that person? If you are sane, you wouldn’t. All relationships require communication.
And the better the relationship, the more frequent the communication. When it comes to our relationship with Allah, we must return to Him in communication at a bare minimum five times a day in prayer.
Reading Quran and dua are also powerful tools to stay in touch on the path. In dua we talk to God. In reading the Quran, we are listening to God. If we do not turn to Allah (SWT) and talk to Him and actively listen, then how can we have any kind of relationship with Him?
Mindfulness is thinking about the one with whom we are in a relationship. It is thinking about and doing all that would bring you closer and avoiding the things that what would pull you apart.
In our relationship with Allah (SWT), mindfulness is called taqwa– God Consciousness. When we are constantly mindful of Allah (SWT), our thoughts and actions all reflect our desire to be near Him and avoid anything that will take us further away from Him. This means that we will fulfill all that Allah asks us- such as the five pillars; and avoid injustice, evil, and all that is haram.
Meeting God on the Path
These are the basic actions needed to move forward on the path, to move toward God, to find peace.
But the most amazing thing is that, if you do these things, sincerely seeking nearness to Allah (SWT), Allah makes a greater effort to come near to you, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
Allah says […] ‘He who comes closer to Me one span, I come closer to him a cubit (a greater measurement); and he who comes closer to Me a cubit, I come closer to him a fathom (a greater measurement); and if he comes to Me walking, I come to him running. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)