The sweetness of faith can be intoxicating, giving us emotional highs and tears of pure love. Those moments when we fall into prostration, sincerely crying and connecting to our An-Nur, the Light, God.
Think about the times you were reciting Quran and felt it in your heart, really felt it. I love those moments when we open Quran and read a verse that seems to speak to us as if Allah (the Most Honored and Exalted) was responding. However, just as we have spiritual highs, we have spiritual lows.
A heart lacking the divine connection while in worship begins to perform like a robot. We have to pray, this is obligatory, but sometimes the one in worship is functioning like a cold robot going through the motions but they lack focus and sincerity. They are performing on auto-pilot.
Profound submission before the spiritual low
One of my most profound moments in life was before I took shahadah. I was in a bad state psychologically, at my breaking point. But this was where I needed to be because I had to be broken before I could be built back up. I fell into prostration sobbing, I didn’t know what prostration was at the time but my body went into this position of submission and vulnerability while I poured my heart out to Allah and begged for guidance.
It was one of the most sincere prostrations I can imagine, I was absolutely desperate for Allah ’s guidance just as a dehydrated person is thirsty for water.
That duaa was answered beyond what I could have ever imagined. This might sound odd, but that broken down moment was rich with the sweetness of faith. I was in utter and complete submission, metaphorically crying out “take the wheel Lord; I’ll do anything you command, just keep me close I need you”. I am not saying we need to be broken emotionally to have spiritual wealth, but in our moments of hardship we can alter our perception and say alhamdulillah this is a time for me to get closer to Allah (SWT).
Fast forward years later, like many other Muslims around me, I realized some of my acts of worship have become so normal they turned robotic. My prayers started to lose their sweetness and sometimes became a to-do that I checked. I became so focused on obligations, haram/halal and legislation that my focus on the divine love and a heart full of Allah ’s light took a passenger seat.
Allah (SWT) is love in the ultimate form beyond even a Mother’s love, mercy is love, the Prophet (peace be upon him) radiated love, but so many of us, me included, drift from the love and find ourselves in a spiritual low.
Whispers from Shaytan
In these moments of jihad against our own selves, it is natural to wonder ‘is evil influencing this?’. The darkness enjoys our struggle and if it cannot take us away from our acts of worship, it will try to stain them. Evil is strategic, it is not stupid, if Shaytan cannot stop you from praying then he will peck away at your focus and sincerity in prayer until it turns into a robotic ritual without heart. We must always seek refuge in Allah (SWT).
How did we get here?
You don’t wake up one day and find yourself in a state of spiritual poverty out of nowhere, it built up over time. Imagine if you dropped one rock into a bucket every day, at first the bucket is still light but eventually it will become heavy and overwhelming.
We see some Muslims that are riding high, performing so many voluntary acts and pushing themselves. This isn’t necessarily bad, but when it becomes too much it will be overwhelming and not sustainable. Burning ourselves out by having these extreme highs will push into lower lows. It is better to have a steady and moderate level of religiousness, avoiding extremes on the left and the right to keep ourselves balanced. We can see a lot of wisdom here when we remember we were warned to be moderate.
“Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way…”[Al-Bukhari]
How to improve our spiritual wealth
I can sit here and delve into the issue all day, but if I don’t promote ways to uplift your iman and help you then I am just complaining.
I have to begin this by mentioning Shaykh Omar Suleiman and a recent podcast he released called “How to Avoid Spiritual Numbness”. He spoke about diversifying your acts of worship; this made a lot of sense to me.
Reading Quran is essential, but it should not be the only thing in your spiritual toolbox. From a psychological standpoint this is great advice, when we don’t always follow the same routine we will be less on auto-pilot and more engaged. Think about how you focus the first time you are driving in a new neighborhood versus how you focus driving in your own neighborhood. Take time for dhikr, spend time with an orphan, help clean the masjid or visit the homeless etc. There are many forms of worship.