As we venture out into the world, we each must learn how to strike a balance between our responsibilities, needs, and desires. Finding a spouse, getting a promotion at work, making sure that you have studied well for the next exam; or eventually developing a schedule to figure out when and where to pick up your children are all things that need to be sorted out.
Islam, and the development of our faith, too often in our society takes a back seat to these needs.
This article gives a few pointers on how to help bring more consciousness of God into your life. Through acknowledging the presence of Islam in every aspect of life, understanding the beauty of this faith; and through dedicating time to both religious practice and remembrance of God, you can tip the scales back towards Islam.
Islam is Everywhere
The first step to creating a better balance within your life is to acknowledge that Islam permeates every aspect of a Muslim’s life. Living in the West, we are taught that there is a strict separation between the secular and the religious worlds. As Muslims we reject this notion; and understand that to be a true Muslim means to surrender to the will of God. That is not just when we take time to pray, but in every aspect of our lives.
I am not speaking here about adhkar or performing additional Sunnah prayers. These are praiseworthy things that we should strive to do.
Here, however, I am suggesting that we, as Muslims, acknowledge the fact that there is no such thing as being a Muslim and taking time off from our faith. When we step outside of the mosque, we don’t leave our religion behind only to pick it up again when we come back for the next prayer time.
How do we apply this? Start with the basics of the Sunnah and live your life like that of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). That doesn’t have to mean returning to 7th century Arabia; but from the outset means smiling, the cheapest and easiest form of charity.
Learn to treat those around you with respect, deal honestly in your business, present yourself well, and clean up both yourself and your surrounding environment. These are all basic things that come directly from the practice of the Prophet Muhammad and are part of every Muslim’s daily life.
Islam is Not A Burden
Part of the acknowledgement of the ever-presence of Islam is also coming to the realization that Islam is not a burden. Religious leaders are always ready to inform us about our responsibilities, which can sometimes make being a Muslim feel as if there is a checklist of things that we must always take care of. This way of looking at things is precarious and, in my experience, has pressured some to either cut their connection to Islam or leave the faith altogether.
Instead, understand that Islam is easy in both basic elements of faith and practice. If you find yourself getting stressed or worse, have people around you informing you about your shortcomings as a Muslim, shake off the negativity. Embrace the idea that Islam is a beautiful, diverse, and flexible religion that is truly functional for every time and place.
Remember God First, Not Later
When I got my first job it came with the best piece of financial advice that I have ever received: pay yourself first. So often after getting your paycheck you start thinking about what bills to pay off first; think about which brand of big-screen TV to buy, or which good restaurant to try tonight.
However, if you setup a system where you transfer money into a savings account or other investment project first, you can rest assured that you are taking a step towards better finances.
Dedicating your time to religious practice can work in the same way. When you wake up on a weekend morning and think about how to spend your free time, decide to allot an hour to reading the Quran first. Don’t plan to read later that afternoon, as unfortunately other things will inevitably get in the way.
A Special Place for Remembrance
Finally, when it comes to living a religious life, there is always a need to take a break and relieve some stress. Prayer times can help with this during the day; but leaving out a specific time for the remembrance of God (dhikr) can be disastrous for a person’s faith.
Each culture around the Muslim world has their own way of satisfying this need; and everyone will find the best way that works for them.
Sometimes it is just sitting quietly with prayer beads, counting out the number of times you chant God’s names.
For others, it is gathering with a teacher to study a text or attending a Sufi gathering.
In South Asia, for example, there is the beautiful tradition of qawwali, where religious poetry is set to music.
Ultimately, the trick to balancing between your personal and religious life is to reach the conclusion that there really are no scales to balance; and that the belief that we must make time for Islam is an illusion.
Islam is everywhere and permeates our entire existence. Once that realization has been reached, integrating the commands of God and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) become simple extensions of our already submitted existence.