How to Start the Journey Back to Allah?

Jannah in This World

And thus our nufoos are similar—when we allow them the excesses that they desire of this world we are, in essence, weighing down our hearts and preventing them from journeying freely to Allah. Our worship feels heavier, our remembrance of Allah feels heavier, even doing good deeds feels heavier.

However, when we train our souls and purify them, we allow our hearts to break free from their attachments to this worldly life and float higher and higher in nearness to Allah. This closeness to Allah has been described as a taste of jannah, of paradise, in this world.

Shiekh al Islam, Ibn Taymiyah, said, referring to this jannah that we taste with our hearts:

“In this world is a Paradise, whoever does not enter it will not enter the Paradise of the Hereafter.”

How then does one begin to undertake the journey of the heart?

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As with any endeavor, maybe the first step is the most important: to have a clear intention and to ask Allah to facilitate our journey to Him. Too often, we rely solely on ourselves to accomplish our goals.

We forget that it is only with Allah’s permission that any of us can accomplish what we set out to do. Praying to Allah, supplicating to Him and asking for His aide is thus of paramount importance.

The second step is to think like a traveler. The Prophet Muhammad often used the metaphor of a traveler on a journey when discussing how one should view him or herself in this life. In one hadith, he (peace be upon him) said:

What am I in this world but a traveler who sat and took rest under the shade of a tree and then got up and left it. (At-Tirmidhi, 2377)

Imagine if you were about to depart on a long journey. You would probably be very selective and very careful about what you packed to take with you so as not to overburden yourself with unnecessary baggage.

Just as a traveler tries not to overburden himself with unnecessary baggage, so too should the Muslim not be carrying too much of this world in his or her heart. That is, the Muslim should take from this world that which suffices him or her, and not be preoccupied by the thirst for more.

And although there are many things which are made to look attractive in this life (like wealth, children, status, and power) when these become the preoccupation of the Muslim, they may weigh so heavily on the heart that they cause him or her to slow down or even stop traveling altogether.

And just as the traveler is concerned with arriving at his final destination, so too should the Muslim, be concerned with ensuring he does all he can to be permitted into jannah. That means fulfilling the commandments of Allah and staying away from that which Allah has prohibited.

Lastly, we must understand the nature of our journey and the nature of the dunya through which we are traveling. The nature of the journey has been made very clear to us:

[It is He] who has created death and life that He may test you to see which of you is best in action or deed. (67:2)

So this life, this journey, is really a test. We must understand this and approach it as such; otherwise we will be sorely disappointed when things don’t go as we have planned. We will fail to see that in everything that happens to us and everything that does not happen to us is a test from Allah, and if we don’t see that it’s a test, we will have trouble passing it.

The nature of this dunya through which we are traveling has also been made very clear to us. Countless verses in the Quran tell us of the truth of this dunya:

Know that the life of this world is merely a game and a diversion and decoration and a cause of boasting among yourselves and trying to outdo one another in wealth and children: like the plant-growth after rain which delights the cultivators, but then it withers and you see it turning yellow, and then it becomes broken stubble…The life of this world is nothing but the enjoyment of delusion. (57:20)

This dunya is not everlasting, it is just temporary. Those things that are made to look attractive to us are eventually going to fade. Reminding ourselves of this is extremely important so that we may approach the dunya with the right attitude, that of, “I know I am going to be leaving this place,” versus that of, “I thought I was going to stay here forever.”

These are the preliminary steps we can take to help purify our hearts.

As this series of articles continues we hope, insha’Allah, to further outline how our hearts can continue on this journey to get back home to Allah where they belong.

(This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.)

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About Marwa Abdalla
Marwa Abdalla received her B.A. in political science from Southwestern University, in Georgetown, Texas, and is currently working toward a degree in Islamic Studies with the American Open University. She is interested in writing about Islam, marriage and family. Her writing has been published in a book entitled Toward the Well Being of Humanity as well as on numerous websites. She lives with her husband and three daughters in San Diego, CA.