Last night I stepped off the boardwalk and into the sand, hiked over a small dune and stopped with nothing but the ocean in front of me.
Straight ahead, into the night, rising out of the horizon glistened the bright band of stars we know as the Milky Way galaxy.
Faced with the ocean at my feet and endless sky above, my first thought is wonder at the creation of Allah. And what reminds me of Allah is sure to boost my iman or faith.
When thinking of other spiritual boosters, going outside is the first thing that came to mind.
Whether biking down a forest trail, climbing the side of a cliff or swimming in the sea, the natural world is full of places to marvel at creation and wonder about our place, and our purpose.
So when life becomes busy, or stressful and we start to feel overwhelmed by our day-to-day problems, one way to reconnect your soul to faith is by just going outside.
I especially love when I have an opportunity to pray (salah) outside. Of course the five daily prayers are a regular chance to connect with Allah, to reorient our priorities. Being outside just further reduces the distractions and intrusions of our daily stressors. But being outside isn’t the only way to boost faith.
Another thing I like to do is read the Quran. In the last 10 years I have learned how to read it in Arabic, with tajweed, and I love to do so. I always feel refreshed afterwards. But I also enjoy reading a translation of the Quran in English which I understand more easily. Then it is easier to reflect on the message and the meaning of it, and how it applies to my own life.
This Ramadan I was blessed to be able to finish reading the Quran, and was amazed that despite reading it many times before, I still find new things–which are either new, or had been forgotten. So frequent reading (which is implied even by the name “Quran” which means something often read or recited) is key to keeping the Quran alive in our hearts, and our iman high.
After learning to read the Quran, with the help of a teacher, it’s also great to start memorizing. Memorizing requires repetitive reading and recitation–and learning the meaning also helps in recitation. Consistent memorizing should also forge a habit, to keep the words of Allah constantly in your mind. Then when the time comes for prayer, you will have more to recite and upon which to reflect while connecting with Allah.
Regularly reading the Quran is best supplemented by some instruction, and taking a class at a masjid, with a visiting scholar, or even a class online can all help boost your faith. In fact, seeking knowledge is part of our Islamic tradition. Learning about the biography (sirah) of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), or the lives of his companions (sahabah) makes Islam seem immediately more livable, and can sometimes put our own problems into perspective.
I try to regularly enroll myself in courses on various subjects to help boost my faith, and find them to always be refreshing, almost regardless of the subject matter. That goes for online classes, on-demand subscription services, and in-person classes that meet weekly or even a weekend seminar.
Moreover, doing these things in tandem can have an even stronger effect. I recently had the opportunity to take a tafseer class which covered two chapters (Ya-seen and Ar-Rahman). Before, during, and after the conclusion of the class I spent time memorizing these two chapters, having nearly 8 of the 10 pages completed before the end of the course. When the class started, I was already familiar with the Arabic text and the basic meanings, reflecting on them daily. And I have been able to retain so much more of the lessons from the class along with the recitation to review the chapters.
But there is still another way I’ve found to boost my faith, one I’ve found particularly important after having a child, and it is being around good Muslim friends.
While it is perfectly normal to experience ups and downs in one’s faith, having a circle of close friends who are also Muslim can help balance out the highs and lows. And surrounding yourself with a buffer of faith can help insulate you from extreme swings in your faith.
Converts especially, who have grown up without Islam in their upbringing, need to socialize with other Muslims (even other converts). It can help Islam feel more normal when everyone in the group is praying, for example, or when it’s not necessary to explain certain dietary choices.
I particularly love spending time with my (non-Muslim) family, but after spending time with them, it’s a lot easier to be around someone who doesn’t need an explanation about why I’m praying, but who just supports it. And it’s refreshing to be around friends who constantly remember Allah–not in a judgmental way, or to make you feel guilty, but simply and sincerely throughout their day.
Like any other Muslim, I don’t always feel as firm in my faith or as dedicated in my practice of it as I think I should. But I have noticed that these particular activities almost always boost my faith and confidence as a Muslim. Undoubtedly, regular practices of Islam like daily salah, praying in congregation, regular charity, and fasting, are sure to strengthen faith.
But in addition to this regular worship, I have found spending more time with Quran (reading, memorizing and studying), more time with righteous Muslims, and more time in nature will always help me when my faith is low.
I pray these things can help you too!