Jenna couldn’t figure out what was wrong. She thought she was going to emerge from Ramadan spiritually recharged, ready to forge ahead on the path to Allah Almighty. Instead, she felt empty and unmotivated, like the light inside her had been put out. She struggled to keep up the good habits she had started and fought against falling back into her old routine. Was this spiritual void a sign that her Ramadan had not been accepted? Had she made some fatal error along the way? How could she improve her situation? She didn’t know what to do.
Many of us have felt the way Jenna feels. At certain times, like during Hajj or towards the end of Ramadan, we experience greater heights in our imaan, or faith. We are more focused on our worship and on improving ourselves and assume this imaan high will last forever. When it doesn’t last, we feel disappointed, saddened and even hopeless.
The sweetness of imaan is a beautiful thing, but like everything in life, it is not always static. It fluctuates, sometimes going up, and other times going down.
Even the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to complain to him about dips in their imaan.[i] Their concern was legitimate: when they were with the Prophet (peace be upon him), their imaan was high, but when they returned to their business and family-life, they felt it decrease.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) reassured them—imaan rises and falls. Knowing this, the companions were careful not let a dip in their imaan cause them to lose sight of the Straight Path the Prophet (peace be upon him) had traced for them.
Like Jenna, when we feel our imaan has weakened or that we’ve lost sight of the path, we might wonder if we should just quit the journey altogether. We don’t realize that this feeling is natural, and that the strength of our imaan is really in our persistence to keep moving, despite our spiritual dips.
But How Do We Do That?
It’s helpful to relate the lows in our imaan to something tangible in our world. If we were trying to follow a physical path, one through the mountains or the woods, we’d first need to be able to see it.
Our physical sight depends on two things: our vision, or the “light” of our eyes; and having enough external light in our surroundings. Clear vision would be of little benefit if our surroundings were pitch-black. Similarly, if we were all wearing dark blindfolds, all the light in the world would not enable us to see.
Our eyes are best able to see when they are healthy and unobstructed; the same is true of our hearts. When we’re engaged in acts of worship, especially during times like Hajj or Ramadan, we cleanse our hearts. Their sight becomes keen and unobstructed. But, just like our eyes, even healthy hearts need an external source of light to see. This light comes from Allah, our Creator and Sustainer.
Allah tells us in the Quran that He is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth. One of His names is, in fact, the Light. When we bring Allah into our lives, when we do our best to follow His guidance, every corner of our lives lights up. The way we look at life changes. Things we failed to appreciate before become obvious and clear. Conversely, if we don’t bring this light into our lives, we cannot see our spiritual reality.
One way to help ourselves when we feel our imaan has gotten weak is to increase the spiritual light in our lives by seeking beneficial knowledge. A lot of times, we become overly busy with seeking other types of knowledge—knowledge related to our careers or our interests and hobbies. Finding even a little time every day to increase in knowledge of our deen is a wonderful way to rekindle imaan in our hearts.
Get to Know Allah
Islam teaches that Allah Almighty has specific Names and Attributes. Studying these is one of the most effective ways of strengthening our relationship with Allah because they nourish in us a consciousness of Him. This increases us in humility and motivates us to be better in our words and actions.
Set aside a little time, maybe after coming home from work, or before Jummu’ah (Friday prayer) or on the weekend, to listen to or read about one of the Names of Allah. Allah revealed these specific attributes of Himself so that we could know Him better and grow closer to Him. Numerous resources exist for learning about the Names and Attributes of Allah and such knowledge helps us cultivate a lasting connection with Allah.
Read and Contemplate the Quran
Many of us set lofty goals for ourselves about how much Quran we should be reading every day, and when we fall short of those, we give up. The Prophet emphasized that small, consistent, deeds were better than bigger deeds done once and then abandoned.
The Quran is filled with benefits and reminders that actually help heal our hearts and increase our imaan. Moreover, when we develop a daily habit of reading even a few verses of Quran, understanding their meaning and reflecting on them, we’ll find that, with time, even our spiritual dips don’t dip quite as low because our hearts are now tethered to the words of Allah.
The straight path, the path outlined in the Quran and Sunnah, is clearly marked, but sometimes, when our imaan is weak, we might not see it as clearly. Seeking out beneficial knowledge is one of the best ways to bring spiritual light into our lives so that we can advance on the straight path once again.
- Khan, Nouman Ali. The Ayah of Light. Amazed By The Quran, 2013
- Yusef, Jinan. An-Nur: Light. Virtual Mosque. http://www.virtualmosque.com/islam-studies/prophet-muhammad/al-nur-light/
[i] Abu Rib’i Hanzala ibn ar-Rabi’ al-Usaydi the scribe, one of the scribes of the Messenger of Allah, said, “Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, met me and said, ‘How are you, Hanzala?’ I said, ‘Hanzala is a hypocrite!’ I said, Glory be to Allah! What are you saying!’ I said, ‘We were with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who reminded us of the Garden and the Fire and it was as if we could see them with our eyes. When we leave the presence of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, we attend to our wives, children and estates in a state of great heedlessness.’ Abu Bakr said, ‘By Allah, we have experienced the same as this!’ So Abu Bakr and I went to visit the Messenger of Allah and I said, ‘Hanzala is a hypocrite, Messenger of Allah!’ The Messenger of Allahmay Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘Why is that?’ I said, ‘Messenger of Allah, when we are with you,you remind us of the Garden and Fire and it is as if we could see them with our eyes. When we leave your presence, we attend to our wives, children and estates in a state of great heedlessness.’ The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘By the One in whose hand my soul is, if you were to remain in the state you are in when you are in my presence and in the dhikr, the angels would shake hands with you on your bed and in the street, but, Hanzala, different times are not the same.’ three times.” [Muslim]