Hear Me Out

9

In that tug of war between our desires and our struggle for obedience, we need all the help we can get along the way.

*First up on stage, the infamous duo: desires of the heart, and whispers of shaytaan.*

You try to lower your gaze and keep your distance, but the chattering starts, “There’s no need to make a big deal of things. So he’s a boy, so what! All the girls here talk to boys. Don’t be so shy. You’re suffering from low self-esteem, and this is a great way to build it. Plus, look at him!” You glance up – just one glance, you tell yourself, it’s ok. “He’s really cute, isn’t he? It won’t hurt if you just smile at him, go on. It’s just a smile now – maybe he’s having a hard day and your smile will make him feel better.” Almost without being aware, you smile. “Look, he’s smiling back! Maybe he’ll add you on Facebook.” No, you shake your head, none of that, you’ve never added guys to your Facebook account. That’s your online place to hang out and chit-chat with friends, that wouldn’t be a good idea. “But if he adds you, first…” You wonder what you’d do.

And slowly, you feel that beautiful, comforting cloak of hayaa’ falling away from your shoulders, as, day by day, you’ve moved farther away from that modest behaviour and dress you longed for. What now?

*Next up on the mike: the little voice in the back of your head.*

“Darn, I did it again! It’s just so hard to change, I don’t think I can right now. I know I should, but I’ve tried and it didn’t work, and failing is all I’m ever going to do.” Sound familiar? At times, the previous statement is then followed by a deep sigh and another phrase along the lines of, “That was stupid of me. It’s okay though. Deep inside, I know I can change my ways. And Allah is Al-Ghafoor, the Most Forgiving. I’ll just make tawbah.”

On the one hand, it’s absolutely true that we should always repent immediately after committing a sin, no matter how many times we repeat it. Allah truly is the Most Merciful and the only One who can and does forgive His slave’s sins, even if they fill up oceans and skies. We should never, ever give up on this.

However, at times in life, many of us seem to find our way onto what I refer to as the “R Wheel,” the wheel of rinsing and repeating, where we find ourselves constantly stepping into sin, backing out when faith and reality get a hold of us, turning back to Allah only after the sin is done and done. Despite the fact that no human is sinless, and while it is a good thing that God-consciousness re-enters the heart of every Muslim after doing wrong, when is enough enough? (Ok, ok, no more repeated words, I promise.)

This is not to say that we’ll never fall into a sin more than once – Allah knows what He has created, as well as our deepest secrets, and He doesn’t expect perfection from us. However, the true definition of being honest with Allah and sincere in repentance is trying our hardest to never return to the sin: first, by acknowledging that there is a problem at hand, and second, fixing it by wiping out its cause and not focusing on the side effects, labelled as regret. By getting to the root of the situation, the crux of the matter, and solving it, only then can we start a genuine relationship with Allah.

As Sheikh Mohammad Hassan once said, “The fearful is not the one who cries, then wipes off tears from his eyes… But the fearful is the one who abandons what he fears being questioned about by Allah [on the Day of Judgement].”

The problem comes in when we finds ourselves having been on that same R Wheel for too long, cycling around the only too familiar stages of sin, guilt, and tawbah, over and over again. The problem is when we can no longer sense the sweetness of our repentance, nor feel the tears which once brought us freedom and relief from life’s daily toils. It is then that we begin to see only the negativity in our lives, despite the blessings which Allah has continued to provide us with, despite our hearts’ stubbornness. It is then that we may appear so content with our lives to others, yet deep within, depression coats our thoughts and innermost feelings. It is then that the balance of our lives will begin to tip, and all areas involved will slowly tumble into chaos.

And that is a true state of ghaflah, or heedlessness, which a person should be pitied for falling into, as the one trapped within heedlessness can become so blinded that she may begin to overlook the severity of her ways. Truly, it is only Allah who puts off seizing His servant’s soul that is entrenched in sin, and it is only He who offers further opportunities for her to repent, and it is He who, sadly enough, the servant ends up placing second to desires.

What we sometimes forget is that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has provided all necessary caution signs for us to stay on the path of righteousness. Allah has blessed each and every one of mankind, both Muslim and non-Muslim, with an innate feeling, an instinctive sense which whispers to us what to do at times of moral crisis. Inside, we know what we should do. And simply said, we just ignore it.

We have been given a “driver’s handbook” specifically designed to help us get past roadblocks. It’s only when we ignore the pure voices in the back of our heads, as well as the Qur’an and Sunnah – that divine guidance Allah has blessed us with – that we end up tripping ourselves face-forward into what seem to be a series of never-ending problems. What we don’t realize is that by following up our problems with complaints, we turn our backs on the advice from the Majestic and the Watchful, the One who has created you and me, and the entire universe and all that is within it.

Allah provides us with hope in the following ayah in Surat Al-Baqarah, in which we can compare our own hearts to those of Bani Israel, “Then, even after that, your hearts were hardened and became as rocks, or worse than rocks, for hardness. For indeed there are rocks from which rivers gush, and indeed there are rocks which when split asunder send water forth, and others which fall down for the fear of Allah, and Allah is not unaware of what ye do.” [2:74]

Despite how stiff our heart may become at any given time, even the hardest of hearts may collapse and surrender back to Allah – so we should never give up on the mercy and ability of Allah. Instead, we should keep in mind that with every step we takes towards rebuilding our divine link, we are rewarded, and that Allah never turns away a servant sincerely seeking His vast forgiveness and earnestly wanting to become closer to Him. As the saying goes, sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom in order to bounce back skyward.

Ready to jump off the Wheel of Rinsing & Repeating? Here are some tips:

* Ignore Me! – Take no heed to passing thoughts which bring you no benefit and lead you nowhere; instead, seek refuge in Allah from the whisperings of shaytaan.  If it’s something you’d be embarrassed to share with your principle/boss/mother, then what about Allah who already knows what you’re thinking?

* Stop Looking At Me! – Turn away from sights which will only get you wanting more of the dunya or worldly pleasures, and remember there is such a thing as zena of the eyes (unlawful lustful glances towards the opposite gender). Involve yourself in places and meet people who remind you of the akhirahor Hereafter instead.

* Listen to Me! – Stop tuning out the voice in the back of your head by surrounding yourself with impermissible speech, whether it be music or foul language. Instead, amplify it by surrounding yourself with recitation of the Qur’an and Islamic talks.

* Stop Talking to Me! – Shrugging off your first instincts can lead to uncomfortable situations down the road when conversing with the opposite gender, whether it be external, such as being offered a simple handshake, or a conflict within. Monitor your conversations with male non-mahrams around you (those not allowed to see you without hijab) and be aware if what you are saying has an important purpose or is just there as idle chatter.

* Pay Special Attention to Me! – If standing in the mirror before you start your day takes you longer than usual because of thoughts such as, “Er… it’s a little tight… no it’ll be okay… I think…”, then remember that, although it may take some more time out of your morning to change, it will be worth it in the long run!

* Complain to Me! – A precious statement by one of the salaf (our righteous predecessors) reminds us that when we complain to other humans, we are, in fact, complaining about the Most Merciful to someone who doesn’t even pity. When finding hardship on the path of taqwa, complain to Allah alone. The most knowledgeable people are those who complain about themselves and their struggles only to Allah ‘azza wa jal, and we see examples of this in the stories of the Prophets, Musa ‘alayhi assalaam and Rasul Allah salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

Remember these pieces of advice whenever you find yourself stuck or repeatedly falling into sin. And I direct these words to myself first and forments. May Allah bless us all with taqwa at its truest and with a sound understanding of His deen.