Spiritual Incline


The efforts of our deeds often lead us to believe we’ve done enough. But have we?

For a little over a year now I’ve been on a spiritual incline. By “spiritual incline” I mean that I’ve been taking physical and tangible steps to strengthen my belief, iman, in Allah subhanahu wa’taala.

The first few months of that incline, it felt like I was making significant progress. I was able to abandon habits and behaviors that were of no benefit to me as a Muslim striving to be in submission to her One and Only Creator and Sustainer. I began this effort by working on taking care of my religious obligations.

First and foremost I made it a habit to pray the obligatory five daily prayers as soon as the athaan rang out from my athaan clock. After I had successfully established that, I moved on to another problem area. You could say that the hijab I was sporting was half-hearted. The khimar portion, the cloth that covers the hair, ears and neck, I had managed to execute pretty well. However, I had completely and spectacularly failed to observe the rest of the requirements. Requirements that included drawing a looser, non-embellished garment around me to deemphasize my figure.  When I think about it in retrospect, I’d characterize my prior method of “observing” hijab akin to leaving the house for work, wearing pajama bottoms and an ironed, button-up dress shirt.

Overtime, just like the punctuality in offering my prayers, I had managed to get the ideals of hijab down pat, alhamdulillah. With all of these strides taken to practice Islam the way Allah expects us to, I was making great headway. After doing my best to perfect all the essential aspects of this way of life, Islam, I sprinkled some voluntary acts of worship onto my everyday living. For example, one of them was reciting Surat Al-Mulk after performing my evening prayer or before going to bed. A companion of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Anas (RA) reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“There is a Surah in the Qur’an. It consists of only 33 verses. It defends a person who recites it perpetually and leads him/her to Paradise. It is Tabarak. [Surat Al-Mulk]”

Reciting this Surah in this manner, as we have been enlightened to do so through the Sunnah, (sayings and actions of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), he is also reported to have said that reciting this Surah distances one from the punishment of the grave.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Surah al Mulk is the protector from the torment of the grave” (an-Nasai)

So every night, before going to bed or soon after the evening prayer, I made an effort to read this Surah, and alhumdulillah it became a habitual practice. For the next few months, after taking the decision to work on these forms of worship, my iman felt strong and stronger still.

More recently, however, I noticed that the spiritual incline I felt in my very bones was not reverberating throughout my body quite so vigorously anymore. I tried thinking of what the reasons could be for a portion of time that felt more like an eternity. Weakened iman for someone who has become accustomed to one of steady growth is probably the worst feeling, and I don’t think it is a stretch to say that.

Finally, it hit me. I had become almost too comfortable with the acts of worship I had worked towards implementing. I was absorbed in perfecting them for a time and in their essence my iman felt good. Upon integrating those actions, they had become second nature. I noticed I had stopped looking for other ways to perfect my Islam because of how absorbed I became in them and hence the decline in my iman.

If you get anything from this piece, I want it to be this: Keep moving forward. Don’t stop taking those baby steps towards strengthening your bond with Allah. Everyday, work on something to improve your connection with Him. You have not, nor will you ever perfect every aspect of this deen (way of life) and that is perfectly okay because perfection is not in our personality description as human beings. Perfection is a trait belonging to Allah alone. We’re here to offer the very best of our selves to Him. Don’t allow yourself to be fooled by the possibility that there is nothing for you to work on.

It is in this constant striving that you will find the most difficulty, yet the paradox is that at the same hand, this striving will provide you with the most satisfaction.