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Walking Without Seeing the Path

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I have often found myself at the crossroads. The greatest decisions I’ve made in my life have been at the fork of the road, often with two distinct goals. While one road is well paved,  some of my loftier goals have paths that are not well trodden.  More often than not,  I have been drawn to take the unclear path towards that loftier goal at the fork of the road. Although I can’t always see the path, I know that the destination is worth the trials I faced getting there.   

As a researcher, I often look up multiple how to’s and guides. I try to prepare emotionally and intellectually for the decisions I make.  Often, I am able to find general road maps.   If I can chart a certain course,  take so many steps left, then right, then bare north, I can get somewhere near that destination.  But I am reasonable, I know that I may not have the vessel to navigate some seas. I know that there are multiple destinations and numerous paths to find a sense of place.

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When I co-founded MuslimARC with our original steering members, we had just an inkling of the mantle that we were taking on. Three years ago, I felt ill equipped, but knew that my community had tools that could get us there. I had little idea that it was much more challenging to find true travel companions, sometimes people would walk with us for a short distance, a few  would discourage us.  

Sometimes,  I walk when I don’t see the path.  Is this the right way?  Is this the right thing to do? I have to constantly recalibrate. It reminds me of  that scene from  Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade “Only in the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.” So much can be said about Kierkegaard’s Leap of faith. 

Sometimes my faith morphs into abstractions. What are the tangible benefits of my work? My heart becomes clouded with doubt. The doubts increase as I see certain negative aspects of myself, some  that I have long buried,  emerge. Am I going forward or backwards? Is this good for me? 

In some ways I have submitted to my path, but there are times faith in the decision I have made is shaken. Islam also distinguishes between belief and faith. The Qur’an says: 

The bedouins say, “We have believed.” Say, “You have not [yet] believed; but say [instead], ‘We have submitted,’ for faith has not yet entered your hearts. And if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not deprive you from your deeds of anything. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” 

According to the prophetic tradition, there are three stages of faith: Islam (submission), Eman (faith), and Ihsan (perfection).  For me, along this journey, I have walked with insecurity.  I have thought about the implications if I fail. What do I do? What is the right course? I submit, and take steps forward. I believe that what I am doing has deeper implications, that the impact will reverberate for Eternity. I think about my positive actions tipping the scales for my shortcomings. I think about redemption and hope to fill the void inside me with God’s love. 

So much of my community work is spiritual, about purifying my soul through the process of continual self reflection. I see that my organizing work is a spiritual journey.  I still have a long way to go before Ihsan. I have much work even on Eman. I may even go through the motions of my faith, the day to day as a mother as a wife, as an educator and writer often getting in the way of me truly connecting. I have to think about ways in which I can walk the path knowing my Creator is close to me and ever present. 

As many of the masters of Islamic mysticism have pointed out, there are always pitfalls in purifying the soul.  Our egos can easily take over and we can become pleased with ourselves in our higher level of consciousness and more disciplined actions, our self righteousness and self satisfaction then debases us and undermines that hard work. There are times when I go through the motion with the weakest of belief. Then there are times where faith kicks in and sparks a light on my journey. Maybe for brief moments to do I see the light at the end of the tunnel and I am in awe at how my Creator has eased the path for me. I keep walking to turn the corner and find that peace that comes with the perfection of faith.

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Margari Aziza Hill is co-founder and Programming Director of Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC), assistant editor at AltM, co-founder of Muslims Make it Plain, and columnist at MuslimMatters. She is on the Advisory Council of Islam, Social Justice & Interreligious Engagement Program at the Union Theological Seminary and winner of the 2015 MPAC Change Maker Award. She has nearly a decade of teaching experiences at all levels from elementary, secondary, college level, to adult education. She earned her master’s in History of the Middle East and Islamic Africa from Stanford University in 2006. Her research includes colonial surveillance in Northern Nigeria, anti-colonial resistance among West Africans in Sudan during the early 20th century, and race in Muslim communities. She is also a freelance writer with articles published in Time, SISTERS, Islamic Monthly, Al Jazeera English, Virtual Mosque (formerly Suhaibwebb.com), and Spice Digest. She has given talks and lectures in various universities and Muslim communities.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Noor

    May 19, 2016 at 11:03 PM

    Only the greatest and deepest of faith in Allah can steer us out of all difficulties and doubts. Read how this fath helped people in an inspiring online monthly magazine Blossoms.

  2. Amatullah

    May 20, 2016 at 2:30 AM

    Margari, Hugs from an Indian sister.
    >>> <<<
    : )

  3. Aminah

    May 24, 2016 at 2:49 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum WA rahmatullahi WA barakatahu,
    I’m a newbie to the Islamic blog world and was wondering if you guys could take a look at my website and give me some feedback. Mashaa Allah, you guys have some really great posts. Here it is: https://dunyatodeen.blogspot.com/?m=1

    Jazak Allahu khairan,
    Your sister in Islam.

  4. MalikSaabSays

    May 24, 2016 at 11:48 PM

    Salam Margarie.

    I think I understand what you refer to. I’ve been there. Reading about the hadith of the Prophet ﷺ describing the stages has just given me the aha moment; I can see where I was in the flashback of important turning points.

    If you want to reach Ihsan, then you gotta go through Iman, you have to build that solid unshakable base as the launch pad.
    “The believers are only the ones who have believed in Allah and His Messenger and then doubt not but strive with their properties and their lives in the cause of Allah . It is those who are the truthful.” [49:15]

    The Iman can only be built when you submit. Submission comes when you have the core unshakable reasons to submit.

    “Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you might use reason.” [2:242]
    “Indeed, the worst of living creatures in the sight of Allah are the deaf and dumb who do not use reason.” [8:22]

    “And it is not for a soul to believe except by permission of Allah, and He will place defilement upon those who will not use reason.” [10:100]

    “And they will say, “If only we had been listening or reasoning, we would not be among the companions of the Blaze.”” [67:10]

    “We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. But is it not sufficient concerning your Lord that He is, over all things, a Witness?” [41:53]

    Purpose of mentioning all these is that you have to use logical reasoning to get to the highest level. Without it, well the verses detail what happens, and historical examples are replete with proof of it.

    So to reach Ihsan, work on your Iman. To strengthen Iman, work on Islam. To work on Islam, you need to know the ‘whats the proof this is true? why should I?’….for which you have to reason. The evidence for ‘wheres the proof?’ and ‘why should I?’ is in the Quran, taken as a whole not in segments; that’s where reasons for believing comes in, and then constant reminder and pondering and further reasoning in the light of Quranic wisdom – that will lead you to perfecting it all.

    Hope that helps :)
    W.Salam.

  5. terry

    May 26, 2016 at 8:15 PM

    I have only a couple of things to say.

    First off, i believe the morality of the majority of muslims is infinitely higher than what is in the koran, hadith, and the teachings and actions of your muhamad.

    I ask you all to objectively study your own scripture and then ask yourself one simple question honestly, is this what i really believe in?

    True spirituality requires no manmade dogma, only what’s in your heart.

    Cheers.

  6. Chuck chuckster

    June 2, 2016 at 1:08 PM

    There’s only one truth, and it’s not Islam

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