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Spiritual Poverty And Robotic Rituals

Think about the times you were reciting Quran and felt it in your heart, really felt it. I love those moments when we open Quran and read a verse that seems to speak to us as if Allah (the Most Honored and Exalted) was responding. However, just as we have spiritual highs, we have spiritual lows.

A heart lacking the divine connection while in worship begins to perform like a robot. We have to pray, this is obligatory, but sometimes the one in worship is functioning like a cold robot going through the motions but they lack focus and sincerity. They are performing on auto-pilot.

Profound Submission Before the Spiritual Low

One of my most profound moments in life was before I took shahadah. I was in a bad state psychologically, at my breaking point. But this was where I needed to be because I had to be broken before I could be built back up. I fell into prostration sobbing, I didn’t know what prostration was at the time but my body went into this position of submission and vulnerability while I poured my heart out to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and begged for guidance.

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It was one of the most sincere prostrations I can imagine, I was absolutely desperate for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)’s guidance just as a dehydrated person is thirsty for water. That duaa was answered beyond what I could have ever imagined. This might sound odd, but that broken down moment was rich with the sweetness of faith. I was in utter and complete submission, metaphorically crying out “take the wheel Lord; I’ll do anything you command, just keep me close I need you”. I am not saying we need to be broken emotionally to have spiritual wealth, but in our moments of hardship we can alter our perception and say alhamdulillah this is a time for me to get closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Fast forward years later, like many other Muslims around me, I realized some of my acts of worship have become so normal they turned robotic. My prayers started to lose their sweetness and sometimes became a to-do that I checked. I became so focused on obligations, haram/halal and legislation that my focus on the divine love and a heart full of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)’s light took a passenger seat. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is love in the ultimate form beyond even a Mother’s love, mercy is love, the Prophet (peace be upon him) radiated love, but so many of us, me included, drift from the love and find ourselves in a spiritual low.

Whispers of Shaytan

In these moments of jihad against our own selves, it is natural to wonder ‘is evil influencing this?’. The darkness enjoys our struggle and if it cannot take us away from our acts of worship, it will try to stain them. Evil is strategic, it is not stupid, if Shaytan cannot stop you from praying then he will peck away at your focus and sincerity in prayer until it turns into a robotic ritual without heart. We must always seek refuge in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

How Did We Get Here?

You don’t wake up one day and find yourself in a state of spiritual poverty out of nowhere, it built up over time. Imagine if you dropped one rock into a bucket every day, at first the bucket is still light but eventually it will become heavy and overwhelming.

We see some Muslims that are riding high, performing so many voluntary acts and pushing themselves. This isn’t necessarily bad, but when it becomes too much it will be overwhelming and not sustainable. Burning ourselves out by having these extreme highs will push into lower lows. It is better to have a steady and moderate level of religiousness, avoiding extremes on the left and the right to keep ourselves balanced. We can see a lot of wisdom here when we remember we were warned to be moderate.

“Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way…”

[Al-Bukhari]

How to Improve our Spiritual Wealth

I can sit here and delve into the issue all day, but if I don’t promote ways to uplift your iman and help you then I am just complaining.

I have to begin this by mentioning Shaykh Omar Suleiman and a recent podcast he released called “How to Avoid Spiritual Numbness”. He spoke about diversifying your acts of worship; this made a lot of sense to me. Reading Quran is essential, but it should not be the only thing in your spiritual toolbox. From a psychological standpoint this is great advice, when we don’t always follow the same routine we will be less on auto-pilot and more engaged. Think about how you focus the first time you are driving in a new neighborhood versus how you focus driving in your own neighborhood. Take time for dhikr, spend time with an orphan, help clean the masjid or visit the homeless etc.

There are many forms of worship.

prayer mat

Ask Yourself Why

Look at your daily choices, are you letting the dunya distract you? Are you watching inappropriate TV for hours while overeating and rushing prayer to get back to Netflix? Were you pushing yourself so hard on legislation that your heart was neglected? When is the last time you read Quran?

Only you can truly answer this and you need to if you want to improve. In the spirit of honesty and vulnerability, I know one of my issues was focusing too much on legislation. I went from loving heels, winged eyeliner and red lipstick to wearing an abaya and khimar with no makeup in less than one year. I avoided western meat despite most scholars saying it is okay to have a Chicken McNugget. I got involved with some super-Salafi circles. I have respect for them, but the focus was on “don’t do this, don’t do that”. Rules were paramount. I could keep going but I digress.

I abstained from so many things and pushed myself to the point I felt boxed in. We need accountability and structure, but in balance with heart and aqeedah. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you have the longest beard or do the most voluntary acts of worship; if your heart and intention is not pure it means nothing.

Choose Your Company Wisely

It is important to keep people around you who are a good influence. No matter how strong you think you are, if you put yourself into fitnah on a constant basis it will impact you. Just as parents don’t want their children hanging out with the bad crowd at school, we should not want to surround ourselves with bad influences. The following hadith of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reminds us of this.

“Man follows his friend’s religion, you should be careful who you take for friends”.

[At-Tirmidhi]

Look to the Source

Most importantly, we must run to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). If our Qurans are dusty then you know part of the problem already. Allah reminds us in the Quran, “So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me”[Quran 2:152]

My advice would be to read for quality, not quantity. It is better for us to read one page that you ponder over than 20 pages you speed read. We should make duaa on a frequent basis but I am not talking about saying some lines you memorized 10 years ago that you don’t even contemplate on. Sincere dua, which means actually think about what you are saying and mean it. It means more for someone to make sincere dua in English than someone who says sunnah duas in Arabic with zero heart, just so they can check the box that they did it.

Final Thoughts

We are human; it is natural to have spiritual highs and lows. These lows can be an opportunity to renew your faith and grow deeper into your spiritual connection. I know it is easier said than done, I am in the same boat as you, but we are all in this together. One Ummah. Don’t wait for Ramadan to work on achieving spiritual wealth and turning your acts of worship into heartfelt endeavors. work towards your best spiritual self to prep your soul for Ramadan.

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) fill our hearts with his light and guide our paths, Ameen.

Monique a professional writer specializing in Islamic Psychology and Behavioral Health. She is also an online consultant with Noor Human Consulting for Spiritual and Behavioral Health needs. Certified in Crisis Prevention and Intervention, she receives annual training on verbal de-escalation skills. She has a Bachelors of Science in Psychology with a minor in Biology along with years of experience in a behavioral health hospital. 

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Monique Hassan is a writer specializing in behavioral health and Islamic psychology. She also works at an inpatient behavioral health hospital. She has a bachelors of science in psychology with a biology minor and is certified in crisis prevention and intervention. She is a revert, a wife and a mother. Visit her website www.MoniqueHassan.com

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Robert Tilford

    February 13, 2019 at 6:34 AM

    Interesting article…I wish she would not have included the quote from hadith (al-bakari) it distracts from the point of what she was saying about Quran. So sad the author here adheres to teachings which actually detract from the Quran and divert people away from the truth of Quran.

    • Avatar

      Parvez

      February 13, 2019 at 4:53 PM

      There is nothing in that authentic hadith which goes against the Quran.

      Most muslims believe in sahih hadith.

      • Avatar

        Monique Hassan

        February 14, 2019 at 12:58 PM

        Assalamu alaikum, Monique Hassan here.
        Thank you both for your replies.

        It is my understanding you don’t agree with the input of hadith related to overburdening in my article. I don’t see how this pulls away from Quran, but I understand that is your perspective and I respect that.

        As I see it, hadith is a compliment to Quran which can help us understand and see examples. It is not on level with the Quran, nothing is.

        May I ask what suggestions you have for those dealing with robotic rituals?

        Thank you again for reading and commenting.

        What is true is from Allah (swt) what is wrong is my own human error.

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#Islam

30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 10: The Dua’ of Umm Salama

Now that we have learnt about a good word, let’s talk about the dua’ of Umm Salama.

Today I’m going to share with you a story of a very important woman in Islamic history named Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her). She was a female companion, which means she was a sahaabiya (female companion)

Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) was one of the first people to embrace Islam and she was one of the few Muslims who actually performed the hijrah twice. 

Question: Who can tell me what a hijrah is?

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A hijrah is when someone leaves a place they are in for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). The first hijrah was to Ethiopia, where a just Christian ruler named Najashi took in a group of Muslims and took good care of them. 

So Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) and Abu Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) went to Ethiopia. After some time living there, they really wanted to go back to Mecca so that they could be next to the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and learn everything about Islam. As they waited patiently, news traveled all the way to Africa saying that the Muslims were no longer getting persecuted because Umar ibn al-Khattab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) and Hamza raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), the uncle of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), had embraced Islam. 

Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) and Abu Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) decided to return back to Mecca, and when they did, they realized that it was only a rumor and that the Muslims were still being tortured by Quraysh. So, when the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) instructed all of the Muslims of Mecca to leave to Madina for the second hijrah, they wasted no time getting ready. 

Question: Do you see how they were so active and didn’t take their Islam for granted?

As Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) was about to mount her camel, her tribe, the Banu Makhzum, came and told Abu Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) that they would not allow him to take Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) to Madina. Then Abu Salama’s tribe, the Banu Asad, takes Salama, his child, away.  Abu Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) could not defend himself against all of these men, so he sets off to Madina.

In just one day Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) lost her husband and her child, and she suffers so much because of it. She is in a lot of pain. After some time her cousin starts to feel sorry for her and speaks to the tribes on her behalf. He is then able to reunite her with her son. Then after a year of waiting, Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) is finally able to meet her husband in Madina. 

Abu Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was known to be a very caring husband and courageous man. He fought in the Battle of Badr as well as in the Battle of Uhud. In Uhud, he received a wound that he wasn’t able to recover from. 

Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) was so sad the day Abu Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) died, but the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught her to recite a beautiful dua’:

إِنَّا لله وإنا إليه راجعون اللهم أجرني في مصيبتي وأخلف لي خيرا منها 

“We belong to Allah and to Allah is our return. Oh Allah, reward me for my calamity, and replace my loss with something better.”

Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) recited this dua’, but in her mind she thought, “Who can be better than Abu Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)?” 

After a few months passed, Umar ibn al-Khattab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) proposed to Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her), but she said no. 

Then, Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) proposed to Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her), but again she said no. 

Then, the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) proposed to Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) and she accepted. So now, she was not only the mother of Salama, but the mother of all of the believers until the end of time! 

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This Eid And Beyond Boycott Goods Made With Enslaved Labor Of Uyghurs Even If It Is Your Favorite Brand

Bidding farewell to Ramadan, celebrating Eid?

Well, the Muslims of East Turkestan under Chinese occupation had neither Ramadan nor will they have Eid…

Not only that, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) run government has transferred Uyghurs and other ethnic minority citizens from East Turkestan to factories across the country. Under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour, Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Nike, Gap, Adidas, Ralph Lauren, Carters and others. Read Uyghurs for Sale for more information

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CCP is also pressuring governments across the world to extradite Uyghurs back to occupied East Turkestan.

Here is what you can do to help them:

Action Items

  1. Keep making dua for the oppressed of East Turkistan and the world.
  2. Boycott Chinese products! Do not be complicit in slave labour. Start with focusing on the companies in the graphic. Share it with #SewnWithtTears, #StopChina, #BoycottChina. Write to them and demand that they do better.
  3. Raise awareness on the plight of Uyghurs and the East Turkistani cause. Learn more at SaveUighur.org
  4. Work towards reducing your country’s economic dependence on China.
  5. Build alliances with all people of conscience to demand a cessation of China’s oppression of all faith groups, be it Muslim Uyghur, Hui; Chinese Christian; or Tibetan Buddhist.
  6. Encourage and promote fairer trade and commerce with Muslims and others rather than China.
  7. Inquire about Uyghur diaspora members in your area. Organize to help out orphans, widows, and students.
  8. Pressure governments to provide legal protection to Uyghur refugees-exiles by granting either citizenship or refugee/asylee status. Stop the “extradition/repatriation” of Uyghurs to China!
  9. Get your universities/endowments to divest from China. Raise awareness about Chinese espionage and hired guns in academia. Demand academic and financial support for Uyghur scholars and students. Request more academic attention and funds for Central Asian, Uyghur, Turkistani studies. 

Read a greater discussion of action items in A Response to Habib Ali Al-Jifri’s Comments on the Uyghurs, which also contains a greater discussion on East Turkistan’s history and its current situation. A condensed Arabic version of the article can be found here

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30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 9: A Good Word

Now that we have learnt about the life of this world, let’s talk about a good word.

I want you all to close your eyes and think of a beautiful tree. 

Question: Who can tell me what their tree looks like? Is the tree big and strong? Does it have lots of branches and leaves? Does it have fruit?

Now, I want you to think of a time when someone said something really nice to you.

Question:  What are some of the nice statements you remember people telling you?

Question: How did those statements make you feel?

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Yes, they fill us up with a warm feeling. We may have felt proud of ourselves and we may have felt loved. Do you know that Allah [wt] describes a good word to a good tree? 

In Surah Ibrahim, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا كَلِمَةً طَيِّبَةً كَشَجَرَةٍ طَيِّبَةٍ أَصْلُهَا ثَابِتٌ وَفَرْعُهَا فِي السَّمَاءِ 

تُؤْتِي أُكُلَهَا كُلَّ حِينٍ بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهَا ۗ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ 

Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, [making] a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky? [Surah Ibrahim; 24]

It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded. [Surah Ibrahim; 25]

Question: Now, I want you to think of a time when someone said something mean to you. How did that make you feel?

It’s not fun to remember the mean stuff right? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) continues in Surah Ibrahim and says:

وَمَثَلُ كَلِمَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ كَشَجَرَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ اجْتُثَّتْ مِن فَوْقِ الْأَرْضِ مَا لَهَا مِن قَرَارٍ

And the example of a bad word is like a bad tree, uprooted from the surface of the earth, not having any stability. [Surah Ibrahim; 26] 

Question: What do you think are good words we can use to build strong, firmly rooted trees?

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