Faith is a journey that starts with a choice.
Faith is a journey that starts with a choice.
“Soul, if you want to learn secrets, your heart must forget about shame and dignity. You are God’s lover, yet you worry what people are saying.” – Rumi
Think about someone you really value. It could be a close friend, a family member, a spouse, or maybe even a pet. If you can’t think of someone, imagine how you would show that you value a person close to you.
How often and in-depth do you think of the one you chose? How do you treat them? Do you make time for them? Is the state of your relationship a priority to you? What about learning more about them, are you inclined to? Do you try to do things to make them happy? Are they someone you would speak fondly of to others? Do you show appreciation for their role in your life?
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to sincerely love God. As someone who claims to believe in Allah (SWT), I need to check whether this is indeed the case in practice – am I being honest with myself?
I once heard that to truly love God you must feel love for His creation. When I first heard this statement, I was somewhat puzzled which caused me to reflect. I had never thought of God in this way. After all, God isn’t on the same level as fallible human beings in which He created.
However, when I thought it through some more, it started to make sense in a profound way. When you have love for people, and they mean a lot to you, if you care, you’d want to do what is right by them, you remember them, care for their opinions, and would want to make them happy and not be a source of sadness for them, especially intentionally.
Though God is not in need of us, as a person who believes in Allah (SWT), I’ve found it helpful to think of Him in this way when assessing how sincere my relationship with Him is. How much do we think of God in this way? How often do we consider whether our actions and words would make Him pleased?
I wonder, if you had a friend in your life who said they valued you but didn’t make time for you, respect you, who apologized for doing wrong by you but kept doing it, who only came to you when they were in need, or never showed consideration or appreciation when you did something for them – would you accept that of a friend or, at the minimum, like it? How long would you be a friend to that person?
Now imagine that ‘friend’ as you and ‘you’ as God. Do we give God the love we want for ourselves or the love we give to others?
If you are a person of faith, asking yourself these questions may feel uncomfortable as you may start to see more of where you fell (or fall) short. If you do, it’s a good thing as it means you care about your relationship with God, and Allah is Most Forgiving. On the other hand, our egos might tempt us to become defensive and avoid these thoughts instead of reflecting on them.
I’ve found that, in order to be true to God and to maximize my potential as a believer, being very honest with myself, assessing my sincerity, and sitting in my discomfort is a must. Sincerely challenging ourselves where we fall short is key to spiritual growth. The good thing is, we don’t have to stay in discomfort as we all have the power to make changes where needed and to sustain that which is good in us.
But what is love for God? Is it a thought? Words? An act? What is love and care if it only stays in your thoughts? What is an act of love if it isn’t rooted in a sincere thought?
I’m not a scholar but I understand that we’re taught in Islam that the sincerest of love is in the consistent remembrance of Allah (thoughts), followed by words (intentions), and actions. The importance of our thoughts and intentions is evident in many Islamic acts of worship; from doing wudhu (ritual ablution) before praying, to making the intention to fast before fasting. In the consistency of action, we see the fact that we have 5 prayers to do each day, zakat (charity) we are obligated to do (if we’re an adult and able), amongst many other examples.
There are many conventional and non-conventional ways to grow our love for God in action and words. These include not only learning more about Islam and the attributes of Allah through His 99 names; but also re-framing how we see our acts towards God, especially the obligatory ones.
Sticking with prayer as an example, some of us may struggle to pray all our prayers on time, to prioritize it, or to focus during them. What if we re-framed it and saw it as an opportunity to thank God for His blessings over us and to spend some time speaking to Him about what’s on our minds? What if we saw it as making time for the dearest of Friends who knows us best? Not just any Friend, but the One that gave us life and so much more.
We’ll find that we may be drawn to prayer easier or may become more present in it because we’re operating from a place of love, appreciation, and, in some ways, giving back for the love we receive from Allah (SWT).
Over time, we may see a shift in our priorities as we connect with and understand, at a much deeper level, why we do what we do in our relationships with God and the benefits of it. Acts of worship become acts of love we want to do. Abstinence from sin becomes sweeter as it’s deemed not as a burden but an act of love to keep the One we love most pleased. Instead of it just being a ‘sin’ for reasons we don’t understand, once you ponder on why an act could have been made a sin, you also see that much of what we’re asked to abstain from is an act of love in itself and protection from God.
Oftentimes, we may not see the harm in something until hindsight offers us that view. Then we learn the depth of Allah’s love. That He hates things for you that you love because He, with His wisdom, knows the harm that may come from it for you, or even others. Alhamdulillah for such a Lord, Al Wadood (The Most Loving, The Affectionate).
Faith is a journey that starts with a choice. Strong faith and sincere love of God is something built over time that requires maintenance after setting firm foundations. With this in mind, it’s important to remember to never think that you are too far gone or not good enough for God. We are all worthy of knowing Allah if we sincerely choose to and try, it’s why we all have access to Him.
The question you and I must often ask ourselves is, are we willing to challenge ourselves, genuinely, and commit to growing our bonds with God through consistent acts, and remembrance? We are human after all so perfection isn’t expected of us, not even in our love, but we can always strive for excellence and to achieve that sincere, and empowering, love for God.
Allah knows best what’s in our chests and the potential we all have. May Allah (SWT) make it easy for us to become closer to Him, not just now, but for the rest of our lives. May we be those who are closest to Him and remember Him often. May we fall in love with the Creator, more than we love ourselves, and may that love influence how we treat ourselves and His creation. May our spirits be so deeply in love with Allah (SWT) that life and its tests become sweet because it’s all for the One.
I’ll end with a beautiful reminder of Allah’s love for us, His generosity, and openness to us:
The Messenger of Allah (Prophet Muhammad), peace and blessings be upon him, said,
“Allah Almighty says: Whoever comes with a good deed will have the reward of ten like it and even more. Whoever comes with an evil deed will be recompensed for one evil deed like it or he will be forgiven. Whoever draws close to Me by the length of a hand, I will draw close to him by the length of an arm. Whoever draws close to Me the by length of an arm, I will draw close to him by the length of a fathom. Whoever comes to Me walking, I will come to him running. Whoever meets Me with enough sins to fill the earth, not associating any partners with Me, I will meet him with as much forgiveness.” [Reported by Abu Dharr in Sahih Muslim 2687]