How often have you found yourself lamenting over the highs and lows of your Iman (faith)? How often do you find yourself trying hard to connect with Allah and then find it hard to just stay connected? To just be in that peaceful state of perpetual bliss, which makes you feel so close to your Lord, where you can’t possibly imagine drifting away from Him again? But then you do, and this often happens unnoticed. You find yourself standing alone in what feels like the barren desert of your heart, wondering: what happened? What went wrong? What do I do now?
I have experienced this state of feeling spiritually stranded in varying intensities. Sometimes the fall in faith feels like a slight loss of balance, like stumbling over a rock. In other more extreme situations, it has felt like a total knock-out of iman altogether, like being hit by a bulldozer. Regardless of the intensity, the very experience of losing connection with Allah has made me feel despondent, and the effort to build that connection again has felt a daunting and uphill task.
I would keep wishing for a strong and continuous relationship with Him, the presence of which at all moments is intensely felt and never taken for granted. Ah! If only I could capture faith, lock it in my heart, drown the key in the ocean of knowledge and worship, and never let it escape! But Oh Lord, that is not how it works, and really oh Lord why is it so? A question I have often beseeched Allah with. Where has yesterday’s feeling gone? Why am I feeling so low again?
Many of us have heard that the fluctuation of faith is quite normal, even natural and that we should not be disheartened by it. Instead, we should keep striving in his way with hope and conviction. For me personally, this piece of unquestionably valuable information was still not enough. I needed to know exactly where the solace will come from that will keep me going, when I am feeling low. On one evening, as I sat feeling low and confused again, there was something I realized about this enduring spiritual mystery, in which I found much strength and hope, Alhamdulillah.
Regret is a pull of faith.
I believe faith, by definition, is meant to be ‘constantly sought’, thereby rendering its quest ever-present, ever-alive, and ever-precious. Allah (swt) wants us to be up on our feet, arms stretched forth, aspiring for His love, searching for our destiny, wherever it may be.
This hunt for the treasure of His Love is ongoing and never-ending because there is truly no moment and no limit as to how close He is willing to draw you and how much He can love you.
When a few hours after listening to an inspiring sermon you sigh at the slow waning of your spiritual high, it is not a loss, rather, it is The Most Gracious gently tugging at your heart again. This is because when you feel this way, you think of Him. That drop in your spiritual state is actually the love of Allah pulling you closer to Him. That is why whenever it arises, you yearn to do something that will revive that spiritual bond again. So when we struggle to keep our iman steady or feel lost in sin, the distress we experience is actually Him wanting us to keep moving forward, reminding us that we can.
This means that every fall of faith – need not necessarily be described as a fall; it may very well be a pull of faith. Faith is not disappearing, rather it is pulling us towards new directions, new ways of finding Him. Hence, whenever we experience the fluctuating of our iman, we don’t have to feel overly dejected; in fact, we can feel hopeful that our soul wants and needs to feel more of the love of Allah – and that is a sign of our iman (faith) rising, not falling!
Sometimes, it feels like God has purposefully set up faith to play a game of hiding and seek with us. Whenever we feel faith is missing in action, it is not gone; it is only hiding and waiting to be caught again. That is what I tell myself these days, whenever I feel down, I look at my heart and say: “there, you want more, you will get more”, and a breadth of zikr escapes my mouth.
Embrace the remorse, it’s a good thing.
All this is not to say that from now on you will never feel down or lost whenever your iman starts to feel low. Nor could I ever undermine the formidable challenge of finding and maintaining faith or a strong attachment with Allah in a world that is becoming ever more oblivious to the spiritual realities of life. Allah Himself in the Noble Quran assures us that He understands this difficulty, when He says,
“O humankind, indeed you are laboring toward your Lord with [great] exertion and will meet Him.”
(Al Inshiqaq, 84:6)
Hence, Allah Himself recognizes your struggle, so don’t stand in there alone, let Him share it with you, by realizing that this state of constant momentum is His plan to keep you up on your feet, guarded, protected, in the continuous desire for His Mercy and Love. The flux in our spiritual state is a good thing. Let it fall and rise while persistently moving in the direction of Allah. It was by sharing my struggle with Allah and seeing my highs and lows as all signs of His love and mercy that I have been able to move forward, even in difficult times, with my morale well-protected, spirit lightened and courage strengthened.
Therefore, whenever you feel like your iman is playing games with you, don’t be disheartened. Instead, know that it is simply your turn and your opportunity to seek. Go find it, and be assured that it is secretly waiting for you just around the corner.
You will find it playing between your fingers as you press your hands together seeking forgiveness, nestled between your forehead and your prayer mat when you kneel down in prayer, walking with you arm-in-arm as you help a child cross the street, or even permeating your dining room with its incense as you sit down to enjoy a meal with your family.