My Faith is Not Constant
Q: I don’t know what’s been happening to me. For the past few years my faith in Islam has been shaky. Sometimes I reach very high levels where all I can think about is Allah, then sometimes I reach levels — one where I am now — where I begin to doubt the existence of God and the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). I wonder “Why am I Muslim? Is there good and evil? Is there judgment?” Sometimes I get thoughts of shirk (disbelief). My faith is not constant, and over and over in the Quran it says “people who are constant in faith and do good deeds,” but I am not constant. I feel so lost in life. I was reading this book called The Way of the Peaceful Warrior and I felt I could identify with the main character. But some of the things that he suggested, like breathing and Tai Chi bothered me. Is that OK to do? I sincerely want to know the truth. The truth of life and our Creator. It made sense — submission — submission to what is good, the one way. I don’t want to go from it. Is this a spiritual test I am going through? My prayers feel so empty. Allah is closer to me than my jugular, but it doesn’t feel that way. Is this inner jihad? If it is, I feel like I am losing the battle. I don’t know who I am anymore or what I believe. I’m afraid I’ll be confused all my life.
Answered by Idris Tawfiq
Salam Dear Sister,
Thank you for your question.
Insha’ Allah, we can give some suggestions that might make a little sense out of what you are experiencing at the moment. It might also help others to appreciate the faith they already have.
Taking things for granted is one of the worst traps we can fall into. A husband and wife, for example, can be so busy with the affairs of life that they forget about each other’s needs and they drift apart, forgetting what once existed between them.
A man might be so busy with his work, providing food to put on the family table, while he forgets to ask about his teenage son, who is crying out for help. We very often only realize how lucky we were after we have lost the things most precious to us.
Yours is a very good question because it shows that you do not take faith for granted. It would be so easy, wouldn’t it, to declare our Shahadah once and then sit back, thinking we are Muslim?
To be real Muslims, we need to declare that Shahadah every day. We need, every time we prostrate ourselves in prayer, to declare with our lips and mean with our hearts that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger.
Taking our faith for granted is like telling Almighty Allah that we care nothing for the precious gift He has given us. Of all the people on the face of the earth, He has chosen us to be Muslim.
Some people can spend their whole lives never doubting the goodness of Allah and never failing to see His work all around them. Many others experience doubts or a weakness in their faith at some time in their lives.
This may be the result of some terrible personal tragedy that touches them, or it may be because of all the evil that seems to thrive around us. It is often difficult to be religious when the evil-doers seem to be winning.
And there are others, still, who have doubts about their faith for no apparent reason. It is somehow a part of the human condition that we question. Sometimes we have no control over it. Doubts just seem to come from nowhere.
There is no doubt that the society in which we live is becoming increasingly more secular, less religious. Television advertising is telling us all the time that having more is more important than being better.
In our consumer age, we are tempted every day to acquire more and more things, whether we need them or not. New shoes, a bigger car, the latest pair of jeans are all presented to us as what is most important in life. They are becoming the new gods, the new idols for our age. Having things is the goal.
Governments, too, encourage this trend, making those with faith seem marginal to society. The consumer is king. The one who has a deep religious faith is presented as either eccentric or extreme, a fanatic.
People with religious faith are called to speak out against injustice and corruption, so society finds ways of silencing them and pushing them to the margins. It is little wonder that religious people have doubts when they are surrounded by people who don’t have any religion and who would wish to destroy the faith of those who do.
In our present age, too, there is an added dimension that makes faith in Allah difficult for some to hold onto. Islam is presented on television, in the news, and on the radio, as the religion of intolerance and extremism. It is portrayed as violent and aggressive, and Muslims are shown as suicide bombers, terrorists, and fanatics.
With so much rubbish heaped on Islam, it is not always easy to keep a firm eye on what is true. Muslims are being made to carry the blame for those whose actions reflect badly on Islam, as well as for lies about Islam itself.
So where is the way out of all this? If you are having difficulty holding on to faith, what is to be done?
Well, first of all, we are obliged as Muslims to pray five times a day. In His wisdom, Almighty Allah has chosen this as one of the things that Muslims must do. The five daily prayers give a routine to our day, placing Allah at the center and making everything else revolve around Him. If we fail to observe these five daily prayers, it is only natural that our faith will weaken.
So, a sure way of preserving one’s faith is to pray. Pray more than ever, not just the five prayers. Beg Almighty Allah to accept your prayers and to open your mind and your heart to His greatness.
Pray, even when you see no light. The One Who is Light itself will remove your darkness. There is an old saying that we become good by doing good things. Hold on to the five daily prayers, and your life will revolve around Allah. Fail to pray, and your faith will become weak.
Another thing we can do when our faith is weak is to think about others. Instead of focusing on our own inner struggles, think about those who are less fortunate than you. Try to help others. An act of kindness to a poor person will please Allah, but it will also help you. You will find that your good deeds reflect back on you.
Count all the blessings you have in life. Instead of wallowing in inner despair, look at all the good things you have. Without at first asking where they came from, count up all the blessings and favors you have every day, like good health, sight, friends, family.
The month of Ramadan is a chance for you to deepen your faith, but Allah calls us to Him not only in Ramadan but every day. Be faithful to prayer, try to read and recite more of the Quran, read about Islam and the lives of its great heroes. Do deeds of charity to win Allah’s favor.
Cling to what little faith you might have, that Allah may bless you and increase your faith. It is in times of darkness that our faith can grow, helping us to be strong for others later on.
Faith means precisely believing something we cannot see. Cling to the fact that Allah has called you to be Muslim. Allah is Merciful and Compassionate. Do what Allah has commanded and He will reward you.
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