REFLECTIONS BY SHAIKH FAIYAZ JAFFER
“And surely with the remembrance of God, do the hearts find rest.” (13:28)
I have a lot of conversations with unique individuals on a daily basis—many of whom have challenges maintaining a sense of “equilibrium” with their spirituality. It's important to understand that this is not a problem that you have, but its something which we all happen to struggle with, and a healthy diagnosis of our own souls. If we were not concerned with cultivating our hearts and souls, then we have likely failed to understand the big picture of creation. But obviously, diagnosing the ailment is the first step to the bigger question…how do I reach the level of the beloveds of the Beloved!?
Life is filled with its ups and downs, days to remember, and frankly, days to forget. The day-to-day grind is often the source of that stress and anxiety, but also has the potential to be the source of happiness and satisfaction. For most, our spirituality and connection to faith hinges on the ups and downs of our day. In other words, the human being often turns to God at the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. And sure, God is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy, and I’m pretty confident in saying that turning ourselves to Him at those most critical moments of our lives is going to yield the best of fruits in this life and the next. But life isn't only about God responding to our supplications and the ultimate goal isn't about getting to paradise. In the words of the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (a), "There are people who worship God to gain His favors, this is the worship of traders. While there are some who worship Him to keep themselves free from His punishment, this is the worship of slaves. A few who obey Him out of their sense of gratitude and obligations, this is the worship of free and noble men.” The goal is to build a relationship with God, because He is worthy of it, and we, as His creation, can find incredible contentment in it…we just don't know it.
Some personal reflections in this regard:
1- It's going to be really really hard. No one said that fulfilling our responsibility to God was going to be easy, just like no one said college, marriage or raising children was going to be easy. The greatest of His creations had unique challenges and obstacles that they had to face. And when we take a look at a lot of personalities in Islamic history who achieved such incredible spiritual success, we see that often times the odds were stacked up against them. In the early days, we see people like Bilal, and as the centuries moved forward we find examples like Hur al-Riyahih. Yes, our obstacles are different, but we need to put forth an effort.
2- We can’t give up. Spirituality is a lot like exercising. When we decide to change our health, we alter our diet and start exercising and many of us know just how challenging that is. The first day is something to forget, and the first several weeks and months are incredibly challenging. But if we give up in the midst of the process, we miss out on all the bodily success that we have the potential to attain by putting forth that effort during the hard times. Once someone is accustomed to eating healthy and exercising regularly, its incredibly difficult to go back. Like exercise, our souls need training. You can’t go to the gym, eat a salad and overnight turn into Lebron James. It takes time and effort. Same for your spiritual dimensions…every effort we make is one step in a grueling journey.
3- We are going to slip and fall sometimes. Part of the process is to fall sometimes and make mistakes once in a while. As long as we learn from our mistakes and turn back to Him, we have to understand that there is progress. Remember, God says in the Qur’an, “And surely God loves those who repent” (2:222).
4- The process doesn’t end. Collectively, we are climbing a mountain that is void of a summit—because the process does not end. You can never be content with where you are because there is always an opportunity to continue to grow and mature. So let’s keep striving and putting forth our best effort and pray that God accepts the little we have to offer.