THE BUS DRIVER said over the loudspeaker, “Please be quiet, we will listen to Quran now.” I was on my way to go roller-skating with my daughter’s fourth grade class. Hearing the Quran on the way there would certainly be a bonus. My body relaxed and I happily leaned back in my seat, ready to let the heartrending words of my Maker sweep over me. It wasn’t long though, before the children began talking, their voices gradually accumulating. After a while, even the teachers resumed their conversations. As the din swelled, it became increasingly challenging to heed the melodic verses of the Quran.
I realized that the scenario inside the school bus was an accurate analogy for life. You know the feeling: You believe; you love God and yearn for His acceptance, but it feels like there is always something trying to pull you away. Obstacles appear one after another.
Why can’t we just be left alone to bask in the beauty of faith? Instead, we are bombarded with noise and confusion. We are told our religion is a monstrous abomination, the ultimate misguidance – no more than a manifesto for terrorism.
Amongst God’s exquisite words we so ardently struggle to hear, He told us:
Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe,” and they will not be tried? [Sûrat Al-Ankabût, 29:2]
So, perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised at the negativity we find in the world. Rather, we should remember that Satan promised to try to distract us from the straight path nonstop, when he said,
Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful. [Sûrat Al-A¢râf, 7:17]
Whichever way we turn, he’s there, trying to divert us.
How do we make it through today’s minefield of pitfalls and disinformation?
It’s clearly not as simple as laying back and enjoying the beautiful guidance God gave us. We will have to remain alert and work hard to merely hear the call of our Owner and Sustainer. It takes even more effort and determination to remain connected to Him and to our ultimate goal. It takes fortitude to avoid what He has warned us about and to adjust our actions to be acceptable to Him, actions done for His sake.
Here are some ways to cut through all the noise in our lives, especially in the environment of Islamophobia, disinformation and mounting opposition to Islam:
1. Take the Reins
Satan will never cease attempting to expose our weakness, but Allah has said about those who followed Iblîs:
He never had any power over them, but thus We distinguish those who believe in the Hereafter from those who are doubtful about it. Your Lord is Guardian over all things. [Sûrat Saba’, 34:21]
Realize that we have to be the captains of our own ships. If we go astray, we have only our own selves to blame; therefore staying on course must be taken up as top priority and recognized as solely our own responsibility.
2. Maintain Strength of Faith
When we read Sûrat Al-Kahf every Friday we are regularly reminded of the young group of believers who possessed exceptionally strong faith, because of their refusal to compromise tawḥîd.
Truly, they were young men who believed in their Lord and We increased them in guidance. And We made their hearts firm and strong when they stood up and said: “Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, never shall we call upon any god other than Him; if we did, we should indeed have uttered an enormity. [Sûrat Al-Kahf, 18:13-14]
Their unbending worship of God alone made them eligible for Allah’s aid. He made them a sign, representative of the protection and help we may receive when we rely on The Almighty.
3. Be Prepared
When firefighters enter a flaming building, they do so with adequate training, experience, protection and equipment. They understand the potential dangers of entering that inferno: a wrong move could cost them their lives. As Muslims we have to be prepared to take on the volatile conditions we inevitably will face. We shouldn’t be diving into anti-Islam hate sites, books or conversations without adequate knowledge and training.
4. Increase Knowledge and Follow With Immediate Practice
But those of them who are firmly rooted in knowledge and the believers, believe in what has been sent down to you and what has been sent down to those before you: those who perform prayer and give the charity, believe in Allah and the Last Day. We will give such people an immense reward. [Sûrat Al Nisâ’, 4:162]
Ḥalaqas and video lectures are not enough. Find a structured course and seek out knowledgeable teachers to learn the basics of Islam in a formal, step-by-step way. Then, implement what you learn. Knowledge without action is a worthless as volumes of books to the proverbial Donkey who carries them.
5. Start Small
If you wanted to compete in a marathon, you’d train for it. You’d practice, build stamina, eat right and alter your schedule to ensure adequate sleep. With our ultimate goal in mind, we have to build ourselves up to be strong enough to face challenges from our environment, our own nafs and the influence of Satan.
Don’t take on things you can’t handle, start with the basics and build gradually. Prophet Muhammad said:
The actions most beloved to Allah are the ones done consistently, even if few. (Bukhâri)
Start small and be consistent!
6. Use Your GPS – Qur’an, Prayers, and Dhikr
Imagine you’re travelling and you get distracted. You suddenly find yourself in the midst of a forest without a clue how you got there. Several paths are visible, but you aren’t sure which one to take.
Spending too much time away from prayers, dhikr and the book of Allah can lead to feeling lost in life. If you venture on too long and too far without guidance, the harder it will be to find your way back to the road you want to be on.
7. Let the Meaning Sink In
How many times a day do we say, inshâ’Allah, Alḥumdulillâh, bismillâh, and salâm? Do we really mean what we say? If we mean it, these adhkâr help us stay connected and enrich our lives rather than simply embellishing our speech superficially.
8. Reflect on the Qur’an
Take the time to really absorb and ponder over the meanings of the Quranic passages. In Ṣaḥîḥ Muslim, Ḥudhaifah described an instance where he prayed with the Messenger of God. In between each Ayah he paused and made adhkâr and du¢â’ related to the Ayah.
Imagine praying with that much attentiveness to the meanings of what we are reciting. Learning Arabic must be a priority, but until your Arabic is adequate, using translations is a must.
9. Increase Your Acts of Worship
Take a look at the best generation of Muslims ever: the Ṣaḥâba. They were not lightweights when it came to worship. They got out of their beds in the nights, they fasted and remembered Allah in all they did. They lived with the fear of His displeasure hanging over their heads. They never took Islam or the reward of Jannah, for granted.
10. Start from the Inside – Out
Spend time building yourself up from within. When you are firmly grounded in knowledge and confident in yourself and your beliefs, the external forces of confusion and doubt will have much less effect on you.
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These are turbulent times and it’s possible to get swept away by all the negativity. Satan is lurking at every turn, hoping to trip us up. But he has no power over us if we trust in Allah. It’s not always going to be easy. Sometimes we will falter. Sometimes we will fail. Above the clamor, above everything, there is Allah. He is our saving grace. Ultimately we will be returning to Him, so let’s resolve to not get lost in the noise. Let’s plant our feet firmly and grab onto the rope of Allah. Let’s believe, and trust in the Most Trustworthy, The Almighty.