I’ve always wondered why our generation of young Muslims has a harder time maintaining consistency than the previous ones. And the answer is obvious- our Emaan (faith) has more reasons to fluctuate!
No matter how hard we try to keep up with our Islamic duties, we end up slacking every time our Emaan gets weak. And that brings us back to square one. *talk about frustrating*
In today’s episode, you’ll learn 5 practical ways in which you can stay consistent even when your Emaan gets weak.
I’ve personally practiced each one of the 5 ways so I know first-hand that they work. Scroll down and start listening to the episode! 🙂
READ THE TRANSCRIPT OF Q&A FRIDAY: EPISODE 01
Today’s question is from Miss Almas and she writes, I’m still struggling become a better Muslim. I’ve always had the intention, and at first, I tried to put the effort to work on it. I.e. I woke up early for my Fajr prayer, I became a very positive and patient person, I watched lots of Islamic-focused videos etc. But somehow, there came a time when my Imaan suddenly became very low, and I ended up not doing anything much. All the efforts didn’t really work. I am still, the old me. My question is, how can I get to be that positive again? How do we stay [consistent] Istiqamah? How to force ourselves to engage in good deeds all the time without having the feelings of “I’m getting tired of doing all these urgh”? Your response will be greatly appreciated, sister Aimen. I’ve been stuck with these questions for a long time. Hopefully you may help me out…
Almas, JazakAllah for reaching out. I can see that you are actively trying to become a better person, which is great- Masha’Allah!
All of us have fluctuations in our faith. There are so many places in the Quran which indicate that faith has a versatile nature- it’s always in motion, not static. Take the example of this ayah: “And when His verses are recited to them, they [the verses] increase their faith” (8:2)
Our emaan changes because two powers are pulling our faith in 2 opposite directions. Shaytan and our Nafs towards the darker side and the light within us towards Allah S.W.T.
In a Sahih Muslim Hadith, it says that “Abu Bakr asked another Companion, how he was doing. He answered that he was committing hypocrisy. He explained that by saying that when they are with the Prophet (peace be upon him) and reminded of Heaven and Hell, they are as if they are seeing Heaven and Hell. Then when they retreat to their families, they forget much of what they felt earlier. Abu Bakr stated that he also experienced the same.”
If the strongest Companions of the Prophet S.A.W felt these dips in their emaan even when the Prophet S.A.W was there to guide them in-person, then of course we aren’t safe.
We live in the times of fitnah. It’s understood that our emaan will fluctuate. The question is not of if but when. Nobody’s emaan is safe from Shaytan. Shaytan is always doing his best to attack our emaan.
Here’s the thing though: Little dips in your faith are fine, can be easily managed. But it’s not healthy for your emaan to vary between extremes, that it gets so low to the point you can’t do anything. You either end up getting off-track and sin more, or you leave all the good habits you’d developed such as listening to lectures, praying on-time etc.
To prevent your emaan from fluctuating between extremes, we need consistency in our acts of Ibadah. That’s understood.
But how do you stay consistent especially when you feel like you need to force yourself into engaging in good deeds all the time?
How to stay consistent even when you’re getting exasperated and the acts of Ibadah are, in that particular moment, a burden for you.
I have 5 super-effective tips for you to stay consistent even when your emaan is not in the best of shape.
1. The first one is dividing your Islamic goals into bite-sized tasks.
Hear me out.
Which one of the statements sounds more appealing to you?
“I’m going to read the Tafseer of Quran today”.
“I’m going to read the Tafseer of Quran for 5 mins today”.
I know what you’re thinking- 5 mins? What am I going to learn in 5 mins?
Maybe very little. But isn’t it better to read Quran for 5 mins everyday than read it for an hour for a few weeks every day, and then stop completely for a longg time because now that one goal is getting difficult to keep up with?
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah S.A.W said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.” [Source: Sunan Ibn Mājah 4240]
In a similar narration, Prophet S.A.W said “The most beloved of deeds to Allah are the most consistent of them, even if they are a few”. [Bukhari & Muslim]
Do you know why such an emphasis is made on small but consistent? Because when you do something consistently that maybe very little, that gives you a sense of achievement and with time, you will want to do MORE of it. It’s as simple as that.
And it’s easy to stay in the loop when our emaan is strong but what happens when it gets weak? We are more prone to let go of all the difficult or overwhelming goals first.
But if your goal was as simple as read Quran for 5 mins, then it becomes a small easy task that you can surely manage even in a relatively lower state of emaan. So make your goals bite-sized that it becomes a no-brainer for your “self” to stick to it.
2. The second piece of advice I have for you Almaas, is to train your mind to be able to clearly differentiate between voluntary and obligatory acts of Ibadah.
What does that have to do with Istiqamah? And pshh Aimen, who doesn’t know the difference between voluntary and obligatory acts of Ibadah?
You see, when you are going through a period of low emaan, Shaytan takes that opportunity to convince you to leave everything because “what’s the point right?” I mean you’re listening to music and replying back to your parents, you’re sinning, why should you even bother to pray your Fard (obligatory) prayers? You might as well leave them too and “fix” yourself AFTER you’ve gotten out of this “phase”.
Well, ALL of that is balderdash. Makes no sense at all. *scoffs*
If you’re not listening to motivational lectures anymore or are sinning in some way does NOT MAKE IT OKAY for you to leave your Fard acts of Ibadah. Because if you keep leaving them then you can certainly kiss Istiqamah goodbye.
Fard acts of Ibadah are a MAJOR source of increasing your emaan and keeping yourself spiritually connected to Allah.
“The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a fear in their hearts and when His Verses -this Qur’an- are recited unto them, they (i.e. the Verses) increase their Faith; and they put their trust in their Lord (Alone); Who perform salah and spend out of that We have provided them. It is they who are the believers in truth. For them are grades of dignity with their Lord, and Forgiveness and a generous provision (Paradise)” [Quran Al-Anfal: Ayahs 2-4]
That’s why I suggest you repeat this mantra in your head every time you feel like Fard acts of Ibadah are becoming a burden on you:
“I’m a Muslim. I DO NOT have the freedom of choice of whether to perform the obligatory acts of Ibadah or not. I’m bound to practice them no matter what” . That’s why they are obligatory in the first place.
Repeat that until your soul knows it like you know your name back and forth.
Ever felt that when you hear the alarm go off at Fajr, you start this negotiation in your head- “It’s too early, I’ll get up later. Oh wait- lemme check, the sun is out already? Oh dear. Well, I guess I’ll pray after I get up because it’s Qadah anyway” OR “I don’t feel like getting up today because it’s so cold and the water is so cold. Plus Islam is easy.”
That’s a conversation you have when your soul is in denial and believes that the Fajr prayer is an act of choice, even though you know it isn’t.
Point is- We need to release the attachment of obligatory acts of Ibadah from our level of emaan.
But does that mean we have the freedom of choice to decide between voluntary acts of Ibadah? YES! *Yayyyy*
DO NOT make the voluntary acts of Ibadah Obligatory upon yourself.
Aishah (R.A) reported: The Prophet (S.A.W) came in when a woman was sitting beside me. He asked me, “Who is she?” I said: “She is the one whose performance of Salat (prayer) has become the talk of the town.” Addressing her, he (S.A.W) said, “(What is this!) You are required to take upon yourselves only what you can carry out easily. By Allah, Allah does not withhold His Mercy and forgiveness of you until you neglect and give up (good works). Allah likes the deeds best which a worshipper can carry out constantly”. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
How amazing is that Hadith? Puts everything into perspective doesn’t it?
So do yourself a favor and stop doing either everything or nothing.
That brings me to the third piece of advice I have for you: When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take breaks before you burnout.
Don’t force yourself to keep doing everything. Just stick to the Fard (obligatory) acts of Ibadah. And take a complete break from everything else that seems overwhelming to prevent burnout. You can absolutely leave out some of the voluntary acts for a day or two or for longer so to give yourself a break.
So if you’re in the habit of praying Tahajjud along with your Fard prayers, and it’s getting too much for you to keep doing all these acts of Ibadah- drop the voluntary ones. So you don’t end up leaving everything you started, including the obligatory acts.
But there’s a catch- You can’t take really long breaks- I’m talking weeks or months- No can do. You can only take short breaks to recover or prevent emotional burnouts because the larger the break, the more difficult it gets to come back on track. And you lose all the good habits that took you so so very long to develop. And that’s bad.
My fourth piece of advice is to find a growth-minded group of Muslims- your pack:
The reason why I say growth-minded is because when you’re feeling a drop in faith, their words and actions can remind you to stay on-track , because no matter how wise or learned we are, we ALL need reminders.
My pack is my family. Alhamdulilah I’ve been blessed with a like-minded family. If you are too, then build a strong communication with them to keep each other in the loop.
But back in my med school, when I was living in the hostel, I didn’t have the luxury of having my family or a like-minded group of friends.
I did put an effort to find and make friends with like-minded Muslims, but I gave up my search too soon when I shouldn’t have. MYP is a platform that was created from a need I felt personally for myself. But it’s your virtual pack. And although virtual is great in its own way, like the ability to connect with Muslims of different cultures from all over the globe at potentially any time, you also need to find people around you. Because trust me, it makes a whole lot of difference in keeping you consistent.
“To each is a goal to which Allah turns him; then strive together (as in a race) towards all that is good)” [Surat Al Bakarah, Ayah 148]
And in a very famous hadith, Prophet S.A.W told us clearly that:
“Man follows his friend’s religion, you should be careful who you take for friends”. [At-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud].
And BTW, who you listen to, who you read, or watch (I’m talking lectures)- they all come in the choice of your company.
The Fifth super-effective tip I want to share with you Almaas is that never lose out on your spiritual connection with Allah.
Has this ever happened to you that you’ve been living away from your family, and you’ve been calling your mom every day. But then you stop for some reason. And you call her after a few weeks only to find it much more difficult to open up to her and share? And the weeks turn into months, and you find it more and more difficult to share things with her.
You see with distance and time, communication suffers- and when communication suffers, the relationship suffers.
So although Allah S.W.T is there waiting for us to reach out to Him Always, but our spiritual relationship with Allah suffers when we stop all forms of communication with Him.
Salah, duas and reading Quran are all forms of communication with Allah S.W.T. Don’t miss out on them.
No matter how weak your emaan gets, and you feel like you can’t face Allah, or feel guilty because of your sins while making dua, remember it’s better to stay in touch with Allah through small daily conversations no matter what. The longer you are not communicating with Allah S.W.T, the harder it’ll be to go back to feeling the spiritual connection you once had with Him.
FINALLY- My last piece of advice is to remember that the key to consistency is to stay focused on the bigger picture- your purpose in life.
Don’t worry about the WHAT so much. Remember your WHY. Don’t lose sight of the WHY. Why are you doing any of this? Why are you working so hard to become a better Muslim? Because that’s the sweet purpose of your life.
You agree that becoming a better Muslim is a life-time struggle and not a one-time achievement, right? So it’s important to keep in mind that you cannot stay consistent for life in something you consider to be a burden, something you have to force yourself to do ALL THE TIME. You might as well enjoy it.
So what I think you need to understand is, you’ve probably spent a greater part of your life NOT in the very positive and patient state that you recently experienced, you’ve practiced living differently before.
And all that practice in the past of your entire life doesn’t go away in a few weeks or months- it takes a LOT of time to get where you want to be and then stay there. Your hard-disk will have to erase the practice of all those past years first and then add this improved way of living.
That all seems very daunting, I know.
But then there’s good news too- In the beginning, our emaan tends to fluctuate more but if you pull through the difficult beginning stage, stay consistent even when your emaan is weak… then down the road it actually becomes much more easier to stay on the right path and becomes much more difficult to sin because now the light of emaan is stronger inside of you.
So there you have it! 5 tips to help you stay consistent in your acts of Ibadah, even when your emaan gets weak.
Almas, that was my A to your Q.
And Allah S.W.T knows best! I hope you got something useful out of this Friday’s episode.
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While there’s a lot to be said on this topic, the simplest changes that I’ve personally applied in my life to stay consistent in my effort to be a better Muslim, are to keep reminding myself of my life’s purpose and stay in a close-knit pack of like-minded Muslims!
Now I’d Love to hear from you…
1. If you want to be consistent in your acts of Ibadah, which one of these strategies would make the biggest on your consistency?
2. And if you’re already consistent in your acts of Ibadah, what’s your number 1 secret?
Tell me about it in the comments section below. Insha’Allah the best discussions will happen after the episode. 🙂
Thousands of other growth-oriented Muslims come here to take inspiration and learn something that can help them become a better Muslim. A personal insight, a useful tip or just your inspiring words may be exactly what somebody else needs to stay consistent in becoming a better Muslim.
Keep working on yourself because remember:
“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of people until they change what is in themselves.” [Quran Surah Ra’ad; Ayah 11]
I pray Allah S.W.T gives all of us Istiqamah in our Ibadah and good deeds, Ameen.
JazakAllah for listening, reading and adding to the conversation. It means more to me and my crew than you know 🙂
I’ll talk to you in the next episode of Q&A Friday, Insha’Allah!
BarakAllahu Feek. Assalamualaikum warahmatullahe Wabarakatuhu.