I am easily distracted. This trait was a hindrance throughout school and my degree, but no doubt the area that this is most detrimental to, is my worship. My daily prayers are plagued by thoughts that creep into my consciousness, silently grip my mind and heart, steering them away from Allah SWT. Be it the pattern on my prayer mat or a task I have to do, there is always something that is diverting me from the most important moments of my day.
I write this as a reminder to myself, on attempting to rescue my salah, a most exquisite and sublime gift from Allah SWT. A nourishment, rejuvenation and refocussing for our souls, and the first thing we will be asked about on the Day of Judgement. These windows of tranquillity have the potential to adorn our days and sustain, protect and fill our hearts amidst the transient whirlwind that is this world. We hear of people finishing one salah only to look forward to the next one, so why does prayer feel so heavy, ritualised and burdensome for so many of us? With each rising sun, we witness comes a new God-given opportunity to reform our existence, to attain that contentment that every soul in this world is yearning. Don’t let another golden moment slip by, I pray He allows us to rescue our Salah and fall in love with it until we enter Jannah.
The first step to take is to correct our mindset. A simple realignment of perspective is all it takes. You are not in control of anything. Your job, your happiness, your health, your family, your movements, you are not even in control of the simplest of bodily functions. He is. The beating of your heart, how people behave towards you, what you achieve, everything is from Him, and He knows what is in your past and what is in your future. All honour, respect and sustenance are from Him. You are deaf, dumb and blind without Him and His provision and guidance. Everything around you is temporary, flawed and changing, but your soul is eternal and does not belong here. One day it will all crumble and perish, only He will remain. Turn yourself away from the world and towards Him, close your eyes to the creation and open your heart to the Creator. He has ordered us to prostrate to Him as a mercy only to us, each prayer is an opportunity to be forgiven.
Abu Dharr reported that the Prophet SAW said: “Allah faces the slave while he is in the Salah and keeps facing him as long as he does not turn. If [the slave] turns, [Allah] turns away from him.” – Abu Dawud [Saheeh Hadith]
Reflect on the sheer weight of this hadith. The Lord of the Worlds, who is aware of and sustaining every cell in every human, animal and bacteria, from the beginning of time to the end, is facing YOU. Listening to you, waiting for you to call, looking to forgive and to grant you more. You have His full attention until YOU lose focus.
While preparing for this Ramadan, I came across something I wrote after Itikaaf a few years back, a pertinent reminder for me;
“Itikaaf was a healing for my heart, a replenishment for my soul, a rejuvenation for my mind, and ultimately, the most precious realisation that exists in this universe. A realisation that I pray will burn within me once the mysterious Ramadhan energy and spirituality has subsided, and the light from which I hope to see once my soul has departed from this world. Our existences were stripped down to the absolute bare minimum in this dunya, we had minimal food, bedding, luxury, and contact with people. The clutter of our lives was placed aside in order to focus on the Absolute. The decorations of jobs and degrees and society were left at the door, and it was just souls, our exhausted, disorientated and lost souls gathered in His house. We walked towards Him, and as promised, Allah SWT ran towards us.”
I realised that I have my priorities all wrong. Rather than looking at the problem in front of me, I need to look to the One who can solve it. Rather than busying myself with the world around me, if I busy myself with He who created it, all else will all fall into place. And above this, I will be content. I will have what the entire human race is desperately searching and fighting for. Sakinah. Contentment. Tranquillity.
Incredibly, after ten days without family and friends and work and social media and television and everything else that we convince ourselves we need, I remained very much alive, in fact, even more so. I may have been missed by some, but in my absence, the earth had not stopped turning, organisations had not stopped running, humans had not stopped living. Even with positions of authority, soon enough I would be replaced, and everything would continue almost as if I had never existed, as is the way of the world. Whether I took 10 days out to sit in a mosque or was buried 6ft under until the end of the world, it makes no difference in this superficial, temporary, changing and imperfect world. ALL that matters is Him. My Sustainer, my Protector, my Guide and my Love.
After a Tafseer session about Prophet Ibrahim AS by the esteemed Sheikh Akram Nadwi, I sat on a prayer mat and visualised the day that the entire universe will disintegrate into nothingness. Every atom and photon shatters, from the buildings we inhabit to the cells in our bodies, from the oceans to the mountains, all will be gone.
Only His Majesty will remain. Prophet Ibrahim AS’s dua came to mind from Surah Al An’am, verse 79;“For me, I have set my face firmly and truly towards Him who created the heavens and the earth…”
Allah SWT is the only reality, and the extent to which we turn to Him holds the key to the state of our hearts, minds and affairs. We must shut our eyes to the creation and open our minds to the Creator, turn our hearts away from this world and turn them towards He who owns it. We control nothing, if He willed me to stop breathing while writing this, I would die, and if He willed me to live forever I would. So we must turn to Him fully and wholly, submit with every modicum of our existence, and then have blind trust and faith that He, the Kindest and Compassionate, will take us into His care, and walk with us on the path back to Him.
I realised something far more precious than all the gold in the world, something Ibrahim AS understood when he summarised the true definition of success in those words. As in a Maori proverb; “Turn your face towards the light and all the shadows will fall behind you.”
I have the Ultimate light source. I have the Light of the heavens and the earth. Light upon Light. If I turn myself towards Allah SWT, all the shadows of this world will fall behind me. And the most potent way of doing this is through Salah that engages every atom of our being.
May His light illuminate all of our souls and our steps. The light in your life is proportional to the light that Allah SWT bestows on you. You will only be content and at peace, if He illuminates your existence. Your circumstances may be beyond perfection but you will be restless and unhappy if He withholds His light. Once we truly comprehend this principle and realise we are nothing, whilst He is everything, iA we can worship like we were made to.
The Lord of the Heavens and the Earth awaits you. “Come to prayer, come to success.” -Adhan
Hiba is an Oxford graduate Physicist/Engineer by academic background and an author by soul. Her first commissioned children's book was published in 2019 by Penguin RandomHouse, and she is working on her first novel. Also a freelance journalist, she has written for The Independent and blogged for HuffPost, alongside having worked as a Physics teacher and Refugee Advocate at The Children's Society. Founder of global ethical brand Kusafiri, you will find her either traveling the world or saving money to travel the world. She loves quantum Physics, planting things and painting in watercolours. She especially loves sweetshops and good grammar. Hiba is currently interning at the United Nations and studying an MA at Soas, She has recently released her first picture book: The Little War Cat a couple of months ago with Macmillan Children's Books. Twitter & IG: @Hibanoorkhan1