Take two and call me in the morning
Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon Him, once said:
“Faith wears out in the heart of anyone of you just as clothes wear out, so ask Allah to renew the faith in your heart.” [Tabarani]
I think in my case, my faith is a bit more like a pendulum. It’s always there, Alhamdulillah, but I swing between striving for concentration in my prayers and struggling to not make grocery lists in sajda. It’s a constant effort to keep my faith on the upswing as well as minimize the back swing. I find that when I start letting things slip out of laziness- like praying late, praying 1 witr instead of three at night, ignoring Fajr sunnah- then the pendulum starts moving backwards faster, and laziness is replaced with sluggishness, and Astaghfirullah, even a bit of apathy.
I’m being honest, and may Allah forgive me, I’m doing so for the sake of reminding myself. I know that Allah has said in the Qur’an that sin puts a stain, or a spot of rust upon your heart, but again, in my case, it feels a bit like thin outer coating. The farther back I let myself swing before intervening, the thicker and thicker the coating becomes, until the prayers on my own lips barely reach my own ears, let alone penetrate my heart. The gentle reminders bounce off like they’re hitting a forcefield, I become short-tempered with the kids, lose patience with HF, and start slipping into self-destructive habits. I stay up late reading junk on the internet, sleep through Fajr without even having brushed my teeth, wake up late and stagger around groggily while Cindy and Joy- the housekeeper and Khalid’s full-time ABA therapist- are kind enough to feed the kids breakfast because Momma is too stupid-faced to even pour the cereal.
Then, because I’ve started my day late and tired, I’m cranky and unproductive for the rest of the day. I’m even less attentive in my salah than usual, and mustering the energy to battle for Ihsan is contingent upon me having the desire to try. Alhamdulillah, I’ve never been so low that I’ve abandoned prayer, but I have gone for months at a time without waking up for more than one fajr in the whole week. May Allah forgive me and protect me from ever slipping that far back again, because shaitaan takes advantage of the inevitable self-loathing that follows and volunteers such brilliant suggestions as “You’re a lost cause anyway, why bother trying.”
Yeah, I can get pretty low. And then, amazingly, something drastic always happens. December of last year I was so low I even stopped setting the alarm for Fajr, and what happened? I had a miscarriage. Then I crashed the car. Then I gave myself, Khalid, HF, and HF’s family food poisoning, and we were all in and out of the hospital for a very, very miserable two days.
I had reached a point in my life where the spray-on apathy covering my heart had gotten so thick it had solidified, crystallized, and began blocking the light out and the darkness in. So Allah took my heart and smashed it against the floor. And then again. And then again. I lost a baby, I lost my mobility- both the car and the cartilage under my right knee cap, I was violently sick with my own salmonella poisoning while also waking up with Khalid to be vomitted on five and six times a night by a crying, terrified, exhausted little boy who had no idea what was going on, and what did I get out of the whole experience? Something absolutely beautiful.
The covering shattered.
Allah used just enough force, and not an ounce more than I could bear, to break apart the encasement on my heart and leave a battered, tenderized, bleeding, but liberated heart laying there for me to pick up and start over with. So I did. And the shards were sharp and I have hurt more this year than I have in my entire life, but I have learned more about maintaining my faith and keeping my heart soft so that Allah doesn’t have to do it for me.
Is it superstitious of me to believe that if Allah will scourge me if I let my faith slip? Yes, it would be, except that isn’t what I believe. I believe that Allah is kind, and He gives us chances to rebuild ourselves by knocking us down. Every hardship is both a challenge and an opportunity, and when I think of all the times that Qadr has backhanded me, it’s been when I needed a good, swift kick in the apathy. I believe it’s tough love. And I’m grateful for it.
And now that I’m done typing the world’s longest introduction, here is my actual post:
I can feel it starting to form- the smoky, glassy, film on the outside of my heart that makes my words harsh and my worship empty. At one point in my life, I would have kept this to myself, but I recognize now that acknowledging it and fighting it is the only way to keep it from solidifying again. So I actively seek out ways of softening my heart, and I think, for the first time ever, I understand why there is an entire field of Islamic thought and literature devoted to this- Al-Riqaq- usually translated as heart-melting. I have been slowly building my own collection of heart softeners, which I turn on, open up, or bring out when I realize I need them. I want to share two of my favorites, but believe it or not, Youtube hasn’t been working for the last three days, which is why this update has been delayed.
Of course, the best heart softener is the Qur’an, but sometimes you need something short, powerful, and visual to get a good whack at that coating. And do please share any of your own in the comments. Allah knows I need them. JazakAllahuKheiran