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.

I’m hoping this link works for those of you outside of the UAE, and this one too.

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


Abez is a 50% white, 50% Pakistani, and 100% Muslim. She is also chronically ill and terminally awesome. She is the ever-lovin Momma of: - Khalid, a special little boy with autism - Iman, a special little girl with especially big hair -Musfira, an especially devious baby Spoiler, Abez is also Zeba Khan on Muslimmatters.org.

  1. Mona

    thanks so much for sharing these. i’ve been feeling the same way and just reading your post makes me want to start trying harder again. the links aren’t working yet but i’ve bookmarked them and i’ll watch whenever i can.

  2. S

    Oops that got cut off.

    … with a heart that always stays soft and imaan that is constantly renewed before it can wear away. 🙂

    Jazakillahu khairan for your honesty – it’s a much needed reminder.

    Salaam and love.

  3. S

    Forgive me for being silly enough to make 5 comments rather than one. The translation for the hadith in the clip from SunniPath (same link as your reset button for the soul was I think 🙂 ). Please make a little du’a for me.

    Hadith Qudsi 34:

    On the authority of Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say:

    “Allah the Almighty said:

    ‘O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.’”

    It was related by at-Tirmidhi (also by Ahmad ibn Hanbal). Its chain of authorities is sound.


  4. niqabified

    Just yesterday I was speaking to a friend about this, how delaying your prayers sets you off into a vicious cycle. And everything is justified because, like you said you think ‘you’re a lost case’. I suppose it is only natural to have lows in your iman but with people like me, achieving the high then seems like such a feat that you stop trying altogether. Of late, I have also tried to find some quick, short cut methods of getting myself back on the track. I found this website called edars, its got a huge collection of bayans and I just scroll for the title that I need the most, like let’s say I’m getting really distracted in salah or delaying it then I would try to find something on its importance. It does work for me. Also I had heard somewhere that once you start leaving sunnat, then shytan makes you leave faraidh as well. So if we want to be firm on our faraid, we should concentrate on sunnat. Every deed has its momentum, the good will motivate you towards more good and bad will eventually make you commit more bad.

  5. Abez

    Mona: I’ll embed the videos once Youtube is feeling better, InshaAllah

    S: JazakAllahuKheiran for the link, and for the translation! And you may post as many comments as you like. 🙂

    Niqabified: You hit the nail on the head- it’s about momentum. HF and I were discussing your comment just this evening after Maghrib, JazakAllahuKheiran for the reminder. 🙂

  6. thanaya asgher

    assalamoalaikum sister,
    subhanAllah… as i said earlier MA u never fail to impress me! sister what touve expressed here is so true! we all undergo such phases time and again… i came out of one when my hubby’s mom suddenly passed last year… i was struck bad! in the heart, in the face! it was so sudden and i loved her so dearly that i could not help but fall back into the sincere prayer routine alhamdolillah! before that for years i used my own mom’s death as a heart-softener! if only i would not require such drastic episodes to soften my heart:) remember the entire ummah in duaas in this reference plz… tc and keep posting, i check ur blog daily hoping for a new post:) jazakAllah

  7. thanaya asgher

    hey check this out:

    These are the words of one of the greatest scholars of the early generation. Al-Imam Sufyaan ath-Thawri (161 H) is known as one of the Eight Ascetics of his age. He was, rahimahullah, ‘aabid – a worshipper.

    Twenty years of Jihad by night. No sweetness was experienced by ath-Thawri (rahimahullah) for twenty years?

    Nevertheless he kept the course with unwavering inspirational sabr. He struggled in fear, campaigned in love, and toiled in hope of Allah.

    He would later comment that a sin he committed kept him from the night prayers for five months.

    Tahajjud, from ha-ja-da meaning “vigilant by night” consumed in devotional prayer.

    It is a reality that for many the thought of prayer, obligatory not voluntary, results in sluggishness of form and drowsiness in invocation.

    We pray, but do we?

    We call out, but do we?

    We attempt remembrance, but do we?

    Twenty years of Jihad – Jaahatu Nafsi the Imam said. Twenty years of difficulty and comfort, prosperity and adversity, happiness and sorrow, wealth and poverty, fear and security, births and deaths, love and animosity. Constancy in worship throughout all the conditions and experiences of life is unique.

    Allah describes the animosity that a believer has for the comfort of their soft bedding. In Surat as-Sajdah (32:16-17):

    تَتَجَافَى جُنُوبُهُمْ عَنِ الْمَضَاجِعِ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُمْ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ فَلَا تَعْلَمُ نَفْسٌ مَّا أُخْفِيَ لَهُم مِّن قُرَّةِ أَعْيُنٍ جَزَاء بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
    Usually the verse is translated as

    “Their sides Jafaa (forsake) their beds, to invoke their Lord in fear and hope, and they spend (charity in Allah’s Cause) out of what We have bestowed on them. No person knows what is kept hidden for them of joy as a reward for what they used to do.”

    In fact the word Jafaa is much more contemptuous. Allah describes the physical being of a believer as despising their bed and the comfort it invites.

    Ash-Shafi’ee (rahimahullah) would touch his bed and say, “May you be destroyed. You are ever so soft and inviting.”

    Abu Hanifa (rahimahullah) was asked how often he recites the Quran in its entirety. He asks in response, “Do you mean during the day or by night? During the night, the questioner inquired. The Imam asked, “Do you mean while in Tahajjud or out of prayer?”

    Subhan Allah!

    Our audacity, at times, tempts us to feel content with our current level of devotion and ‘Ibadah. The internet becomes our dawa, the masjid our hangout, the brothers – da brothas. Our ‘Ibadah is weak but our talk is uninhibited. Our dreary lives, jobs, lack of jobs, idle free time and stress cause us to have grandiose self assessments and an over estimation of our true nearness to the Divine. The response within us reflectively is dismissive in its oversimplification.

    “That was then, this is now. That is al-Imam Sufyan and I am merely Yahya.”

    So we fail to change or improve. We look for quick fix solutions to problems in our life that are spiritual ailments that require a rejuvenation of Faith.

    Once upon a time, ten years or more ago, I was as asleep in a hotel room thinking I was alone. Little did I know that my teacher Shaykh Mohammed Safwat Nooredeen (rahimahullah) arrived in the middle of the night to take possession of HIS room wherein I was asleep due to a scarcity of rooms in the hotel which was attached to a conference I was translating for. No one informed me that it wasn’t actually my room, and that they just put me in it knowing that I was his student and we’d make do whenever he finally arrived. There I was, snoring away.

    At first I was scared hearing what sounded to me like soft huffs and puffs. I recited Ayatul Kursi. A soft whine and moan ensued. Someone or something was crying.

    I sat up and looked around while fumbling for the lamp switch at the same time trying to grab my glasses; All the while reading Ayatul Kursi. Heart beat off the chart and I am ready to swing.

    Prostrate in the corner of the room where the door is, out of my view was my Shaykh praying his night prayer. He arrived, ate an apple, made his ablution and did what came natural. He prayed and bowed. He stood and prostrated.

    At first I thought that this was because of restlessness and inability to sleep due to the time change. But I knew his ‘Ibadah was solid, outwardly is what I am witness to, and inwardly Allah grants the reward.

    I made wudu and joined him. He informed me in the morning of the words of ath-Thawri. He was so polite in his advice. Don’t snore away your night was the accusation. Even if you don’t relish the worship, remember ath-Thawri. Allah have mercy on our scholars and students.

    Ath-Thawri also said, “I was barred from praying Tahajjud for 5 months on account of a sin I committed.”

    Some said to Ibn Mas`ood, may Allah be pleased with him, “We are unable to perform the night prayer.” He responded simply, “Your sins are prohibiting you (from it).”

    Allah orders the Messenger early on in the mission of conveying Islam to humanity:

    يَا أَيُّهَا الْمُزَّمِّلُ قُمِ اللَّيْلَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا نِصْفَهُ أَوِ انقُصْ مِنْهُ قَلِيلًا أَوْ زِدْعَلَيْهِ وَرَتِّلِ الْقُرْآنَ تَرْتِيلًا
    “O you who wraps himself [in clothing], arise [to pray] the night, except for a little – half of it – or subtract from it a little or add to it, and recite the Quran with measured recitation.”[Quran 73: 1-4]

    Half the night!? For real?

    ‘Aisha (radi Allahu anha) says, “Do not ever stop standing in prayer at night. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) never ceased praying it. When he (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was sick or weak, he prayed sitting.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

    My aim is not to dazzle myself and you with verses and hadeeth extolling virtue upon those who stand in prayer at night. It is simply to ask, “Why is it so hard for me?”

    So I write to you to remind myself.

    I want to pray more than I do, more often than I do, in a more tranquil way than I do, for longer and humbler than I do.

    I want us to be from those who sleep little at night but find energy and Baraka in their day. I want to greet the dawn each and every morning having made my Jihad by night. I want to find comfort and ease in that ‘Ibadah that is the hallmark of righteousness.

    إِنَّ الْمُتَّقِينَ فِي جَنَّاتٍ وَعُيُونٍ آخِذِينَ مَا آتَاهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا قَبْلَ ذَلِكَ مُحْسِنِينَ كَانُوا قَلِيلًا مِّنَ اللَّيْلِ مَا يَهْجَعُونَ وَبِالْأَسْحَارِ هُمْ يَسْتَغْفِرُونَ
    “Indeed, the righteous will be among gardens and springs, accepting what their Lord has given them. Indeed, they were before that doers of good. They used to sleep but little of the night, and in the hours before dawn they would ask forgiveness.” [Quran 51: 15-18]

    أَمَّنْ هُوَ قَانِتٌ آنَاء اللَّيْلِ سَاجِدًا وَقَائِمًا يَحْذَرُ الْآخِرَةَ وَيَرْجُو رَحْمَةَ رَبِّهِ قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الَّذِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ إِنَّمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ أُوْلُوا الْأَلْبَابِ“Is one who is devoutly obedient during periods of the night, prostrating and standing [in prayer], fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord, [like one who does not]? Say, “Are those who know equal to those who do not know?” Only they will remember [who are] people of understanding.”[Quran 39: 9]

    I want my wife to hose me down with water, or maybe just a sprinkle as the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said.

    Abu Hurayrah also reported that the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “May Allah have mercy on a man who wakes up at night, prays, and wakes his wife to pray; and if she refuses, he sprinkles water on her face. And may Allah have mercy on a woman who wakes up at night, prays, and wakes her husband to pray; and if he refuses, she sprinkles water on his face.” [Abu Dawood and it is Sahih]

    Al-Hasan al Basri (another of the Eight Ascetics) was asked: “We are unable to perform the night prayer so prescribe us a cure.” He said, “Do not disobey Him during the day and He will help you stand before Him during the night.”

    Oh Allah! Help me to remember you, thank you, and be better in my worship.

    Oh Allah! Help me to wake up in your worship and to be consistent in it.

    Oh Allah! Allow us to worship you as you deserve to be worshipped.

    Oh Allah! Grant us patience in your worship.

    I ask you my brother and sister to ask Allah to help me and my family worship Allah when others are oblivious in slumber.

    Tagged as: jihad, prayer in the night, qiyam, salah, Sincerity, tahajjud, Yahya Ibrahim .48 Responses »

  8. Abez

    “Do not disobey Him during the day and He will help you stand before Him during the night.” This was awesome, JazakAllahuKheiran for posting it Thanaya!

  9. Sammy

    Abez this was so beautiful. I take you as an inspiration, because you’re so honest and such a slave to Him and to see you break down in this post was heart-wrenching. I just came back from what you just described. The difference is, I’ve come back with stupid lessons like not trusting people, like not having expectations from Allah’s Creations but only from Him instead of the purity with which you have.

    I absolutely HATE having events that take me from apathetic to a law-abiding, God-fearing citizen of Allah’s World… Unfortunately, that’s how it always has been and I can’t get out of that cycle because shaitaan has long hands and I, not enough faith.

    May Allah Guide us all, may we remain steadfast and patient. And sensible.

  10. M from USA

    As-salaam-alaikum sister.. I just happened to come across your blog and am so impressed and humbled by your honesty. You’ve verbalized what many of us are feeling or have felt at some point in our lives but are too ashamed to admit. You’re absolutely right that in order to overcome our limitations we must first acknowledge them. JazakAllah for the visual descriptions of how easy it is for our hearts to “harden” and disobey our Creator… May Allah(swt) soften our hearts so we are able to proclaim the praises of our Lord with unwithering determination. ameen

  11. UmmH

    Salamalaikumw a rahmatullah wa barakaatuh

    You said it sister! The drop in imaan is exactly how u mentioned..

    About fajr ( and other similar faraaidh), just don’t give up. Keep trying.
    Also, have you tried making dua by giving waseela of one of your good deeds?

    May Allah keep you and your family in His protection always.. Ameen.

  12. S

    Assalaamu alaikum Abez and all,

    Found this on the momentum that was being discussed – the whole khutbah is a very good read and not very long – http://www.khutbah.com/en/return_allah/return.php:

    ‘after heavy rainfall, Hisham Ibn Hasan was walking behind Al-Alaa’ Ibn Ziyaad through the sloppy muddy streets of their village. He noticed Ibn Ziyaad avoiding all the treacherous puddles, until someone bumped him and his sandal slipped into the puddle. Forced by the momentum, Ibn Ziyaad had to carry through to the other end of the unforgiving mire.

    After they had reached their destination, Ibn Ziyad turned to Hisham and said, “Just like we avoided all those puddles on our way to this destination, so should as Muslim avoid the disobedience of Allah throughout his journey to the Hereafter. And just as you saw the momentum of falling into the puddle, such is the similitude of sin; when someone falls into it, it carries him deeper and deeper.”’

  13. Erica

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    I am so grateful for your words, I needed to hear them.

  14. TiredOfTrying

    This made me weep today. I’ve already read this post 4-5 months ago (started reading your blog 6months ago) and yesterday while thinking about what I’m going through.. I got Exactly these feelings .. the forming of outer cover .. the smashing .. the shattering .. And I thought of You. This article. And then as I checked your site today(the way I do Every-Single-Day for an update), I picked up some random article displayed and started reading.. And it turned out to be the Same One I was thinking of yesterday! It brought me back to Realisation. BUT, Zeba, Do you still have that ‘fear/depression’ after the shattering? I do.. still. The shattering did make me gain more trust .. But .. the fear of those trials or the depression still remains in a corner. I am still dangling between Hope and Fear(from the trials, Astaghfirullah). I solicit your duas.

  15. Grey Crayon

    Subhan Allah, just seen this now and not a moment too soon. Jazak Allahu Khair for this beautiful reminder my Sis… x

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