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Strengthening One’s Aspiration

Ustadh Tabraze Azam answers a question about a constant feeling of discouragement in studies and how to strengthen one’s aspiration.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

Sometimes I get discouraged because I feel like when I move one step forward in my studies, I feel like I also jump ten steps back. In other words, I’ll learn something new and it will stick with me like glue, but my memory is so weak that the old material loses its strength.

This is very discouraging for me. Even one of my teachers noticed it today. I feel like I am wasting their time. Alongside consistently reviewing, are there other steps that I can take to help my memory? And general advice to help maintain my himma (aspiration) even when things get rough?

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I hope you are in the best of health and spirits, insha Allah.

Sidi Ibn Ata’illah al Iskandari said, “No matter is difficult if you seek it through your Lord, and nothing is easy if you seek it through yourself.”

Difficult times are to be expected. This is the dunya. However, with patience, perseverance, and a little realization, there is always a way out.

Allah Most High says:

And whoever is mindful of Allah, He will grant them a way out, and will provide for them in ways unimagined. And whoever places their trust in Allah, then Allah is their sufficiency. Allah’s affair will surely come to pass, and Allah has made a clear decree for everything. (Sura al Talaq 65:2-3)

Realize this and take the best possible means of attaining unto the goal. Consult more often regarding how and what you should review. What steps should you be taking to really benefit from the knowledge? How does it relate to other topics/subjects? Try to study/review with other students. And do everything you can to cement the material down.

Make a point to renew your intentions, seek forgiveness for yourself, parents, family, fellow students, teachers, and the entire umma, give a little in charity, strive to consistently fulfill all of your obligations, pray out of neediness, ask in blessed times and places with focus, sincerity, and conviction that you will be answered, and finally be grateful for what you already have. Allah Most High says:

If you are thankful, I will surely increase you. (Sura Ibrahim 14:7)

With time and sincerity, it will come, insha Allah. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, reminded us to seek the assistance of Allah and not to deem ourselves incapable.

And Allah alone gives success.

Wassalam,

Tabraze Azam

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


Long Days of Fasting? Shaykh Faraz Rabbani on The Prophetic Urge

If these long days of fasting are tiring you out, this talk is for you. Shaykh Faraz Rabbani provides inspiration by discussing the Prophetic urge towards fasting and other good deeds.

He explains how the Prophet and his companions were eager to avail themselves of the Divine assistance alongside commands to engage in these sometimes strenuous acts.

We are grateful to the World Islamic Mission for this recording. Photo by Moyan Brenn.

Resources for Seekers

My Weak Memory Discourages Me in My Studies

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: I’ve studied Arabic intensively since the beginning of this year. I’ve improved a lot since I started, but I get discouraged because I feel that when I move one step forward in my studies, I jump 10 steps back. In other words, I’ll learn something new and it will stick with me like glue, but my memory is so weak that the old material loses its strength. This is very discouraging for me. Alongside consistently reviewing, are there other steps that I can take to help my memory? And general advice to help maintain my himmah even when things get rough?

 

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I hope you are in the best of health and spirits, insha’Allah.

Sidi Ibn `Ata’illah al-Iskandari said, “No matter is difficult if you seek it through your Lord, and nothing is easy if you seek it through yourself.”

Difficult times are to be expected. This is the dunya. However, with patience, perseverance, and a little realization, there is always a way out.

Allah Most High says, “And whoever is mindful of Allah, He will grant them a way out, and will provide for them in ways unimagined. And whoever places their trust in Allah, then Allah is their sufficiency. Allah’s affair will surely come to pass–and Allah has made a clear decree for everything.” [Qur’an, 65: 2-3]

Realize this and take the best possible means of attaining unto the goal. Consult more often regarding how and what you should review. What steps should you be taking to really benefit from the knowledge? How does it relate to other topics/subjects? Try to study/review with other students. And do everything you can to cement the material down. With time and sincerity, it will come, insha’Allah. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) reminded us to seek the assistance of Allah and not to deem ourselves incapable.

Make a point to renew your intentions, seek forgiveness for yourself, parents, family, fellow students, teachers, and the entire umma, give a little in charity, strive to consistently fulfil all of your obligations, pray out of neediness, ask in blessed times and places with focus, sincerity, and conviction that you will be answered, and finally be grateful for what you already have. Allah Most High says, ‘If you are thankful, I will surely increase you’ [Qur’an, 14:7]

Please also see:

[1] Advice Regarding Being a Student of Knowledge and Taking Notes

[2] How Do I Improve My Memory So I Can Memorize the Qur’an More Easily

[3] A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah

And Allah alone gives success.

Wassalam,

Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

How Do I Balance Having Spiritual Ambition With Being Humble and Not Burning Myself Out?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan

Question: What is the difference between humility in one’s works (given that it is not you that is producing them), and hopelessness with one’s ability to improve? I feel that I am constantly ‘waiting’ for Allah to inspire me with himmah and thus inadvertantly blaming Him for my pathetic spiritual state…
 
Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.

Striving and Lowliness

The sunna is to strive and exert oneself, in a balanced manner, to perform spiritual works, and then after their performance, to:

(a)  attribute them to Allah and His infinite largess, for He alone is the Granter of tawfiq (ability and wherewithal to do the good); and

(b)  forget about them, so that one sees himself as having fallen short and not done enough.

This attitude of lowliness and deeming oneself to be full of shortcomings does not negate effort and due diligence in performing the good. Both are essential traits of the sincere believer, but each has its appropriate ‘time’ vis-à-vis the good deed.

That is to say, spiritual effort and exertion precede the action, while gratitude, lowliness and spiritual humility come after the action.

Waiting for himma and blaming Allah for low himma is to be avoided. The treatment for spiritual laziness deals primarily with company: keep the company of people of exertion, and avoid the company of the idle and aloof. (Company, of course, includes digital and social media, including T.V., internet, blogs, facebook, youtube and the like…)

Allah Most High states, “And those who strive for Our sake, We will surely guide them to Our paths” (29:69).

Prophetic Balance

Having said the above, it is important to keep in mind that the sunna is also to not take on more than one’s ability, lest one ‘burn out’. Unfortunately, this is far too common today, especially among younger Muslims who suddenly have ‘religious awakenings’ and get very excited about the deen, and frequently among those who follow modern revisionist Islam rather than traditional Sunni orthodoxy.

Our Beloved Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) warned us:”O people, take on of righteous actions only that which you can bear, for verily Allah does not tire until you tire. Indeed, the most beloved acts to Allah are those that last, even if little.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

It is based on this and similar hadiths that Imam Ghazali said, “If one’s spiritual drive diminishes and one’s ambition becomes weakened, and one knows that relaxation for some time by sleep, conversation, or joking would revive his drive, then that [relaxation] is better for him than praying while feeling bored. In reality, it entails following the Sacred Law, not following one’s caprice.”

[Nahlawi, Durar Mubaha]

And Allah knows best.
wassalam
Faraz

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

How Do I Raise My Resolve to do Good & Overcome Hardness of the Heart?

Answered by Shaykh Muhammad Qaylish

Question: When I began practicing, I used to be very motivated to perform the good. Now, I feel a hardness in my heart and less motivated to do good deeds. Can you please give some advice on how I can raise my motivation?

Answer: Bismillah

Allah Most High says,

“O you who believe! Be careful of your duty to Allah, and be with the truthful.” [Qur’an 9.119]

Thus, with our taqwa (God-consciousness), it is necessary to keep the company of the truthful and righteous.

With this, we should supplicate often with the words of the Best of Creation (peace and blessings be upon him),

“O over-turner of hearts, make my heart firm on your religion.”

If our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to make this supplication, it behooves us to follow his example (peace and blessings be upon him) and have fear of the overturning of hearts. And Allah Most Glorious is the Overwhelming over His creation, and He decrees whatever He wills for whoever He wishes. Thus, we ask Him to make us with the truthful and righteous, and to give us a good ending. And we seek refuge in Him from deception and being led astray, for He is the Hearing and Answering.

Worshiping Allah for His sake, not for illumination

When a believer obeys Allah Most High, they do so in obedience to the command of Allah. This good deed gives fruit to a light in the heart, and an increase in one’s spiritual resolve (himma). However, if our good deeds do not give apparent fruits, it is not allowed for us to leave them, because whenever we do the good, we will have obeyed the command of Allah—this is our duty.

Then, [having done our duty] if we find the apparent fruits of our deeds, then so be it. Otherwise, we at least obeyed the command of Allah, and we ask Him for acceptance. We are the servants of Allah, not the servants of illuminations that result from our deeds. The one who worships Allah for the fruits of their worship, such as the light and softness they find in their heart, are in need of sincerity to Allah alone in their worship.

What to do about hardness of heart and weakness of resolve

As for when one fears non-acceptance when they find hardness of heart and weakness in resolve, then one should make remembrance of Allah and istighfar (seeking forgiveness). It has been related in a hadith from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that he said,

“Truly, hearts rust just as iron rusts, and their polishing is La ilaha illa Allah (‘There is no god but Allah’) and seeking forgiveness.”

Thus, if a Muslim seeks to polish their heart, they should adhere to the remembrance of Allah until their heart is purified and illumined. If one makes remembrance of Allah but finds no light therein, then they should make themselves in a position to benefit from the winds of Allah’s beneficence.

It has been related in hadith that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,

“You Lord has in the days of your lives winds of beneficence, so benefit from them.”

Among these winds of beneficence are the blessed days mentioned in the Prophetic hadiths, in which worship is especially virtuous.

Among them is to search for truthful and righteous believers and to keep their company.

Among them is to establish night worship at the end of the night, and to supplicate at that time.

Among them is to remain constantly in the remembrance of Allah. Sayyidi Ibn `Ata’illah says,

“Do not leave the remembrance because of your lack of presence of heart with Allah therein, because your heedlessness of the remembrance of Allah is more harmful than your heedlessness during the remembrance of Allah. It may well be that He take you from remembrance in which there is heedlessness to remembrance in which there is consciousness; and from remembrance in which there is consciousness to remembrance in which there is presence of heart; and from remembrance in which there is presence of heart to remembrance in which there is obliviousness to all but the One Remembered, “And that is not difficult for Allah.””

Loss of motivation and the importance of moderation

As for loss of motivation, this is natural to the human temperament, and is the reason why the acts of good and worship are variegated—so that the lower selves of creation not get weary. Thus, if one finds weakness in one’s resolve, then move to another type of good, while being wary—when given success—not to take on too many voluntary acts of worship, lest this lead to loss of motivation and a sense of being fed up. Allah Most High enjoined upon us certain obligations which we cannot leave. After this, He encouraged us to supererogatory works from which we should take that which our selves can handle, sustain, and remain avid for the good.

Imam Muslim related in his Sahih, in the chapter on ‘Moderation in Exhortation,’ from Shaqiq that he said,

“We were sitting before the door of Abdullah [ibn Masud (Allah be pleased with him), the great companion of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)], waiting for him, when Yazid ibn Mu`awiya al-Nakha`i passed by us. We said to him, “Tell him about our presence.” He entered. Soon after, Abdullah [ibn Mas`ud] came out. He said, “I have been told about your presence. The only thing preventing me from coming out to you is my dislike of boring you. Verily, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to carefully choose when to give us exhortation, out of fear of us becoming weary.”

We ask Allah to make our days rich with His obedience, and to increase love and desire of drawing closer to Him in our hearts, until we meet Him and He is pleased with us. Amin.

Muhammad Qaylish

(Translated by Faraz Rabbani, a student of Shaykh Muhammad Qaylish)

3- حينما بدأت ألتزم كنت أجد دافعاً قوياً في نفسي نحو الخيرات ونوافل العبادات وكثرة الذكر . وكنت أجد رقة في قلبي .. الآن لا أجد ذاك الدافع وأشعر بقسوة في قلبي وضعف في همتي .. لا أقع في معاص ظاهرة … لكن أخاف أن يزداد ضعفي … كيف أقوي عزمي نحو الخير وتنوير قلبي؟

الجواب: يقول الله تعالى : [يا أيها الذين آمنوا اتقوا الله وكونوا مع الصادقين]. فمع التقوى لا بد من مصاحبة الصادقين . ومع هذا وذاك علينا أن نكثر من دعاء سيد الوجود e : “يا مقلب القلوب ثبت قلبي على دينك” . فإذا كان نبينا e يدعو بهذا الدعاء فعلينا أن نقتدي به e ونخاف من تقليب القلوب . والله سبحانه هو القاهر فوق عباده يحكم بما يشاء على من يشاء . فنسأله أن يجعلنا من الصالحين وأن يختم لنا بخاتمة الحسنى . ونعوذ به من المكر والاستدراج. إنه سميع مجيب.

والمؤمن حين يطيع الله عز وجل فإنه يفعل ذلك امتثالاً لأمر الله . فتثمر هذه الطاعة نوراً في القلب، وزيادة في الهمة . ولكن إذا لم تثمر الطاعة ثمارها فلا يجوز أن نتركها، لأننا حين نعمل الخيرات فإننا نكون قد امتثلنا أمر الله. وهذه هي وظيفتنا. ثم إذا أتت ثمار الطاعة فأهلاً وسهلاً. وإذا لم تأت نكون قد امتثلنا أمر الله. ونسأله سبحانه القبول. فنحن عباد الله ولسنا عباد الأنوار التي هي ثمرة عبادتنا . وإذا كان المسلم يعبد الله لأجل أن ينال ثمار العبادة من نور في القلب ورقة فيه فإن عبادته تحتاج إلى إخلاص النية لله وحده.

وأما إذا كان يخاف من عدم القبول حين يجد في القسوة في قلبه والضعف في همته فعليه بذكر الله والاستغفار . وقد ورد في الحديث عنه e : إن القلوب تصدأ كما يصدأ الحديد وجلاؤها لا إله إلا الله والاستغفار .

فإذا أراد المسلم أن يجلو قلبه فعليه بذكر الله حتى يصفو ويتنور. وإذا كان يذكر الله فلا يشعر بالنور يدخل إلى قلبه فليتعرض لنفحات الله سبحانه . فقد ورد في الحديث : إن لربكم في أيام دهركم نفحات . ألا فتعرضوا لها. ومن النفحات الأيام المباركة التي وردت الأحاديث في فضل العبادة فيها . ومنها البحث عن الصالحين الصادقين والبقاء معهم . ومنها قيام آخر الليل والدعاء فيه…. ومنها المداومة على الذكر . يقول سيدي ابن عطاء الله السكندري : لا تترك الذكر لعدم حضورك مع الله فيه فغفلتك عن وجود ذكره أشد من غفلتك مع وجود ذكره . فعسى أن ينقلك من ذكر مع وجود غفلة إلى ذكر مع وجود يقظة ومن ذكر مع وجود يقظة إلى ذكر مع وجود حضور ومن ذكر مع وجود حضور إلى ذكر مع غيبة عما سوى المذكور وما ذلك على الله بعزيز .

وإن السآمة من طبع النفوس البشرية . ولذلك تنوعت الطاعات والعبادات كيلا تمل نفوس العباد . فإذا شعر المسلم بشيء من الضعف في الهمة فلينتقل إلى نوع آخر من الطاعة . وليحذر الموفق من حمل نفسه على كثرة النوافل حتى لا تمل وتسأم . فإن الله سبحانه قد فرض علينا فروضاً لا يجوز لنا أن نتركها . ثم ندبنا بعد ذلك إلى نوافل نأخذ منها ما تحتمله نفوسنا وتبقى معه راغبة في الخير . وقد أخرج الإمام مسلم في صحيحه في باب الاقتصاد في الموعظة عن شقيق قال: كنا جلوساً عند باب عبد الله – بن مسعود – ننتظره، فمر بنا يزيد بن معاوية النخعي فقلنا: أعلمه بمكاننا. فدخل عليه، فلم يلبث أن خرج علينا عبد الله فقال: إني أُخْبَرُ بمكانكم، فما يمنعني أن أخرج إليكم إلا كراهية أن أُمِلَّكُمْ. إن رسول الله e كان يَتَخَوَّلُنَا بالموعظة في الأيام مخافة السآمة علينا. نسأل الله أن يجعل أيامنا بالطاعات عامرة وأن يزيد في قلوبنا محبته والرغبة بالإقبال عليه حتى نلقاه وهو عنا راض . آمين.

MMVIII © Faraz Rabbani and SunniPath.