Assalam alaykum my beloved ummati.
I have no idea when this post will be published but today is Jummah and it’s roughly 30 minutes after fajr. I pray to Allah during the blessed few hours of this morning, that everyone fated to read this post will receive his forgiveness and be greeted with the great news of Jannah and will be protected from the trial of the grave.
So there is a particular challenge I face from time to time that I’m certain millions of other muslims have experienced before, or can relate with.
There have been moments in my life where I felt my Iman drop to the level of a pit. What I’ve come to learn is that the decline of my Iman, is not something that happens rapidly as though I was asleep one night and I woke up the next morning with low Iman. No, this is not the case but rather it drops at the speed of a feather slowly making its way to the ground. You almost don’t feel its force as its gravitates towards the ground but when the feather does touch the ground, you feel like it could tear and split the ground wide open.
There were several signs and symptoms that I experienced that tried to warn me that my Iman was dropping and I needed to recharge my spiritual bars as soon as possible. I’ll mention some of these signs later.
Just to cover the basics, Iman for those of you who don’t know simply means ‘faith’. Faith is one of the five pillars of islam and the truth is you cannot practice islam or carry out any act of worship if you don’t have faith. The most important thing to remember as a muslim or a person who claims to have Iman, is that Iman is something that rises and falls and needs to be renewed from time to time.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Faith wears out in the heart of any one of you just as clothes wear out, so ask Allah to renew the faith in your hearts”.Reported by Mustadrak al-Haakim
As you can tell from the Hadith quoted above, it is very normal and expected for an individual to experience low levels of Iman at different moments in their life. However, if at any given point you experience low Iman, it is left to you to work on increasing the current poor status of your Iman in order to feel the special tranquility in your heart that can only be gotten from worshipping and pleasing Allah.
Before I get deeper into this post, I’d like you to compare your current Iman to the battery on your phone. On a scale of 0 to 100% how charged do you think your Iman is at the moment?
Now please take your time and don’t be hasty in responding. Really think about it. Before you spill out a number it’s important you understand that the more you use your faith to carry out all the daily, simple and more challenging acts of worship, including the times you had to heavily rely on your faith to get through periods of hardship and tests, you are bound to either increase or decrease your Iman (depending on what and how you do the things you do).
Iman Level: 90-100% (Green Stage)
If you say your Iman is somewhat fully charged and between the figures of 90-100% then in terms of your phone battery levels, they are full and green. If you are in this category mashallah this is truly wonderful! May Allah make you steadfast in your worship. Realistically, what this means for me is that you perhaps fast every Mondays and Thursdays, you are consistent with your tahajuud, you recite your Quran everyday and recite suratul khaf every Friday, you pray all your sunnah prayers and carry out all your sunnah deeds, you pray all the fard prayers on time e.t.c
Every muslim should strive and aim to build their Iman up to this stage. The fact is the higher your Iman is, the more you would strive to perform more acts of worship and to be consistent with them because you have faith that all your sacrifice and everything you do for the sake of Allah will greatly benefit you some day; it’s why you spend all your time doing all of these extra deeds.
Iman level: 60-80% (Light Green Stage)
If your Iman drops to the light green stage, you are still doing very well Alhamdulilah. What this means to me is perhaps you don’t pray all your sunnah prayers, you pray tahajuud from time to time but you are not very consistent with it, you read the Quran roughly 3-5 days a week, you fast every now and then e.t.c
Iman Level: 40-50% (Orange Stage)
When your Iman drops to the orange stage, this is when things start to become turbulent. You start to experience some feelings and symptoms that try to warn you to re-charge and boost your Iman and to get closer to Allah. If you are at this stage, what this means to me is that you pray all your fard prayers but perhaps you pray absentmindedly or you don’t pray on time. At this point you may not feel too worried because you are still meeting the bare minimum but something in your soul is telling you, you are lacking and can do so much better. Ideally as a muslim, you should try to recharge your Iman as soon as you feel it drop to this stage. Don’t allow it to drop further than this.
Iman Level: 20-30% (Yellow Stage)
If your Iman drops to the yellow stage, then you will feel the hardcore effects and symptoms of a low Iman; and that is a compromised heart. At this stage you are susceptible to committing more serious sins that would also negatively affect your soul and further grow the distance between you and Allah. Think about it. If you truly have a strong and fully charged faith, you wouldn’t have the nerve or be capable of committing grave sins. If you are at this stage it doesn’t necessarily mean you are a bad person but you are very much enslaved to your weaknesses. Because your Iman is weak, you won’t find the strength to fight your weaknesses and to make the better and ‘harder’ choices for your life and spiritual wellbeing.
If you are at this stage, what this means to me is that you are probably one of those people they term the ‘ramadan muslims’. Every other time in the year you don’t pray at all (or you do so but very little), you hardly read the Quran, you probably don’t observe hijab, you don’t pray Jummah, e.t.c
Iman Level: 0-10% (Red Stage)
Once you hit the red stage you are in the danger zone because Shaytan’s gotten a grip of your hand already and all he has to do is lead you to cross the line fully and to lead you astray. If you let your iman/battery run out completely to the point it dies, then it means you no longer have faith. If you are at this stage, what this means to me is that you’ve started doubting God and you start to question His existence and everything. Once your Iman dies it means you’ve stopped believing in God and no longer care about the repercussions of your actions and have stopped practicing Islam completely and only live your life according to your whims and desires.
Iman is something I’ve heard people talk about abstractly multiple times in different lectures but they would never really provide in depth and practical details. I hope I’ve done a decent job to try and illustrate and paint the different levels of Iman to help you better place how high or low your Iman is presently and what level you can aim to reach.
Now, I’d like to discuss some of the signs and symptoms I spoke of earlier that I personally experience whenever I feel my Iman drop. Usually, when I experience low Iman I would always drop to the orange stage. The lowest my Iman has ever dropped in the history of my existence and practice of islam is the yellow stage.
Some of the signs and symptoms I experienced across the different stages are:
- I would feel some unshakable unrest and unease in my body. It’s as though a dark cloud settled or is hovering just slightly above my heart and is preventing me from thoroughly enjoying any good feeling.
- I would also get the sudden and strong desire to declutter and cleanse my life (like a social media cleansing, wanting to start things afresh and on a clean slate, I would want to re-arrange my wardrobe and get rid of old stuff and move furnitures around the house). I basically want to re-organise and clean everything in my immediate surrounding (including the things that don’t need cleaning). When the truth is the real change and cleansing that needs to be done is within my heart and soul.
- I can feel my soul is hungry for something and although I am eating and doing different things, it doesn’t feel like I am providing it with the nutrients it desperately needs. I would always feel like a malnourished soul.
- I would get very emotional and would miss Allah terribly especially during the time of my menses, because I feel the most distant from him during that period when I cannot perform salat or touch the Quran.
- I would always feel a void in my heart that no one else in my life can fill because all I really want and crave is to be shrouded by Allah’s love and to feel His sakina and mercy on my soul.
I mentioned earlier some of the things people do to help identify their current level of Iman.
Some other things I did that I know contributed to the level of my Iman dropping or caused my soul to starve for a stronger connection with its Creator are:
- Either rushing or delaying my salat;
- It’s when I’m standing in front of my Maker in salat and reciting the verses of the Quran and not really pondering on the verses I’m reciting. So I absentmindedly brush over the words ihdinā ṣirāṭa al-mustaqīm like I’m reciting verses from a play book that I’ve memorised, without letting the words sink into my heart as though I’m hearing and saying it for the first time;
- It’s when I forget to say bismillah and alhamdulliah before and after I finish eating;
- It’s when I don’t engage in enough dhikr or spend enough time recognising Allah’s signs that’s spread around me as He mentioned in the Quran;
- It’s when I don’t recite and ponder upon the words of the Quran as much as I should;
- It’s when I start to become greedy and ungrateful for the blessings and mercies Allah bestowed in my life;
- It’s when I overly engage in activities that only waste my time and do nothing to benefit me either physically, mentally, spiritually or financially;
- It’s when I do all of the above and commit other sins that my Lord and my scribes witnessed without sincerely repenting or seeking Allah’s forgiveness.
All of these and many more things that happen in your life that are beyond your control contributes to the level of your Iman dropping steadily. It’s not possible for a man that is always in the front row of the mosque praying to suddenly stop going to the mosque or to wake up the next morning and pronounce that he is no longer a muslim. Something must have been going on in the background that you did not know or something would have given him away to those that are observant that he was slipping away. So if he used to go the mosque every day then his attendance would gradually reduce to 5 times a week. Then with time it would reduce to 3 times a week. Then it would reduce to only going on Fridays. Then it would reduce to only going during ramadan. Then at some point you’d forget about him because you no longer see him observing any prayer at the mosque. Iman is something that is gradually built or lost.
Now that all of that has been mentioned, the only question left to ask is what are the things you can do to build your Iman back up?
The very first step to take to build your Iman back up is to be very honest with yourself and to answer the question I asked earlier. On a scale of 0-100 how charged is your Iman right now? You can scroll back up to look at the different stages to determine what stage you currently stand.
In Islam, accountability is everything. You have to hold yourself accountable for all of your actions and inactions. One beautiful thing about Islam that I love is that it teaches every one of us to strive for ihsan (excellence) in EVERYTHING we do; in our speech, in our greetings, in our dressing, in our hygiene, in our worship, in our relations, in our manners, in our business conducts, in everything. A true muslim would stand out by a mile from the rest of the world, especially in the current era that we live in. However, because we are humans there will always be room for us to err and make mistakes. The truth is it’s impossible for us as humans to constantly and consistently hit that 90-100% bar because we will be tested by Allah and our faith will be shaken from time to time and that’s okay. It doesn’t matter how many time you fall, what matters most is if and how many times we get back up and set things straight and running again. My beautiful brothers and sisters, regardless of the number of times you’ve failed to hit that green bar, you should rejoice and give thanks because you serve The Most Merciful and The Most Loving and The Most Forgiving. Allah told us MULTIPLE times in the Quran that He is the most merciful, that He is the most gracious, that He is the Most loving and He Is the most forgiving. He is always there to receive us with open arms. We are the ones who leave Him but He is always right where we left Him, patiently waiting for us to find our way back to Him.
So whether or not you are currently at the red stage, or yellow stage or orange stage, all Allah is asking of you during each stage is to take one step towards him and He would coming running towards you in return.
Allah says ‘Take one step towards me and I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me and I would run towards you.’Hadith Qudsi
If the Hadith cited above doesn’t reassure that you can truly be that great muslim He knows you can be, that you can attain ihsan and be amongst those He describes are Al- Muttaqin, then I don’t know what else can.
What breaks and humbles my heart the most and causes my love for Allah to grow even more, is that Allah’s favour upon us does not decrease during the ugly periods we engage in things that would only further drop our Iman and grow a distance between us. He still causes the sun to rise each day and illuminates the earth for us to carry on with our daily activities. He still causes the rain to fall and grow the crops that we and the animals would eat. He still protects us every day on our commute to work and back home despite our reckless driving or the careless use of our phone when driving. He still causes us to go to bed with a full stomach and to have some peaceful sleep and have beautiful dreams. He still causes our flesh to heal after we accidentally cut or wound it. He still grants us the ability to see his beautiful creations including the ones we love, to speak, feel, hear and smell all the beautiful things on the earth. It’ll be a futile effort of mine to try to mention all of Allah’s favours in our lives for a single hour (talk less every day) because His blessings upon us are simply impossible for me to count.
The only thing that changes is that we will feel the effect of our Iman dropping. People that are more insightful and mindful of their feelings and emotions are able to detect the decline in their Iman much quicker than others. Our ability to feel the symptoms and discomfort in our heart is a huge mercy from Allah because it’s Him trying to communicate and warn us that we have begun to thread a path that would lead us astray and further away from Him and He doesn’t want that for us because we would be the ultimate losers if we let that happen. So if we choose to listen to the signs and symptoms we feel in our heart and soul, we can decide to take a re-route and find a path that would lead us back to Him.
That said whenever our soul warns us to re-charge our Iman, it’s not for us to wallow and feel sad and depressed and let the feeling overwhelm us. It’s a call for immediate action. It just wants us to reconnect with our maker and to continue to succeed in life and to win Allah’s pleasure and continue to receive His blessings and many favours in our lives before we cross the line of losing faith and becoming ungrateful and transgressing in our actions and thereby incurring His wrath that no one can prevent.
If you currently feel your Iman has dropped, it’s your duty and you owe it to your soul (the good part that is fighting to be saved) and whatever love you may have for your own self, to build your Iman back up and to find that sweet reconnection with your Maker.
Whenever I experience low Iman, the first thing I do is run to my praying mat and just perform sajdah. I cry and beg Allah to draw me closer to Him and to not allow me lead myself astray or to empower my evil nafs or shaytan to do so for me. I also ask for Him to forgive my sins and to pardon my shortcomings and I remember to tell Him how much I miss Him and need Him. I basically express all I feel as honestly as I can. And I DO NOT get up from my sujood until I feel the cloud lifted from my heart. I wait till I experience the complete relief and feel like all the corners of my heart has been illuminated with Allah’s love and mercy.
Whenever I do this I ALWAYS feel 100 times better inside my heart but outwardly my countenance and mood is yet to fully change. So I would still be put in a sober mood for a few hours and sometimes days; just picture a tiny puppy sitting in the corner and patiently waiting for its owner to return home and shower it with the affection and food it needs. When I feel Allah take His 10 steps towards me, I instantly feel my mood improve by a thousand points. I start to feel very inspired and optimistic and excited and energised to do many good things.
I recite a lot more of the Quran without feeling tired and read the translations of the things I’m reading to better understand God’s message in the Quran. I go to the mosque to pray; I always feel a different type of tranquility when I pray in the mosque and feel even closer to Allah. I feel more inclined to give charity and just find myself in situations were I can do good and benefit others. I also try to check up on the relatives I haven’t heard or spoken to in a while. I do A LOT of istighfar. I watch islamic lectures on youtube or listen to naseeha on different podcasts to keep me inspired. All of these things help me to boost my Iman back up and of course consistency is key. On the days I am on my period, I engage in a lot more dhikr to keep Allah close to my heart and read the Quran from my phone. If several months later I feel my Iman start to drop again I repeat the whole cycle.
If you are on the red or yellow stage, I would recommend you tap into your competitive side to help guide you back onto the right path. The plain truth is you currently don’t have much faith to push you to engage in acts of worship, so you genuinely wouldn’t feel the natural need or urge or desire to do any of the above things (i.e pray, read Quran, pray tahajuud, give sadaqah e.t.c). However, if you choose to maybe rely on your competitive string or your head and decide to do those things (because you still have some tiny faith left), then trust that without a doubt your actions will begin to positively influence and affect the condition of your heart. Allah says just take one step towards him and if that’s what you are doing, He will appreciate that little effort.
So if right now you don’t care to pray or to read Quran consistently, I challenge you to challenge yourself. See it as someone daring you that you cannot do something and you want to prove them wrong because who the hell are they? They don’t get to dictate what you can or cannot do or exercise any control over you. Only you have control over what you do. So whoever you are right now and regardless of all the bad choices you’ve made in the past or how far astray and hopeless you think you are…I am challenging you to take one step towards Allah each day. Do whatever you can do to bring you one step closer to Allah. Don’t look at it as though you are trying to prove God right or wrong. The truth is you have nothing to prove to God. God knows exactly who we are and what we can and cannot do. He also knows what we will be and what we will not be. It’s us that do not know our true natures or our true capabilities. Always remember that this life is your life and everything that happens in your life, either teaches you something about yourself or shows you the repercussions of every action taken by you (both good and bad).
So please try and do as many good as you can and to live your life the way Allah wants us to live as muslims so we can live to reap the rewards of our actions; only we stand to benefit from them. Not God. Not anybody. Only you. So once again please try to always take one step towards Allah and write yourself a beautiful life in order to stand a greater chance of earning Allah’s greatest pleasure and mercy.
May Allah azzawajal guide us all and cause us to thread the most righteous path that would always lead us to Him and His greatest pleasure.
Until next time,