>> Friday, December 24, 2010
I am in my first year of university, and before I started I imagined everything being so different. This is my first year attending any school wearing the hijab and abaya, and I had all summer to get use to wearing it and I was ready. However, I'm just finishing up my exams, [I completely bombed one yesterday :( ] And have one more to go. I was on a Iman high when I started school, I joined MSA, met fellow muslimahs, but now as I'm heading to the school break my Iman is at an all time low. I've stopped praying my Sunnah prayers, waking up to pray in the middle of the night is so difficult for me now and my fard prayers are rushed. I'm down in the dump because of school and stress. This isn't the first time this has happened to me. One week my Iman is so HIGH and the next it's almost non-existing. How can I bring my Iman back up for second semester and FOREVER? What can I do this winter break that can help me keep my Iman from being on this never ending roller-coaster? May Allah reward you sisters for your beneficial advice.
Fed Up of the Roller Coaster Ride
Dear Fed Up of the Roller Coaster Ride!
let me CONGRATULATE you on wearing hijab and abaya in university. Wow!! I am so proud of you. I really am. I mean to have gone from not wearing hijab to wearing the hijab and abaya…..that’s just awesome, sis! Ma’shaAllah. May Allah make each day easier for you than the last! Ameen! Ya Rubb.
As for university not being what you expected- it takes a while to get used to it. Back in the day (*insert lame joke on how old I’ve gotten*), when I was still a newbie at uni, I was totally lost. But by the end of the first year, I was walking through the university like it was my own personal backyard, lol. So yes, it is ‘different’, and you do have ‘different kinds of things to face’, but I can bet you that by the end of the 4 years (or less), you’re going to think of it as your home. It just takes some time. Oh, and some really great friends, of course. (I’m glad you joined the MSA!)
Now…about your question. What a great question! I love how you took the time to evaluate yourself and your imaan. But the thing is, I have to be very honest with you, though. As far as I know, there is no ‘magical fix’- I can’t give you a recipe that will keep your imaan completely constant for all your life. You see, the word ‘heart’ in Arabic is ‘qalb’ which comes from the root word meaning ‘change’. Our hearts change all the time. Even the Prophet sallah Allahoo alyhee wa salam said:
“Faith wears out in the heart of any one of you just as clothes wear out, so ask Allaah to renew the faith in your hearts.”
Of course, just as the hadith shows, that doesn’t mean that we can’t work on our imaan and that there aren’t small things we can try to do to fix our imaan. There are things to do- just like the hadith shows- like making dua to Allah to strengthen our imaan.
The Prophet sallah Allahoo alyhee wa salam used to say:
Ya muqallib al Quloob, thabbit qalbee alaa deenik
O turner of the hearts, establish my heart upon your deen
In another narration, he was also quoted as saying:
“O Allah, Turner of the hearts, direct our hearts to Your obedience.”
The prophet sallah Allahoo alyhee wa salam also taught us to say the following after our prayers:
Rabbi ai’nni ala dhikrika wa shukrika wa husni ibaadatika.
O Allah, help me to remember You, thank You and worship You properly. (al-Nasaa�i, 1303)
Finally, the Qur’an also teaches us another dua to say:
“Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us.” (Surah Ali ‘Imran 3:8)
But what else can we do? Before I mention a few other suggestions, let’s take a detailed look at YOUR situation. You said that your imaan falls down when you are ‘studying and stressed’ and as a result ‘your prayers are rushed’.
You hit right on Little Auntie’s theory.
For many of us, when we’re super busy studying, our imaan falls because unfortunately many of us think, “We don’t have time to do (insert Islamic activity such as reading Quran) right now. We need to study”…..
That thought alone distances us from Allah and decreases our imaan.
It suggests that we ‘don’t have time for Allah, right now’. Like we ‘divide our life into when we have time for Him and when we don’t.” It shows that we haven’t grasped that He is with us (in His knowledge, His Sight, His Power, etc) all the time, whether we have a test or not.
That kind of thinking also means that we have separated our own life into 2 categories: “Islamic life” (praying/fasting/etc.) and “worldly life” (studying, getting a successful career, etc.)
But the reality is much more complicated. Our two “lives” are actually very much intertwined. We really only have ONE life- and that is the only life we have to get us into the Hereafter. Each day we live (whether we have a project/ assignment due/ test coming up/ or not) is a chance to get closer to Allah and His paradise or…..get further away.
Yes, I know I am getting a wee bit philosophical here. But it really is the truth.
That’s why my first tip for you to get your imaan back on track is to ‘demolish those barriers/ those 2 sides of your life.” I want you to turn even your ‘unIslamic activities’ into acts of obedience and worship to Allah. I want you to stay connected to Allah 24/7, to really live that ONE life in the best way.
By using your heart.
This is serious heart ibadaha.
- Ask yourself why are you studying? What’s your goal? Is it just to pass? To get a great career? If that’s your ultimate goal, studying will never increase your imaan and you’ll find yourself always stuck with a roller coaster ride during and after exams. But if you can make your intention that you want to help the Muslim Ummah, that you want to pass and be successful to do something for Islam, you turn your studying into worship. You can make your intention also something like “I want to have a successful career so that I don’t have to beg/ use interest/ do anything haram.” Pick whatever you want, but let it be something that will draw you closer to Allah.
Okay, so make your intention for Allah. What else, you’re thinking?
I don’t know exactly about you, personally, but most people spend the entire week (or more/ or less- lol) eating, breathing, drinking, consuming ‘tons of information’. They go on studying ‘overhaul’.
So basically, they leave themselves with no energy for “ normal imaan boosting activities". They’re just too tired to read Qur’an, to watch an Islamic lecture, etc. And who can blame them? They just spent all this time ‘studying’.
BUT if you follow that tip, if you take notes during class (like of the main ideas/ main concepts)you’ll be able to remember your teacher’s explanations better and you won’t have such a nervous breakdown during exams. You won’t be so stressed. More importantly, if you actually review the material that you cover each day (like take 15 minutes and review each course, each day), you won’t have to study as much during exams week. That all means that you won’t be exhausted. You won’t be ‘too tired’ to listen to an Islamic lecture (inshaAllah). You won’t have to rush your prayers because you won’t be having panic attacks (in the middle of your salah) about the upcoming tests. Why? Because you would still remember the important material. Those extra 15 minutes you spend studying during the course will give you extra 5-10-15 minutes of prayer time and ‘taking care of imaan time’!
How does that sound? Can you do that?
Well, while you’re studying, take a 5 minute ‘praise Allah’ break. A LOT of us take a “Ooo, just a 5 minute facebook break” or a “chocolate break” while we’re studying. I know I would always take those kinda breaks when I felt l like “I’d been underwater too long and needed to surface”. (LOL). If you do take those kinda breaks (and even if you don’t!), try taking a different kind of break. Instead of just reading people’s statuses, try watching a short interesting Islamic clip. Try praising Allah and doing dhikr. Ask Him to help you do well. Ask Him to let you pass HIS test. Ask Him anything! If you can’t think of something that you want, pray for your brothers and sisters around the world. Remember that whenever you make dua for your Muslim brothers and sisters, an angel asks for the same for you.
The prophet (sallah Allahoo alyhee wa salam) said: 'There is no believing servant who supplicates for his brother in his absence where the angels do not say, 'the same be for you'' [Muslim]
Most importantly, realize that spending 5 minutes doing dhikr/ remembering Allah will never ‘decrease your time’ or make you lose out on something. It will only HELP you do better.
Okay, so that was my advice for your specific situation. Now, let’s talk about the things anyone can do to build their imaan.
- Make good friends. You already said that you joined the MSA and made great friends, alhamdillah. That’s a really KEY step in improving one’s imaan. How about making imaan goals with your friends? You said you’re having trouble praying the Sunna prayers. Tell your friends that you need their help, etc. Also, get your family involved. What kind of Islamic goals can you do with your family? How about a charity project? You can have like a charity jar and the whole family puts their ‘change’ in it and at the end of the month you go and ‘buy something’ for the mosque/ pass out food/etc.
- Learn some of Allah’s Beautiful Names. The more we know about Him, the more we love Him and the greater our Imaan is.
- Read at least one page of the Qur’an daily. If you don’t understand Arabic, listen to the Arabic and read the English translation. Listen to tafsir of the Qur’an, too. You can listen to wonderful tafsir here: http://bayyinah.com/podcast
- Remember death, the destroyer of all pleasures.Write your will!
- Visit the mosque or listen to an Islamic lecture at least ONCE a week. Even if you’re busy. Plan your schedule around so that you can include that.
- Have an Islamic ‘journal’. Whenever you read something that is really uplifting, a good Islamic story, etc. print it and put it there, for you to read when your imaan is a little ‘down’. If you’re reading Qur’an and you come across an ayah that moves you, write down your feelings. Why does it move you? You see, sometimes we read a verse and we don’t make ‘connections’ to it with our daily lives, so we don’t really ‘experience its beauty’. But sometimes, we’ll find ourselves really ‘connected to it’. SAVE your ‘connection’ to it, by writing it down. Write about any nice hadith you read…
- Make a “I’m thankful list”. Write down a list of things you are thankful for. Recognize that Allah has blessed you with so much. How are you going to thank Him? If you can’t think of anything that you're thankful for, (which I really hope not!), one thing I recently heard a da’ee say (Amr Khaled) say is “be thankful that Allah is the Merciful One and that He pledged that His Mercy would be greater than His wrath. Be thankful that He is Allah.”
- Try to say the morning and evening adhkar. (This is something I REALLY need to get back into the habit of). Try to also memorize the ones we need in our daily routine- like what to say when you go to the bathroom, when you leave your house, when you do wudu. Set a goal of memorizing one a week and see how that goes! Remember that the Qur’an says that even the hypocrite remembers Allah…just that he remembers Him little:
- " When they stand for prayer, they stand without earnestness, to be seen of men, but they do not hold Allah in remembrance except little." (surah an-Nisa 4:142).
- Before you go to sleep, clear your mind and heart of any ill feelings towards your Muslim brothers and sisters.
Anas Radiya Allah Anhoo once narrated that the Prophet once said: “A man from the dwellers of Paradise will walk in now” so a man from the Ansaar (i.e. residents of Madeenah) walked in whose beard was dripping from the effect of ablution and who held his slippers with his left hand. The next day the Prophet said the same thing, and the same man walked in. On the third day, the Prophet said the same thing, and the same man once again walked in. When the Prophet left the gathering, ‘Abdullaah Ibn ‘Amr followed that man and said to him: `I had a misunderstanding with my father and swore not to stay in his house three nights, so if you permit me I would like to spend these three nights with you` The man said: `Yes, I permit you.`”
Anas added: “‘Abdullaah Ibn ‘Amr told us that he spent three nights and did not notice that the man prayed the optional night prayers during any of these nights, but if he woke up during the night, he would simply mention Allaah. Nonetheless, I never heard him utter except good things, so when the three nights finished, I almost belittled his deeds (as they were insignificant) and I said to him: `O slave of Allaah! There was not dispute between me and my father or anger, but I heard the Prophet saying thrice: “A man from the dwellers of Paradise will walk in now” and you walked in all three times, so I wanted to sleep in your place to see what you do in order to imitate you, but I did not see that you exert extra effort in performing any extra deeds. How did you reach such status to deserve what the Prophet said about you?` He replied: `My deeds are nothing more than what you saw` Then when I left, he called me back in and said: `My deeds are nothing more than what you saw, but the only thing I do is that I do not hold any grudge against any Muslim or envy anyone for what bounties Allaah has granted them`; thereupon ‘Abdullaah Ibn ‘Amr said to him: “This difficult quality to obtain is what granted you this rank”. [Ahmad]
- Listen to that voice inside of you. If you hear a ‘beeping sound going off’, telling you that you are doing something wrong, listen to it. Avoid all that is doubtful.
- Go outside every once in a while and reflect on the creation around us and Allah’s Power.
- Sit with children for they are still very pure at heart.
- Do istgifhfaar. Remember your past sins and ask Allah to forgive you. Remember how long it took you to respond to Allah's call (whether to prayer/ hijab/ etc.) and ask Him to forgive those days.
-Last but not least, wake up in the middle of the night- even if you can't pray and ask Allah to renew your faith. Tell Him that you can't pray unless He permits you too, and you really want that closeness again.
Well, sis, these are just a few suggestions. You can do it. You can find a balance between university and imaan.
Wishing you your best 'imaan year' yet,