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Dealing with Spiritual Poverty and Robotic Rituals


Missing the Sweetness of Faith



The sweetness of faith can be intoxicating, giving us emotional highs and tears of pure love. Those moments when we fall into prostration, sincerely crying and connecting to our An-Nur, the Light, God.





Think about the times you were reciting Quran and felt it in your heart, really felt it.





8 Best Islamic Books to Boost Your Spirituality


8 Best Islamic Books to Boost Your Spirituality


I love those moments when we open Quran and read a verse that seems to speak to us as if Allah (the Most Honored and Exalted) was responding. However, just as we have spiritual highs, we have spiritual lows.





A heart lacking the divine connection while in worship begins to perform like a robot. We have to pray, this is obligatory, but sometimes the one in worship is functioning like a cold robot going through the motions but they lack focus and sincerity. They are performing on auto-pilot.





Profound submission before the spiritual low


One of my most profound moments in life was before I took shahadah. I was in a bad state psychologically, at my breaking point. But this was where I needed to be because I had to be broken before I could be built back up.





I fell into prostration sobbing, I didn’t know what prostration was at the time but my body went into this position of submission and vulnerability while I poured my heart out to Allah and begged for guidance.





It was one of the most sincere prostrations I can imagine, I was absolutely desperate for Allah ’s guidance just as a dehydrated person is thirsty for water.





That duaa was answered beyond what I could have ever imagined. This might sound odd, but that broken down moment was rich with the sweetness of faith.





I was in utter and complete submission, metaphorically crying out “take the wheel Lord; I’ll do anything you command, just keep me close I need you”.





I am not saying we need to be broken emotionally to have spiritual wealth, but in our moments of hardship we can alter our perception and say alhamdulillah this is a time for me to get closer to Allah (SWT).





Maintain Spirituality


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Fast forward years later, like many other Muslims around me, I realized some of my acts of worship have become so normal they turned robotic. My prayers started to lose their sweetness and sometimes became a to-do that I checked.





I became so focused on obligations, haram/halal and legislation that my focus on the divine love and a heart full of Allah ’s light took a passenger seat.





Allah (SWT) is love in the ultimate form beyond even a Mother’s love, mercy is love, the Prophet (peace be upon him) radiated love, but so many of us, me included, drift from the love and find ourselves in a spiritual low.





Whispers from Shaytan


In these moments of jihad against our own selves, it is natural to wonder ‘is evil influencing this?’. The darkness enjoys our struggle and if it cannot take us away from our acts of worship, it will try to stain them.





Evil is strategic, it is not stupid, if Shaytan cannot stop you from praying then he will peck away at your focus and sincerity in prayer until it turns into a robotic ritual without heart. We must always seek refuge in Allah (SWT).





How did we get here?


You don’t wake up one day and find yourself in a state of spiritual poverty out of nowhere, it built up over time. Imagine if you dropped one rock into a bucket every day, at first the bucket is still light but eventually it will become heavy and overwhelming.





We see some Muslims that are riding high, performing so many voluntary acts and pushing themselves. This isn’t necessarily bad, but when it becomes too much it will be overwhelming and not sustainable.





Burning ourselves out by having these extreme highs will push into lower lows. 





It is better to have a steady and moderate level of religiousness, avoiding extremes on the left and the right to keep ourselves balanced. 





We can see a lot of wisdom here when we remember we were warned to be moderate.





“Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way…”[Al-Bukhari]





How to improve our spiritual wealth


I can sit here and delve into the issue all day, but if I don’t promote ways to uplift your iman and help you then I am just complaining.





I have to begin this by mentioning Shaykh Omar Suleiman and a recent podcast he released called “How to Avoid Spiritual Numbness”. He spoke about diversifying your acts of worship; this made a lot of sense to me.





Dealing with Spiritual Poverty and Robotic Rituals - About Islam


Reading Quran is essential, but it should not be the only thing in your spiritual toolbox.





From a psychological standpoint this is great advice, when we don’t always follow the same routine we will be less on auto-pilot and more engaged.





Think about how you focus the first time you are driving in a new neighborhood versus how you focus driving in your own neighborhood. Take time for dhikr, spend time with an orphan, help clean the masjid or visit the homeless etc. There are many forms of worship.


Ask yourself ‘Why’?


Look at your daily choices, are you letting the dunya distract you? Are you watching inappropriate TV for hours while overeating and rushing prayer to get back to Netflix?





Were you pushing yourself so hard on legislation that your heart was neglected? When is the last time you read Quran?





Only you can truly answer this and you need to if you want to improve. In the spirit of honesty and vulnerability, I know one of my issues was focusing too much on legislation.





Any Link Between Spirituality


Any Link Between Spirituality and Mental Well-being?


I went from loving heels, winged eyeliner and red lipstick to wearing an abaya and khimar with no makeup in less than one year. I avoided western meat despite most scholars saying it is okay to have a Chicken McNugget.





I got involved with some super-Salafi circles. I have respect for them, but the focus was on “don’t do this, don’t do that”. Rules were paramount. I could keep going but I digress.





I abstained from so many things and pushed myself to the point I felt boxed in. We need accountability and structure, but in balance with heart and aqeedah.





Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you have the longest beard or do the most voluntary acts of worship; if your heart and intention is not pure it means nothing.





Choose your company wisely


It is important to keep people around you who are a good influence. No matter how strong you think you are, if you put yourself into fitnah on a constant basis it will impact you.





Just as parents don’t want their children hanging out with the bad crowd at school, we should not want to surround ourselves with bad influences. The following hadith of the Prophet (PBUH) reminds us of this.





“Man follows his friend’s religion, you should be careful who you take for friends”.[At-Tirmidhi]





Look to the source


Most importantly, we must run to Allah. If our Qurans are dusty then you know part of the problem already. Allah reminds us in the Quran,





“So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me”[Quran 2:152]





My advice would be to read for quality, not quantity. It is better for us to read one page that you ponder over than 20 pages you speed read. We should make duaa on a frequent basis but I am not talking about saying some lines you memorized 10 years ago that you don’t even contemplate on. 





Sincere dua, which means actually think about what you are saying and mean it. It means more for someone to make sincere dua in English than someone who says sunnah duas in Arabic with zero heart, just so they can check the box that they did it.





Final thoughts


We are human; it is natural to have spiritual highs and lows. These lows can be an opportunity to renew your faith and grow deeper into your spiritual connection.





I know it is easier said than done, I am in the same boat as you, but we are all in this together. One Ummah.





Don’t wait for Ramadan to work on achieving spiritual wealth and turning your acts of worship into heartfelt endeavors. work towards your best spiritual self to prep your soul for Ramadan.





May Allah fill our hearts with his light and guide our paths, Ameen.





This article was first published at Muslimmatters.org. It’s republished here with a kind permission from the author.





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spirituality Acts of Worship connection with Allah spiritual connection


About Monique Hassan


Monique Hassan graduated with honors in 2012 with her BSc in Psychology and a minor in Biology and is certified in Crisis Prevention and Intervention. She has years of professional as well as personal experience with trauma, relationship struggles, substance abuse, identifying coping skills, conflict resolution, community outreach, and overall mental health concerns. She is a professional writer specialized in Islamic Psychology and Behavioral Health. She is also a revert who took her shahada in 2015, Alhamdulillah. You can contact Sister Monique Hassan via her website "MoniqueHassan.com"


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Quarantine Reflections: Forced to See the Signs








The signs of God are everywhere in His creation. Stuck inside, I realized I have long been mesmerized by the sky. It is one of my go-to places for my own grounding and connecting to the moment I am in.





There is an instant feeling of being alive. In that instance, as the clouds shift or the rays of different shades light the sky or when the sky is so blue, it feels like you're a part of this infinite realm of reality.





As a part of the universe, in that moment you exist. As the Earth turns and sun shines or it is raining or it's just gloomy gray - even the grey skies are part of the moment.








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My camera is full of images of the sky, the pink, the red, the blue, the purple, the orange...





Gazing up to the sky, you'll never miss the chance of observing birds freely fly high or low. Lonesome or in flocks. I live near a man-made lake and canal. With luck, we get to see the different birds - the birds of seasons who travel long distances. From afar and wide, and those local ducks and geese that are here all year round.





My Feathered Friends


Behind my house there are dense bushes and trees. As time passed, they have become a home for many birds. I am yet to learn which type of birds are my neighbors but their sounds have become my familiarity.





When the bats flew in flocks just after maghrib, while I was growing up, one knew it was getting dark. Our neighbors used to feed pigeons just after lunch.





When the sun was hot I would be sitting under the guava tree, observing the sounds and movements of the pigeons as they happily ate the grains thrown out for them. I think one of the most profound experience of birds comes from the overwhelming chirping sounds of birds in captivity.





One of our neighbors used to export birds. Every now and then he would have crates and crates of exotic, colorful birds making the most intense sounds. I assumed they were complaining to God. They were captive, about to be sent across the world to continue living in captivity in someone’s living room or conservatories.





The Meaning of Bird Language


I never thought much about birds, the sounds and songs they sing until not too long ago. I woke up one morning in spring to an incredible sound of excitement. Listening to the cacophony as I watched the sun rise, I noticed their chirping got more animated and louder. I found myself feeling hopeful and excited too - their excitement was contagious.





Why, hadn't I heard them like this before? Perhaps I never paid attention to them, being caught up with living - but what living? I am so disconnected and walled up, indoors - inside my self-made world. Closely guarded vaults of my brain, assuming a very lonely place, so quiet only with racing thoughts of fear. Fear of life and living!





So, I have added this to my habits for grounding and connection to myself - bird watching and listening.





Let Sound In


Sound is a powerful connector, since it travels through and around barriers. It finds us, calling us out of our intentions, like the exciting sounds of birds that morning. I have lived in the same house for years yet I barely paid attention to my avian cousins. Their sense of community and kinship aren't just ideas, theirs are lived, sensual relationships! And I get to be part of it just by listening to and observing them.





Birds' sounds are the ultimate revelation of a living Earth. 





Just Listen to Them


As we attend and be present to the sounds of birds, we learn to belong. In the moment we are in, it is embodied with the knowledge of a place that tells us what is changing, what is gained and what has been lost.





Birds are living miracles of Allah’s creation. There are many noble lessons to learn from them. The most of it all is their tokenism of reliance on Allah. The mentioning of birds in the Qur'an isn’t random, as nothing is just random in the book of guidance - there are lessons and heeds to adhere to in the example of how one should live their life in total reliance on Allah and submit to His majesty by fulfilling His commands. 





Bird calls and songs are best heard at dawn and dusk - the times when Allah also encourages believers to "Glorify Your Lord Morning and Evening." (Qur'an 76:25)





Furthermore, they possess one of the most noblest of character; the complete reliance on Allah. It was reported by Umar Ibn Al- Khattab that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him said: 





If you were to rely upon Allah with reliance due to Him, then He would provide for you just as He provided for the birds. They go out in the morning with empty stomachs but return full.





Tirmidhi 2344


There is so much we can learn from this miracle of Allah’s creation, only if we open our hearts and ears - we listen. Bird songs are beautiful, diverse and purposeful. Scientists think birds develop songs to spread their message. Allah says in the Qur'an   “.....all the birds glorify God!" (Qur'an 24:41) 





Singing Salam


I was recently reading a study in regard to well being and good mental health. People were encouraged to listen to birds out in nature - hence there being new parks built in cities and towns as it is believed that birdsongs are so effective at reducing stress and boosting happiness.





According to the study, our early ancestors learned that when birds were singing it was a sign that everything was alright in the world so they could relax. You all know before a storm or other natural disaster, birds are a great indication something is about to happen - they go silent.








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So, whether in the skies or on the trees birds are a blessing, their lives are lessons to us all - all we need to do is observe, listen, learn from and appreciate - as they draw us closer to ourselves and to our Creator.





At the heart of the "Sounds and Thoughts" meditation is cultivating the ability to receive and notice. We practice receiving sounds as sounds, like a microphone, allowing them to come and go. Noticing texture, rhythm, pitch, silence between sounds and also noticing what arises in relation to the sounds e.g. labels, stories, judgements, perhaps liking and wanting more or disliking and wanting them to stop.





Knowing that these are natural reactions to our experience, the invitation is to bring an Attenborough attitude to whatever happens. Can we receive and notice all of it with curiosity and kindness? What happens when we relate to our experience in this way?


 



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