Like many Muslims today, I struggle with constancy in the remembrance of my Creator. I stay mostly mindful of being His servant, often finding myself subconsciously glorifying His name.
But just as regularly I lapse and suddenly realize that my heart has slipped away, like the spinning helm of great wooden ship in a storm. Sometimes I feel almost totally disconnected and fear the spiritual pitch and roll that seems to have overtaken my life. I feel control can only be restored through some momentous feat, an arduous test—Allah protect us. Without some such heroic deed, I’m struck with terror of having forever lost hold of my own destiny.
No sooner than I succeed in wrestling the wheel of my focus back to Allah Almighty, my spiritual equilibrium is swiftly restored. Once again, I feel capable of following my heart through bitter squalls and biting gales, guiding it home to a worthy port. My mind seems a clear sky. I am the ship of my soul’s unflappable quartermaster, salt in my face, the winds of faith haying set me on a course to connect with Allah Almighty. His remembrance comes to me like breathing free. Not so long ago, I could barely navigate such spiritual storms. I thought each one a shipwreck, stranding me off the coast of uncharted despair. Then someone taught me how to read the charts of spiritual human experience. And so I thought to share whatever I’ve understood with you.
The waves of Divine Will toss and turn the faith of each one of us. It’s how we develop our spiritual "sea legs" so to speak.
Even those who do understand that the Eman (the faith) within us rolls like the ocean surges never achieve strength of faith until they learn this: We must never abandon ship in the face of the tumults that test and rock us, for we are the captains of our earthly vessels. Rather, we have been commissioned to weather all storms, one by one, struggling to hang on to the rope of Allah Almighty with two hands.
This is simply the nature of who we are, human beings. Our lives are destined for toils, ups and downs, difficult times mixed in with that placid ease. It is not that Allah Almighty desires to make things hard on us. It is rather the way He created us, in this phase of our lives, to be. Allah tells us in the Quran (what means): "Very truly, We created man [in a life] of travail" [Quran 90:4].
Not for pain and confusion and despair, but to face head on our own epic tale. We are to "become" the undaunted heroes of faith, come what may. Deliverance, that is but Allah’s affair. Without understanding wherefore art thou (why are you like this)—why our every heart’s desire does not transpire, why all harm and evil in our lives does not simply dry up and blow away with a good wind —we shall never comprehend the untold pleasures and happiness that toll, indeed, for us in this life. And we shall fail to push in to our sole purpose in it and it is all and alone only faith.
Asking such questions, even knowing their truth, is not going to turn earth into Heaven not instantly. This is the terra of trial, even if it seems not always firma. Knowing this is what makes living on it not merely tolerable but joyous, if we embrace it, like a sailor, for what it is.
Faith means hoisting up these difficult questions full mast. Go ahead! Steady as she blows! Ask it! Why is earthly life like this? Aye. But be sure to pay heed to the saltiest answer. For thus has your Lord decreed it. Into temptation we are horn. And within our very souls it respires…for a time.
It is a realization that many claim, but with which most people never come to grips. Here is a related query: What does it mean to struggle spiritually?
My humble answer? To be aware that you are ineluctably connected.
It is not about a particular physical or spiritual deed, but rather a state of being–a sure feeling and firm belief that you are attached mentally, emotionally, psychologically altogether!—with your Rabb, the Most Merciful Creator, the All-Knower, Loving and Oft-Forgiving Lord—Allah, Transcendent and Exalted.
Once you take hold of this notion, you will have seized upon that cord which never cuts.