A little over a year ago, I was at a point in my life when my faith was hitting an all-time low. I had no wish to pray. I felt unworthy of asking God for anything, and I didn’t think I deserved to get what I asked for. I didn’t feel very confident in my acceptance of Islam and felt troubled by the growing number of doubts I had. There were people around me becoming more religious, and also those who were becoming less religious. The path was becoming harder to navigate, and I didn’t know where I stood. Religious people and atheists alike seemed to find contentment in their beliefs, while I felt like I didn’t even know where to take the first step.
Amusingly, the nudge to take action came from Instagram. I came upon a post by entrepreneur Adam Khafif, of the AtYourService community. I’d admired his work for years. In that post he was honoring his wife, journalist Noor Tagouri, thanking her for teaching him about faith through love. He quoted a hadith she had told him, from the Sahih al-Bukhari — ‘I am as My servant thinks I am.’ Khafif went on in the caption, ‘And since that day, I’ve only chosen to see Him from abundance and gratitude, and I’ve never looked back.’
Reading that struck something in me. I realised that nothing had stopped me from approaching faith — God would never look unfavourably upon those who spoke to Him from a place of loving respect. I didn’t know what I represented and felt lost because I thought I didn’t deserve a place in Islam. But there was nothing in the scriptures telling me that I needed to step away from my faith.
I knew I needed to do something to salvage my faith or risk losing it completely. I didn’t want to stop being a believer — some days it was the only thing that felt true about me. There were days when I wanted to pray, but the moment I was berated for it, I gave up the idea. I had doubts that I was hesitant to even consider because I was scared that I was being blasphemous. I realised that what I believed in was something that I had learned through overheard conversations, relayed statements, and scolding. None of it held any weight for me because I found no comfort in it. I needed a change, and I knew it needed to come from me.
I had been following Palestinian content creator and activist Lara Radwan on Instagram for quite some time. She started the One Page a Day Challenge — read just one page of the Qur’an. Every day. She argued about how important it was to know what you stand for. I knew exactly what she meant and I knew I had to build a path for myself.
I would read what God had sent down for me because I wanted to, at my own pace. No pressurising elders — I would come to knowledge anew and learn to enjoy the process of learning. I would sit down, every day, and read a page of the Qur’an. Just one. Then I would read the translation, and jot down any verse that resonated with me, or that I wanted elaboration for.
I slowly started to realise certain things. One of them was the literary nature of the Qur’an. The Qur’an is made up of verses — essentially, poetry. And as with every poem, there are ways to interpret it, and the interpretations are many. There are versions that make sense and versions that don’t. The language of poetry is such that it is not singular in its meaning. There are a multitude of interpretations offered by various scholars across the world. For me, it was about finding the translation that gave me answers that made sense to me. What helped me come back to the path of learning was the realisation that Islam has its basic tenets laid out for each and every person to know. God never intended for there to be a barrier between us and Him, and sent His verses down for each and every one of his subjects — not just an elite few who could dictate how they were spread.
The most important thing for me as a fresh learner was to have an approach where I would learn what the Qur’an says out of my own will. I could not stick to my family or friends to tell me to build a relationship with God unless I did it myself. I did it because I felt the need to do it. I wanted to know what it was like to pray without being told to. I had also seen firsthand how damaging misinformation can be. I remembered God’s mercy and grace, knowing that His door is never closed, should I choose to return. I doubt I would have wanted to learn more about my religion if I hadn’t known the extensiveness of God’s compassion and my need for it. I still struggle, immensely on some days — but I no longer feel like I cannot be faithful to God unless I am perfect.
I wondered how many people had felt alienated from faith itself because they had been taught from a young age only about what not to do. How many people turned away from God because they felt that they didn’t have a place amongst believers? That they had sinned too much and doubted too far, and that all doors were now closed? It reminded me of an incident narrated by A. Helwa in her book Secrets of Divine Love, which truly encapsulated the all-encompassing and constant nature of God’s abundance and lenience:
The eighth-century sage Salih of Qaswin said to his students, “Keep knocking on the door of God and never stop, for by His mercy, God will eventually open His door for those who sincerely seek Him.” The mystic Rabia Al-Adawiyya overheard this statement as she was walking by the mosque and said, “Oh Salih, who said God’s door is closed to begin with?”
God is to us as we think of Him. While this is something we learn in Islam, it applies to faith in general. We project ourselves on everything we wish to see. Faith is not a science and it never will be, and it needs a place of kindness and divine love to take root. Humanity would not turn to a god that does not love and forgive, and for that, I love how my God is manifest in His compassion, first and foremost. For me, He is the ultimate authority and the ultimate creator. I fear what He is capable of afflicting on me, but I believe His mercy equals, if not surpasses His anger. As A. Helwa said, if justice is what we deserve, then mercy is something beyond it. In Islam, we begin everything with His name — Allah, the Rahman, the Raheem. God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. Like Adam Khafif, I will not look back. Only forward from here, with God’s love and guidance. In sha Allah.
Tags: faith spirituality