My Theories on Life


http://www.flickr.com/photos/kuyabic/4388211098/in/photostream/By Omaer Khan

Muslims are weird. They talk differently, they dress differently, they think differently. What is wrong with them, and why can’t they be more like everyone else?

I come from a secular family. My mother was a Hindu, and my father a Muslim. They fell in love, got married and gave birth to me, a Muslim. Or was I?

***THEORY 1: AMUSEMENT PARK

I always had a good imagination—and I loved to learn. I was into science, philosophy, extreme programming, and Douglas Adams. I was rational—if something didn’t make sense to me, I didn’t buy it. The concept of ‘blind faith’ was unacceptable to me, and so I found it difficult to accept religious teachings because they seemed to be so far fetched and such utter nonsense. As a very young kid, I formed the following theory to satisfy my questions:

Some ‘beings’ live forever. Having done everything there is to do, they are now bored. They create an amusement park. One of the ‘rides’ is called Earth. The ride starts when a person is born in our world, and when the person dies, they ‘wake up’ from the game. There is no objective; it is simply a means of entertainment.

This theory seemed to explain everything, and answer all of life’s questions. Think about it. (It’s a lot like the Matrix theory, isn’t it? Well I thought of it before the movie.)

Now, chances are that it probably seems absurd to you, but can you ask yourself seriously, why is that? Why is it so hard to believe that this is the truth? There is no way to prove that the theory is incorrect. However absurd it sounds, it is perfectly viable that this is in fact the true meaning of this life. Seriously, think about it.

The reason why you are unlikely to ‘buy it’ is in part that there is no evidence to back it up. Even though there is nothing to disprove it, neither is there any proof in support of it. It answers all the questions my fourth grade mind could come up with about this life—but that isn’t sufficient proof that the theory is correct. And that’s exactly the problem I had with religion.

***THEORY 2: SHUT DOWN

As I grew, my fascination with technology, computers in particular, also grew. I noticed a similarity in computers and humans. To draw an analogy, human minds are like computer processors: our long term/short term memories are like a hard disk/RAM; our nervous system is like a motherboard; our eyes like cameras; our ears like a microphone; our mouth like a speaker; our body like a monitor/screen. Of course there are also so many differences, but let’s just put those aside for now. A seventh grade kid thinking about this, it suddenly hit me: I knew the ultimate answer. I knew what happens when a human dies. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Exactly the same way that nothing happens when a computer is shut down. The brain stops processing, the memory stops recording. The hardware shuts down. What does a computer ‘feel’ or ‘experience’ after it’s been shut down? Absolutely nothing at all. If a computer is switched off, absolutely nothing is happening inside it. And when we die, absolutely nothing will be happening in our minds. They will be blank. We will not exist.

This is a very difficult concept to grasp, but given that I came up with the computer analogy, I thought about it often enough to truly believe it as the truth. And it scared me. I was depressed for a long while because it’s scary to know that there’s nothing out there after this life. That when we die, that is it. It is a really scary reality to live in, and it ate at me until I learnt to accept it. When we die, it would be similar to a computer shutting down. The concept of ‘experiencing’ anything would no longer apply to us. We would be ‘blank’. There would be no ‘we’. Simple. Deal with it.

***THEORY 3: CLOUD COMPUTING

Around the time I was obsessed with this theory, I was exposed to the idea of telepathy. Mothers having strong intuitions about their children—crazy, long distance emotional connections that couldn’t be explained by science. There was so much I didn’t understand. So much science didn’t understand; so much of the ‘occult’, the crazy. The power of prayer, which so many swear by. Miracles. God.

What if God existed? I was open to the idea. I recognized that the concept of God was too vaguely defined for anyone to argue either in favour of, or against. So I proposed a concept of God that seemed possible to me. I have already established the similarity between humans and computers. Now, imagine that we are connected to one another (over some radio frequency perhaps). What if all our minds are networked at a subconscious level? That would explain telepathy. And that would provide an answer to why ‘Prayer’ is effective, what ‘God’ is, and so on. They say that a large chunk of our brain belongs to the ‘subconscious’ mind—that we can’t consciously use it. This part could be what processes/runs/maintains this ‘Cloud’ network. There are so many humans, imagine that all our subconscious minds are inter-connected, and work with each other to accomplish miracles, or watch over the human race, or do whatever else God is supposed to be responsible for. Distributed computing.

Miracles, shared supernatural experiences, gut feelings, ‘tapping into our subconscious’, getting a bad ‘vibe’ from someone, or someplace… all sorts of crazy phenomenon seem to be explained easily if our minds are able to tap into this network of shared experiences. This even makes sense from an evolutionary point of view.

***NO MORE THEORY

So I was curious. I was wildly imaginative. And I was an idealist—set on a path to figure out the meaning of this life, the universe and everything. And then I fell in love. And being the idealist that I was, I fell crazy, deeply in love. And I fell in love with someone who took full advantage of my naivety, my idealist innocence. And she reduced me to a shadow of myself—she played me, and blind in love, I didn’t even notice. And I hurt and I suffered and after that ended I was depressed. My ideal vision of the world was shattered and my perfectionist self couldn’t accept my imperfect past. I lost my self-confidence. I was such a mess, such an emotional wreck. And I didn’t want a theory to explain life—I didn’t want to live—I was tempted by the thought of ending it all. And I prayed to the God I hoped existed but didn’t believe in. I prayed: ‘God, if You exist, prove to me that You do. Make me believe in You.’

I wanted my miracle, and I wanted to have faith so badly but I didn’t. Blind faith just seemed so wrong. If God existed, He couldn’t possibly want us to just believe that without proof. If there was no proof, we could end up believing in anything in the name of faith. He would surely give us some way to prove, at least to ourselves, that He is there, watching over us. He had to give me proof. And then I laughed at myself for my own folly in asking a God I didn’t even believe in to help me. Man, I am such a mess, I thought to myself.

So I did what I do—I bundled up all those emotions and stuck them in a part of my mind that I shut off completely. I ignored the feelings—suffocated them rather, and on the surface I was normal. But I wasn’t normal. I felt distant from the world, like my feelings and emotions weren’t really there. Like I felt with my mind instead of my heart, like I was making a conscious decision to smile, or cry, or laugh, or be quiet. I felt like I didn’t truly ‘feel’ and instead I ‘allowed’ myself to enact the emotions I thought were appropriate for any situation. And that became normal.

***NORMAL

All my life, I’ve never pretended to be a good Muslim. Except to my father (in front of whom I’d pray, but only to keep him happy), and except in Ramadan. I would fast during Ramadan every year—not pray, but fast—despite the harshest conditions, I’d fast for all 30 days. I thought of it more as a way of disciplining myself, and it made me feel special. I didn’t believe in God, I just did it because it was cool.

But nonetheless, I think I was a good person—I followed my conscience. I always tried to be honest, helpful, patient, kind. I helped people at my own expense, didn’t drink alcohol (never got into the habit as a boy, and wasn’t tempted after that), wasn’t into women (courtesy of the heartbreak, I suspect), and I prided myself in my honour. I knew that the one thing I had faith in was my inner goodness, that I would rather be honest/correct at the expense of ease, than compromise my conscience. And I never followed the flock—again, unless something made sense to me, I didn’t do it—so when my friends slept around, partied crazily, puked all over themselves (and me on occasion), and ‘had fun’, I was never tempted by it all. I’d accompany them for the sake of the friendship, and I never judged them or thought of myself above them—I just figured that that life wasn’t for me. And so I never partook in the Crazy.

It’s not that I didn’t have fun. I loved to read. I loved adventure sports, the outdoors: camping/hiking/beachside barbecues. I loved DIY; I enjoyed a wide variety of music; I really loved programming, carpentry, electronics, mechanics, ‘making stuff’, and, later, I loved talking and listening, having conversations (initially I was quite reserved).

And I was normal. But all the while I always had the nagging feeling that I wasn’t. It’s like a wound heals and you can’t feel the pain anymore but you know that it’s not because the pain has gone, but because you’ve gotten used to it. And even though you can’t tell that it hurts, you know it doesn’t feel right. It’s like you walk into a stale, musty room and soon you can’t smell the mustiness, but you don’t feel fresh either. You get it, right?

***MUSLIMS SUCK

Given the person I was, I avoided the company of Muslims. I didn’t like how they expected me to conform, go out of my way to do things which I didn’t enjoy doing (such as pray). I didn’t like how they talked funny by adding ‘if God wills it’, or ‘Praise be to God’ at seemingly random places in any conversation. I didn’t get why they were so insensitive to other religions. I told myself: as a Muslim, I wouldn’t want to hear other’s preach their religion to me. Why would I, as a Muslim, do to others what I know I wouldn’t want them to do to me? And I felt like an outsider. I didn’t fit in with other Muslims—even if I wanted to conform, I didn’t know the rules. I didn’t know when to say Alhamdulillah (all praise and thanks be to God), or SubhanAllah (glory be to God), or Insha’Allah (if God wills it. Muslims say this after any hopeful/future event, as a reminder that nothing happens without the permission of God).

And most Muslims I met didn’t know the rules of the society I belonged to. And I didn’t know why they did what they did—I just figured it was tradition, or a closed-minded minority community’s way of safeguarding themselves from change by alienating themselves with this strange talk and behaviour. And most of all, I found Muslims intellectually un-stimulating. Boring. They had nothing interesting to say. No Muslim I knew excelled at anything—they were all mediocre and satisfied that way. They were into politics and current affairs perhaps (which I wasn’t into), but never into science, technology, philosophy, music, movies or anything I found interesting. If they were into those things, then they never made it obvious that they were Muslims. And I never thought of them as Muslims—they didn’t pray, and they didn’t abstain from drinking alcohol or eating pork. And the few Muslims who did seem intelligent usually turned out to be religious nuts.

And so I remained that way, unsatisfied, but at a status quo. Telling myself this was the best it would get, that I was a good person, and that was all that mattered. I excelled in my field, I had a clear conscience, I was decent looking and healthy, and had enough money to live more than comfortably, and so I should be satisfied. And given how I was already so used to ‘pretending/enacting’ emotions, I faked satisfaction. Even to the extent that I believed I was satisfied, although I wasn’t.

***A NEW START

And so I was living this life—‘satisfied’ where I was, believing that when I die, there would no longer be a ‘me’—and I was no longer scared by the thought because I really did want it all to end. And I went through school, college, got a job—and I’d just try on occasion to pray every now and then just for the heck of it. Just to have the identity of a Muslim I guess.

In today’s day and age, when society ridicules Islam and people say horrible things about Muslims, I just thought it would be ‘weak’ of me to alienate myself from Islam. So I’d try and be a Muslim, try and pray, just because I felt it was wrong to ditch the weaker side. Not that it made a difference—I wasn’t doing anything, just satisfying my own need to not feel guilty.

And so it was that I was hanging out one day with a bunch of close friends from the same university (who happened to be Muslims), and we went to meet a visiting friend who was now pursuing further education abroad. He was a nice guy—friendly, fun, happy, down to earth. I didn’t know him too well, but I respected the person he was. And when we went to meet him, he told us he was planning to leave Islam and become an atheist. And he had changed—he seemed somewhat depressed, he wasn’t as strong a personality as I remembered him to be. And my Muslim friends started working on ‘increasing his faith’ and encouraging him to not do something so drastic. But to no avail. He was open to listening to arguments in favour of Islam, but none of the arguments made sense to him—he had the same problem I did with blind faith. When turned to for my opinion, I said something along the lines of:

The concept of God is too vaguely defined to argue either in favour of, or against. In case there is in fact a God, He’d be pissed if you didn’t believe in Him. And if there is no such ‘intelligence’, then believing can’t really do you any harm. If anything, it’ll give you something to have faith in, or anchor yourself to. There’s really no point in going the atheist route—just hang in there, and hope that there is a God.

He pursued this line of thought but of course there was a catch in the argument, something I had been struggling to answer, but couldn’t. And he asked: “How can one have faith in ‘something vague’? One doesn’t really have faith in a ‘vague concept’. By this logic, one could be asked to have faith in anything at all.”

At this point, a bemused friend told me that I was wrong. That Islam was not a religion that encouraged ‘blind faith’, and that Islam actually had proof that God exists. And I laughed to myself but kept quiet. My friend was adamant though—he insisted that if anyone at all read the Qur’an, with the intention of learning from it, with the intention of reading what God had to say to humanity and learn from it with a pure heart, then that person would be convinced that there is in fact a God. He spoke of miracles that could not be explained by science, and he spoke with such conviction that I was convinced he was another religious nut. But then he said that the Qur’an itself encourages people to challenge it, find flaws in it, and that he openly challenged anyone at that table to read the Qur’an with the intent to learn from it, to read It with an open heart, and that the person would be left convinced of the existence of God. And I thought I’d give it a shot—what did I have to lose?

***GOD

So I did what any kid my age would do—I downloaded an eBook of the Qur’an, with the English translation, and I started reading it. I got past the first few pages the first time, and I fell asleep. I tried again the second day, and, man, it was so difficult to read. I didn’t get the references, the strange language, the hidden meanings—it was way too difficult. Whatever was I thinking? And yet, I wasn’t about to give up so easily. I had just been told that Islam encourages intellectual study of religion, that we are told—rather, we are instructed by God Himself—to challenge and question the Qur’an, and that God Himself says that we are not to believe in Him blindly. Now this was a God that I could hope to believe in. This was a God who would satisfy my intellectual curiosity, would prove to me that He exists. And I decided to give this whole ‘Muslim’ thing another shot. After all, what did I have to lose?

And I saw video after video on YouTube, read article after article about Islam and the Qur’an, and the more I read/learnt, the more answers I got to the doubts/questions I had about Islam, and all the same, the more new doubts/questions popped up in my mind. And so began my journey to learn about this religion.

And then it was Ramadan. And I was fasting all 30 fasts, and this time I decided I’d pray as well. And in order to pray, I went to a mosque where the Imam (preacher) did the khutba (sermon) in English. And after the first few days, I was so moved by what I heard. The message of Islam that I heard was so beautiful. I felt so at peace while praying. I don’t know what happened to me at that point, but it felt like a switch flipped in my brain—my point of view changed so dramatically that everywhere I looked, I saw signs of miracles. I saw God everywhere I looked. And over the course of that Ramadan, I became a whole other person. I felt so connected to God, the Creator and Lord of this Universe. I felt so at peace and I felt such a deep sense of tranquility that it was the first time in ages that I actually ‘felt’ something truly from the depths of my heart. It was like a sense of calm and peace filled every bit of my being, like I was so satisfied where I was, like everything in the world was so insignificant. And I wept and I cried and I was so ashamed of all my sins, all my doubts, and I was so grateful to God for making me believe in Him.

***SATISFYING THE INTELLECT

But I was weak, a human after all—I knew of God’s existence, but I was so weak. I knew I had to pray all five times a day—I knew it was important because God suhanahu wa ta’ala (exalted is He), the Creator of this Universe, had told all Muslims they had to pray. And I tried to, but I’d miss prayer—I’d be sleeping perhaps—and then the guilt of missing my prayers would eat at me, and I’d be too guilty to pray for days after that. And I’d do shameless things, just do everything wrong because I felt like I didn’t deserve to be forgiven. I felt like I had sinned so much that this would only be another few drops in my ocean of sin.

And then despite having felt the miracle of God’s forgiveness—the peace and tranquility that came with it, I started questioning it all. I challenged my belief in what I had experienced. I told myself that even though my heart still believed, my mind did not. And that’s when I randomly stumbled upon an essay by Dr. Gary Miller—and that essay changed everything for me.

Who is Dr. Miller? Dr. Miller was a Canadian Mathematician and Christian missionary. He decided to do the world a favour and rid the world of Islam by accepting the Qur’an’s challenge to find flaws in it (the Qur’an clearly challenges non-believers in many places to find flaws in it, and to come up with another book like it). He studied the Qur’an for years, and at the end of his studies, he was so convinced that the Qur’an was in fact authored by God himself, that he converted to Islam. Being the logical and intellectually grounded person that I was, this Mathematician’s work made so much sense to me that I was convinced at an intellectual level of that which my heart already believed in.

And once more, I asked God for His forgiveness, and now I committed myself a hundred percent to becoming a good Muslim. But I have lost that sense of tranquility and peace. Even today I strive to be a better Muslim in the hope that someday God will forgive me of my many sins insha’Allah (if God wills it).

I will not list the proofs and arguments here—I’m no scholar and I’m not capable of answering any questions. I read somewhere that there are two types of knowledge: knowledge of the heart and knowledge of the mind. Knowledge of the heart is useful to those trying to become better Muslims, and knowledge of the mind is useful to those fighting intellectual battles for Islam. Alhamdulillah my heart and mind are convinced and believe in what Islam teaches. But I don’t have enough knowledge of the mind to even think of arguing this out with anyone. Insha’Allah some day I’ll have learnt/read the Qur’an, and learnt/read other scriptures, and God might bless me with the knowledge to show others what I see so clearly now.

I highly encourage everyone to read this essay by Dr. Gary Miller—but unless one does so with an open mind and heart, it’s impossible to find any proof convincing enough. Unless one is open to the idea of miracles, miracles cease to exist. One only accepts what one is willing to—even if one is presented with the most convincing of arguments, one can always say, “That isn’t right, these people must be lying.” Islam argues: don’t stop at “That isn’t right.” Do some research, argue the proof intellectually and you won’t be able to. So if you’re willing to go through that, or if you’re willing to read the essay with an open mind, I say go for it.

***A JOURNEY

Islam is a journey. It is a journey to serve the Lord and Creator of this Universe, and in so doing, to improve ourselves, to live more satisfying lives, to protect ourselves from what is wrong and evil. And it isn’t easy to begin with. Until one has truly and completely submitted to God’s will, Islam is a difficult religion to follow—and it remains so until one gives in completely to it. There is no easy 50/50 path—and this scares away people. There are so many rules and regulations, so many things that we are afraid to start because we are afraid to make mistakes.

But God says so many times in the Qur’an that He is Merciful and Forgiving—and I believe that if one strives to be a better Muslim, even if one takes slow steps, one at a time, it becomes so much easier as time goes by. As with anything else in this world, habits are difficult to break, but if you have faith and strive to do what you know is right, He makes things easier.

I started praying once a day everyday for the first week, then twice, then thrice… And before I knew it, I was praying 5 times a day everyday Alhamdulillah. If I’d missed a prayer, I’d say the next one anyway even if I didn’t make up for the prayer I missed. Then I started covering for the ones I had missed as well. I started trying to learn the Qur’an. I didn’t know any Surahs (chapters) except al-Fatiha (the first chapter of the Qur’an) and Ikhlas (a short chapter). And I started learning them one by one, slow and steady. I started reading about Islam, about the teachings of Islam, only with the intent of being a better person and a better Muslim. And it’s a slow journey but it leaves you so satisfied. I pray that insha’Allah God makes this journey easier for all of us.

***KILL ALL KAFIRS (Non-Believers)?

Most of my life, almost all my friends have been non-Muslims. Most of my friends are non-Muslims today. I love a lot of them, I’m very close to a lot of them, and I respect and care for and would do a lot for a lot of them. I respect them because they have their own faith and their own beliefs and they stand up for them. I don’t go telling them they are wrong and they are cursed—and they respect me for that. All I do now that is different from earlier is that I practice my religion as best I can. I don’t hide it from them because I am not ashamed of it. I don’t look down upon them or their religion, and I’d happily listen to their beliefs/faith if they talked about it. But I am firm in what I believe. If I have doubts or questions, I ask God for guidance and a little research goes a long way in answering most questions.

If I had been born a non-Muslim, I’d have hated it if Muslims were to preach/look down upon me. I’d hate them, and I’d hate Islam. And I don’t blame the non-Muslims of today for hating Islam as much as a lot of them do. Muslims today don’t follow Islam—they follow their own versions of the religion. They make compromises where the compromises are easy to follow, and they only fool themselves into thinking that what they are doing is correct. Islam encourages respecting other religions. I may be wrong in this in which case I ask for God’s forgiveness, but I firmly believe that it is wrong for me to bash other religions, and look down upon them. Most Muslims today don’t follow Islam to the fullest—they follow Islam to the bare minimum. One of the most important things in Islam is to learn about religion. Iqra (read)—the first word revealed to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him). It is important for Muslims to read, to learn about Islam and its teachings. It is important to thirst for knowledge as a way to get closer to God and our religion. But do we do that at all? We do not—and yet we are surprised when non-Muslims hate Islam. They don’t hate Islam—they hate Muslims. And I don’t blame them too much because if I was in their shoes I might hate some of the things some Muslims do and say as well.

So does Islam say, ‘Kill all Kafirs’? Does Islam say, ‘Force all non-believers to convert’? No, it doesn’t. It says, ‘Spread the message.’ And in today’s day and age, how else can we spread the message of the Lord and Creator of the Universe except to practice the message ourselves in our daily lives?

***TO CONCLUDE

I pray that God has mercy on all of Us, and guides us to whatever the right path is. I pray that this article encourages people to have an open heart, an open mind, and encourages you to start an intellectual journey to learn more about religion. In today’s day, religion is more of a fashion accessory that has gone out of style. People ‘try’ different religions, change from one to the next out of curiosity, and when they are disappointed, they feel that all religions suck, that there is no God. There is such a culture of partying and ‘living it up’ that one forgets the bigger picture. Unless one believes that there is something after one dies, one cannot argue against the logic that ‘life is short, live it up.’

I’m trying to learn Arabic and trying to learn about Islam and the Qur’an—again, slow and steady—so may God forgive me for not ‘talking like a Muslim’, and forgive me for anything I wrote here which was against His message. I hope I didn’t offend anyone—this article was just a means for me to share my own journey to Islam, and to faith. And it has been a most enriching one. Every day is a struggle so it isn’t easy, but at the end of every day, there is a sense of peace the likes of which I haven’t experienced in as long as I can remember.

It’s like when I’d go hiking for days, trying to climb a mountain. Every small hillock we crossed felt like such an achievement. The path was difficult, and I was a fat, unhealthy kid—and I struggled—and when I reached the top of the hill, I was filled with such a sense of accomplishment, such peace. And when we reached our destination—the top of that tall mountain, and looked back down from there, that sense of peace was amplified so many times—it was such a sense of awe at my own ability, such a sense of accomplishment. The sweetness in victory (over one’s desires in this case) is only as sweet as one’s struggle to get there. And if the satisfaction at the end of every day is so sweet, then I can only imagine how much sweeter it will be at the end of it all.

May God forgive my many mistakes in this article, and help me to improve. And if I have offended any of you, may you forgive me for it. Whatever your religion is, I may not agree with it, but I respect you nonetheless. Whether you’re a Muslim or a non-Muslim, I ask that you think twice before insulting or looking down upon any religion because when we act out of spite or anger or hate, we only cause others to react badly and perhaps insult our own religions. And then the horrible cycle continues.

May God guide everyone trying to improve themselves in their understanding of His message, and may He bless everyone who helps us in this journey.

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37 Comments

  1. im says:

    yaALLAH! you SAID IT OUT EVERYTHING FOR ME!!!! :”( Subhanallah….

  2. mehmudah says:

    Whoa! What an article!

    Loved it and I am glad alhamdulillah the writer was able to find Allah and consequently himself.

    Wassalam!

  3. Ca says:

    That was really beautiful and inspiring to read. Thank you for this.

  4. latifah says:

    Thank you for this beautiful, honest article. It was really enlightening and helpful and may Allah continue to guide you. You said it is important to take thing step by step. I want to improve but sometimes I just don’t know where to start from. I say my prayers but sometimes I feel disconnected. I read the Quran but sometimes I feel like I’m missing the point. I blame it on the fact that I don’t understand arabic. I spend so much time watching lectures and reading articles but I don’t feel any significant change in my life. Do you have any tips or advice on practical steps I can take. Thank you.

    • Ayesha says:

      May Allah help me give you the correct answer inshallah. Latifah, I am not a scholar or imam so please do not rely only on my answer. Please seek out the answer to your question from many sources. (i.e. an imam, turn your question into suhaibwebb! etc.) May Allah guide you to the straight path, Ameen.

      This is what I think you should do: it seems like you are going through the motions of worship, like praying and not feeling any reward, or reading the Quran without feeling enlightened. Latifah, change does not happen instantaneously. I’m sorry if that came across as mean, but I’m being honest, ok? I just want you to understand that concept, because for years I thought the same thing! Expecting some miracle to happen, some great moment when all of the bad things about myself would cease to exist, and my life would become perfect. One day I came across a verse in the Quran that changed my whole perspective: “Truly, God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (13:11)

      Latifah, to make an already long response, less long, I know you listen to many lectures and read many articles (and that is not a bad thing!), but that is not the same thing as taking one verse in the Quran and trying to implement it in your life. I challenge you Latifah, to take one verse or one Hadith, or one lecture or one article and try to make the message of that article, lecture or verse, a reality in your life. Make a goal and take baby steps– and don’t give up! Even if you don’t see any significant change, keep moving forward. Do it with a pure heart and good intention– nothing happens without the will of Allah, so make a lot of Dua. Have faith in yourself, because if you don’t believe you can do it, then even if the whole world says you can, then you wont do it, right?

      And one more thing: to you and all those reading on: I dare you to take up my challenge. Change does not happen without you taking the first step, make sincere Dua and be positive. NEVER GIVE UP. This article is clear proof of what NOT giving up yields. I hope this long winded response has helped someone, hopefully you Latifah. I will keep you in my prayers. May Allah give you the answers to all of your questions and make you and this ummah closer to Him. Ameen.

    • Aziza says:

      Beautiful article MashaAllah, I really loved this. When I first started rediscovering my faith, I felt the same way sis Latifah, like nothing was changing or in fact like things were getting worse. Just keep trying, don’t ever give up. Allah will help you InshaAllah. Perhaps He just wants to test your patience and bring you closer to Him.
      Ayesha has given some amazing advice too, SubhanAllah.

      • latifah says:

        Sister Ayesha and Sister Aziza. I am truly grateful for your responses. Such beautiful advice you gave sister Ayesha, I will try to implement that in my life. May Allah reward you sisters in this life and may He grant you a place in Jannah. Thank you again
        Ma salam

        • Omaer says:

          Alhamdulillah, I am so grateful that Allah had mercy on me, and that He opened my mind to the truth and beauty of His message. And I am so grateful that my story was published here, and I pray it is beneficial to anyone else who is struggling the way I was. Ameen.

          Dear Latifah, assalamu alaykum.
          I sincerely wish I could give you a simple tip to help you with what you, and so many others including myself are struggling with every day. There are so many doubts, so many temptations, so many obstacles and so many challenges. There are so many times when I feel lost and confused and helpless. It is so often that I feel disconnected from Allah. So often I’m saying salaat, but my mind wanders off to other things. And this is something we’re not alone in – many people struggle with this.

          All I can suggest is that you ask, beg, pray with all your heart because no scholar, no well wisher, no one can guide us if Allah does not help us open our hearts to him. And no one can lead us astray if Allah is showing us the way. Let’s just say a quick mini-prayer for guidance before continuing.

          Having said that (and if you’re looking for a single tip to follow, then that would be it), I would like to just share some of my own struggles in the hope that you might find them somewhat helpful.

          I used to find it really frustrating when I felt disconnected from Allah. At a certain level, I probably thought that I deserved to feel miraculously at peace and harmony, having put in the effort that I was putting in. And that frustrated me and made me feel even more distant from Allah. (A negative cycle…).
          But I continued praying none the less – and sometimes I would just sit and think of all the reasons I had to be grateful to Him. And I thought of my sins despite which He had guided me, I thought of my parents who loved me, my family that cared for me, my home, my job, my fridge full of food, my health, my comfortable lifestyle, my car, my safety and security, my friends… there are so many people who put in so much hard work and effort into everything they do – people struggling so much more than I ever had to, and they may not have any of the many blessings I do. Did I do anything that makes me deserve these blessings more than anyone else? We take these things for granted, and when we think about them, then we realize how much we have to be grateful for. And when one reflects on ones blessings, then salaat becomes so much more meaningful. It becomes a way of thanking Allah – and the words flow so naturally. Oh Allah, praise be to you – I thank you so much for everything you have given me. I thank you, oh Lord and master and provider of the Universe for all of your many blessings. You are so merciful and so compassionate… And I hope I’ll be able to improve myself in time for the day of Judgement, of which you alone are the master. Oh Allah, it is you alone whom I worship and love and adore, and it is you alone from whom I seek guidance and help. Oh Allah, please guide me to what is right – help me become someone who earns your favour and grace, and not someone who gets lost in this world, or angers you. (That isn’t the most accurate translation of Surah Fatiha, but it’s what I’m thinking while praying).

          Another thought that I’d like to share (and I might be wrong – I just thought of this) – is that perhaps you should try praying not for the reward of the peace and tranquility, but for the sake of praying itself. Allah knows what you are feeling, He knows what you are going through, He knows what you are having to struggle with. And won’t He be pleased that you are continuing to put in the effort none the less? So what if He hasn’t blessed you with a feeling of peace and a sense of connection to Him?

          To end, I’d just like to say that I’m grateful to Him for his innumerable blessings. I just read Isha salaat, and I was thinking about your comment almost throughout – and I was asking for forgiveness for being distracted throughout. And I was so distracted… but I know that He knows that I’m trying my best to focus. And He is wise, merciful and just – and I do pray He forgives me, and helps me ‘connect’ – and perhaps someday He will bless us with the peace and tranquility we seek inshallah.

        • Adesh says:

          Asalamu Aleikum, and Praise be to Almighty Allah, the Best Listener of all, the Best Guider of all.

          first of the above article touches the what is known or branded as a modern day Muslims.

          and sister Latifah, i honestly do feel ur anguish, comfusion and doubt but despite all that ur strife of learning and seeking advice hoping that it will shed some light.

          As for my brother Omaer, thats beautiful and insightful advice you passed across and i fully tend to agree with you when u said and i quote
          “Another thought that I’d like to share (and I might be wrong – I just thought of this) – is that perhaps you should try praying not for the reward of the peace and tranquility, but for the sake of praying itself. Allah knows what you are feeling, He knows what you are going through, He knows what
          you are having to struggle with. And won’t He be pleased that you are continuing to put in the effort none the less? So what if He hasn’t blessed you with a feeling of peace and a sense of connection to Him?”

          But then i dont knw if i read or heard frm scholers bt Allahu A’lam, and my Allah forgive me if am wrong
          “that Allah loves to hear us praying and asking Him of to guide and fullfill our needs even though He knws what we want to ask Him b4 we even raise our hands to Him coz He is all Knower,

          so my humble point is i think we should tend to change the of jst praying 4 tha sake of praying.

          Astaghfirullah for any mistake i made on tryn to share my thought.

  5. reshma khan says:

    Jazak-allah khair for a this wonderful post!

  6. Dr Mohammad Osman Khan says:

    Dear Bother Omair,

    I read your article with great interest. I do believe the Hidaya (Guidance) comes from Allah and Allah alone. Even prophets could not render their own kith and kin to accept Islam. For example Abdul Mutallib the grandfather
    of our beloved Prophet (SAW)

    May Allah give you the Taufiq (opportunity) to learn Arabic and His Deen so that you could enjoin What is Right and What is Wrong per Allah and His Rasul’s Guidance.

    For Learning Arabic there are many a courses. The Madinh set of THREE Volumes Published by Darul-Islam is a good one.

    Have a good Dictionery , e.g:

    Vocabulary of the Holy Quran
    by Dr Abdullah Abbas Nadwi

    And Mujaam ul Mufhris Al-Quran by MohammD FUwad al-Baqui

    Bayinnah Institure
    Zaituniya Institute

    have some Intensives.

    Your brother in Islam

  7. Dua says:

    MashAllah, what a beautiful,inspirational article. I was moved to tears reading it, as I can relate so much to your earlier struggles and experiences. I hope to one day find that inner peace, tranquility and contentment that you seem to have found in your life. Jazzak Allah Khair for sharing such a beautiful piece of writing. May Allah(swt) continue to shower you with His peace,blessings and guidance.

  8. Sara says:

    MashAllah, may Allah give you (and us all) continued strength.

    I am a convert, so I can relate to many of your experiences (such as having little intellectual respect for religion) before returning to Islam. However, once someone truly converts and discovers the real meanings and messages of Islam, it’s something truly beautiful and supremely intellectual. Only Allah could have such a perfect understanding of society, psychology, biology, astronomy, geology, etc. etc.!

  9. Naz says:

    This was such an amazing article and such a breath of fresh air, MASHALLAH! And about, muslims bashing other religions. There is something in the Quran or it might be a hadith, im not sure. But, I do remember reading that as Muslims we are not allowed to mock others views or beliefs. We should respect others and live in tolerance. Look at the Prophet s.a.w he didn’t go around mocking others beliefs or making fun of them, he called them to guidance but at the same time he respected and treated everyone with dignity even his enemies. And it was the beautiful character and manners of the Prophet s.a.w which attracted non-muslims to Islam. So like the article says we must live the message of Islam, instead of preaching we must practice.

  10. fawzia says:

    A very beneficial read. Even for practicing Muslims who sometimes find themselves inwardly going through such doubts and emotions. May God continue to guide you and may He make the path to Him easy for us all.

  11. Yaqub says:

    Brother Omaer, thank you for sharing your experiences.

    One of the best aspects of your post is that it is a very “organic” and relatable experience. It is organic in the sense that what you experienced is something that MANY people (including myself) can relate with.

    Sometimes it takes a “layman’s” input sans the scholarly input and “jargon” to convey a very powerful message that many people can benefit from without feeling they are the only ones going through spiritual trial and tribulation.

  12. This was so beautiful, bro! So many of us undergo the same challenges as you did but only a few are brave enough to conquer their misconceptions and insecurities to read the Quran with the intention to learn. I am glad you took the challenge head on and may Allah swt help you and all of us who struggle in the deen. Ameen.

  13. Muslima67 says:

    My dear brother Omaer,
    Asalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh. May Allah reward you for sharing your experiences. Your article really helped me understand the plight of a family member of mine going through something very similar to what you describe in your experiences growing up. Although both of his parents are Muslim and raised him Muslim, he sees Islam as a beleif in his heart but he doesn’t feel the need to adhere to the five daily prayers, one of its most important pillars after the profession of faith (shahada). It is hard for any member of our family to speak to him about praying as he doesn’t understand the importance of doing so. He is convinced that as long as he is a good person who behaves morally correct and teaches his children to be good people, that is most important. His wife, like him, beleives that faith is something that belongs in one’s heart. She is a Christian from a very practicing Christian family. I worry about their two children who were exposed to Islam but don’t see it in action from their parents. I wish we lived closer and had more of a daily influence on their kids. Please keep my family in your prayers, as I have come to understand that da3waa starts within one’s family.

    JAK wa salaam,
    Muslima67

  14. T says:

    I feel like crying now; Thank you for this wonderful article! I myself am in a continuous fight between religion and Shaytan, I do little little sins but they add up to huge stuff. InshaAllah I will try to have more willpower against my ‘nafs. Jazakallah khair!

  15. Salma says:

    MashaAllah a great article. I think we can all relate to some aspect of your experience – especially part of the journey is to give in to Islam completely at some point in our lives.

  16. Ahmad says:

    @ Sis Latifah,I believe you did the right thing to express the difficulties you are facing in your Deen. May Allah grant you ease and tranquility in all your affairs.
    You can also try this link concerning the issue of
    understanding the Qur’an.

    http://www.quranexplorer.com/Quran/Default.aspx

    Please,if you or any other person should find the link of help.Please,pray for me in return.

    Bis salama

    Please,disregard the first post editor

  17. sana says:

    Very nice read mA. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  18. rachel says:

    You write beautifully, u wrote from your heart :’) I feel you and the journey you went through. May Allah continue to bless and protect u :)

  19. SJ says:

    Incredibly happy to have come across this piece of writing; I was able to relate to many parts of your journey. It takes courage to write with such deep honesty as you have done. May Allah bless you abundantly for sharing. Thank you.

  20. A. says:

    Subhan Allah!

    it was awesome, i was hooked to it and loved it.
    As sister Latifa expressed her grief, a bit same is with me!
    but yes, i am trying to practice, i just have a meager hope to improve – if that is. and thats all. May Allah subhanahu Va Ta’ala accept it! May Allah Azzawajjal accept us and do not waste us! amen!

    jazakumAllah e khair.

  21. S.O. says:

    A very encouraging article, thank you.

  22. latifah says:

    Thank you so much Brother Omaer for your beautiful, honest and helpful response. I truly do appreciate the fact that you took time out to advice me. I have taken your advice and insha’Allah will try my best to implement it. May Allah continue to guide and protect you.
    And again thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

    @brother Ahmed thank you for that link. Insha’Allah it will be very helpful:).

    May Allah bless you all.

    Ma Salam

  23. Sulthana says:

    That was very beautifully written and touching, thank you for sharing such an honest piece, something that many people including myself can relate to. I too need the logical aspect but also have faith despite struggling to be better.

  24. Husna says:

    That was beautifully written! Whilst reading your article, being a Muslim myself I have faith however I struggle to practice it. It’s interesting to see the methods you are using to become a stronger Muslim in faith. I’ve learnt a lot. So thank you for sharing. Inshallah Allah will guide us to becoming a better Muslim.

  25. Snuze says:

    What a beautiful and candid essay! I am sure there are many Muslims who has had some side travels as you did in their journey, but not many would have the courage to elucidate it and share it with the world.

    I firmly believe that even after all the religious fardhu ‘ain training, we must all learn to approach and embrace Allah in our own way. No amount of proseletysing is going to soften a hardened heart, nor should we follow blindly.

    Bravo, sir!

  26. Maryam says:

    Whoa, this article blew me away! Islam is a journey and I like how you are real about that journey. May Allah guide us all and give us the ability to really see Him!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

  28. uthman says:

    thank you so much for sharing! i suggest you look up nouman ali khan, he has great lectures on the “linguistic miracle” of the quran

  29. Victoria says:

    I enjoyed reading this–it is a beautiful testimony. I sensed heart-felt honesty and sincerity.

  30. SNaseer says:

    Although i cant really relate to you and your experience.. The doubts and all, This article must have helped alot of brothers and sisters. May Allah bless you for your efforts..

  31. fatima says:

    very beautiful read SUBHAN ALLAH :). May ALLAH grant everyone guidance and ease who is facing these struggles in his/her life Aamin

  32. Razan says:

    Assalamu alaykum,

    I can definitely, definitely relate to the feelings that Muslims were somehow mediocre, and not interested in all of the fantastic things out there that you mentioned. May Allah guide us all through our journeys, inshallah.

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