Losing Faith, Finding God

source: Life of My Heart

If you must know something about me it is that I often have trouble when it comes to putting my feelings into words. The fact that I have a blog, and one with many readers might I add, surprises me!  However, what I've noticed is that when I write from my heart my thoughts flow quite nicely and people tend to respond positively to them (for the most part). That has been my main purpose for writing and sharing my stories with you and it took me a while to realise this: I really want others to benefit from my existence instead of me always wanting to benefit from others. The girl you see today is far from perfect as a human being and a Muslim but she's happy and contented with everything that has happened and will happen, and most of all, she's committed to herself. (Read on to find out what I mean by this.)

You see, when I started blogging I never knew it would change my life the way it did. I was a girl with a laptop, an affinity for creativity and self-expression, and a bit of free time. Before I knew it I was meeting with other bloggers, appearing on television and in magazines and newspapers. Contrary to what some of you may think, I was open to these experiences because I wanted experience NOT exposure nor praise. Furthermore, I believed I was doing a good thing by dispelling misconceptions about Muslims and sharing my deliberations on Islam and modest fashion.

What I wasn't aware of at that time was the range of people I would be exposed to. Don't get me wrong,  I've met some of the most inspiring human beings because of my blog and I'm forever grateful for that. At the same time, I was also exposed to a lot of superficial and hypocritical individuals. I refer to them as "small people" because I define "smallness" as being insecure, selfish, bitter, envious, angry or just plain toxic. "Small people" are usually not who they say they are; they are not the good people they claim to be. In other words, "small people" are driven by their ego and fears as opposed to love and compassion. Having "small people" in my life was my struggle for a long, long time and as a result, I became quite put off by Islam but I held on because I knew it was God's way of testing my sincerity towards Him. I questioned myself, Was I trying to become a devoted Muslim for the sake of myself and my worldly desires or was I doing it for His sake? 

Maybe sometimes you have to lose faith in order to truly find God and yourself. As Imam al-Ghazzali said, "Know that the key to knowing God is to know your own self."

When you start to get attention for what you are passionate and sincere about your intentions can become affected. I've learned and observed that fame, status and popularity are forms of fitna (trial, test or temptation) and that both "good" and "bad" things can be a trial for us. Fitna is presented to us in two forms: fitna of the shahawat (desires) and fitna of the shubuhat (doubts and misunderstandings). (For a more thorough explanation of fitna, watch this). I say "good" and "bad" because only Allah knows the true nature of things. Due to our limited knowledge, we can be blinded by our biases, ignorance, and fleeting desires. 

I'm not afraid to show that I'm human. For years, I battled with an inner struggle that was the result of several friendships and relationships that negatively impacted my faith and iman.  The doubtful thoughts that kept ringing inside my head included, "Maybe I'm not a good person", "Maybe I should have seen it coming", "Maybe I'm not good enough, that's why people take me for granted" and "Maybe I keep getting hurt because I'm not strong enough". My friend Shaystah calls them unhelpful thoughts.

In the course of our lifetime we will develop behavioural patterns that either benefit or harm us. Negative thinking is one of behaviours I developed when I lived in Malaysia after I finished my undergraduate studies. I felt I couldn't be my usual confident, bubbly and brave self because some of  my friends or the people I worked with didn't appreciate or welcome these traits. They were the opposite of the people I was used to being around in New Zealand. It was as if I couldn't be myself because I had to have my guard up all the time, in fear that someone might try to disparage me, take advantage of me or hurt me and my family. The easiest way to describe my state of mind during that time is that I was in survival mode.

And being in survival mode is absolutely exhausting. Mentally exhausting, particularly, which in turn affected my physical state. I did what I felt I had to do. I withdrew to protect myself and to focus my energy on the people who mattered most to me and also on myself. It was the only way I knew how to stay sane. I was also tired of feeling like I had to prove myself, especially my 'Muslim-ness'. But I prayed for answers and relief and found that He often answered my prayers in ways I didn't always expect.

I always say that New Zealand saved me because I when I moved back here my self-confidence and also my faith in others was restored. However, the truth is it was Allah who enabled me to remove myself from these bad situations in Malaysia; he gave me the means, hope and strength to not only 'rebuild' my trust in Him but also in myself. Various traumatic experiences led me to lose trust in myself because in my head I often repeated this question, "If I keep meeting bad people then I'm the common factor. Right?"

What I hope to share with you today is that if we teach people to love themselves (by practicing self-discipline and self-compassion, for instance) then they can fix their problems on their own. Yes, it helps to have support. Yes, we are taught to rely on Allah to heal us but at the same time, Allah helps those who help themselves - no one can do the actual work of healing for you. It is hard work and it requires commitment, discipline and mental strength, especially when it comes to fighting the nafs (ego) that tells us to live in fear, regret, envy or bitterness. Think about it. We expect our friends and loved ones to commit to us but are we committed to ourselves? Are we ready to put in the work into making ourselves healthier - spiritually,  emotionally, mentally and physically? (I absolutely recommend that you read Mindy Kaling's guide to killer confidence, by the way.)

If you're going through something right now, please don't panic. Pull yourself out of the state of anxiety. This too shall pass and your reward for being patient and steadfast in your good deeds will be given to you without measure.

Say: "O ye my servants who believe! Fear your Lord, good is (the reward) for those who do good in this world. Spacious is Allah's earth! those who patiently persevere will truly receive a reward without measure!" (39:10)

What has really helped me as of late is having certainty or yakeen in Allah's mercy and knowing who is genuine and who are the people in my life that intend good for me and others. Sometimes God's way of helping us to ascertain who these people are can be quite painful but in the end it is worth it.  If there's one thing I hope you will take away from this it is that there is wisdom (hikmah) in everything He allows to happen to us but it is up to us to respond appropriately. For example, when we are faced with a tribulation do we turn to Him or do we turn to alcohol, drugs or resort to self-destructive behaviour? Trust me, it is much easier to lift up your hands and say, "God, I really need your help right now" than to resort to something like alcohol, for instance, which makes us feel worse later on! Allah is al-Mujeeb (the Responder of prayers) and He answers the prayers of those who are truly in need, even the prayers of non-Muslims.

"And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me - indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided." (2:186)

When in doubt, turn to Him, first and foremost. I promise you, things will fall into place. "So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief." (94:5) You are not your fears and insecurities. Be cautious but be hopeful too. You are here because you were meant to have all the good He has intended for you. Good things happen to good people, it's just a matter of time, and a matter of being brave and having a positive mindset.


PIM said…
Aww this was so nicely written. Its so important to have a productive, positive outlook in life and some people can really take away that spirit from you! Ive learned too that if I turn to the One and stay confident in who I am its much more rewarding even if Ive so many lesser people in my life. Really enjoyed reading this post and well done you for coming so far in your spiritual journey!
Miza said…
Salam. Thanks sis for the blogpost this time. It came when I needed it most.

Take care. May Allah bless you <3
anonymous said…
Beautiful post !! Your words are so authentic and relatable mA. I'm sure many people benefit from reading your posts, whether they comment or not :)
Anonymous said…
So lovely. Really enjoying your blog all the way from Australia, Mashaallah :-)