Going distant from Allah is not an overnight process. It happens gradually without us ever realizing until we’re too far away. You may drift away from Allah one step at a time while feeling your heart harden until it turns into a stone. It’s a terrifying feeling and it mostly happens when we are negligent of our hearts for way too long. It may start from laziness with the acts of worship, delaying prayer, belittling our sins, running after dunya and falling into bad habits that become too comfortable. The reasons could be many or sometimes just one, but by the end you may feel like you don’t really have a purpose in life anymore…
Nu’man bin Bashir said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: ‘That which is lawful is plain and that which is unlawful is plain, and between them are matters that are not clear, about which not many people know. Thus he who guards against the unclear matters, he clears himself with regard to his religion and his honor. But he who falls into the unclear matters, he falls into that which is unlawful. Like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Every king has a sanctuary. And beware! Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibitions. Beware! In the body there is a piece of flesh which, if it is sound, the whole body will be sound, and if it is corrupt, the whole body will be corrupt. It is the heart.’” [Ibn Majah]
Anyone can go through such disconnection. Even the practicing Muslims! So more than your WHYs, let’s focus on your HOWs. Here are some of the few steps that can help us all build that relationship with Allah that our soul badly desires – no matter where you stand in the spirituality meter (the following list is in no particular order. You start from what is most accessible and feasible for you):
Talk and complain to Allah – then ask from Him too (make dua and cry your heart out)
Talk to Allah when you’re alone. Talking to Allah like you can see Him doesn’t only connect you back to Him but also forms husn adh dhann billah (good thoughts about Allah) which can form a really strong base for a long term connection because it builds trust. Without trust and love, whatever building you raise above, will eventually fall down. So say what Yaqoub (AS) said when his sadness overwhelmed him.
He said, “I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah…” [Quran 12:86]
Complain to Allah of the pain and sadness you cannot explain. Keep asking, even if you don’t know what to say. May be the following words of dua will help you figure out where you’re going with this:
Ya Allah, I carried a heart so numb that I stopped feeling you closer to my jugular vein. I stopped realizing that I’ve been watched. I stopped feeling the weight of kiraaman kaatibeen on my shoulders. I stopped realizing that I am from the ummah of Rasool Allah ﷺ – the prophet who cried for me and yearned for my pure belief. Yet, here I am with eyes so dry, but a throat so constricted. A mouth so silent, but a mind that yearns. A heart so heavy that pins my body down to the ground. So here I am my Lord, here I am with a soul so bare…
Seek human support as well
As human beings, we may also need someone physically present around us to uplift us. If a lot of time has passed and nothing is working out, seek out professional help. Sometimes mental illness can leave such effects of numbness and constant disappointment. Religiosity does not protect one from physical illnesses and in the same way, it does not necessarily protect oneself from mental illness either. Depression is not black and white. Even though no one sees the emotional pain and mental agony of depression, it is real. Whether it’s due to the loss of a loved one, a divorce, a bad test score or absolutely nothing you can put your finger on—it is real. So seek professional help if you have to because your relationships start to get affected as you progress into it. Your relationship with your family and friends. Your relationship with yourself. Your relationship with Allah. All the connections get lose one by one. So you cannot let it get worse. Depression does not have to be visible to be real. Learn more about depression from BetterHelp.
“…And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him a way out And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a extent.” [Qur’an, 65:2-3]
Try to be around righteous people (who aren’t judgemental)
Surround yourself with people who remind you of Allah simply with their actions. Through their kindness, through their humbleness, through their wisdom. People who make you want to live a life for the sake of Allah. The people of aakhirah who are free from the shackles of dunya – especially when you feel completely chained by it. Company of such people can give us perspective and lenses that we may have never used to see the world. See what motivates them, what drives them forward, how are they consistent etc. Seeing the practical life of being close to Allah makes it feel much more real and achievable.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, ‘The example of a good pious companion and an evil one is that of a person carrying musk and another blowing a pair of bellows. The one who is carrying musk will either give you some perfume as a present, or you will buy some from him, or you will get a good smell from him, but the one who is blowing a pair of bellows will either burn your clothes or you will get a bad smell from him.” [Bukhari]
Take a break from the life that’s always running and get closer to nature (miracles of Allah)
Do you feel empty inside? Like you’re in in pain and you can’t put a finger on the source, but you’re numb at the same time? The months, weeks and days pass by while you keep hoping to feel something? Sometimes we are running so fast in life, trying to get ahead in every single path that we forget to hear the beat of our heart and the rhythm of our breaths – in short, we forget to be mindful of Allah because we have no time to ponder or reflect.
Hanzala Usayyidi, who was amongst the scribes of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) reported: I met Abu Bakr…and said: Hanzala (I) has turned to be a hypocrite…I say that when we are in the company of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ), we ponder over Hell-Fire and Paradise as if we are seeing them with our very eyes and when we are away from Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) we attend to our wives, our children, our business; most of these things (pertaining to After-life) slip out of our minds. Abu Bakr said: By Allah, I also experience the same. So I and Abu Bakr went to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and said to him (the same statement)…Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: By Him in Whose Hand is my life, if your state of mind remains the same as it is in my presence and you are always busy in remembrance (of Allah), the Angels will shake hands with you in your beds and in your paths but, Hanzala, time should be devoted (to the worldly affairs) and time (should be devoted to prayer and meditation). He (the Holy Prophet) said this thrice. [Muslim]
Muhammad (ﷺ) used to go to a cave to reflect when the voices of the society around him drowned out his own. He needed space to think and reflect so he used to pull himself away from everything for a while to think through. If you would also like to clear your thought process, try taking a break from your routine without the noise of the world consuming your brain. If it’s not possible, then try the following…
Journal your thoughts
As F. Diane said here on Psychology Today:
“The extra benefits of mind clearing and self-defining are important enough to keep you motivated, even if you never look at what you wrote again. Find a regular time to write, and make it a habit. It doesn’t have to happen every day, but you should find some sort of structure. Maybe write for five minutes at noon on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, for example. Five minutes three times a week is manageable. Don’t worry about saying anything earth shattering or memorable. The Harvard study found that most people they asked would prefer to watch television over writing for five minutes, and most did not believe that they would be interested in what they had written later. Yet most of those who had written for five minutes found that they were more interested in what they had written three months later than when they wrote it. And most who chose to watch television regretted having done so three months later.”
Most of us have a hard time figuring out what makes us happy and content. Through journaling, you will get to know yourself better and put things in perspective in shaa Allah. This was the reason we made the Productivity Journal for Muslims – for self awareness and management. You can get all the details HERE.
Help people for the sake of Allah and He will help you
Be someone’s accountability partner. Help them become the best version of themselves and see yourself blossom as a result. Give charity, give time, give your services – however you’re able to help, step up!
Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Whoever relieves a Muslim of a burden from the burdens of the world, Allah will relieve him of a burden from the burdens on the Day of Judgement. And whoever helps ease a difficulty in the world, Allah will grant him ease from a difficulty in the world and in the Hereafter. And whoever covers (the faults of) a Muslim, Allah will cover (his faults) for him in the world and the Hereafter. And Allah is engaged in helping the worshipper as long as the worshipper is engaged in helping his brother.” [Tirmidhi]
As mentioned in Huffpost; “In a study by United Health Group, 78 percent of people who volunteered over a 12-month period said they felt that their charitable activities lowered their stress and volunteering enriches their sense of purpose. They were also more calm and peaceful than people who didn’t participate in volunteer work…”
Step out of the mundane and seek knowledge in a way you aren’t seeking already (get to know Allah better)
How do we expect to build a strong relationship with someone we barely know? Some people may benefit from reading Quran (especially if they understand it / if they read the translation or tafsir of it) while some may benefit from watching lectures and videos. Whatever works for you, do more of that. Sometimes attending halalqas and seeing other people taking a huge impact from the halaqas can increase your eemaan too. There is mercy on the jamaa’ah.
Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “…Whoever follows a path in pursuit of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him a path to paradise. No people gather in one of the houses of Allah, reciting the Book of Allah and teaching it to one another, but the angels will surround them, tranquility will descend upon them, mercy will envelop them and Allah will mention them to those who are with Him. And whoever is hindered because of his bad deeds, his lineage will be of no avail to him.'” [Ibn Majah]
Some people benefit from reading about lives of the prophets. Some benefit from listening to recitation of the Quran. Some from dhikr and making istighfar. Some from meditation (contemplation on life creation and hereafter). And some from re-affirming their belief in Islam being the religion of truth. Whatever works for you, stick to it like your life depends on it.
To get to know Allah better, start with the beautiful names and attributes like – Ar Rahman, Ar Raheem, Al Ghaffar, Al Ghafur, At Tawwab, Al Afuw etc. Starting from the names that soften your heart and make you fall in love with Him.
Schedule Allah in your time even if you don’t feel like it
Religion is not meant to be a happiness drug, it is meant to be a program that is followed regardless of whether we are happy or sad. It can give us happiness and moments of feeling spiritually close to God, but those feelings of spiritual high may not last forever. We may choose to serve Allah regardless of how we feel spiritually. We prove our loyalty by serving Him during all of life’s moments. Many of us are unfortunately “fair weather friends” of Allah, thinking that Allah only deserves dedicated worship and thankfulness when we feel good inside, and when things are bad, we get upset and feel that Allah is not there for us.
As Asmaa from Ruqayyas Bookshelf beautifully wrote: “Some days it’s easier to worship than others. Some days, your heart is in sync with your purpose—you plow forward, pushing the nonsense and distractions of this world to the side. You put your forehead to the ground knowing Who created you and why. Words of gratitude and hope slip easily off your tongue.
But then there are other days. Harder days. Days when the distractions and nonsense cozy up to you, piling themselves onto your chest until you forget why you’re Here. And when you come to speak to God, your tongue is stiff and heavy.
I have not found a cure to remedy the bad days except: Keep moving your tongue to speak to your Lord, even if it’s stiff. Keep putting your head to the ground, even if you’re tired. Keep uttering words of gratitude, even if you can’t feel them in your heart.
There are times I’ve wanted to give up writing, to give up my business, to give up on relationships. I’ve wanted to throw in the towel so, so many times. But I didn’t because I know anything worth having is worth struggling for. And what is more worthy of struggle and effort than the worship of God? You will get through the hard bits of this. Your patience will hold you upright. Your heart will soften again when you speak to your Lord.
It will. It must.
How could it not when the Most Merciful sees how hard you are trying?
Ibn Al-Qayyim says, “O you who are patient, bear a little more. Just a little more remains.””
Some people say that they feel distant from Allah when they’ve missed the daily adhkaar. For some, prayer could be the answer. For some, Quran could be one. So whatever it is that makes you feel that connection, do it. Even if you don’t feel like it. Even if you don’t have time for it. Just do it. Set alarms, plan, get an accountability partner, but do it. It may be tiring, but keep doing it. It is a part of living and for now you must live. You may desperately want someone to save you, yet you’re the only one who can save yourself. You can use the help of family, of friends, but only you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and carry the hope to reach it one day.
Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Allah the Exalted has said: “… the most beloved thing with which My slave comes nearer to Me is what I have enjoined upon him; and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing Nawafil (prayer or doing extra deeds besides what is obligatory) till I love him. When I love him I become his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks (something) from Me, I give him, and if he asks My Protection (refuge), I protect him”. [Bukhari]
Take small steps towards Allah from the place of love instead of fear
Walk towards Him and you will find Him running. Take one step ahead and you will find Him taking 10 steps towards you.
Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, said: ‘Whoever does one good deed will have (the reward of) ten like it and more, and whoever does a bad deed will have one like it, or I will forgive him. Whoever draws near to Me a hand span, I draw near to him an arm’s length; whoever comes to Me a forearm’s length, I draw near him an arm’s length; whoever comes to Me walking, I come to him in a hurry. Whoever meets Me with an earthful of sins, but does not associate anything in worship with Me, I will meet it (i.e., his sins) with forgiveness equal to that.'” [Ibn Majah]
Choose a prayer that is easiest for you to do, and make sure no matter what, you pray that. Keep it as a habit until you’re ready to add one more. Keep on doing that and you’ll have yourself doing all your prayers. If you’re already praying yet feeling distant, try adding istighfar in your day. And the list goes on…
So the Muslim must strive hard, first of all, to establish the obligatory duties that Allah has enjoined upon him, such as the five daily prayers, as well as giving zakaah, fasting Ramadan, performing the pilgrimage to the Ka‘bah if he is able to do so, and all the other obligatory practical duties, such as honouring one’s parents, upholding ties of kinship, fulfilling the rights of one’s wife (or husband) and children, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, to the best of one’s ability, and other significant acts of worship which only draw one closer to Allah.
He must also strive hard to fulfill the rights of Allah, with regard to the second type of obligatory duty, which is the obligation to refrain from that which Allah has instructed us to refrain from. This includes refraining from zina (unlawful sex), riba (usury, interest), alcohol, stealing, wrongdoing, backbiting, malicious gossip and other prohibited actions. If he does do any of these things, then he must hasten to repent and mend his ways.
Don’t minimize the problem and don’t demonize yourself for feeling it
Someone you know may be able to cope well with a similar problem, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else will be able to. Personal truths are not universal truths. People’s life experiences vary greatly so it’s ok to accept your situation as it is and go forward from there. Don’t be afraid to repent. Shaitan will try his best to make you continue your daily life – making you believe that Allah will never forgive you because you don’t deserve it. Or you will never feel close to Allah again so might as well not even try it.
You may feel far away from Him, but remember that Allah Himself is never far away from us. Allah is closer than our jugular veins as mentioned in the Quran [50:16].
The words “Fafirru ilAllaah” in the Quran [51:50] are often translated as:
Run towards Allah;
Flee to Allah;
Hasten towards Allah;
Fly to Allah…
If you go into the depth of Arabic, you will find that “fafirru” comes from the root letters Fa-Ra-Ra which shares the same roots with mafarr; meaning refuge – when you run away from something dangerous to find refuge in Him. When you run away all scared into a safe place. A sanctuary.
So when the weight of this world crushes your shoulders,
When the noise of the world consumes your brain,
When the mountains of stress have been accumulated and you feel like they will collapse on you,
When your heart feels so heavy that it pins your body down to the ground,
When your soul feels empty and nothing fills the void,
Fly to Allah
Hasten towards Allah
Flee to Allah
Run towards Allah…
Because He is our Only Place of Refuge in a world full of chaos. In a world full of betrayal.
In a world where we are nothing but a speck, His Majesty is enough to cover us whole.
So here I am my Lord, here I am with a soul so bare…
I hastened. I ran. I flew without wings.
Just to find a refuge I find nowhere but in You…