Why does Allah tell us to earn a halal livelihood, get married, have children, if all these things are going to take us away from Him? – it makes no sense. Except Allah is the All Wise, so if He recommends something to us that seemingly makes no sense, it is us that have understood things wrong. So, let’s try and make sense of this.
Reframing Connection To God
Chances are, all of us have a preferred method of connecting to God, or at least the way we’ve always known how to do so from when we were young and first tasted the sweetness of His love. It may be through knowledge seeking, through reading the Holy Qur’an, Du’as from the Prophet and his household, performing lengthy A’maal, or a combination! And if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably seen your ability and even willingness after a hard day of parenting to do this less and less, and perhaps wondered if somehow you were becoming a worse person as a result.
This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, as another Ramadan has come and gone and I feel I’ve achieved even less than I did in the past. Surely, as we grow older and wiser our ‘Ibadah should increase? Surely the trajectory of our spirituality should be going up, not down? Why does Allah tell us to earn a halal livelihood, get married, have children, if all these things are going to take us away from Him? – it makes no sense. Except Allah is the All Wise, so if He recommends something to us that seemingly makes no sense, it is us that have understood things wrong.
Ultimately, we want to meet Allah at our peak, when we have reached as much of our potential as we ever will. The method we are used to connecting to Him with is often our comfort zone, what we are used to – but it is not the only way of connecting with God, and exploring other ways is God teaching us to be more rounded individuals. Since we’re unlikely to willingly venture out of our comfort zone, God often has to force us into the other situations – did you intend to read Munajaat on Layaalil Qadr only for that to be your baby’s worst sleep of the month? Rather than having failed, God had a different lesson for you, one more beneficial for you than reading that Munaajah. Often our own stubbornness makes us feel like we have to stick to this one route when God is clearly pushing us another way.
It is wonderful to have passions and interests that are God inclined, but we must be careful not to get tunnel vision and not grasp other opportunities for learning and growth that come from unexpected sources.
It’s also important to remember that our trajectory of spirituality and connection isn’t a straight line. I don’t even believe it’s a 2D curve with simple peaks and troughs! If only life were that simple… Instead I feel like it’s multi-dimensional, with several different aspects to it. While we’re here – what do we even define connection as? For the longest time I felt myself chasing a feeling I’ve been lucky enough to experience once or twice in my life – of euphoria and a real feeling of God’s presence in my heart. But I realised that that feeling, as beautiful as it is, is not God. God is always there, closer to us than our jugular vein, knowing what lies in the depths of our souls, not only present in rare sporadic moments! I needed to search for Him always – in the mundane – in the daily grind, and make my every endeavour one in pursuit of His proximity. After all, we’re told to have Taqwa – be conscious of God always.
Whilst I most definitely do not have all the answers, here are a few things that have helped me to do this:
- Journaling. The famous hadith “Whoever knows themselves knows their Lord¹” highlighted to me that I really need to understand myself better. As someone who expresses themselves through writing, journaling whenever I’m experiencing something that I need to dig into further helps me unearth why I’m feeling the way I am, and what I can do about it. Once I’m free of the shackles of guilt/pain/unexplained sadness I often find I can progress quicker and deal with things better in the future.
2. Acknowledging directly to God when I’m finding things hard. He is the loving support who will run to us when we take a single step to Him, and reaching out is the first step. Also remembering God is the cause of every goodness in my life and truly thanking Him for all the blessings, even those that may not look like blessings right now.
3. Seeing how much I have grown, changed and matured over the years. Sure, when I was 20 I had more time to read and learn and connect that way, but I had ugly qualities that were only uncovered through the people and situations I encountered as I grew older, and I’m sure there are more that are yet to be uncovered. At each stage, it is about reflecting, growing and consciously improving rather than continuing to be the same person you were all those years ago!
4. Healing from past trauma and triggers, to now realise that the world is not as black and white as I once thought and there’s often more to a person or situation than meets the eye. Becoming more empathetic and forgiving and realising that just because someone does not think like me, does not mean that they are wrong. Someone can disagree with me and still have good intentions.
5. Thinking about God’s attributes and seeing which I can harness and embody, towards others but particularly towards my own self. If He will see I’m trying and have mercy on me, I should do the same. If He will forgive my lapses, why can’t I?
InshaAllah we can all feel His presence more and more, and inshaAllah our children can pick up on that too!
Ultimately, I feel in a better position now to meet my Lord than I would have been 10 years ago. And – really – that’s progress. The guilt we feel can hold us back from soaring, and that’s a shackle we put on ourselves! And so, reading that copy of Theological Instructions that I’ve started and stopped so many times may not happen right now, and that’s ok! InshaAllah it’s in my fate to acquire that one day, but that day is not today. However, today is another chance for me to keep Him in mind as I go about my day, fall in love with Him a little bit more and pass that love on to the next generation.
¹ Mizan al-Hikmah, Muhammad Muhammadi Rey Shahri, Vol. 6, p. 142, No. 11923, reported from Ghurar al-Hikam, no. 7946.