Real faith is not believing in God’s existence, it is building a relationship with Him.

By Nabi Raza Abidi

I’ve been at the SABA Islamic center for around two decades now. As I grow older, I find myself becoming more sympathetic to the challenges young people face, more so than I did two decades ago.

It is not rare that I receive grieving parents in my office who are upset that their teenage or young adult children have become atheists. Not only do they feel a sense of betrayal, but they also worry about the dangers of damnation in the Hereafter.

Now obviously doubting the existence of God is not a good thing and carries with it many spiritual dangers, however, I cannot deny that these doubts are part of the process of building a relationship with God. If we simply feign belief in God, or just go about carrying out the outward motions prescribed by our religion but forgo the importance of seeking a real relationship with Him, we might as well be atheists. Think about it, the Devil firmly believes in God’s existence but he has no relationship with Him. In this sense, how valuable is his belief in Him? In fact, we may say that an atheist can be better than him.

Most young people struggle with religious questions. I tell parents that this is part of relationship building. It is important to be honest than to pretend that all is ok with our īman (faith) when it really is not. It is important to sit with scholars, join the community and not give up on discovering who God really is as taught to us by the Ahl al-Bayt (as). Many atheists whom I have met reject a false image of God whom I also reject for it is not the God of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as), it is one concocted by an unsophisticated theology.

If we are to have a real personal relationship with Allah (swt), we must be sincere, open and honest. We must not be afraid of doubts or to question. God wants a real relationship, not a feigned one. Just like a successful marriage is based on overcoming struggles and grounding trust over time through trials, struggles and doubts, our relationship with God is also something that builds over time and requires struggle. Like all good and lasting relationships, it brings about peace of heart.

Waʿlaikum as-Salam,
Yours Faithfully
Nabi Raza Abidi
Resident Imam of the SABA Islamic Center
San Jose, California