In the battle against one’s evil inclinations, despair can sometimes overtake us. With the right mindset, one can overcome this despair.
By Nabi Raza Abidi
There is no greater battle than the battle against the evils of oneself. This has been said ad nauseam in spiritual talks. Although true, it is often forgotten that in this battle many, many people fall into despair. We struggle against bad habits, selfishness, anger, anxiety, depression, carelessness, immaturity, not being able to control what we say, or what have you. When we don’t see the results we want, we fall into despair and think that we are hopeless which sometimes brings about a state of resignation to sins and ill behavior.
I think the mistake here is that we think we can do the changes ourselves. Of course the effort comes from us, but in the end it is Allah that changes the hearts for He is the changer of hearts as the Prophet (s) said يَا مُقَلِّبَ الْقُلُوبِ (O Changer of Hearts).
Our mistake therefore is believing that we have power on our own which if you think about it, is a form of idolatry and an affront to monotheism. Is it possible that in trying to change ourselves and believing that we can do it on our own, we are actually making things worse? Is it possible that with every step forward, we are taking ten steps back? Real power, real Tawheed is knowing that all power and capacity only lies with the All-Mighty. As the Qur’an says, لا حول ولاقوة إلا بالله (There is no power, no might and no capacity except with God).
Now on treating the dead heart: Who is it that brings non-being into being? Who is it that brings the dead back to life? Even if you are made out of stone, Allah will bring you back to life. As such, only God has the power to resurrect, not you, me or your spiritual teacher for your spiritual teacher or boss is himself/herself trying consciously or unconsciously to invoke God’s favor in his/her life.
Allah says in the Qur’an (Surah Israh, verse 57):
Those [saintly beings] whom they invoke are themselves striving to obtain their Sustainer’s favour –[even] those among them who are closest [to Him]
If our hearts are dead and made out of stone, it is the Resurrector who can bring it to life. So let us not despair. Although the path is an arduous and long one, the changes will come incrementally and the transformation will happen without you even noticing it.
How is this achieved? The Qur’an gives us a clue. In chapter Israh, verses 49-52, Allah (swt) states:
(49) And [thus, too,] they say, “After we will have become bones and dust, shall we, forsooth, be raised from the dead in a new act of creation?”
(50) Say: “[ You will be raised from the dead even though] you be stones or iron
(51) or any [other] substance which, to your minds, appears yet farther removed [from life]!” And [if] thereupon they ask, “Who is it that will bring us back [to life]?” – say thou: “He who has brought you into being in the first instance.” And [if] thereupon they shake their heads at thee [in disbelief] and ask, “When shall this be?” –say thou: “It may well be soon,
(52) on a Day when He will call you, and you will answer by praising Him, thinking all the while that you have tarried [on earth] but a little while.”
Death and resurrection are not only physical processes but are also spiritual and metaphysical. If we pay attention to the last verse, the secret of revival is right there. In order to be revived, we must answer God’s call by praising Him. Praising the All-Mighty is synonymous and at the very essence of being grateful to Him. It is a state of gratefulness that gives us the mental energy to carry on in this fallen and broken world. It is the longterm state of gratefulness that is the key to God’s reciprocation in resurrecting our dead souls.
Being grateful is one part. The second interlocked part is kindness. The verse after (52) tells us the following:
(53) AND TELL My servants that they should speak in the most kindly manner verily, Satan is always ready to stir up discord between men –for, verily, Satan is man’s open foe!
Satan is always trying to instill animosity, hatred, jealousy, and resentment among people. Lack of gratefulness leads to a sense of entitlement and lack of humility, and the sense of entitlement and lack of humility is what often breeds resentment and discord.
To be kind, one must repent to God. It is through real repentance that the sense of entitlement is removed thereby opening the heart to humility, gratefulness, kindness and love – even to those who have wronged us. With gratefulness and kindness to others, especially our enemies – namely those who bear ill-will against us – God’s Grace enters our lives and revives our dead hearts.
Nabi Raza Abidi
Resident Imam of the SABA Islamic Center
San Jose, California