Challenges on our camping trip
Sikander Ziad Hashmi, sunniforum.com
(Put on your imagination caps)
You set off on a camping trip. You arrive at the camp site. Itís pitch dark - no stars, no moon, no lights. You canít even see a foot ahead without a flashlight.
Whatís one of the first things you do?
Arrange for some light.
So you start a campfire. But the fire needs fuel and to keep it going, it needs stoking and even more fuel. Thus, you need an ample supply of firewood to get you through the darkness.
As if that wasnít enough of a challenge, you feel wetness on your head and realize that itís started to rain lightly. Now, keeping that fire going will be even more of a challenge, as fire and water are obvious antagonists.
To make matters worse, thereís always the chance that a raccoon might make a claim on your food or worse yet, some hungry bear might jump out of the woods and see you as a potential candy bar.
Quite a challenge, isnít it?
(Take off imagination caps)
We are all on a camping trip.
While we walk under the scorching sun everyday, our hearts are stumbling in spiritual darkness.
Our bodies are in the midst of streets and buildings, but our souls are in a darkened forest.
Allah has blessed the believers with the flame of iman (faith), their guide in the darkness. For some itís a mere flicker, but a flame nonetheless.
ďAllah is the Protector of those who have faith: from the depths of darkness He will lead them forth into lightÖĒ (Quran; 2:257)
The flame of iman is constantly bombarded not only with rain, but fire-retardant chemicals as well.
Then there is not just the possibility of aggression, thereís the actuality of attacks and harassment.
Thus, the challenge is clear: keep the fire burning despite all the challenges of keeping it ablaze, and at the same time, stem off the bears and the raccoons.
In fact, not only does the flame of iman need to be maintained, it needs to be grown, for it takes only a single bucket of water to put out a fire in a trash can while it takes an entire fire department to douse a blaze at a shopping mall. The bigger the flame of iman, the harder it is for it to be extinguished.
Just as we need vaccinations to boost our immune systems and vitamins to maintain our growth, our iman too needs a regular dose of vaccines and vitamins to keep it from being extinguished by the negative influences around it.
Allah Almighty has Himself prescribed the antidote against the deeds, which we see around us and are then led to do, that negatively influence our iman.
ďÖVerily salat (prayer) restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest without doubt. And Allah knows that what you do.Ē (Quran; 29:45)
But salat is not possible at all places at all times.
Not to worry!
The zikr (remembrance) of Allah, our multivitamin, can be taken at any time. It should especially be taken in the morning and evening.
ďO you who believe! Celebrate the praises of Allah in abundance; And glorify Him morning and evening.Ē (Quran; 33:41-42)
Salat and zikr are our key to maintaining our iman, no matter how dark things get around us.
Good and bad are part of a zero-sum equation, meaning that as one comes, the other must go. The two canít be present in equal quantities.
As we increase our intake of the vaccines and vitamins, our iman becomes stronger and the negative influences slowly lose their ability to influence our flame. It keeps growing and the effects of external factors begin to wane.
In practical terms, that means beginning to pray if we donít already, and praying regularly if we do it sporadically. If we offer the fardh (obligatory) prayers regularly, it means becoming punctual in the sunnah and nalf (superogatory) prayers, as well as continuous attempts to improve our concentration during prayers.
It also means creating and following a zikr schedule. It can begin by just reciting all the kalimahs once a day and then grow steadily with other supplications. (I also recommend reading their translations so the meanings affect the heart).
(To be continued, )