By Arthur Richards
August 10, 2018
Faith takes work. Faith is a process, a path that one journeys upon. It isn’t solely a set of beliefs that one has to affirm. Rather, those beliefs are stepping stones to manifesting true faith in one’s actions. Take, for example, the basic belief that there is a God. The affirming of this belief causes one to act in a beautiful way and to work towards meeting this Lord who sustains His creation.
When you establish this core belief, you can begin to piece together the beautiful tapestry of God’s divine plan. You cease to see the creation of angels and jinn, of the sending of Prophets and other fundamental beliefs as mere stories, but instead as metaphysical realities that impact you directly in your life.
What I’m trying to shape for you is that in order to truly have faith in the Divine, your beliefs need to be built upon a solid foundation — else a small breeze will seem like a hurricane. Consider these three approaches to belief and faith:
Belief Is A Branch Of Faith.
Scholars like Imam Al-Akhdari began his famous text of Islamic law reminding believers that the first thing they need to have is proper belief in God. For example, on the path of faith one should attempt to remove doubt. Scholars throughout history utilized various methods of doing so, such as the study of logic in an effort to help the non-scholar identify fallacious beliefs.
These misinformed beliefs may subsequently destroy a person’s faith. What if someone believed, for example, that God created the Earth and humanity and left it to work on its own? The reality is that we believe God is necessary, and that nothing operates without His decree. Every breath you take is created by God, and He creates for every man, woman, child and animal.
The rays of sunlight that grace the soil after the rain and allow trees to grow tall and to bear fruit only do by His command. This changes everything, does it not? Doesn’t it cause you to look at the world differently, to realize that God is an active participant in your life?
Hit The Reset Button.
I originally had learned about Islam bereft of its internal, spiritual dimension. I kept to subjects and interpretations that sounded authentic and authoritative, but after years they left me and many others in my circle feeling empty. It was then that I began to delve deeper into the tradition. It was then that I began to beg God to give me the opportunity to study the various sciences that preserved the light of the Divine.
One of the first pieces of advice I received while on this path was that one’s mental affirmations have an effect on how they perceive the Divine, and so clarifying one’s beliefs will benefit their faith. So, I began to study theology again — from scratch. Who was God? Why is His existence necessary? Who were the prophets? Did God have to send them, or was it a mercy from God that He did? Answering these questions caused major changes in my life, the first being my prayer.
As I spent days studying theology, I came across more and more realizations. When demanding situations presented, and I was told to be patient, I ceased thinking of it as useless advice but a realization that God had work to do and my impatience would disallow me from seeing it. I had hit the reset button, and now my perspective was changing.
She Didn’t Know Why.
I remember a young lady who had been fairly close to me growing up. She was Palestinian, Muslim and amazingly intelligent. We shared a love for Lupe Fiasco and Drake in his initial days of coming into the rap scene. In those days I was wearing an Allah chain and attempting to learn more about a faith I had little knowledge about except via short documentaries and a few books. I remember once feeling the resolve to ask her about prayer and why I had never seen her prostrating to her Lord. She replied to me, “Because I don’t feel anything when doing it.”
At the time, I agreed with her. Why do something that doesn’t spiritually sustain you? However, now I would ask the question, “Do you worship for the feeling or do you worship because the One who gave you life calls you to do so? This is where having the proper affirmations transform your worship. This is why I sought out guides to show me this path of truly cultivating my belief in the Divine.
I began to understand why so many around me could find no benefit in fasting, or waking up in the early hours to pray, or to wear certain types of clothing that hid the beauty that God fashioned them in: None of it made sense, and all of the rituals in the world would seem superficial if the person’s understanding of God was superficial.
I call you to better your relationship with God by knowing Him. The understanding of who your Lord is will have a direct impact on your worship, but that knowledge takes work. It takes finding a teacher and sitting at their feet. It takes conquering the ego and instructing it to understand that it is God who sustains it, not itself. And, it takes realizing when you may need to start back again from zero so that you can finally see God through the lens you were meant to see him through.
On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may God be pleased with him), who said that the Prophet (?) said:
God the Almighty said:
I am as My servant thinks I am (1). I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a cubit, and if he draws near to Me a cubit, I draw near to him a fathom. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.
Arthur Richards is a father, writer, and student of the Islamic Sciences. Currently living in Cairo, Egypt he studies at Al-Azhar University. He is an avid storyteller. Arthur is Altmuslim’s newest columnist. His column, “Tapestry of Faith,” is published in the first week of every month