Your journey with Islam: Navigating judgements, criticism, and opinions along the way
The year 2022 is in full swing, Alhamduliellah!
While it’s the start of new chapters for many, in this edition, we reflect on the journey with our Deen. How do we navigate the temporary world and all its judgements and criticism while still attaining closeness to Allah (SWT)?
Even if you were born Muslim, there comes a stage in your life where you reflect on everything you’ve been taught. If you’ve been blessed with the hunger to seek more knowledge and experience an epiphany of what Islam means to you, it’s the most fulfilling feeling in your entire life. The desire to become a better Muslim starts influencing your every action and you start understanding why Islam is known as a way of life. You might not be perfect, but your intention is strong enough to try to be better with each day.
Alternatively, you might be at a place where you’re really struggling with your Deen. Being exposed to daily challenges can be testing, even for the strongest of humans. Your relationship with Islam may not be constantly strong, but in your heart, you know you are trying your best. Whether you’re at a place where you’re spiritually strong or you feel like you’re not at your best, one thing is for sure - you will face trials, especially in the form of judgements, criticism, and opinions. At times, it may come from those closest to you. How do we navigate these?
Let’s highlight two types of pressures that encompasses judgements, criticism, and opinions.
1. Striving towards perfection
You’re at a good place where you feel a deep spiritual connection with Allah (SWT). You start making changes such as being constant in your prayers, reflecting on how you can improve your character, feeling confident in your Hijab and having a higher level of Taqwa.
Challenge: It comes with a higher responsibility. You’re learning and understand things better than you did before. However, those around you have a different journey to yours and are moving at a different pace.
Internal Struggle: You’re not relating to people who are not at the spiritual level you are at, and it puts you at risk of misconstruing guidance for judgement, Acts of Worship for Self-servitude and being overly self-conscious that it leads to waswas.
External Struggle: People don’t seem to understand the direction your Islamic journey has taken. Each day, you reflect on your internal struggles such as the ones above, and you try to do better, yet, you still have people who are judging you for it. For example, you’ve started embracing your Hijab and those around you are pressurizing you by using words such as “extremism” or you feel uncomfortable because you’re the only one in your group who is completely covered. Another example is that there are many things you stopped doing and the ones you were doing it with might not understand that your life is heading into a different direction. This can cause you to lose some friends along the way, some of whom you were very close to.
2. Embracing Imperfections
You understand that you are human and that you can only try your best. The intention is at the heart of what you do and the good deeds you do are done with sincerity. The sins that you commit, you know that Allah (SWT) is all forgiving and has mercy on his creatures. As long as you are alive, you can repent for the bad deeds that you are remorseful about.
Challenge: You feel worried that you’re not where you want to be with your Islamic journey and start doubting yourself and others whom you feel are at a higher spiritual level. You want to do better, but its difficult and you feel like even though you’re trying, it feels like a case of one step forward and two steps back. You know that as much as you have good intentions in your heart, the Acts of Worship that you supplement it with physically are just as important.
Internal Struggle: You feel that your lifestyle is too difficult to change and that you’re struggling to connect spiritually. You’re in a constant battle with yourself that it falls into despondency, sometimes to an extreme state where you feel like you’re “not worthy of being forgiven.”
External Struggle: There are people around you that are judging you based on what they see. They feel the need to guide you to do better, but it ends up making you feel worse. An example could be that because your lifestyle is currently not reflecting the ideal Islamic way, there are those around you that may criticize you, even shame you, without trying to empathize the internal struggles you have. It could be that you want to perform your prayers more consistently, learn the Qur'an or adopt a more modest lifestyle, but the people around you are not giving you a chance to even begin, or strive towards it at a pace that works best for you.
How do we navigate these challenges and struggles that encompasses judgements, criticism, and opinions
O ye who believe! seek help with patient perseverance and prayer; for Allah is with those who patiently persevere.
Turn to Allah (SWT
He is most forgiving and most merciful. Even if you’re not at a level where you’re consistent in your daily prayers, start at a pace that is easy for you and gradually increase it. It might even be that you read a Duah and reflect on it and ask Allah (SWT) in your heart to guide you and make it easy for you to perform your Salaah.
If you are at a place where you feel a higher spiritual connection, be conscious of your intention each time you perform Salaah. Make sure that you’re doing it as a form of submission to Allah (SWT) and ask him to strengthen your character. Make sure that you create a sense of balance in your life, so that you remain relatable to others, and they may be inspired by you to become closer to Allah (SWT).
Knowledge is Power
Read the Quran and Hadith and find a scholar that can help you to learn more. The more knowledge and understanding you have about Islam, the more confident you will become. You will find that when you have more knowledge, it will give you peace of mind and know how to respond when others judge or criticize you. Islam teaches us to always be kind. When judgements, criticism or opinions come from a bad place, sometimes its best to just remove yourself from that situation and pray to Allah (SWT) for protection because Allah (SWT) will always have your back when you turn to him in sincerity.
Taking care of yourself for the sake of Allah (SWT) and to perform better for him is an act of Ibadah. Self-care means taking time out to engage in methods that will make you a better person holistically. This means becoming healthier physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Take care through exercise, eating healthy, meditating, spending time in good company, doing fun things that make you smile and anything that will reduce your stress and anxieties.
Understand that your Islamic journey is between you and Allah (SWT)
Strive to please Allah (SWT) and no one else. Not everyone will love or like you, some won’t even respect you and that is something you have no control over. The blessing in that is that you were never placed on this earth to please people; they are human, and they are flawed. Allah (SWT) knows you best and he knows what’s in your heart. Turn to him every day and you will find your Islamic journey become easier.
You are the creation of Allah (SWT) and that is enough to know that you are worthy of his love, his mercy, and his forgiveness. Whenever you feel discourage, turn to Allah (SWT) for guidance because Allah (SWT) knows best.
By: Zaghra Savahl
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As humans in this dunya we are inundated by many distractions, misguidance, and falsehoods therefore making life much more confusing and difficult. What are we thinking, saying, observing, and experiencing in our lives? Are we truly living by Islamic ideals? This is where we can choose to actively “Strive For Clarity.”