Autumn is truly a beautiful place in England, alhumdulillaah. But Autumn is a façade for the demise of everything deciduous and fruitful. I look beyond the shrivelling trees and the goldening foliage and I see something sinister. Decaying and withering away, something so intrinsic to our humanness is being eroded and perhaps even being snatched from us.
What is it? Belief in God. Belief is abstract and anything abstract involves depth, reflection and a certain degree of strength and creativity to align our understanding of it with what we observe of it in the world around us. This is becoming increasingly challenging in non-Muslim countries where faith is diminishing and outward forms of belief are being marginalised.
We have more rights now that protect us and enable us to believe without the threat of coercion and censorship. One would think that more people would be drawn towards acknowledging Allah as the Sole Creator but this is far from the case. Why do people find it difficult to acknowledge the existence of God? It is no wonder that for some, who are new to the faith, also undergo a period of mental turbulence: Have I made the right choice? Does Allah really exist? This global culture makes it easy for us to be drawn away from Allah. It does nothing to ease our path towards Him.
The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was certainly prescient when he said that a time will come when holding on to faith will be like holding onto hot coal. Cling or clench, holding that piece of coal is going to be difficult because it’s so hot. And its luminous spores draw our eyes closer to it: it’s the only light that gives true visibility.
Tilted on an axis the Earth is kept safely anchored by Allah and we are safe from falling into that dark abyss that is stretched above and around us. However, there is a slippery slope that’s been shoving us towards and over a precipice where only those with faith and belief in God are summoned.
As a Muslim I fully accept that there is no compulsion in religion but I’m not talking about religion: with its codes and rituals. I’m talking about God. Allah. Belief in Allah precedes everything. It is our Tauheed that makes our actions meaningful. We are now operating in a global community which communicates in a lingua franca that is devoid of any God related lexicon. What is the culprit? Could it be secularism? Has spirituality been erased from the world? By spirituality I mean the connection between our inner core with what is Transcendent. In popular culture spirituality has been rebranded as a tool of self-help and well being without a mention of the Divine.
Belief in God is being suffocated by the plumes of secularism that seeks to herald a new epoch where belief in God, and with it the concomitant belief in an afterlife, has no function or place. We are experiencing the removal of God from the semantic spheres of every public discourse. I wonder how many centuries it will take for the word “God” to have the following entry in a dictionary: “noun, abstract noun, archaic usage.” World events are forcing the agenda and it is primarily those with no affinity with God that are writing the narrative which is going viral.
In the workplace, at school, university it has become unfashionable to say I believe in God and the afterlife, unless you are sitting with those who share your viewpoint. If we accept that there is a broad and tolerant intellectual landscape why do those with faith get shunned when they express their faith? I remember a few years ago when a Christian nurse was rebuked for saying a prayer with her patient. This was in England and the story made it into the broadsheets.
Eyes rolling up, hushed sighs and restrained scowls are enough of an irreverent response but the scoffing, ridicule and denigrating mounts to nothing but abuse. Have we as a community established ourselves as a strong entity that makes sure that these types of responses are only ever random and never the expected norm?
Strength is in being confident to talk about God in public areas without being labelled as preachy or even radical. As believers we need to reassert ourselves and place language related to God back into the vernacular and with it display patterns of behaviour that exemplify what it means to be believers.
When I teach creative writing I’m always repeating: “Show me, don’t tell me.” So how do we show that we are believers in God? How do we show that we love Allah? Spreading salam is a good start. Not just verbally but in all our interactions. It’s humility, perseverance and an unflinching capacity for compassion towards everyone that could make us beacons of light in a world where darkness is seeping through our walls and veins.
We haven’t reached winter yet, alhumdulilah and I pray we never do. After each bleak winter we know Allah has a beautiful sweet spring waiting for us but how will it be if believers in God are no longer given the space and respect to express their belief in God? Are we to become mulch and disappear under hardened frost?
We need to make sure that we are never made to relinquish our belief in Allah and our right to express it. For Believers there is only a perpetual season of spring: “Verily, those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, their Lord will guide them through their faith; under them will flow rivers in the Gardens of Paradise.” 10:9