Journeys of the Heart : From Self to Ummah

By Asma Nemati

I can easily get lost in nature. When watching a small river run, for example, I can sit for a long time and simply gaze and observe. Perhaps a fish will appear, jumping out of water as if to take a break from the fast current of the river. A twig might lazily pass, careless as to what might obstruct it, or where it may land. Or, maybe a bunch of tadpoles swimming to and fro catches the eye and before you can see what they’ll do next, they’re completely out of sight!

Not sure why, but rivers and bodies of water on the go attract my attention and always move me.

Sometimes the current is slow. Other times, quite fast. With the current, it will sweep along whatever comes its way. And, do you know what this reminds me of? When I’m in a group of people and they’re all headed one way, I feel as if I’m a part of a current.

This current can be of any energy; getting caught up in a sea of people going to the same store, for example, or finding myself headed to the Masjid on a special occasion while people are headed the same way. Sometimes the energy of the group is quite mundane, but other times, when coupled with purpose, the energy is quite strong and gravitational. The hajj is a perfect example. Being a part of that special sea of people, it’s difficult to miss the powerful pull produced by the current of the hujjaj going from place to place, all performing the same acts of worship, with the intention of fulfilling a tremendous form of ibada — worship, and all united by the dhikr of “labbayk” — Here I am at your service, dear Lord.

When that oneness is felt during Hajj, one forgets about one’s self and gets lost in focusing on Allah Most High.

There, race doesn’t matter. Country of origin is forgotten. Worldly status of wealth and health are not on the horizon, or even seen. What remains is high aspiration in fulfilling a personal act of devotion to Allah through the hajj. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) has said:

“Verily, Allah does not look at your appearance or wealth, but rather looks at your hearts and actions.”

This powerful unity that we feel at the hajj is a very important lesson.

I often wonder why we forget it when we go back to our home countries, to our routines and daily tasks. Why is it that we forget that strong pull to Allah Most High? Why do we so easily give in to the whispers of the Shaitan in difficult or perturbed times and create divisions amongst us? That feeling of being united should always be there in the back of our minds; in fact, it should be the source of our relationships with our neighbours, family, friends – especially when an issue or difficulty comes up. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

“The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion, and sympathy are just like one body. When any part of the body suffers, the whole body feels pain.”

Let us not forget that we are an ummah — united in our faith, not in our borders, backgrounds, colour, or wealth status. These days, it’s easy to find ourselves, our communities divided and broken — broken on a societal level; broken on a physical level; broken on an emotional or mental level. If we strived towards genuine unity, I don’t think we’d feel scattered. In fact, we would be quite strong through our unity; we would have high aspirations on a communal level as well as on an individual level. We would feel empowered to worship Allah Most High in the best of ways and in all facets of our lives — in our work, raising children, our families, etc. We would be unbreakable, and an unstoppable force, inshaaAllah!

Let us change our focus. Instead of pointing fingers and blaming others, let’s unite and ask ourselves, “How can I do things right moving forward?” If we are one body in our mutual kindness, compassion, and sympathy, as our dear Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, then let us not deprive each other of goodness towards one other .I can just imagine that when we are unkind towards each other, or when we are harsh and cannot connect, we hurt each other; we break that unity, that momentum of the ummah. I remind myself that my actions do have a larger outcome than just in my life — my actions can have a ripple effect of either positive or negative energy towards the whole ummah.

Imagine if we use this mindset and focus on doing khayr — doing the good — with each and every single thing we do in our lives. Imagine how it will be if we only think good of each other and our Lord (this is termed “husn adh-dhann“, having a good opinion of one’s brethren and Allah Most High). Based on my personal experience in trying to do these things, I’ve found that striving to have such traits has an amazing impact on the person I’m dealing with, and in my relationship with Allah The Most High. I’m sharing this because it does work. It works to be a positive force in one’s life — it can affect other people’s lives and if those people reciprocate the act, the whole ummah will most certainly feel it. This isn’t a tall order of business — it is very possible.

What man has done, man can do.

So, be brave and bold — dive into the darkest depths of your soul with high aspiration, under the watchful gaze of the All-Merciful, and challenge yourself to see your actions, words and intentions as part of the larger picture. And when you falter, turn to your Lord and implore Him for His help, while making sure you’re doing what is required of you in terms of perfecting your worship of Him outwardly and inwardly. Seek His help and then keep on going. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you until you have this mindset down — until you’ve rewired your brain to see the larger picture and to see your brothers and sisters, as well as yourself, as part of this noble ummah ( nation) of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). If others do you wrong along the way, forgive them. Pray for them. Know that each and everyone of us are judged by Allah via what’s in our hearts, not what we see of each other on the surface.

As the river travels on and meets a larger body of water, the sea, so can we travel from the current of our selves and tap into the vast energy of the ummah. Each and every component of our lives, of our interactions with those around us, can be a joyful journey that turns the mundane into the profound. InshaaAllah we can start with our intentions and ask Allah Most High to help us in shaping them into reality, so that we can be a positive force, becoming part of the larger picture of being united as one strong and unstoppable body of believers.

And all of this, to glorify and worship Him Most High through every particle of our existence, completely out of pure love. Why? Because that is the peak of life. It is the very essence of our being to worship our Lord with adoration. Our souls yearn for this but we simply do not know because we’ve placed upon it so many layers of adulteration, so many veils of other than Him. Let us rekindle that inner connection with our souls again and find happiness in the being of Allah Most High, His words, and His guidance through the person of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

And with all that in mind, I wanted to finish with the eternal words of Allah Most High when He says in the Quran:

Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. Those who remember Allah, standing, sitting, and reclining, and consider the creation of the heavens and the earth, and say: Our Lord! You did not create this in vain. Glory be to You! Protect us from the doom of the Fire.

Quran 3:190-191

Indeed, subhanak — glory be to You, O Allah, for You are truly glorious. You are the reason for and the point of our existence. There is no God but You, yaa Allah. Labbayk — Here I am at your service! And, here we are at Your service as one ummah, united in Your worship!

About the author:

Asma Nemati is a full-time mother who lives in Jordan with her husband and children. She loves to cook, organize and deepen her understanding of Islam.

(Photo from William Cho, Flickr)

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