The following is an excerpt from the book And Then I Gave Up: Essays About Faith and Spiritual Crisis in Islam by Umm Zakiyyah:
Some years ago, I was sitting with a friend of mine and she started telling me about her struggles with hijab after becoming Muslim. She had grown up Christian and accepted Islam while she was in college.
“For me, hijab was the hardest thing,” she said. “I just didn’t want to wear it. So I made every excuse I could. ‘It’s too hot.’ ‘I can’t breathe’.” She shook her head, remembering. “But the funny thing is, I didn’t realize I didn’t want to cover.
“Until one day I was talking to some sisters and I was making the same excuses. And the sisters started trying to convince me, but for everything they said, I had an answer. And we kept going back and forth. But then a sister said something that I really couldn’t respond to.” She paused. “‘Just make du’aa. Pray that Allah makes it easy for you’.”
Her eyes grew distant, reflecting. “When she said that, I didn’t know what to say. In the back of my mind, I knew that if I asked Allah for help, I would wear hijab. And that’s when I knew I didn’t really want to cover. I didn’t even ask Allah to help me. Because I didn’t want Him to.”
• • •
When I hear stories like these, I think of the depths of the human heart. I think of how we think we know ourselves and our intentions. But, really, we don’t.
For almost every one of us, there’s something we know we need to change but simply won’t. The issue may involve not wearing hijab, not praying regularly, watching inappropriate TV and movies, intermingling, having “boyfriends” or “girlfriends”… And for each, we have a convenient excuse, if we bother to make excuses at all.
But in Ramadan, a lot of unpleasant things come to surface because the devils are chained and the depths of our hearts are exposed.
Yet most of us still manage to wriggle out of obedience to Allah, and the excuses abound…
There’s no point in wearing hijab in Ramadan if I know I’m just going to take it off later…
I don’t want to be a hypocrite…
I know myself, and I’m not ready to change my life…
But in each excuse, there’s one key component that’s missing.
I don’t mean His name is absent. For most of us, it’s actually Allah’s name we use to justify our wrong.
Allah is Forgiving. Allah knows my heart. Allah’s my judge…
Or our favorite…
When I change, I’ll do it for Allah, not because people asked me to…
Yet Allah says, “And make not Allah’s (name) an excuse in your oaths against doing good, or acting rightly…” (2:224).
When we’re not blaming Allah for our sins, we’re blaming our natural human weakness. And it’s true; humans are weak. But the truth is that this isn’t our chief shortcoming.
But human weakness is the chief shortcoming for those with high emaan.
Those with low emaan have as their chief shortcoming a diseased heart.
The strong believers constantly strive to do what’s right, but because of human weakness, they inevitably fall short. But their energy is spent striving against sin, not giving in to it.
The weakest believers don’t even bother striving; they’re quite comfortable in their life of sin. Their energy is spent defending their sin, not fighting against it.
…I don’t want forgiveness. I don’t want to change. I like the wrong I’m doing…
This is what it really boils down to. Otherwise, we’d just make du’aa, and pray that Allah makes it easy for us to do what’s right, even if we fall short at times.
But it starts with wanting change. And that’s not an easy thing for the human heart, especially for those of us content with our low emaan and life of sin.
All will be forgiven during the month of Ramadan, except those who do not want to be forgiven.
And who does not want to be forgiven?
Those who do not ask.
The month of Ramadan is, more than anything, a month of opportunity. It is a time to set right things that are wrong. It’s a time to change course, even as you’ve no idea how you’ll walk that new path. It’s a time to ask for change, to beg for change, to cry for it—even if part of you doesn’t even want it.
And it’s okay if you have no idea how you’ll manage wearing hijab, praying regularly, shutting off that TV, or leaving alone those “cute” girls or guys.
It’s okay, because it’s not you you’re turning to for help.
And Allah is able to do all things.
Let us remember, too, that Allah is All-Forgiving. But, of course, to benefit from Allah’s Forgiveness, we first have to want it. And wanting forgiveness isn’t just saying we want it, or just uttering a prayer. It means we regret our sin. It means we hate our sin. And it means we take every step to avoid it.
And we never give up fighting against it.
That’s what it means to want Allah’s forgiveness.
That’s what it means to ask for it.
So it is upon each of us to closely examine our lives—and hearts—and ask ourselves a simple question.
Do you want forgiveness?
If our answer is yes, we know Who to turn to for help and guidance.
If our answer is no… well, there’s nothing for us to do except what we’ve always been doing.
Essay originally published via saudilife.net
Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of twenty books, including the If I Should Speak trilogy, Muslim Girl, and His Other Wife. Join UZ University to learn how you too can find your writing voice and share inspirational stories with the world:UZuniversity.com
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