Many Muslims today strive to make dawah, being available online and offline, but some forget about themselves in the process of sharing Islam and serving humanity. Yes, sometimes we forget about ourselves. We work so hard to deliver Islam to the people, to the world. And in that process, a lot of people get burned out. They become drop outs, getting off the path of dawah.
So how can I keep that light burning within? As I’m trying to help other people, I need to make sure that I am aware of my own well-being and that my character and my heart are well-protected. Allah SWT reminds us about the importance of taking care of ourselves: “O you who believe, you are responsible for your own selves…” (Quran 5:105). It is very important that so many, alhamdulillah, are becoming very active these days. I have been doing this work in terms of public speaking and teaching young men and women around the country for the past almost twenty years. I have seen many who become very active in high school, masha’Allah, then become very active with MSA, and then they become very active working with youth groups. But then, for some reason, they disappear. They go missing from the community of activism. What happened to them? Why are they not involved anymore? Where is that light that was shining brightly within them that somehow appears to have dimmed?
Allah SWT Will Give You Light
Allah SWT makes it very clear to us He is the light of the heavens and the earth. What are you going to get out of it if you are going to be an activist in dawah? You are going to get a lot of reward from Allah SWT. And He will give you light. So, in dedicating yourself to dawah, you believe in Allah SWT, and you also believe in the message of the Prophet (pbuh), and you put that into action. And you well be provided with light, a light which comes from within.
We live in a time in which people are very confused. This is the time of great fitnah. Whomever doesn’t receive light from Allah SWT will abide in darkness and no one will be able to give them light. If you are really feeling confusion, instead of going on the Internet and googling this and that, go back to Allah SWT, go to His book, communicate with Him through dua, and reflect on His countless Signs in the world and in your own self. You will get the light that leads out of confusion and illuminates your inner reality as well as the external one. I have been, alhamdulillah, in dawah since I was very young. And I have seen a lot of my friends, a lot of my peers, become drop outs. Why? Because they lost that light. And many of them would be engaged in so much good in their dawah efforts, but they worked so hard helping and assisting others that they forgot about themselves; and as a result, they felt burned out and they lost the guiding light. Finding and maintaining the light from Allah SWT is an individual experience.
When we go to conventions or we attend workshops, or people go to Umrah or they go to Hajj, they see the large gathering of Muslims and feel rejuvenated and inspired. But then when the convention is over, the workshop is done, or Ramadan is over, we go back to daily life and what happens to us? That light might seem to turn off again. So, in Surah Al-Sharh, Allah SWT uses a singular pronoun in speaking to the Prophet (pbuh) directly. He SWT says, “Therefore, when you are free [from your daily task], devote your time to worship and turn your attention to your Lord” (Quran 94:7-8). This is the way to rejuvenate and inspire oneself when alone — alone with one’s self and his or her Lord. Muslims attend Islamic conventions because they are looking for that the guiding light, and many find it within such beautiful gatherings. But, you have to look for that also within your own self. And it can happen only if you have that individual experience between you and Allah SWT.
Action Item #1 Be Conscious of Allah
There are also many other things we can do to keep the light burning brightly. I’ll mention five ways. The first is to always be conscious of Allah SWT. If you have that consciousness of Allah SWT, if you fear Him, (these are components of taqwa) Allah will give you knowledge. Allah will teach you. He will guide you as to what you need to do. Allah SWT says, “O you who believe! if you are conscious of Allah, if you fear Allah, He will grant you a criterion…” (Quran 8:29). He will give you a criterion, a standard, an inner discernment by which you can tell right from wrong. Many Muslims today are committing the haram. Why is that? – because they cannot see the haram in it. No matter how much you try to tell them, they cannot see the reality of what they are doing. That light from within is not there.
Action Item #2 Connect with Quran
There are some, though, who ask, “How can I get that light? How can I increase my taqwa?” That, of course, is a question relevant to all of us. So, consider this — just like your body needs the soul in order to survive, your soul needs the Quran to survive. We need to always engage with the book of Allah SWT. Allah refers to the Quran in many verses as being light, that it is a very clear book; and Allah guides many, through this book, to the truth. We must read and reflect about what we read in the Quran. So, we need to develop and increase our taqwa (our consciousness of Allah SWT and fear of Him), and, secondly, we need to deepen and broaden our daily practice of engaging with the book of Allah SWT.
Action Item #3 Trust Allah
The third thing we can do to keep the inner light burning brightly is to strengthen our trust in Allah SWT. You know, in the process of living this life, we have many things we are responsible for — family, school, work, and many other things. So, we do everything we can, as best we can; and then we put our trust in Allah SWT. We are not responsible for the result or the outcome. We are responsible for doing our part, that is all. As long as you do your part, then you need to let everything rest in the hands of Allah SWT. Allah SWT says, “…Whoever puts his trust in Allah, Allah will suffice him…” (Quran 65:3).
Action Item #4 Practice Patience
The fourth thing we need is to practice patience in our daily lives. Allah says, “Seek help in patience and prayer…” (Quran 2:45). Patience is a quality that is almost completely lost and missing in our time. Allah SWT praises patience, and the Prophet (pbuh) said, “…And whoever remains patient, Allah will make him patient. Nobody can be given a blessing better and greater than patience.”
Action Item #5 Enhance Salah
The fifth thing we need to keep the inner light burning brightly is to properly maintain our salah. The Prophet said that salah is, in essence, light. Salah is our personal communication and connection with Allah SWT. It is the most direct and personal experience with our Lord. And it takes place five times a day at least. In surah Al-Mu’minoon, Allah SWT says, “Successful are the believers, those who, when they pray, they pray with khushua” (Quran 23:1-2). Praying with khushua means with focus and concentration. As an Imam, I find that a lot of people come to me and tell me that they have been praying for the past ten years, fifteen years, twenty years or more, but they do not feel it They are not getting the sweetness of salah that is often talked about. So, I ask them what the quality of their salah is and if they feel a connection with Allah SWT. In fact, khushua is not the communication with Allah — it is actually the connection. So, the ayah tells us that the believers who are successful are those who, when they pray, they connect with Allah SWT. You might be worshiping, you might be performing salah, you might be making dua to Allah SWT. But are you connecting with Him? Something you can do to strengthen your connection with Allah SWT is to engage in a secret act of worship. Think of something that you do, whether it is recitation of the Quran or the night prayer, or maybe you give charity regularly. Do it without anyone knowing about it? Maybe you are helping your neighbors, you are feeding the homeless. Do something that no one else knows about. Only you and Allah SWT know about it. Keep it secret, keep it between you and Allah SWT.
Allah SWT tells us, “And remind for verily a reminder benefits the believer” (Quran 51:55). So, it is beneficial to conclude by reviewing the five ways mentioned above that can keep the inner light burning brightly: 1) always be conscious of Allah SWT, and fear Him; 2) deepen and broaden our daily practice of engaging with the book of Allah SWT; 3) strengthen our trust in Him; 4) practice patience in our daily lives; 5) properly maintain our salah.
“Allah guides to His light whom He wills; and Allah sets forth parables for people; for Allah knows all things” (Quran 24:35).
May Allah make us among those who receive His light and understand His guidance — those who have surrendered to His All-knowing Lordship.
This article is based on the speech of Sh. Yaser Birjas at the ICNA-MAS Convention 2018. Sh. Yaser Birjas is the Head of Islamic Law and Theory Department of Al-Maghrib Institute.