Thursday, February 21, 2013

Looking for Better?

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

"If only I were in a better environment, I'd be able to practice my deen better."
"I need to escape the fitnah around me, so my emaan can get better."
"I need to move to a better Muslim community so I can get myself straight."
"Living in a Muslim country will help me be a better Muslim."

All these statements, and others similar to them, essentially give reasons for compromised obedience to Allah. Often human beings will attribute their personal state to their surroundings, which admittedly has some effect and influence on them. However, when it comes to their state of emaan and taqwa, will the physical environment change their situation? It might or it might not, because the change can really only come from themselves. What has to change before you make a physical change of location, is you. If obedience to Allah is not made impossible by your surroundings, then who can you really blame? If your weaknesses and shortcomings get the better of you in one environment, what makes you think a different one will change that or erase them unless you make tawbah and have a change of heart?

Look at our role models when it comes to examples to compare your situation with. Prophet Nuh, alayhi salaam, spent over 900 years worshiping Allah and calling the people who were upon shirk to return to tawheed. Did he have a good environment, free of fitnah, or a strong Muslim community? Not at all. The same can be said for the majority of prophets and messengers, who all went to places where it was a struggle against the majority to practice Islam.

What I have learned is that it is all inside you...because emaan and taqwa are things that grow inside you and are nurtured or destroyed by you. It is in the approach, in how you let things influence and mold you, that you can find better.

I lived in Bahrain for 16 years, during which time I watched as it became increasingly westernized and the people more disobedient to Allah, subhaana wa taala. They have the adhaan calling five times a day, masaajid within walking distance for most, resources for seeking knowledge, and ease in practicing Islam and yet the majority do not. How did that affect me? It pushed me the other way. Through the discrepancies and inconsistent practice, I became curious about what Islam was about - what they should be doing. In learning, I ended up embracing Islam in all its perfection. As I saw the destruction of Islamic morals and lifestyle, I realized firsthand what dangers and ruin lie in being enamored with the West. I saw the deterioration when a family, which never previously permitted television, fiction, and computer use let them into their lives. I learned lessons, by seeing the effects over those 16 years, that would never have been internalized with a simple warning.

I lived in Reading, Pennsylvania for 7 years before coming to Madinah, surrounded by the fitnah of people living a life filled with immorality and nakedness, music, entertainment , alcohol, smoking, and drug addictions, and ignorance. What did that environment do for me? It made me realize why we are told not to imitate the unbelievers, Christians, and Jews. It made me hate the idea of looking like the women on the street in dress, speech, hairstyle, or manner. It made me realize that the constant need for music was not just an enjoyment, it was a god for many of them. All that fitnah made me a better Muslimah and gave me excellent opportunities to teach my children from the examples and shameful mess around us.

Ibn ul Qayyim (raheemahullah) related that Ibn Taymiyyah (raheemahullah) said, when his enemies plotted to kill him or imprison him: 
 "If they kill me, it will be martyrdom for me. If they expel me, it will be migration for me;  if they expel me to Cyprus, I will call it's people to Allah so they answer me. If they imprison me , it will be a place of worship for me."

He had total reliance on Allah (tawakkal) and Allah, in turn, guided him to see the blessing and opportunity in every situation he could face. 

So, if you are looking for better, look inside yourself. Emaan increases with obedience to Allah, as Allah says in Surat al Anfal, ayah 2:
"The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned their hearts tremble with fear, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases their emaan, and they put their reliance upon their Lord."
Life is what you make it, and so is your emaan, birr, and taqwa.