All of us, being human, experience fluctuations in our level of faith -- denoted by the Arabic word "imaan" -- during the course of our day-to-day lives. It is perfectly normal to experience this. For Muslims, what is faith or "imaan"? It is the belief that resides in our hearts regarding Allah, His revealed Divine books (Quran, Bible, Torah, Abraham's scriptures), His Prophets, His angels, His Divine Decree (or what is more commonly knows as "fate"), and the Last Hour or Last Day (when all humans will be resurrected for account-taking of their actions).
There are times when certain events in our lives make us doubt the existence or omnipotence of any of the above epicenters of belief. For example, someone might challenge our knowledge, especially if it is lacking, about why bad things happen to good people if God really exists; why criminals roam scot-free in this world after committing heinous injustices; why some people die of starvation while others have so much wealth that they can live 20 lifetimes on it, etc. At other times, questions about the Unseen (known in Arabic as "ghaib") pop up in our minds, and when we do not find answers, we follow our doubts and slowly move away from firm conviction of imaan to dwindling, half-hearted faith. That is the code red.
Before a Muslim moves towards the danger zone, in which the level of their imaan becomes so low that they start committing major sins, they should follow the steps below to restore their faith to higher levels:
- Gain knowledge of the Quran consistently: Just like you cannot know someone until you communicate with them, you cannot be close to Allah without reading and understanding His spoken word, the Quran. It is His message to all mankind, Muslim and non-Muslim. It is normal to have questions, and the Quran has all the answers. Therefore, it is not enough to read and understand this book once or twice, but it must be studied consistently throughout our lives. Maybe a few times a week, it can be recited, read, and studied/discussed with a group of Muslims. The Quran should never be put away to gather dust. The greater a Muslim's knowledge of the Quran, the closer he is to Allah. A point to note is that the Quran cannot be completely understood solitarily. There are some passages that are deep in meaning, and have to be understood in the context of revelation, backdrop, historical perspective, narrations of the Prophet Muhammad [Allah's peace and blessings be upon him] and other Quranic passages. That is why studying the Quran from a scholar is so important, although reading it alone is also prescribed for a boost of imaan.
- Recite the Quran: How is this different from point number 1 above? Reciting the Quran is an act of worship. It requires wudu or ablution (bodily purity), knowledge of the Arabic language, and command of how to pronounce each letter. In other words, anyone can read the translation of the Quran, but only a person who has knowledge of Arabic Tajweed (art of Arabic recitation in a melodious voice) can recite it. The relationship between Quranic recitation and imaan is that, since the Quran is the spoken word of our Creator, when any person recites it as it should be recited, he pleases his Creator and becomes closer to Him. It creates an immediate bond. That refreshing worship rejuvenates the human soul, which needs to listen to some beautifully spoken, meaningful words in order to lift it out of gloom (that is why people listen to music and poetry). This need is more than fulfilled by regular Quranic recitation. It is BEST if the person recites himself; if he cannot, listening to a good Qari (an expert in Quran recitation) is also extremely beneficial. After one such session, the person feels uplifted, calm, serene and revitalized to face the challenges of life. The more one understands the Arabic of the Quran, the more its recitation leaves him or her feeling close to Allah. It is, therefore, a must for every Muslim to improve their tajweed skills and understanding of Arabic in order to engage in better communion with their Creator.
- Find company of righteous people: Sure, the hijab-observing ladies and the men with flowing beards might be labeled fundamentalists or extremists by some spheres. But in all reality, they are the ones who remind others most of Allah, and it is highly likely that Allah is pleased with them. If you want to remove the doubts in your mind regarding Allah, increase the level of your faith, and lessen the constricted distress in your soul regarding the truth about the life of this world (why we are here, what will happen after we die, etc.), you should try hanging out with these "fundamentalists" once in a while. If they really are Allah's favorites, they will probably welcome any questions you have with open arms. They will never scoff at your beliefs, jeer at the way you dress, or judge you for your actions. Try to be in the company of such people often, talk to them, befriend them, and respect them.
- Engage in remembrance of Allah: There are some non-Quranic Arabic terms that, when recited, soothe the soul and relieve a person from the effects of his avowed enemy, the Shaitaan (Satan). Uttering these adhkaar - remembrances - from the tongue has been prescribed by Prophet Muhammad [Allah's peace and blessings upon him] himself. Anyone can recite these remembrances in order to get an immediate boost of faith. Most of them should be uttered a hundred times each, for best results. It only takes a few seconds or minutes:
- Laa ilaaha illallaah (there is no god except Allah).
- Laa hawla wa laa quwata illaa billaah (there is no force that benefits and no strength that causes loss except Allah).
- Astaghfirullaah (I seek forgiveness from Allah).
- Allaahumma salli 'alaa Muhammad (O Allah, send peace upon Muhammad).
- Persist in obligatory acts of worship and abstain from sins: Imaan is affected by our actions. For example, if we abandon even one obligatory salaah, we will immediately feel a dip in imaan. It is a must for Muslims to never relinquish those acts of worship that are obligatory, if they want their faith to remain intact. Similarly, abstaining from deeds which Allah has forbidden is also a means of maintaining or increasing imaan. When someone deliberately sins and does not repent, his heart experiences distress and constriction as Allah's anger is directed towards him. That is why repentance is a daily requirement for all believers. It washes away those sins that they commit knowingly and even those they commit unintentionally. Consequently, Allah is never displeased with them for long.
- Perform supererogatory good deeds and invoke Allah in Du'a: There's nothing better than communicating with your Lord directly in order to get His attention, so that you feel close to Him again. Just as you lose touch with a good friend, and start to slowly forget about her as time passes, when you suddenly decide to call her up on a whim -- and, after an hour of talking, you feel as if you never lost touch with her. You feel the same old love for her and chastise yourself for allowing the relationship to wither like that.
The same emotional dynamics apply to your relationship with your Creator. Communicating with Him is the best way to revive imaan. You can invoke Him in du'a -- supplication or prayer -- at any time, while doing any other task. Just talk to Him in a hushed voice, profess your love for Him, and ask Him to help you. He listens to and responds to calls, as long as they are sincere. Also, in order to increase your imaan, you can perform two units of salaah, give some money in charity, or help someone in need by word or deed. These actions are a means of getting Allah to be attentive towards you and to be pleased with you. His mercy will be felt in your heart as a warm, enveloping happiness, and the high grades of imaan will be felt as a tremendous sense of serenity in your soul.
- Read authentic Islamic literature: While studying the Quran and Prophetic narrations is obligatory upon every Muslim in order to act upon Islam, reading good Islamic books and articles in print or on the Internet is a great way to entertain one's self in free time, remove doubts, and strengthen convictions about Islam in the heart. One thing to be careful about, though, is to only read literature written by authentic scholars.
"Behold! In the remembrance of Allah do hearts find peace." [Quran, Surah Al-Ra'd: 28]
A person's faith or imaan is completely dependent on their relationship with Allah. The more they strive to improve this relationship, the more steadfast they will be on their faith.