Sunday, December 15, 2013

Increasing Eemaan

When I first left home for university in the United States, I began to experience a feeling of constriction of my chest, lack of natural enthusiasm and a general feeling of uncleanliness of the heart. I was healthy otherwise and progressing well with my studies and work, but this uneasiness did not leave me. I tried many techniques to overcome it. I started yoga, jogging and meditation. Nothing really helped. I could not understand this phenomenon, until I studied Islam. Now I know that it was a decrease in the level of my eemaan which has caused this feeling.

Therefore (for) whomsoever Allah intends that He would guide him aright, He expands his breast for Islam, and (for) whomsoever He intends that He should cause him to err, He makes his breast strait and narrow as though he were ascending upwards; thus does Allah lay uncleanness on those who do not believe. (Al Anaan, 6:125)

So what exactly is eemaan? The English words often used to translate eemaan are "faith", "belief" and  "conviction". In aqeeda, this faith encompasses the faith in Allah (SWT), the angels, the prophets, divine scriptures, the Last Day and divine pre-ordainment. An incorrect belief in any one of these makes one's eemaan incomplete. Physically eemaan causes a feeling of well being, wholesomeness, satisfaction, patience, energy, joie de vivre (joy of living) and a spiritual expansion of the heart. Lack of eemaan causes the opposite feelings of crankiness, uncleanliness, guilt, constriction, unease, lack of concentration, laziness, etc.

It is He who sent down tranquility into the hearts of the believers that they would increase in faith along with their [present] faith. And to Allah belong the soldiers of the heavens and the earth, and ever is Allah Knowing and Wise. (Al Fath 48:4) 

The majority of Islamic scholars agree that eemaan entails a faith expressed by words which find conviction in the heart and results in actions of the limbs that attest to it. Thus words are not enough, nor is belief in the heart by itself. All three need to manifest themselves to indicate to a person whether he has eemaan. The majority of scholars also agree that the level of eemaan  does not stay constant. It increases and decreases. Thus a wise practicing Muslim will seek out ways to constantly grow his eemaan.  In Urdu, we have a word called eemaandaar. It is used for an honest/upright person, but literally it means someone who constantly monitors the level of his eemaan. A Muslim must be sensitive of how he feels. If he feels down some day he should try to determine its cause and engage in those activities which can raise his eemaan.

One way to increase eemaan is to seek knowledge which complies with Islam. By constantly learning about aspects of Reality which reinforces faith, one will find certainty in thought and actions. Reciting the Quran with proper tajweed while understanding its meaning has a great effect on eemaan. A person engaged in learning about the unseen will have stronger faith in it than someone who has not studied it.  Another means of upgrading eemaan in translating that knowledge in to actions by doing good deeds. By doing so one internalizes that knowledge and it becomes part of him. Thus by obeying and worshipping Allah (SWT), his belief in Him (SWT) increases. In contrast, engaging in desires and sins dwindles eemaan. Another effective strategy to increase eemaan is engaging in rememberance and contemplation of Allah (SWT), His attributes, His Creation and how He regulates all things. Thus dhikr  and taffakkar are excellent means of raising one's eemaan. Try spending some time daily in contemplation. Think about your past, how Allah (SWT) has influenced it, His wisdom in your life, the true nature of things, etc.

As a student, I saw others around me choose detrimental ways to deal with the lack of eemaan. Some started smoking, drinking, experimenting with drugs, having girlfriends, partying, listening to hard music, watching bad movies, etc. while I suffered silently, trying to find natural cures to this common malady. By trying to study and implement Islam, I have found the cure to that uneasy feeling that I first felt when I was eighteen. By repeatedly articulating statements of faith, having conviction in my heart and engaging in the resulting good actions eemaan gets established. It can be raised by seeking knowledge, implementing it, rememberance and deep contemplation. A life lived in this way is the only sure cure to the constriction of the heart and related psychosomatic maladies. 

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