Podcast

Can We Come To Love Ritual Again?

In today’s world where efficiency and competitiveness create a culture of racing to the bottom, there’s a temptation to view everything in our lives through the lens of performance. As Elisha and Stefanie Goldstein write,

“Your practice isn’t a performance. Judgment about whether a meditation session was ’good’ or ‘bad,’ or whether mindfulness is ‘working’ or not, isn’t helpful. In fact, this performance-based mindset misses the point entirely. If there is a goal to any of the practices it’s simply to learn. Bringing a learning mindset to this practice is the fastest route to growth and mastery”1.

Similarly, the prayer (or du’a, or dhikr) is not performance. That is not to say that the how-to of it is inconsequential (number of raka’at, the order in which things are said, the times in which they may be performed, etc.). This is where Islam departs from mindfulness, or any other philosophy, in that the how-to does matter but it still should not be mistaken for being all about a particular emotional experience (such as happiness, for example) or that if the salah is executed properly that this will guarantee us safety, protection, or our heart’s desire.

1. Goldstein, Elisha. “An Invitation To Mindfulness”. Mindful, 21 July 2017, pp. 2-3.

Podcast

Contentment With the World is the Enemy of Success


[Direct download]

إِنَّ الَّذينَ لا يَرجونَ لِقاءَنا وَرَضوا بِالحَياةِ الدُّنيا وَاطمَأَنّوا بِها وَالَّذينَ هُم عَن آياتِنا غافِلونَ

أُولٰئِكَ مَأواهُمُ النّارُ بِما كانوا يَكسِبونَ

“Those who don’t look forward to their meeting with Us, who are satisfied with the life of this world and who disregard Our Signs (verses) they’re going to have their home in the Fire on account of what they’ve earned for themselves.”Qur’an, 10: 7-8

قال الحسن: والله ما زينوها ولا رفعوها ، حتى رضوا بها وهم غافلون عن آيات الله الكونية فلا يتفكرون فيها والشرعية فلا يأتمرون بها

Ibn Kathir relates in his Tafsir: “They adorned this life and praised it until they became completely satisfied with it.  They were unconcerned with God’s signs in the universe, nor did they ponder over them.  They were also unconcerned with God’s commandments, nor did they adhere to them.  Their resting place on the Day of Resurrection will be in the Fire; that’s their reward for what they earned in their worldly lives through all their sins and crimes, and that’s in addition to their rejection of God, His Messenger and the Last Day.” — Hasan al-Basri

Never Being Satisfied With One’s Character

من قرأ القرآنَ فقد استدرج النُّبوَّةَ بين جنبَيْه غيرَ أنَّه لا يُوحَى إليه لا ينبغي لصاحبِ القرآنِ أن يجِدَّ مع من وجَدٍّ ولا يجهلَ مع من جهِل وفي جوفهِ كلامُ الله تعالى

Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr:

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Whoever recites the Qur’an, they have approached prophethood, the only difference being they do not receive Divine Inspiration. It is not appropriate for the Companion of the Qur’an to act hastily with a hasty person nor be ignorant with an ignorant person while having the Word of God in his breast”. — al-Mundhiri, al-Targhib wa al-Tarhib

عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ

اغْتَنِمْ خَمْسًا قَبْلَ خَمْسٍ شَبَابَكَ قَبْلَ هَرَمِكَ وَصِحَّتَكَ قَبْلَ سَقَمِكَ وَغِنَاكَ قَبْلَ فَقْرِكَ وَفَرَاغَكَ قَبْلَ شُغُلِكَ وَحَيَاتَكَ قَبْلَ مَوْتِكَ

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Take advantage of five things before another five are taken from you: [1] youth before old age; [2] health before sickness; [3] wealth before poverty; [4] free time before becoming busy; and [5] life before death”. — Narrated by ’Abdullah bin ’Abbas in al-Bayhaqi’s Shu’ab al-Iman

Satisfaction With The Creator vs. Created Things

إِنَّ الَّذينَ آمَنوا وَعَمِلُوا الصّالِحاتِ أُولٰئِكَ هُم خَيرُ البَرِيَّةِ

جَزاؤُهُم عِندَ رَبِّهِم جَنّاتُ عَدنٍ تَجري مِن تَحتِهَا الأَنهارُ خالِدينَ فيها أَبَدًا ۖ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنهُم وَرَضوا عَنهُ ۚ ذٰلِكَ لِمَن خَشِيَ رَبَّهُ

“However, those who believe and do what’s morally right are the best of creatures.Their reward lies with their Lord: everlasting gardens beneath which rivers flow — and there they shall remain — God well pleased with them and they with Him.  This is what’s in store for the one who adored his Lord.”Qur’an, 98: 7-8

 

Podcast

Ramadan – Getting Back To What’s Real

In Surah al-Zumar Allah uses a word: ibādi, referring not only to Muslims to everyone. Allah shows care and concern us all.  However, He also doesn’t say “you’ll never experience unhappiness in life” or that “your mom won’t die”. Rather, He says, if you do what I say you will live forever after death/after Judgment in tranquility and have whatever you want.

In other words, salvation.

قُل يا عِبادِيَ الَّذينَ أَسرَفوا عَلىٰ أَنفُسِهِم لا تَقنَطوا مِن رَحمَةِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغفِرُ الذُّنوبَ جَميعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الغَفورُ الرَّحيمُ

وَأَنيبوا إِلىٰ رَبِّكُم وَأَسلِموا لَهُ مِن قَبلِ أَن يَأتِيَكُمُ العَذابُ ثُمَّ لا تُنصَرونَ

وَاتَّبِعوا أَحسَنَ ما أُنزِلَ إِلَيكُم مِن رَبِّكُم مِن قَبلِ أَن يَأتِيَكُمُ العَذابُ بَغتَةً وَأَنتُم لا تَشعُرونَ

أَن تَقولَ نَفسٌ يا حَسرَتا عَلىٰ ما فَرَّطتُ في جَنبِ اللَّهِ وَإِن كُنتُ لَمِنَ السّاخِرينَ

“[Muhammad – Tell the people that I, Myself, have said, ‘All My servants who have acted excessively against their own souls! Don’t lose hope of God’s mercy, for God can forgive all sins. He truly is the Forgiving and the Merciful!’

‘Turn towards your Lord and surrender to Him before the punishment overwhelms you, for then you’ll have no one to help you.’

‘Follow the best of what’s being revealed to you from your Lord before the punishment overwhelms you all of a sudden without your even realizing what’s happening.’

‘For then your soul will cry out, “I’m doomed! I neglected my duty to God, and I scoffed!”Qur’an, 39: 53-56

There is no “guess work” in religion:

عن وابصة بن معبد رضي الله عنه قال‏‏ أتيت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال ‏جئتَ تسألُ عن البرِّ والإثمِ قلتُ نعم فجمع أصابعَه الثَّلاثَ فجعل ينكُتُ بها في صدري ويقولُ يا وابصةُ استفْتِ قلبَك والبرُّ ما اطمأنَّت إليه النَّفسُ واطمأنَّ إليه القلبُ والإثمُ ما حاك في القلبِ وتردَّدُ في الصَّدرِ وإن أفتاك النَّاسُ وأفتَوْك

Wabisah bin Ma’bad, a Companion of the Prophet ﷺ reported that he went to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and he asked me, “Have you come to inquire about piety and sin?” I replied, “yes”. He ﷺ then gather his three fingers together and poked me in my chest, saying “Wabisah … ask your heart regarding it. Piety is that which contents the soul and comforts the heart, and sin is that which knots up the heart and causes one’s chest to be hesitant even if people pronounce it permissible and give you verdicts on such matters again and again.” — al-Mundhiri relates this in al-Targhib wa’l Tarhib with a sound chain

What you’re missing out on the other 11 months of the year:

تُفتَحُ أبوابُ الجنَّةِ يومَ الاثنينِ ، ويومَ الخميسِ ، فيُغفَرُ لِكُلِّ عبدٍ لا يشرِكُ باللَّهِ شيئًا ، إلَّا رجلًا كانت بينَهُ وبينَ أخيهِ شحناءُ

“The doors of Paradise are opened every Monday and Thursday. Thus, every worshiper of God is forgiven except for the person where there exists rancor between him or her and his or her brother or sister.”Related by Abu Hurayrah, recorded in Sahih Muslim, #2565

Podcast

Tears of the Yearners For the Meeting with God – A Discussion with Shaykh Abdullah Bin Hamid Ali

“…in contradistinction to materialism, spirituality is, to me, about finding what is essential about everything that Allah created, and seeing the similarities between them and myself.” — Shaykh Abdullah Bin Hamid Ali

This is an interview with Dr. Abdullah Bin Hamid Ali of Zaytuna College on his book, Tears of the Yearners For the Meeting with God, as well as on spirituality.

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-10-50-24-amDr. Abdullah bin Hamid Ali is a faculty member at Zaytuna College who teaches courses in Islamic law and prophetic tradition. He also coordinates Zaytuna’s Islamic Law program and serves as an integral part of its Living Links Honors Program, for which he teaches Jurisprudential Principles and Introduction to Islamic Virtue Ethics. A lifelong student of the Islamic tradition, he was born to Muslim parents and began a serious study of Islam in his early teens. He attended Temple University for two years (1995-1997) prior to pursuing studies that culminated in a four-year collegiate license (ijaza ‘ulya) from the prestigious Al-Qarawiyin University of Fes, Morocco (1997-2001). He holds a BA from the Al-Qarawiyin University’s Faculty of Islamic Law (Shariah) and an MA in Ethics & Social Theory from the Graduate Theological Union (2009-2012) in Berkeley, California. He recently completed a PhD in Cultural & Historical Studies at GTU.

Dr. Abdullah’s book, Tears of the Yearners For the Meeting with God, is available here.

Podcast

Respect For God in the Month of Hajj – A Khutbah By Imam Marc Manley

The world we live in, we are told, is meaningless and void.

Time marches on, to what we have no end.

But Allah says in the Qur’an:

“O’ our Lord!, You have not created all of this in vain.” Qur’an 3:191

Ibn Juzayy says,

أي يذكرون الله على كل حال فكأن هذه الهيآت حصر لحال بني آدم
ربنا – أي يقولون ربنا ما خلقت هذا لغير فائدة بل خلقته وخلقت البشر لينظروا فيه فيعرفونك

In the same way Allah has not created the universe in vain nor has He sent His Messenger to you to instruct you, to guide you.

وَلا تَقفُ ما لَيسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلمٌ ۚ إِنَّ السَّمعَ وَالبَصَرَ وَالفُؤادَ كُلُّ أُولٰئِكَ كانَ عَنهُ مَسئولًا

“Do not pursue what you have no knowledge of. Hearing, sight and hearts will all be questioned.” Qur’an, 17: 36

Podcast

Living and Loving In The Name of God – A Khutbah By Imam Marc

Bismillah is the start of all good things.

How can we go with God, to get through the ups and the downs? The highs and the lows?

Bismillah – saying it can also be to say al-Hamdulillah, in sha’Allah, etc.

وَلا تَقولَنَّ لِشَيءٍ إِنّي فاعِلٌ ذٰلِكَ غَدًا
إِلّا أَن يَشاءَ اللَّهُ ۚ وَاذكُر رَبَّكَ إِذا نَسيتَ وَقُل عَسىٰ أَن يَهدِيَنِ رَبّي لِأَقرَبَ مِن هٰذا رَشَدًا

“Never say about anything, ‘I will do that tomorrow,’. without adding ‘If Allah wills.’ Remember your Lord when you forget, and say, ‘Hopefully my Lord will guide me to something closer to right guidance than this’.” Qur’an, 18: 23-24

Bismillah – Imagine one needs to travel through the desert. You will need to travel in the name of the Chief, so you may be under his protection and if you are assailed or attacked, you can be recompensed.

Bismillah – two men go on a journey. One invokes Allah’s name, the other not. The first travels in dignity, whether he is attacked or not. For he knows if there is any wrong that is brought down upon him, Allah will recompense him. And that it was merely a test. The second will experience the same calamities but it will crush his soul. He will cry out, “Why me?!”

Bismillah – it’s what allows us to be saved from the indecency of begging from the world and all those in it, and instead, beg from the Creator of the world and the Seven Heavens.

الْيَدُ الْعُلْيَا خَيْرٌ مِنَ الْيَدِ السُّفْلَى وَالْيَدُ الْعُلْيَا الْمُنْفِقَةُ وَالسُّفْلَى السَّائِلَةُ

Abdullah b. Umar reported that as Allah’s Messenger ﷺ was sitting on the pulpit and talking about Sadaqa and abstention from begging, he said, “The upper hand is better than the lower one, the upper being the one which bestows and the lower one which begs.” Sahih Muslim, #1033

Acting in the Name of Allah is empowering. It is in this way that small things, like seeds and grains bear huge trees on their miniscule heads.

Acting in the Name of Allah is how lowly grass, the roots of small things are able to pierce and breakthrough hard rocks and earth. In the same manner, by remembering, praising, thanking, and acting on the Name of Allah that you will achieve victory in your life: now and here-after.

When one lives one’s life in the Name of Allah, you can break through the most difficult barriers (like the tree) and those struggles will simultaneously bear fruit. For even the hardness of stones is under the command of Allah.

وَإِذِ استَسقىٰ موسىٰ لِقَومِهِ فَقُلنَا اضرِب بِعَصاكَ الحَجَرَ ۖ فَانفَجَرَت مِنهُ اثنَتا عَشرَةَ عَينًا

“And when Musa was looking for water for his people, We said, ‘Strike the rock with your staff.’ Then twelve fountains gushed out from it.” Qur’an, 2: 60

Abu Hurayrah reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as saying:
Miskin is not he who is dismissed with one or two dates, and with one morsel or two morsels. (In fact) miskin is he who abstains (from begging). Read if you so desire (the verse):” They beg not of men importunately)” (ii. 273). Sahih al-Bukhari 1476

لَيْسَ الْمِسْكِينُ بِالَّذِي تَرُدُّهُ التَّمْرَةُ وَالتَّمْرَتَانِ وَلاَ اللُّقْمَةُ وَاللُّقْمَتَانِ إِنَّمَا الْمِسْكِينُ الْمُتَعَفِّفُ اقْرَءُوا إِنْ شِئْتُمْ

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as saying, “Miskin is not he who is dismissed with one or two dates, and with one morsel or two morsels. But in fact miskin is he who abstains from begging. “They beg not of men importunately” (referring to the verse in Qur’an, 2: 273).

لَيسَ عَلَيكَ هُداهُم وَلٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ يَهدي مَن يَشاءُ ۗ وَما تُنفِقوا مِن خَيرٍ فَلِأَنفُسِكُم ۚ وَما تُنفِقونَ إِلَّا ابتِغاءَ وَجهِ اللَّهِ ۚ وَما تُنفِقوا مِن خَيرٍ يُوَفَّ إِلَيكُم وَأَنتُم لا تُظلَمونَ
لِلفُقَراءِ الَّذينَ أُحصِروا في سَبيلِ اللَّهِ لا يَستَطيعونَ ضَربًا فِي الأَرضِ يَحسَبُهُمُ الجاهِلُ أَغنِياءَ مِنَ التَّعَفُّفِ تَعرِفُهُم بِسيماهُم لا يَسأَلونَ النّاسَ إِلحافًا ۗ وَما تُنفِقوا مِن خَيرٍ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ بِهِ عَليمٌ

“You are not responsible for their guidance, but Allah guides whomever He wills. Whatever good you give away is to your own benefit, when you give desiring only the Face of Allah. Whatever good you give away will be repaid to you in full. You will not be wronged. It is for the poor who are held back in the Way of Allah, unable to travel in the land. The ignorant consider them rich because of their reticence. You will know them by their mark. They do not ask from people insistently. Whatever good you give away, Allah knows it.” Qur’an, 2: 272-273

Understanding Islam

Understanding Islam: Muslim Spirituality Session 1


[Direct download]

Taj al-’Arus al-Hawi li Tahdhib al-Nufus by Ibn ‘Ata Allah al-Sikandari (al-Iskandari)

The Bride-Groom’s Crown Containing Instructions on Refining the Self

“The master of nature is vainly believed to be an adequate substitute for self-mastery.” – Reinhold Niebuhr

In his work, Sufism For Non-Sufi’s, Dr. Sherman Jackson writes,

“…part of Islam’s essential struggle from the very beginning was to identify good, substantively sound spirituality and distinguish it from and elevate it over bad, misguided spirituality. In sum, not all spirituality was or is good.” – Sherman Jackson

What is the function or purpose of spirituality from a Muslim perspective?

  • Inspire us: to do good, to do self-help, in all things which inspiration is required.
  • Elevate our morals: the world pulls at us asking us to merely adapt, not to transform.
  • Imbue us with “devotional confidence and resolve” to connect with God, worship God and put God front and center of our lives.

Spirituality and antinomianism:

  • “one who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation”;
  • one who rejects a socially established morality;

Spirituality in the Muslim tradition should also perform two functions:

  1. Affirm the supernatural.
  2. Eschew the superstitious.

Hikam #1

من علامة الاعتماد على العمل نقصان الرجاء عند وجود الزلل

“Amongst the signs of leaning on one’s own handiwork of deeds is the loss of hope in the presence of mistakes.”

“Amongst the signs of relying on deeds is the loss of hope in the presence of mistakes.”

The Text In Context

Ibn Juzayy’s Fifteen Merits of Piety (Taqwa)

The following audio is from our regular monthly program, The Text In Context. This Friday we discussed Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi’s Fifteen Merits of Piety (Taqwa) from his work, al-Tas’hil l’Ulum al-Tanzil (Making Easy The Knowledge of Revelation), as was alluded to in the Friday Khutbah. See the khutbah for more extensive notes.


[Direct download]

Ibn Juzayy’s fifteen merits of piety (taqwa):

  1. Guidance.
  2. Assistance.
  3. Guardianship.
  4. Love.
  5. Pardoning.
  6. Relief from anxiety (lit. “an exit from grief”).
  7. Provision supplied from where one does not expect it.
  8. Easing of affairs.
  9. Forgiveness of sins.
  10. Magnification of reward.
  11. Acceptance of good deeds.
  12. Prosperity.
  13. Good news.
  14. Entering Paradise.
  15. Salvation from The Fire.

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Blog

Perceptions

Perceptions are so important and yet, are also so fallible. Are we seeing “what is”, or can our perceptions be fooled? This question arose recently in the bi-weekly class I teach, Understanding Islam.

One young man asked what should he think of when it comes to “dark thoughts”: The kind you have when you are alone and feel that “the walls are closing in”; or that “God is punishing me.” Such are good and common questions.

If we turn our attention back to the initial premise (perceptions), we might glean some insights to help us understand what is going on.

Take these few “facts” of “reality”: We are currently rotating at a speed of approximately 1,000 mph (the speed at which the circumference of the earth spins). Can you feel it?

Even more astounding, as was pointed out in a previous post, whilst spinning like a mad top, we are actually hurtling through the cosmos at a staggering 490,000 mph! The thought of such blinding speed makes me reach for my seat belt.

While all of the above “facts” are verifiable through certain means, nonetheless, our perceptions are often what govern what we take as reality. Even at the moment of writing this article I feel none of the truly awesome forces at work everyday upon myself. Yet, perceptions or not, reality remains “fixed”: we are hurtling at speeds beyond comprehension.

If we examine the first question: “the walls are closing in”, we will find, upon calm examination, that indeed (earthquakes aside) no walls are falling in upon us. It is quite the opposite: the walls have not moved at all; only our perceptions of them changed.

As to the second question, feeling that “God is punishing me”, let us look to some examples that discuss God’s punishment.

God says in the Qur’an:

“We will give them a taste of lesser punishment before the greater punishment, so that hopefully they will turn back.” [al-Sajdah: 21]

وَلَنُذيقَنَّهُم مِنَ العَذابِ الأَدنىٰ دونَ العَذابِ الأَكبَرِ لَعَلَّهُم يَرجِعونَ

“Those are the people who trade the Next World for this world. The punishment will not be lightened for them. They will not be helped.” [al-Baqarah: 86]

أُولٰئِكَ الَّذينَ اشتَرَوُا الحَياةَ الدُّنيا بِالآخِرَةِ ۖ فَلا يُخَفَّفُ عَنهُمُ العَذابُ وَلا هُم يُنصَرونَ

Now, let us look to the hadith literature:

Related by Abu Hurayrah, “I heard Messenger of God (ﷺ) saying, ‘When Allah created the creatures, He wrote in the Book, which is with Him over His Throne: ‘Verily, My Mercy prevailed over My Wrath’. [Agreed Upon, narrated from Riyadh al-Salihin, hadith #: 419]

لما خلق الله الخلق، كتب في كتاب، فهو عنده فوق العرش‏:‏ إن رحمتي تغلب غضبي

Related by Abu Musa, “The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “This people of mine (Ummah) is one to which mercy is shown. It will have no punishment in the Next Life, but its punishment in this world will be trials, earthquakes and being killed.” [Sahih, narrated from Sunan Abi Dawud, hadith #: 4278]

أُمَّتِي هَذِهِ أُمَّةٌ مَرْحُومَةٌ لَيْسَ عَلَيْهَا عَذَابٌ فِي الآخِرَةِ عَذَابُهَا فِي الدُّنْيَا الْفِتَنُ وَالزَّلاَزِلُ وَالْقَتْلُ

Related by Bahr bin Marrar, vis-a-vie his grandfather Abu Bakrah, “The Messenger of God passed by two graves (ﷺ) and said: “They are being punished but they are not being punished for anything major. One of them is being punished because of urine, and the other is being punished because of backbiting.” [Sahih, narrated from Sunan Ibn Majah, Book 1, Hadith 349]

إِنَّهُمَا لَيُعَذَّبَانِ وَمَا يُعَذَّبَانِ فِي كَبِيرٍ أَمَّا أَحَدُهُمَا فَيُعَذَّبُ فِي الْبَوْلِ وَأَمَّا الآخَرُ فَيُعَذَّبُ فِي الْغِيبَةِ

As we begin to analyze the above statements from the Qur’an and Sunnah, we can see that punishment is real. However, punishment seems to have a number of caveats:

Punishment, by God, is severe, thus, those who are punished know it. It is not a matter of “feeling”. Punishment, as it relates to this life, can also be a mercy, as it allows us to taste what would potentially be our ultimate fate, encouraging us to rethink our lives and “turn back”, as in the verse from surah al-Sajdah.

Clearly God is Merciful, as is stated in the Hadith Qudsi as well as numerous verses from the Qur’an, in that “God’s mercy proceeding His wrath”. So what is left for us to think? Are our perceptions merely twisted? Are we not being punished? One aspect that can help us ascertain our plight is to examine our deeds and actions.

If we are indeed harboring feelings of remoteness, this may be as result of (a) acts we’ve committed that have pushed us away from God and God’s pleasure and/or (b) our perception (mentioned above), influenced by the whispering of Shaytan as well as our souls.

If we read the story of Cain and Abel, we see that it was Cain’s nafs (his soul) that coerced him into slaying his brother:

“So his lower self persuaded him to kill his brother, and he killed him and became one of the lost.” [al-Ma’idah: 30]

فَطَوَّعَت لَهُ نَفسُهُ قَتلَ أَخيهِ فَقَتَلَهُ فَأَصبَحَ مِنَ الخاسِرينَ

طَوَّعَ (the verb at the beginning of the verse above) means “to subjugate” (s.o., or s.th.) into obedience. It is not true obedience. In a sense we can act for our true selves or against. This is confirmed in modern studies on neurology and behavior, what Kelly McGonigal says in her book The Willpower Instinct:

“the promise of reward is so powerful that we continue to pursue things that don’t make us happy”.

Our nafs can, if not disciplined, override our senses and alter our perception of reality, even our actions. This can lead us to a skewed perception of reality. Ironically, we make think ourselves distant when in fact we are close to God:

“We created man and We know what his own self whispers to him. We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.” [Qaf: 16]

وَلَقَد خَلَقنَا الإِنسانَ وَنَعلَمُ ما تُوَسوِسُ بِهِ نَفسُهُ ۖ وَنَحنُ أَقرَبُ إِلَيهِ مِن حَبلِ الوَريدِ

In the end, we must strive to be honest with ourselves and ultimately, with God. Are the walls closing in? Is God punishing us? The answer to these questions may lie in straddling a line between hoping for God’s mercy – in that it is always near – and being honest enough to access our actions and correct them in accordance with His laws. And we seek protection from the accursed Shaytan.