Subscribe to the series to receive the video of this reflection along with the other daily reflections each morning.
Today’s reflection is about a concept I like to call “entitled spirituality.” During Ramadan, I often hear people reflecting and asking the question: Why is it when I fast I don’t feel good? I don’t feel a heightened sense of spirituality during Ramadan or when I pray, unlike what the khateeb is saying that Ramadan is the best time of the year.
The tenth Juz of the Qur’an, which includes the beginning of the ninth chapter, Surah At-Tawbah, talks about this concept in light of the battle of Tabuk. This was an expedition that happened at the end of the life of the Prophet (SAW), which required them to cross the desert in the middle of the summer to go towards the northwest of the Arabian Peninsula. And this was something that was really difficult on the believers. God Almighty tells us in Surah At-Tawbah in the verses starting from verse 38 until the end of the chapter about how the hypocrites responded to this by making all kinds of excuses. What we learn from these verses is that it’s really the effort that counts with your Lord and what you feel is a byproduct of that. It’s not something that as believers we are entitled to. For instance, one of the excuses that the hypocrites made shows up in verse 42. Allah says:
If there had been some goods to be acquired closer by and on a shorter journey, they would have followed you; but the expedition seemed much too far for them. They will swear by God; “If we could have managed to, we would have left along with you (all).” They destroy their own souls while God knows what liars they are!
So the first lesson we learn from this is that spirituality and a heightened sense of iman, of faith, only comes with really hard work. Allah (SWT) says “Indeed we have created mankind in toil.” (90:4). It’s hard work, it’s effort and this is what counts with Allah. It’s not necessarily that if you pray late at night or if you fast you’re going to feel good. Rather, that comes with a lot of work. It’s not something that as human beings, as servants of God, we’re entitled to. It’s something that is a gift from Allah and it we work hard at it, God Almighty will bless us with openings where we feel this heightened sense of iman, but it’s not something we’re entitled to. Allah (SWT) wants to see effort from us and that’s why He says in verse 46:
And if they had intended to go forth, they would certainly have provided equipment for it, but Allah did not like their going forth, so He withheld them, and it was said (to them): Hold back with those who hold back.
What counts with Allah is the effort and the attitude. And once a person makes an intention, then Allah (SWT) will give him the sense of spirituality, but it comes with a lot of work. It’s like chemistry. For a bond to happen, you need to reach what they call activation energy. And once that happens, then Allah (SWT) will give you the spirituality.
This is why in the hadith of the Prophet (SAW) that’s in Sahih Muslim, where the Prophet (SAW) saw a man eating with his left hand and the Prophet (SAW) told him, “eat with your right.” He said, “I’m unable to.” And the Prophet (SAW) responded by saying, “May you not be able to.” The commentator says the only thing that prevented him from doing it was arrogance. All of the scholars of the different schools of thought agree that eating with your right hand is a sunnah, it’s not wajib. Even though most of us learn that it’s wajib, it’s a sunnah. It’s something we should do, but you don’t get sin if you eat with you left. But the reason the Prophet (SAW) made this duaa against him was because of the attitude because he wasn’t even willing to try. Once you make that intention and you’re willing to try, Allah (SWT) will open doors of spirituality, of a heightened sense of iman.
We ask Allah (SWT) to give us this ability to struggle in His cause so that we may have this heightened sense. Ameen.