I haven’t been around much lately because I was studying for the GRE (Graduate Record Exam®) I had to take for grad school. I took it on September 26th and now I’m trying to get back into my writing. I’m also trying to get back into my faith. Because the truth is, while I was focusing on the GRE, I lost my focus on everything else.
I have trouble switching from one activity to another, especially in the course of one day. If I try to make myself “turn off” one mindset and “turn on” another, I find that my brain just won’t co-operate. I feel befuddled (which means “very confused and unable to think clearly”) or dazed and disorientated. It’s like when you have something in the back of your mind that you keep thinking about even when you try not to. If I try to write, or study, or even pray when I’ve just been doing something else, I can’t seem to clear my mind and allow it to focus on something new.
I’ve been diagnosed with ADD (or Attention Deficit Disorder), which is another way of saying that my mind works differently than most peoples’. I’m terribly disorganized, I tend to hyperfocus on one thing at a time, but I also need constant stimulation or I get bored and tune out completely. I tend to jump from one enthusiasm to another and become totally obsessed with each one, but give me a week and I’m on to something else.
Lately I’ve been feeling out of touch with my faith. I keep missing prayer times, I haven’t been reading the Qur’an and I don’t wear my hijab as much as I used to. I’ve been worried that my enthusiasm for Islam has run its course, that it was only a temporary interest and now I’m over it. But when I think about God, and how I see my relationship with Him, I know that Islam is the only religion that makes sense to me. My problem has more to do with my inability to stick with things rather than with my lack of interest.
I realize now that I can’t grow in my iman (faith) unless I feed it. The problem is, I’ve been getting most of what I know about Islam from the wrong sources. Islam emphasizes the importance of knowledge but it has to be the right kind of knowledge. When I pay more attention to Muslims who are trying to push their own agenda instead of to Mohammad as revealed in the ahadith, I’m bound to become confused and disillusioned.
I’ve decided that there is a hierarchy in learning. The most important things to learn are what Allah says about Himself and what Mohammad says about Allah. Next on the list are the things we need to do to be righteous in Allah’s eyes. But even there, our most important sources are the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Whenever I get confused about what Allah wants of me, I need to turn to these resources, not to the opinions of other Muslims.
However, the best kind of knowledge is that which is gained through experience. Book learning is not enough. I need to be in an active relationship with Allah if I ever want to overcome my tendency to lose interest. This is where prayer enters the picture, as well as our attitudes toward prayer. If I feel that prayer is something I have to do, I avoid it or do it grudgingly. But when I feel that prayer is something that I get to do, I pray willingly and with joy.
There’s a story in the Bible about the foolishness of building one’s house on shifting sand instead of on solid rock. Other people’s opinions are like shifting sand; Allah is the solid rock. Whenever I feel myself slipping in my faith, I should look at where I’m building my “house.” If it’s not on Allah and His word, then I shouldn’t be surprised if I don’t feel secure in my faith.