A friend of mine has often said, “Life is not a straight line.” This one phrase keeps me going, even when my progress as a Muslim has felt like two steps forward, one step back.
When I said my shahadah, I was completely in love with Islam. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Islam with every ounce of my being, and believe when it is lived out as it was intended, it is the most perfect and beautiful way of life, mashaAllah wa Allahu akbar! Just like a marriage, that love has gone from infatuation, where I couldn’t get enough reading and learning, to a more calm daily routine. Sometimes I don’t live the way I’d like to, and sometimes I make some downright mistakes. I know that Allah is the Most Forgiving, so I don’t despair in His mercy, but sometimes I despair in my own willpower and determination.
Will I be one of those that came into Islam with vigor and leaves it quietly, in the dark of the night? Will my faith slip away from me without realizing it?
And that’s when I remind myself, “Always make progress.”
It doesn’t matter how big or how small. Allah loves the consistent good deed, even if it is small. When I chose to stop wearing open toe shoes, for the sake of pleasing Allah, that’s progress. I doubt anyone in my life noticed the difference. No one knew that anything had changed, but each summer day I was making a choice to please Allah and cover my feet, even if it isn’t required.
Progress can be teaching our kids to love Allah and the Prophet (sws). Progress can be learning a small du’a. Progress can be perfecting recitation of one small surah. Progress doesn’t have to be a big change. Progress doesn’t only come in the form of starting to pray all the sunnah prayers every day from here on after. Pick up one of the sunnah prayers and start there, if you so choose. Then pick up another later, in sha Allah.
Just keep making progress. Even two steps forward and one step back is progress.
I hesitate to concentrate on progress that isn’t at least somewhat tangible. I want it to be obvious I’m a Muslim because Islam isn’t just found in the heart, but Islam is on our tongues and works in our hands. I realize there is a shift in focus in our Ummah lately where many will focus on the Islam in their heart. While there is value in making sure the heart is pure, as the Prophet (sws) said that if the heart has an impurity, the body is impure also, the heart shouldn’t be the sole focus. The heart is a fickle thing. The heart will fall in love with someone that isn’t right. Someone we know is bad for us, but the heart has become attached. The heart will want the easy, the satisfying, the emotionally fulfilling. There is more to life, and better things in life than just what the heart has to offer.
The brain and logic must protect the heart at times, and this is why the brain must choose progress, to protect the heart from pulling back from moving forward. Change is hard, and the heart does not like hard things.
In my humble opinion, progress comes from the brain, not the heart. What the brain decides, the heart will follow.
My friend, make progress. Don’t forget to always make steps forward. There are great scholars who have dedicated their lives to Islam, so we would be foolish to think there is a point where we can just coast. Shaytan wants us to stop making progress because he wants our guard to be down. Don’t let him. If you keep moving forward, in sha Allah Shaytan won’t be able to keep up.