Why Does Imaan Fluctuate?
By Hiba F. & JabalMaryam
Our imaan can be fickle; one moment it soars unimaginable heights and the other, drowns in a depthless expanse. It is a burning flame – one that, if tended to, could set billions of candles alight without losing any of its own intensity. It is a gift bestowed to us by Allah but is usually taken for granted and regarded as a mere saccharine, religious tenet, an accessory in case Islam really turned out to be the real deal or something (let’s hope we’re not that far down the rabbit hole).
Now, ask yourself this: how bright is your flame burning? If that’s too rhetorical of a question, consider instead:
- How does your concentration in your Salah fare? Is it marked by tranquility and no thoughts save for your conversation with Allah? Or are you frantic over whether you left the stove on or how best to retort to that one argument you had with that one soul?
- What of your fear of Allah, and love for Him? Do you worry before sinning, before backbiting your brother or listening to music? Do you challenge yourself towards more Sunnahs or pass it off as discretionary?
- How about your composure, are you inclined to burst up in anger or become irritated at tiny inconveniences?
- Were you better off in these spheres once upon a time?
Fluctuations in our Imaan can occur easily depending on the environment around us, our deeds, the company we keep, etc. In this article, we’re going to diagnose whether our Imaan is low, find out why it is so and learn how to elevate our Imaan to a higher level.
Symptoms: It’s time for a checkup. Do a mental tick and see how many of these symptoms you can relate to. These point towards a weak Imaan:
Sinning Becomes Easy
When we do something wrong, our Fitrah whispers to us that we should stop. We feel guilty inside, but still, we try to justify it. When our Imaan is low, we accept the justifications given by our Nafs. We make it seem like the bad deed doesn’t weigh much. “It’s alright, Ramadan’s coming soon” or “It’s not like I do it all the time” become recurrent excuses.
On the other hand, when our Imaan is relatively higher, we feel uncomfortable and become cautious. Picture a practical example: you’re scrolling through social media and an indecent picture of a celebrity pops up. What do you do? Do you look away? Or do you reason saying that it’s ‘just this once’?
The Heart Becomes Hard
The hardening of the heart means that when we recite the Quran, we don’t feel anything. Our eyes stay dry. When we hear about the Hellfire, it doesn’t make us cautious. Listening to the promises of Jannah doesn’t make us long for it.
Extreme Mood Swings
When our Imaan is low, we’re overjoyed as easily as we get depressed; overreactions are common. We get angry over petty squabbles and irritated over minor pinpricks. We’re easily discouraged and procrastinate at the smallest jobs. We forget our purpose in the Dunya, and what plans we have for it. A common complaint we have is boredom as we’re not pursuing anything except what’s right in front of us in this physical world.
Lazy for Salah
Salah becomes a chore for us, not something we enjoy. We perform it like a habit or a to-do to tick off. We put it off until the very last minute every time.
Lack of Remembrance of Allah
We become negligent of Allah. Not only do we not remember Allah, but we sometimes dislike when Allah Almighty is mentioned. It feels like it’s too ‘extra’, something you’re supposed to do when you’re old and have no other ambitions in life. We try to avoid places that remind us of Allah or gatherings where Islam is discussed.
Readily Give Advice
We give suggestions easily but fail to implement our own advice. We’re quick to judge our peers’ faiths but are heedless of our own. But as the saying goes like, practice before you preach.
Belittling Good Deeds
Small deeds seem like they’re trivial and we don’t give them much worth. It’s said that even a smile is charity but all people see on our faces are frowns. ‘Subhanallah’ plants us a tree in Jannah yet we cannot spare a second from our 24 hours to say it.
We look for our self-worth in the approval of people and crave to be recognised among the masses. We do things in hopes of pleasing our peers when it should have been Allah’s acceptance that we sought.
Attachment to the Dunya
We think we’re going to live here forever. Obviously, we don’t say it, but we live like we’re never going to die. You know what they say, actions speak louder than words. We live like we’re never going to be questioned, like there’s no judgment following our actions. We focus only on us, the here and the now, and we make light of our community’s rights. We become too attached to our possessions; we become greedy and keep our eyes peeled for the next haul.
Causes: Where there’s a symptom, there’s obviously an underlying cause. There are several antecedents that may have a hand in our Imaan slipping, some of them listed below:
The Company You Keep
Who do you surround yourself with? Who do you aspire to be? Who’s your role model? The people around us have a huge impact on our habits, our desires and our lifestyle.
Think of Ramadan! We feel the drive to do good, we’re motivated by the togetherness and unity of our environment. It’s not half as hard as fasting at any other time of the year when no one’s fasting alongside you. We feel encouraged, our spirits get a boost.
Handpick the people who motivate you to do good, those who want to help the community. Try to create an environment that is steadfast, one whose flame you can benefit from. An environment of hope, honesty, kindness, mercy, love, and Imaan. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said,
‘A man is on the way of his friend. So let each one of you see who he befriends.’
It’s similar to the saying, “Show me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.”
Your Relation with Knowledge
Knowledge is one of the key tools for developing Imaan. It’s important because, how will we worship Allah the Almighty if we don’t know him? Or if we don’t know how to worship? Moreover, the lack of knowledge leaves space for shubuhat, or seedlings of doubts, uncertainties that eventually take root and end up destroying our faith. Allah (SWT) says in the Quran,
“Are those who know, equal to those who don’t?”
Overindulgence in our comfort zones, in beautifying ourselves and our homes is an undeniable cause for weak Iman. Our focus gradually shifts from the hereafter to this world. Concurrently, our Imaan decreases. When the Messenger of Allah(PBUH) was sending Muadh bin Jabal (RA)to Yemen, he told him in his farewell advice,
“True servants of Allah do not live in too much comfort ( i.e. they are not indulged in this world.)”
For every disease, there’s (almost) always a cure. Many a times, the antidote to an ailment can be found simply by tackling its root cause.
- Reciting the Qur’an
Reciting the words of Allah Almighty, which He sent as a guidance for us, trying to understand what the Almighty is advising us, what he wants us to do and what he wants us to refrain from, is easily the most sure-fire antidote for a wilting Imaan. This is the same Quran that nurtured the Arabs, who were a people who fought wars on petty things, and who buried their daughters alive. The Quran developed Imaan in them and made them the torchbearers of the Ummah to come. If we try to understand the Quran properly and implement its laws and commandments, In Sha Allah, we will be able to nurture our Imaan.
- Restricting Comforts
One of the causes we discussed above for a languishing Imaan was overindulgence. To save ourselves from its gravitational pull, we need to restrict our comforts. Comfort refers to mainly four things, food, sleep, interactions and entertainment. Interactions and entertainment are different in the sense that interactions refer to the physical speech that takes place between you and the people around you, whereas entertainment is anything from digital interactions, whether it be through social media, movies, games, and other leisurely activities.
Eat less, about one-third of your stomach, and sleep less too. Wake up for Tahajjud. Speak only when you have a nice thing to say and don’t laugh in excess and forget to take things seriously. As for entertainment, allow yourself only what is in the realm of benefit, and don’t waste time that could be used much more proactively.
- Increasing Ibadah
Apart from avoiding comfort, increasing and perfecting our Ibadah is also a necessary means for elevating our Imaan. We should amplify our concentration in Salah, by trying to understand the surahs we recite and readying our mindset for the prayer at least 10 minutes beforehand. Inculcate Sunnahs into your daily routine, heck, even some Nawafil if you’re up for the challenge. Attempt voluntary fasts. Mondays and Thursdays, as well as the 13th, 14th and 15th of every lunar month, were the days the Prophet SAW used to fast on.
This increase in Ibadah acts like a detergent, cleansing your heart from the stains of your sins, ergo making it possible to nurture your Imaan further.
- Remember Death
Another really effective pointer, if not that simple, is to remember death and the ephemerality of the time we’re granted in this Dunya. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:
“Remember often, the destroyer of pleasures ( i.e. death).”
Imagine (really, close your eyes and imagine) that your time’s up. You can see the angel of death in front of you. There’s nowhere to go. The only things that are going to accompany you are your deeds. The doors of Tawbah are now closed. How confident are you of your reckoning?
Think about the grave. You are going to stay there, alone. The angels are going to question you. The earth is closing in upon you. Your ribs are going into each other. Wallahi, when one thinks about this sincerely, they will change. Every opportunity looks valuable; every second, expensive. There is no more room for boredom and childish complaints.
Before this turns into a whole manual, I’ll end the article with this: Take advantage of the time you have and turn back to Allah often. No one has any guarantees for their life, so make use of the moment, don’t delay the change you can make today lest this time we’re given slips past our grip. Light up your flame. We ask Allah the Almighty to help us leave our bad habits for the good ones, and help us to develop our Imaan! Ameen.
- Sunan Abi Dawood 4833
- Surah Zumar: Ayah 9
- Musnad Ahmed 216000
- Tirmidhi 2307
The Prophet (s.a.w.) said,
“The people will soon summon one another to attack you like those when eating invite others to share their dish. Someone asked: Will that be because of our small numbers at that time? He replied: No, you will be numerous at that time: but you will be scum and rubbish like that carried down by a torrent, and Allah will take out the fear of you from the breasts of your enemy and instill wahn (enervation) into your hearts. Someone asked: What is wahn (enervation)? The Apostle of Allah (s.a.w.) replied: Love of the world and dislike of death.”
Sunan Abi Dawud 4297
Copyright © 2021 Hiba F. & JabalMaryam
About the Authors
Hiba F. is a high school senior who is frequently mistaken for a university professor. She completed her memorization of the Quran at age 14 and has since gotten into studying tafsir and Arabic. She’s a serial bullet journaling bookworm. Her other interests include drawing, embroidery and writing. She aspires for a career as an author, businesswoman and a naturopath. It’s only impossible until someone does it, you know?
Jabal Maryam is a first-year university student who excels at procrastination and last minute submissions.