It creeps up on you, sometimes—knowing that you’ve changed. You didn’t realize, you still don’t know, how it happened. And the scary thing is that this change was a fundamental part of you. It was all of who you thought you were. It was your destination and your journey. But you lost it. Now, you feel distant from God, Who was at one point your only purpose.
The loss of a connection to God is the scariest thing that can happen to a person. You can remember what it felt like to go to sleep remembering God and to wake up thinking of Him. He was your Best Friend. You remember how you molded your character to be something that He loves. You remember when every cell of your body was energized, ready to work hard for His sake. And most of all, you remember the tranquility. You didn’t worry. You knew al-Wakeel (the Trustee) would take care of you.
But right now, you’re in such a different place. You don’t even recognize yourself anymore. You want to be in that place you were before so much, and you want to know how you didn’t even notice the gradual fall. Can you even go back?
Ask the one who was trapped in the belly of a whale. Ask him how he felt about that fall from grace. The guilt, the humility, the longing that can all be summed up in the phrase he repeated over and over:
“[…] There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers.” (Qur’an 21:87)
And what was the result? God tells us, “And had he not been of those who exalt Allah, he would have remained inside its belly until the Day they are resurrected.” (Qur’an 37:143-144)
So Prophet Yunus (Jonah) `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him), the companion of the whale, was saved. He was saved because he turned to Allah and never gave up. We can remain in darkness, if we choose to. It is those, and only those, who believe that there is no way back who never return.
To those that say, “I used to be religious,” or even, “I was never religious”, there is always a way back. When the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace and blessings be upon him) tells us, “Allah is happier about the repentance of one His slaves, than one of you would be about finding your camel which had strayed away from you in the middle of the desert,” (agreed upon). He ﷺ is also talking to those of us who have strayed. Tawba is to return. It is not simply to repent after committing a hideous sin, although that is a big part of it. He is also talking to those of us who wonder if we can ever recover or achieve that zeal and energy and purpose. We need to return.
So don’t give up. Don’t give in to that feeling that tells you to do the bare minimum. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) would not create you to be a useless addition to this world. You can be something special—something special to Him—if you don’t give up. If you take that step. Why are we reminded by the Prophet ﷺ in so many sayings that Allah (swt) accepts the servant who returns? Why are we told when we come one step closer to Allah (swt), He comes to us at speed? It is to remind us that Allah (swt) wants us to reach our potential, to take that first step despite the fact that the first step might be the hardest.
If you haven’t woken up for fajr (the pre-dawn prayer) for years, set five alarms today. Make a sincere du`a’ (supplication) to Allah (swt) before you sleep. Do it over and over again. Seek forgiveness and plead with Him to let you pray. You will not be disappointed. If you once had a big dream for your community but were dejected by people telling you to “be real,” pick up where you left off. Even if they are right and you never make it, because your intention was for Him, you already made it. Any achievement in this dunya (worldly life) is temporary, but “[…] indeed, the home of the Hereafter – that is the [eternal] life, if only they knew.” (Qur’an 29:64)
Don’t give in. “[…] Despair not of relief from Allah. Indeed, no one despairs of relief from Allah except the disbelieving people.” (Qur’an 12:87)