"What Does Islam Offer? On Taking God Seriously"

As in its nature, life never ceases to come up with its pleasures, distractions, delusions and challenges. Every day that you wake up, you are part of the theater of life. It is a theater full of richness and meaning, but only if you are able to find it. Life is like a dazzling show, full of surprises, glimmer, glamor and tragedy. But the meaning that flows in the heart of all these events often eludes us. It is the hardest thing to uncover, and even harder to hold onto and internalize in your heart and soul.


I dare say that that which you internalize in your heart, mind and soul is precisely the light of God. When we supplicate to God, "Bestow us with light. Gift us with light in our words, gift us with light in our thought, gift us with light in our hearts, gift us with light in our very being." In fact, whether you know it or not, the extent to which God has gifted you with light adheres to you as close as a thumbprint. It is the very aura that you carry around. It is the very aura that you go every place with, it is the aura that you spend every moment with, waking or sleeping.


That aura is remarkably interconnected with the extent to which you have managed to internalize, absorb, and remember that meaning that flows within and throughout life. It makes sense of what could often appear as simply a chaotic set of events. People are born, people die, people find wealth, people lose wealth. People find love, people lose love, people rejoice, and people despair. They are all events. Without God, they have no meaning. They are just events, and nothing more. Without God, a job is just a job. A career is just a career. Life is just life. And death is just death.


The only time that any of that is given meaning is when you see the light of God flowing throughout everything. If you see God in these events, you see a light. If you miss God in these events, and the absence of Allah is the absence of light, and the absence of light is darkness, you only see darkness.

Even if you rejoice at life, its truth without God is darkness. Even if you rejoice at a career, its truth without God is darkness. Even if you rejoice at a business deal that brings you wealth, without God, its truth is darkness. Even if you rejoice at a marriage, without God, its truth is darkness. But when your heart is broken because of a death, when your heart is broken because of a divorce, when your heart is broken because of a betrayal, when your heart is broken because of the numerous things in life that breaks our heart and saddens us, they are through and through darkness, unless you are able to see God in them. Through the midst of your heartache and the midst of your despair, the light of the divine is speaking to you, giving you meaning. That meaning consoles and soothes the soul. That meaning saves.


Be among those who long for meaning. Do not long for meaning just when you are sad, but long for meaning in the midst of happiness and rejoicing. Long for meaning in the midst of your tragedy and despair. Long for meaning when you find companionship and long for meaning when you lose companionship. Long for meaning when you find success and long for meaning when you confront failure. And meaning, I underscore, is only found with God and with the light of God. There is no other meaning, everything else is a delusion. Smoke and mirrors. The only truth is the light of the divine.


That light. If you perceive it, if it touches you once in your life, it becomes an addiction. It becomes a lasting longing. It is a love that fills everything in your being and makes you ache for its presence, its companionship, its comfort, its salvation. The way that it carries you to a truth that we consistently overlook: We are divine because we are of the divine. Every time you deal with your body, you are not dealing with your body, you are dealing with the property of the divine. Every time you deal with your soul, you are not dealing with your soul, you are dealing with the property of the divine. And every time you deal with your intellect, whatever you do with your intellect, you are again dealing with the property of the divine.


Now, ask yourself, if your body belongs to the divine, and your soul belongs to the divine, and your intellect belongs to the divine, what does it deserve from you? Reflect on this. Consider intellects. If it all belongs to the divine, how many books read and how much learning would do the divine justice? The same for your soul, the same for your body. At what point do you actually think you have given the divine its due?

There are those who think of their body, who think of their soul, who think of their intellect, who think of their life, who think of their career, and think, "It is mine. I can do with it what makes me happy." If this is your view, I can assure you that you are in darkness. You can be surrounded by the most glamorous, expensive lights in the world, but you are in darkness. In contrast, there are those who are consistently mindful that their soul, their body, and their intellect have an owner, and thus have meaning, and thus have rights. And these are the rights of the divine.


I tell these young people, "When you waste time, you are not wasting your own time, you are wasting God's time. When you hurt your body, you are not hurting your body, you are hurting God's body. When you are ignorant and stupid, you do not insult yourself, you insult the intellect that belongs to God." So many young people ask, "What does Islam have to contribute? What does Islam add to the picture?" The answer is: Everything. It is exactly this perception that is at the heart of Islam. Everything. It is a reorientation of the way that you deal with Earth, the way that you deal with everything it holds, the way you deal with everything in its atmosphere, and the way that you deal with your own very being. Islam is the recognition of the light of God, the truth in being.


Islam is a response to every existentialist philosophy, every sophist leaning, and every materialist orientation. But sadly, few Muslims understand Islam for what it is. It is not the laws, it is not the rituals, it is not the appearances. It is the heart and soul of the matter. The heart and soul of meaning. The heart and soul of being itself. God did not just leave us to our own devices to figure all of this out. I swear to you that God speaks to you individually every minute of every hour of every day of your life. How? Through the Qur’an. The Qur’an is your personal revelation.


God speaks to us individually and eternally through the Qur’an. Shaykh Muhammad al Ghazali used to tell us, “A house that is without Qur’an is but a tomb.” He is not referring to a house that has a Qur’an displayed in some fancy spot like above the chimney solely for appearances. A house that fails to listen to Qur’an every day is not blessed with the power of Qur’an. It is a tomb. Regardless of how big it is or how fancy it is, in reality, it is a tomb.


Furthermore, a human being that fails to visit the Qur’an every day is but a corpse. Can you pray five times a day and still be a corpse? Yes, because a lot of times we memorize the short surahs we recite in prayer and we memorize them so well that we can recite while we are thinking about whatever problems we have. As a result, we often do not know how many rakats we pray. But as Shaykh al Ghazali used to say, do not let your house become a tomb. Bring light and life into your homes through the beauty and the power of the Qur’an. And do not let yourself become a corpse. If you do not make the Qur’an your consistent companion in existence, do not be surprised when the light of the divine, that tells you the truth of matters, eludes you and you have a hard time finding it and anchoring it within you.


It is remarkable that we hear people in these odd days that try to say Islam is a tradition, not a religion; as if Islam can be an identity, or just a garb that you wear. Islam is not just a face. Islam is divine speech and a divine revelation, and it is your relationship to that divine speech and divine revelation that is the beginning and end of all.


The wise human being would be more than honored to live and die for the Qur’an. To have the Qur’an be the first thing they hear when they wake up, the last thing they hear when they go to sleep, and the last thing they hear before they leave this earth; for the Qur’an to be their companion. Every time they experience happiness, they go to the Qur’an to be reminded that no happiness lasts. And every time they experience sadness, they go to the Qur’an to be reminded that no tragedy lasts. And every time they are reminded of death, they go to the Qur’an to remember the value of life. And every time they experience life, they go to the Qur’an to be reminded that it is all temporary and that it all goes back to the Maker of life.


The light, the Qur’an. What more do you want from your Lord? What more could God have given us? Do not blame God if this light keeps eluding you because you are neglectful, arrogant and ignorant. Instead, humbly come to God and admit, "God, I am tired. I surrender. I want the light. I want the Qur’an in my heart. I want the Qur’an in my intellect. I want the Quran before my eyes. I want the Qur’an in the moment of my death, in my grave, and in my resurrection, because this is your speech and nothing honors me like your speech."


God has given us so much guidance to the light, yet our ego as human beings consistently makes us forget. We have moments of illumination and moments of nearness, but then we forget. We have moments of clarity, but then we forget. We have instants of true perception, but then we forget. When God keeps saying, "Don't you remember?" it is because God knows the extent to which we are prone to forgetfulness. We remember what serves us or gives us pleasure, and conveniently forget what challenges us and what turns the eyes of scrutiny upon us.


Look at Surah Al-Furqan (“The criterion”), among the most foundational surahs in the Quran. It is a surah in which God literally gives us a program for those who want to find the light and be within the light. Those who have instilled within the core of their being the quality of humility are not arrogant people. Nor are they contentious people. But as a result of their humility and bashfulness, one might never know what their degrees are, what their wealth is, or what their position is. They do not wear their material achievements on their sleeve. They know that is not the point of their existence. They may have the highest degrees in the land, but they carry themselves as the most humble beings. They know their place and they know that whatever goodness comes can only come from God. They have nothing to be arrogant about.          


How many Muslims that claim piety strut around proudly, like peacocks? Even in Islamic centers around the globe, one can easily find those who are accomplished medical doctors and wealthy lawyers. If one walks around, even in God's home, as peacocks, full of themselves, they are in darkness. Without humility, there is darkness.


God describes this in the Quran and the expression is beautiful. Not in public, but in the privacy of their homes. In the midst of the night, when no one can see them but God, what are they doing? They are in supplication and sujud. They do not want other people to see them. To them, it is not about scoring points in their community. In fact, they prefer their privacy. When all have gone to sleep, they get up, and they supplicate to God, "Your light. God, have your light touch us. We long for your light." They do not shed blood; bloodshed and lost life are the last things in the world that they want. They are not people of destruction or hurt. They do not fornicate or commit adultery. They understand that the body is sacred and that intimacy is sacred. That you are intimate with someone either in the darkness of the demonic or in the light of God. And they do not want sexual relations that involves the devil. So many Muslims these days, they think they can play legalities with God, and will do everything but consummation. Penetration is important when we talk about the criminal penalty, but it does not affect the moral status. If you have done everything but penetrate, you are included under the category of zina.


Even worse, so many Muslims these days minimize this type of intimacy. They often just assume God has forgiven them. You have committed an infraction against creation itself. Approach Allah with humility, sadness and true regret. Ask sincerely for forgiveness, do not just assume you have already earned it. Do not be like the fool who will only get to know if they are truly forgiven in the Hereafter. It is no small infraction. It is not a coincidence that it is mentioned right after killing. No, it is a very big thing because a sexual relation without the light of God is darkness. It invites the demonic, and the demonic stains your aura for decades to come. Every sexual relation that you have engaged in that was wrong sticks to your aura for decades to come. And for some people, it is there even at the moment of their deaths.


Look at the way that Surah Al-Furqan teaches us, humbles us and elevates us. After, it reminds us that if you erred, simply repent and do good. It reminds us of the seriousness of our witnessing and testimony. It takes you to the heart and soul of meaning. There is a remarkable expression here. Make our partners of light, a source of true comfort and satisfaction, serenity and peace. This implies satisfaction, repose and humility. Make those partners a source of true meaning, true serenity, and true tranquility that can only be achieved in a marriage where God is your third partner. It is impossible to achieve that standard, unless you invite God to the marriage and have God sign as your third partner in your marriage contract. Because you are asking God for the light of the divine to share your bed, to share your food, to share your space, to share everything.


There are so many young Muslims on dating apps who only look at superficial qualities such as ethnicity or education. But the most important thing is to find that partner who elevates you in divinity and in your relationship with God, not deprecates you and takes you to the way of shaytan. Remember, you are either in God's light or in the darkness of shaytan, the absence of light.


Every marriage that is anchored in something else other than God is inevitably anchored in shaytan. It is your choice. What do you want to enter your marriage in? Make us and our progeny an example unto believers. Do not make our children the most impressive doctors, lawyers and engineers. Do not make our children drive the fanciest cars or buy the most expensive property. God, You want to truly bless us? Give us children who are an example unto others when it comes to You, when it comes to Your light, when it comes to Your way.


The Qur’an is your constitution. It speaks to us every minute of every day. We just do not listen. If you befriend the Qur’an and it befriends you, it speaks to you in every instant, in every challenge, in every contingency that arises in your life. Often, the voice of the Qur’an in your life is hard to hear because it is truthful and brutal. It often makes you uncomfortable. It often makes you feel guilty. It often makes you feel bad because you are being bad. But ultimately, it gives you that light. If you don't have the light, you inevitably have the darkness. And if you have the darkness, you have shaytan. The choices are clear, but only if we only listen.


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