By Umm Ibrahim
So, for 11 months, we did as we chose. We broke the promises we made last Ramadan. We undid all our efforts. We corrupted our hearts and polluted our minds. We put the dunya in front of us and chucked the akhirah behind. We forgot the allegiance we pledged to Allah. We started slacking off in our prayers. We let our tongues run loose. We brought our guard down. In short, we harmed ourselves more than our enemies could ever harm us!
Yet come Ramadan again, and overnight we want to transform back into pious worshippers. We want to savour the sweetness of Salah; we want to ponder over the Quran deeply; to make zikr with the tongue and the heart. However, we find that our hearts have hardened, our eyes have become dry, and the level of our faith has nose-dived. Some people might give up on themselves, and stop doing righteous actions altogether, thinking things like:
I don’t ‘feel’ anything in dua’ , why make dua?
I have no khushoo’ in tahajjud, might as well just sleep.
To those people, think about this: Can you afford to give up on yourself?
NO! Then, get up and get your act straight. Allah did not wrong you. You, and only you, wronged yourself.
We need to worry, and we need to strive very hard to cure ourselves. Here are five practical tips which can help us soften our hearts:
1- Make dua’ to Allah, for your heart is in between His Fingers. He can turn it as He wills. He can soften your heart just as he softened the hearts of countless others. It is He who softened the hearts of even the magicians when they saw the miracles of Musa ‘alaihis salam. Keep making dua’ relentlessly. Have conviction that it will be answered. Never ever give up on yourself. The Prophet (sallalahu ‘alaihi wasallam) used to make dua’:
“O Allah, I seek refuge in You from knowledge which does not benefit, from a heart that does not entertain the fear (of Allah), from a soul that is not satisfied and the supplication that is not answered.” (Muslim)
2- Hearts are hardened because of persistent sins. Make istighfar a major part of your daily routine. Don’t just make it lip-service, but mean it from your heart. Remember your sins, small and big, hidden and open, and ask Allah to forgive you for them, and to erase the devastating effects they have had on your spiritual life.
3- Remember and think about the blessings of Allah, hidden and open, in your life. You are being showered in His Mercy and enveloped in His Protection day in and day out. This will help to develop His Love in your heart and will remove the sense of alienation and despair that may accompany the hardening of hearts.
“And if you would count the graces of Allah, never could you be able to count them. Truly! Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Surah an-Nahl: 18)
4- Ponder over the Quran. Don’t just be concerned about rushing through a juz a day, counting the pages left and reaching the end. Read it as something which Allah addresses to you as a guidebook for your life and as a cure for your heart. The great sahabi and scholar Abdullah ibn Mas’ood said about the Quran:
“Stop at its wonders, move the hearts with it, and let not your concern be the end of the surah.”
“O mankind! There has come to you a good advice from your Lord (i.e. the Qur’an), and a healing for that in your breasts, – a guidance and a mercy for the believers.” (Surah Yunus: 57)
5- Remember death. Not as an abstract concept, but as a reality that will hit you any moment. Be like someone who expects to die very soon. Make every prayer as if it was your last. Make every dua’ as if it was your last. Fast every day and stand every night as if it was you last opportunity to salvage your eternal life. About visiting the graveyards, the Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) said:
“… [such visits] soften the heart, bring tears to the eyes, and serve as a reminder of the Hereafter.” (Hakim)
And if you don’t change overnight, remember that the antidote will show its effect but you need to keep taking it regularly, slowly and steadily, just as you slowly poisoned your heart until it reached this stage.