‘Who is he that will loan to Allah a beautiful loan, which Allah will double unto his credit and multiply many times? It is Allah who gives (you) want or plenty, and to Him shall be your return.’ (Qur’an 2:245)
It is almost a full week of ‘normal’ since Ramadan ended. The patter of the domestic routine is returning at home, but my own personal routine is going through a period of confusion. I have not been able to pray this week, and that means I have not had to get up in the early hours for the dawn prayer (Fajr), not stay up late at night for the evening prayer (Isha). It is a week of what my female relatives and I sometimes jokingly refer to as ‘a holiday’ from the requirements of prayer; it is a week when my regular routine, so grounded in the structure and timetable of daily worship, is loosened up and in freefall. I essentially have a week ‘off’ my faith responsibilities.
My automatic reaction is often (with a hint of guilt) ‘a week of freedom!’. This week, I made a mental list of all the things I would catch up on, now that I had more time in my day: I would write a lot, go out and review some new places (I also have a food and lifestyle blog), readjust my sleeping pattern, go for some long walks after a month of inactivity, and more…
…and I have done very little of it. I have found writing a bit of a struggle, putting it off and getting very easily distracted by other things; I have been for one long walk; I have dragged my feet to do anything. What this tells me, other than the fact that I was blaming prayer and my regular routine for not having enough time rather than me being disorganised and lazy, is that something is missing. Last night, I lay uneasily in my bed after wasting hours sitting in front of my screen, unproductive and fruitless. I said a prayer to help me get over whatever I was stuck with.
There was a very well-known TV personality and preacher in Pakistan, who sadly died in an accident last year. He used to be the lead singer of a very famous Pakistani band, before he had a ‘Road to Damascus’ experience, and turned his back on his old lifestyle to dedicate his life to serving God. He went on to found a very successful clothing line, as well as support numerous charitable causes, but it was not without its difficulties, especially when he had left so much wealth and fame behind. His clothing business failed twice, despite the help of a partner and close friend; he was in financial difficulties, and wondering what he should do. He sought the advice of a spiritual man, who told him to do one thing: make God his partner. He told him to divide whatever income he made into three portions, and spend one of those portions entirely for God’s work – charity, helping orphans and the needy, education, whatever would be of service for God and humanity. The preacher/TV personality and his business partner agreed, and from that moment, he said, he earned so much wealth that it was flowing through his windows and doors. He was never without again.
I often think of that story when I think about wealth and spending in the way of God, and I love it as an inspiration. But today, I thought about its relevance to all areas of my life. What if what was missing for me was making God a Partner in my time, and giving Him a portion of my day to remember Him?
I often think about the profundity of God’s Wisdom in commanding me to worship Him, because He invites me to receive His grace by remembering Him in prayer. In that way, He covers my own weakness: when left to myself, like these weeks when I cannot pray, God falls out of my day; even though I am always aware of Him, I still think about Him in my conduct and behaviour, I do not make time for any dedicated acts of worship – even though there are things I can still do, like recite prayer beads, and read the Qur’an in translation. There is always something else I think I need to do more urgently.
I can only conclude that God knows His creation more intimately than we know ourselves and that, despite our best intentions, our resolve is still highly susceptible to weakness and forgetfulness. God strengthens our hands by putting His over them with instructions to pray, to give in charity, to do good to others, and so on.
Any act done for God returns itself manifold. Praying to Him returns untold grace on the worshipper; spending in His Name brings you abundance in means; spending time remembering Him expands your time. I have been missing something by thinking of time in a linear way, and seeing time spent for God in the same way as time spent on other activities. I thought I was creating time in my day by being ‘free’ of worship, when I have been missing out on the possibility of abundance in my time by not dedicating a portion of it to Him.
I have not read the Qur’an since Eid (despite my commitment that I would do so), so today I picked it up and read it. I will do so every day going forward. I came across this beautiful verse that made me pause:
‘the skins of those who fear their Lord tremble thereat [the message of the Qur’an]; then their skins and their hearts do soften to the celebrations of Allah’s praises.’ (39:23)
That image was so beautiful, I was grateful to have read it today.
I accept the strength of holding the hand of God in trust and faith, knowing that it will never let go. But I had not realised how I could do that in every area of my daily life, rather than just times of need, or even regular prayer. I read a wonderful passage in Isaiah today:
‘For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.’ (Is 41:13)
And also, in the Qur’an:
‘Truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things.’ (Qur’an 2:256)
I want to hold that Hand that will never let go, even when my grip might weaken, because God knows it will. I want to lend God that beautiful loan in as many different ways as I can find, because His abundance is the promise in return. I realised that God is a practical Partner whose Hand is present in everything; whatever He receives He returns manifold. I resolved today to make God a Partner in my time, and, wherever I see it, in my life.