Challenges Spirituality

How to strengthen faith.

The actions that got me out of my toughest times.

Every November since 2011, it gives me the creeps. The flashbacks… and everything. If you are new here, you can know what I’m talking about here.  Its not important. What is important is that today I’m stronger and so happy. Alhamdolillah!

Often, I wonder what was the single thing that got me through it all?


What is faith?

Total, complete belief in one’s Allah. That He will take me out of this, no matter how impossible it looks now.

I know many of you, are going through your own hell right now.

Naturally, trials in life keep happening. I lost my father, in February this year. I loved him deeply and miss him a lot. In March, my cook Abdul Rahim, passed away. He was like family (he had been with us for twenty years.) These have been big setbacks for me. Yet, now, I can accept my Allah’s verdicts, and move on.

How to have that faith?

I don’t know about others, but I can tell you about mine. It doesn’t happen suddenly, it takes time, and effort. Here are the ways that helped me:

Ongoing relationship with God:

So, try to keep that hotline alive during good times. (How do you feel about a friend, who never bothers to call you, except when she/he is going through a bad time?) So, don’t be that one, with God.

Well, He is Allah. So, he gets you ready, anyways. He gives you trials and tribulations – which you think are the real trial. Till one fine day, the real one arrives, and you realize – previously you were going through ‘practice and exercise’ for this big one.

Yes, so I was already getting ‘in sync’ when the ‘big-bang’ of my life happened. (I learnt to be grateful for that.) So, I already had my ‘hot-line’ with my Almighty in full action. I had already met up with several spiritual mentors and guides here.

This is why He says in that last ayat of Surah Baqarah:

(He only gives you what you can take!) ‘He must have a high opinion of me.’ I thought, ‘I mean, how can I take all this? Oh well, if He thinks so, He must be right!’

Two habits kept me sane:

  1. Reading Holy Quran translations daily
  2. Praying five times a day at least.

1.      Reading Holy Quran:

The bigger my problems got, the more I read it. Mostly, the translations only. (You can’t benefit from something you don’t understand! Sometimes reading the Arabic isn’t possible.) You can easily listen to the Arabic section on YouTube or on audio. In fact you can listen to translations as well. Usually, during tough times, you give up prayer and Quranic studies as you are too ‘busy’ solving your problems.

Hey! Wait a minute; Who is going to bring you success? Keep Him and His council with you! You will need these, to make important decisions.

Translations I’ve read:

 You choose the translation of Quran which is in the language which you think in. Yes, I think in English.  I have this one by Farooq-e-Azam published in 1997, Houston. Also, I’ve loved reading Marmaduke Pickthall,  Abdullah Yousaf Ali, Ahmed Ali, and Zafar Ali Ishaq translations. In Urdu, I’ve found Maulana Modudi and Tahir-ul-Qadri very simple, and excellent. Sometimes, the Arabic scripts also sooth one a lot.

Every time, I read the Quran, I try a different author, then stick to that one, till I find one who I can connect to, better.

Why the whole Quran?

So, whenever you get the time, you read on from where you left off last time, like any other book you read. It is best to do it in same place and time, daily. Best is after Fajr prayers. Only with this one, when it finishes, you start all over again.

Here is why it helps:

  • I have these random prayers from Holy Quran here, which I’d read daily. But I realized that the real message is in the whole Quran, so we miss it when we constantly focus on random verses (ayats) or single surahs (parts).
  • During tough time, I needed to get a grip on the whole message and guidance from my Maker. In any case, I’ve read the Quran end-to-end throughout my life, but not at such a fast pace as I do now.
  • So, I left those random duas, and made time (in my chaotic life,) to read translation of one sipara (part) daily. (You can split it up into ten-minute sessions too.) This is 1/30 of the Quran a day. Preferably, first thing in the morning. So, in one month or so, you can complete it. Starting from one end, you read one sipara within 20 – 30 minutes.  I found out that:
    • In every sipara there are duas, which seem to be tailor-made for your situation.
    • Tears would well up and fall on the pages, as an ayat would touch me deeply.  I’d wipe my eyes, and read on.
    • Reading the horrific trials that prophets went through gives one the strength to go on. The travels and trials of Moses, the story of Hazrat Yousaf, the original story of Adam, and so many prayers cried out by the prophets. Somehow they fit in so well.

My Non-Muslim readers can read your own holy book:

To my non-Muslim readers I’d say, you read the Bible, (which is very much like the Quran with same stories of prophets which give one strength.) Those of other faiths can read whatever gives you that faith in the Being and Maker of our world, who is All Powerful and Merciful. Yes, you are most welcome to read the Quran whenever you feel like it.

2.      Praying:

Formal prayers:

You pray to Him. You talk to Him. In your heart, or formally, five times. You see, when you are in trouble you can’t sleep. Then why not say tahajjad prayers? Zabardast! If you are criticized for how you are praying. Never mind. You are not praying for your onlookers. You are praying to your own Allah, the Merciful.

Remove every thought or action which comes between you and your prayers. Just stick to it.

As you stand on that prayer mat,  you are standing in front of the Almighty; the One who made this sun, moon, and universe. Ask for His help.

In my prayer, I say to Him, ‘You know, I’ll never ask anyone else for anything. I’ll only come to You. So, I’m asking You now. Knowing you will be the best one to solve my problems. I’ll work as hard as I can, then leave the results with You. Patiently, I’ll be waiting for Your verdict and accept whatever it is.’

Very often, I see His answer happening, and I know its from Him.

Informal praying:

Yes, those times when you want that parking space close to the entrance of a building, ‘Please God make it happen!’

This one is that heart-to-Heart one.

While cooking: ‘Please let it be tasty for everyone.’

Trying to reach on time: ‘Let it be a miracle this time, please!’

While writing, I say the prayer of Moses to help me express better.

? You know what I mean!

Bliss after this:

Starting my day like this, (mostly in my garden,) I’d then dive into a day which was filled with bills, completing the finishing of our house without money, my MBA exams, court cases, my book’s publication in USA, etc.

One day I’d wake up to find no electricity. I already lived without gas in the house, so there was no hot water, or heating in freezing cold temperatures of February, in Islamabad. We took it all with laughter, determined to face it all – no matter what.

Today, I live in comfort, in a position to help others, (with your help of course!)  So, it was my faith which helped me through those dark days.

Strengthen your faith, it will help you too.

Stay blessed. ?

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  1. Faiqa Riaz says:

    Today your blog is amazing and the topic is very much important as well. As we go through different kinds of troubles and trials in our lives we want to get rid of them immediately and try different methods but unfortunately do not focus on our relationship with Allah.He is the only one who can remove all pains.
    You describe each and everything in a very beautiful manner. You address non muslims as well which I saw for the first time.
    Your writings are so precious
    Most of the people are going through this and they don’t get a proper guidance.
    Thank you for sharing your hard times and giving strength to those who are going through it
    A single word is enough to console a heart
    More power to you most amazing and brave lady ❤❤❤

    1. Shireen Gheba Najib says:

      My dear Faiqa,
      Writing this post wasn’t easy. Such writings are considered too cliques. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Now,I can feel that it was taken the way it was meant. My intent was exactly this; to help those who are in that dark ally alone. To let the person understand how Allah is with you, and no matter what, He will get you out of it.
      You need to talk to Him and keep with Him on a daily basis. When I was having my bad time, my lawyer would ‘guide’ me by saying ‘we have to say this lies and that lies, that’s how it is done in Pakistan!’ So, I had to find a lawyer who would listen to me, and put in truth. ‘You can’t win like that!’ I’d be told. (I’d think that my Allah only wants the truth from me!) So, reading Quran helped so much, knowing it was the same for the Prophets and other wise people of the world. There are truthful people in Pakistan too. (My parents definitely are!)
      You have made my day! Thank you so much.
      ‘A single word is enough to console a heart.’ Your beautiful words are the crux of the matter. More so, during hard times.
      Lots of love and hugs.
      Stay blessed. 🙂

  2. My dear shireen
    I know whom you wrote all this keeping in mind.
    Alhamdolilah my faith is not shaky at all.
    Although seeing your kids in agony and unbearable pain is very hard.
    But our faith tells us that Allah don’t burden a soul more than it endeavours
    I just came back home from CMH after having gallbladder stones removed.
    Alhamdolilah all went well.
    May Allah keep our tawakal more than any hardship in life.

    1. Shireen Gheba Najib says:

      My dearest Kiran,
      I’m so glad your operation went well. IA things will improve now. May Allah grant you complete recovery – health-wise and other-wise. You are a great human being with only good intents towards all others. So, Allah takes special care of such persons. Many times the things which we consider setbacks are actually just stepping stones to a better life.
      Looking forward to meeting you very soon.
      Shireen Gheba.

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