In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
Recently, I got an email from a friend who told me about an author who wrote that, for many Muslims, there is no more joy in Islam. I believe that is valid. For many people, there is no “sweetness” of faith, like the Prophet (pbuh) spoke about in a famous hadith. Many people will conclude that this is a fault of religion itself, most especially Islam. Yet that is a faulty conclusion.
Religion is supposed to serve the believer. It is supposed to support the believer on his or her journey on this earth back towards their Lord and Creator, where they truly belong. In fact, religion polishes the roughness out of the human heart so that the light of God both shines through and penetrates in. There should be so much joy in this process.
Yet, for many people, the reverse is true. The believer is supposed to serve religion. Religion is master, and the believer is servant. This is flawed, and the Qur’an tells me so:
“Today have I perfected your religious law for you, and have bestowed upon you the full measure of My blessings, and willed that self-surrender unto Me shall be your religion.” (5:3)
The fact that God gave us the perfect law is described as “the full measure of [God’s] blessings.” Yet, why? Why is religion an enormous blessing for us? Because it helps guide us back to our Lord. That is the ultimate service for us.
When our father Adam (pbuh) slipped in the Garden, he estranged himself from God. Thus, Adam (pbuh) was bidden to live on earth and journey back to Him. This is a tough journey, and God knows this. Yet, He did not leave Adam (pbuh) – and by analogy all of us – completely alone to fend for himself (and ourselves). He sent guidance:
“Yet if guidance does come to you from Me, then whoever follows My guidance will have nothing to fear and will not sorrow.” (2:38)
And when we follow this guidance we are comforted, and we find happiness and joy. In fact, God calls the believers to enter into peace, which is what we will find when we follow His way:
“O believers, enter wholly into peace, and do not follow the footsteps of Satan, for he is an open enemy to you.” (2:208)
Many translators have used the word “Islam” as the translation for the Arabic silm, which is the word used in the verse. But, silm means “peace,” and the use of the word seems to be much more broad and encompassing. This means to me that, if we follow God’s way, we will have total peace in our hearts, and we will experience joy.
This process, in fact, is one of love. Following God’s way is a process of falling in love with God. We get to know Him through knowing and experiencing His signs:
“We will show them Our signs throughout the regions of the earth and in themselves, until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. Is it not enough that your Lord is witness to all things?” (41:53)
And once we know Him, we cannot but love Him, most especially because we come to learn that He loved us first. And once we fall in love with the Precious, there is no turning back. We “enter into peace,” and we experience joy. That is the essence of religion: the process of falling in love with God and entering into peace by following His guidance.
And, yes, that does include performing the acts of ritual prayer and ablution; abstaining from that which God commands; giving out of our wealth; fasting when God commands us to fast; journeying on the earth back to the Lord Himself. All these things we do because we love Him (because He loved us first).
The fact that someone does not derive joy from these things is not the fault of the religion, it is the fault of the person himself.