Freedom in submission
Whatever is in the heavens and on earth, let it declare the Praises and Glory of Allah: for He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. (59:1)
Humans are given the freedom to choose what they accept or reject, and most of us do not glorify the Owner of the universe. The human tendency is to rebel. Some act more privileged than others and this has continuously put some of us in war, violence and desperation. While others have flourished with wealth, health, power and in good fortune. We may experience these in full, to some extent and in mixtures.
Every time ‘freedom’ is mentioned now I am forced to reflect and contemplate on it. Allah has given us freedom. To whom or to what we enslave to is our choice. How we embrace our life within the circumstances is the education we require to have freedom. ‘Freedom of expression’ and ‘Hope for freedom’ are two phrases that I hear.
In Maldives there is a kind of a ‘freedom of expression’. This freedom is for people who support the current ruling power and for people who creates no threat to them. The level of abuse towards fellow Muslims is extremely rampant and going against the teachings of Islam. Even a glance on the social media of Maldivians on Facebook alone shows that there is freedom of expression with no limits as long as it follows the conditions mentioned above. The moral levels of the expressions are not fitting for a Muslim. To be able to slander and be cruel toward others go against the innate human nature of caring. Is it freedom for leaders to be able to wage war, oppress the vulnerable, abuse humans for material gains and to divide and rule.
How do we obtain freedom? I share below my experience to obtain freedom. To gain freedom I must acknowledge my status on earth. Submission comes to play in acknowledging my role on earth as an equal to any other human. To be equal to another human, I have to cross many limiting belief and gain confidence in my faith and increase my trust in My Lord.
Say: He is Allah, The One and Only; Allah the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, Nor is He begotten; And there is non Like unto Him.
-Surah Al Ikhlas, 112. (The Sincerer)-
It took me many years to truly internalise the above Surah. Even though, I have recited this Surah since my childhood. My grandmother told me when I am fearful or sad recite Surah 112, 113 and 114. I recited these Surah in Arabic with the belief that it will protect me. Years later I learnt that in psychological terms, the repetition of words, phrases is a relaxation strategy, refocusing my mind and quieting it away from thoughts. In the last 5 years I have looked closely to understand these three Surah 112, 113, 114 and the Quran. Surah 112 gives a description of my Lord and last three ayat of Surah 59 gives more description of my Maker.
Allah is He, other than Whom there is no god;- Who knows (all things) both secret and open. And He is the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. (59:22)
Allah is He, other than Whom there is no god, the Sovereign, the Holy, Peace (and Perfection), the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver of Safety, the Exalted in Might, the Irresistible, the Supreme: Glory to Allah! (High is He) above the partners they attribute to Him. (59:23)
‘He is Allah, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner; unto Him belong the Most Beautiful Names. Whatever is in the heavens and the earth, praises and glorifies Him, and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.’ (59:24)
-Surah Al Hashr, 59. (The Exile)–
Not to submit to Allah with such glory would be foolish I suppose. I could not deny my empirical experiences. Yet, I wanted to be sure that I am on the right path. People often talks about being spiritual. They look for something beyond human power and a phrase commonly heard is that “the universe will answer”. Allah in the Quran clearly states that the universe is part of His creation and Islam is the way of life. If Islam is the way of life what stops me from submitting to Allah?
When I grew up I did not want to be second class Muslim. My grandmother said that all people are equal in the sight of Allah. Only our deeds will make us different so not to lie, cheat and talk bad of others. These teachings of Islam by my grandmother live with me, even if the reality I experience was and is different from what I was told and what I am reading in the Quran. She gave me hope in afterlife. Humans want immediate gratification and this was lacking in what was happening in my life until 2008.
In 2008, I got freedom. Freedom to choose. I did what I wanted. I was happy but cannot say I was fulfilled, satisfied or balanced. The freedom I had was wished and envied by many. However, I felt there was something missing. I had freedom without freedom. My prayers were answered but my life did not seems right with all the freedom I had. I sought for answers.
Even though, I did not present myself as a follower of Islam. I believed that Allah is all powerful. I did not faultier in belief in God as described in Surah 112 but I desperately failed in submission. My submission did not come like a flash of lighting. It was nurtured with conviction from the experiences through out my life. It was guidance from Allah.
My life was not easy yet I cannot state it was as challenging as some others. The move from Maldives to Australia was the beginning of my conscious submission to Allah. First three years was very challenging in Australia, yet I was ok. My prayer to keep me ok was always answered. I was ok. This was not sufficient. I was missing something and I started to look for answers.
I attending workshops that emotionally wrecked me and they were not what I expected or what I needed. Nevertheless, each workshop opened my eyes to aspects of my life that needed change. This lead to gradual healing of my body and mind. As a strong believer I kept praying not strictly as prescribed in Islam. I was influenced by the negative projection by the media and similar encounters with so called righteous Muslim leaders. I was hoping to find truth in other than in Islam. I participated in a dynamic and rebirth meditation, in 2012, which confirmed that Islam is the path. It was an astounding revelation to me. Even though I do not recommend it for and seekers of truth.
I also attended other meditation groups but the experience I had in 2012 was too powerful to ignore. I became more aware of the truth in Islam. Once I accepted this, I was pleasantly calm even though I was not in a good state of mind. With more insight I changed my prayer from ‘keep me ok’ to ‘make it easy for me’. I continued to recite surah 112, 113, 114 and also Ayatul Kurusi from surah 2 just as my grandma use to tell me. Things slowly started to change. I was scared and hopeful at the same time.
Sleeping peacefully was one of my biggest challenges. I avoided going to sleep because I was scared of the nightmares I use to have. I was suggested to listen to meditative music to help me fall asleep. This was not working. I lay awake agitated. I came across a lecture form Islamic scholar that mentioned listening to Quran will calm one down before sleep. I started to listen to a recording of Surah Yasin which is described as the heart of the Quran. I felt more serene while listening to this surah. I listen to the Surah 3 or times each night using a technique I learnt form one of the workshops I attended. It took me couple of months to fall a sleep before the recitation of the Surah finished. Now I fall a sleep in less that 15 minutes. No more sleeping issues, all thanks to Allah.
Once, my sleep was under control I decided to peruse further education and to complete a doctorate program. My proposal was not within one discipline and could not find a supervisor who was willing to assist me for what I proposed. I got feedback that it was good, hence I need to find a University that will support my learning. My prayer was answered when I came across International Atlantic University, that offered what I wanted. My thesis was around the concepts of power, change and happiness. Through my study I came to understand much about Islam and I had to change the research in line with Islamic teachings. In the process of completing my study, the empirical evidence confirmed that I must live in submission to Allah. This is the only way to obtain freedom, power to be happy at the same time. Islam offers freedom and hope in submission to all individuals.
Submission in Islam is to submit to the will of Allah. This is not the same as taking the oath of Islam. Submission has to come from the heart and self-monitoring is required. Submission to Allah freed me from negative attachments that impacted my happiness. I take action on things within my power and leave the rest in the hands of the All Knowing and All Powerful. Consciously reminding myself that my trust is in Allah and acting upon His will is what I call submission. It does require excellence in discipline. All I am asked is to do my best and when I falter acknowledge it, seek forgiveness from Allah and work towards improvement and progress.
I accept that I am a mere slave of Allah and Allah is the Lord of the Worlds. I am accountable for all my actions in front of Allah. Hence, with the knowledge I have now I strive to implement Islam to bring its full glory to my presence. I realised that when following the path of Islam, I cannot harm myself or any other creations. I must refrain from harming others through thoughts, words and actions. The standards of Islam are extremely high. Mercy of Allah is greater and there is always hope for success. The mercy of Allah is beyond my comprehension. Hence, I feel safe with Allah.
Submitting to Allah has given me full freedom to express. My expression must align with high morals expected in Islam. Freedom I achieved through submission to Allah keeps me balanced and grounded. Freedom in submission to Allah removed my slavery to a job, a boss, to another human, to a national identity and to other materialistic obsessions. These types of slavery take away our power to change within and be happy.
Choosing freely to submit to Allah has motivated me to strive to live thoughtfully, open minded and non-judgementally. Allah is All Wise, All Knowing and Most Just. This is an attempt to express my journey to know Allah. I hope that this person reflection may benefit others and this has given me an opportunity to acknowledge many of the blessing Allah bestowed upon us regardless of our actions. Allah is Most Merciful.
I conclude with this prayer ‘My Lord, increase me in knowledge‘ (20:114) and protect me from the useless information, amen. Allah knows best.