Returning to Allah: Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch (Part Two)

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Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch returns to speak to Mspiration about strengthening our attachment to Allah.

In part two of our thought provoking exchange, the Berkley based lecturer and teacher says true spiritual insights comes from asking ourselves hard questions. You can read part one here.

You mentioned before that we are all constantly returning to Allah SWT. In one way that realisation is very sobering and actually quite chilling because physically speaking, every day is one less day on this earth. But if we look at that idea spiritually, does it become comforting instead because we realise we are all part of a bigger picture.

There is another way of looking at that too. When you love and cherish something, every moment of your life that you are not present with that thing is heartache for you.  Let’s say you are married to a beautiful person, someone that lives 3,000 miles away from you. Not only are they beautiful but they make your heart smile and you miss them. But you live in a nice house, drive a nice car, have great furniture and you eat great food. Even if your life is fine and living in total excess, the truth is you feel heartache and your heart is broken because none of it really matters to you. You would live in a tent if you have that person’s company again. This is just an analogy to explain that there are some people in this world where every day and moment that they are in it reminds them of the one thing they really want, which is Allah SWT.

Suddenly getting old doesn’t feel scary anymore.

For them getting older and experiencing the advancement of age just means one less day until they meet Him. So the truth is we have to consider what we really love and consider its worth. If the reality is I am more valuable than the thing that I love then what kind of disgrace am I to myself? If we do this, the result is we naturally forget Allah because isn’t this that what Allah says: “They forgot Allah so Allah caused them to forget themselves.” So the onus is upon us to be more Quranic people.

Hence the importance of the Quran, I suppose. If we don’t ponder it regularly it is a slippery slope to heedlessness.

That is the reason why we feel like we are stuck between two worlds. We compete with living a kind of lifestyle with individuals who left their religious traditions a long time ago. At the same time we also put the Quran on the shelf. We turn our backs to the Quran and go full force into modernity without having the Quran as a recourse. The truth is modernity is not really a problem. We can embrace modernity because the Quran is a book for ever. What The Quran does is it allows us to ask the question (about our existence) and the anxiety and reality that this question brings is a mercy. It means we still have imaan (faith) and that we still care. There are many individuals who don’t ask that question because they don’t have imaan and they just don’t care.  But at the same-time let us not exaggerate the problem more than it really is. The problem is not the world, it is not our attitude or shrill fear of death. The problem is that we let go of Allah’s rope and that is the Quran. If you grab hold of that rope then watch how Allah grants you certitude and takes you by the hand and guides you.

As well as reacquainting ourselves with the Quran, what are other practical tips that will help focus our minds on the reality of our existence?

One of them is simple and that is take sometime each day and remember the fact that you actually exist. Sit down, listen to yourself breath and listen to your own heart beat and realise that you are actually here in this world. Then take the time and realise how awesome it is that you don’t even remember that you exist. Once you realise that you exist and that you are here, then ask yourself the question why am I here and why do I exist? Once you asked those questions then ask yourself the question why does God matter in any of that. Once you understood why God matters in all those things then be thankful and show appreciation because as Allah says “if you show appreciation We will increase you.” A practical tip is to be thankful, say Alhamdulilah. If you remove the Basmallah as some of the scholars do, then we realise that Alhamdulilah is the first thing that Allah says. If that is the first thing that Allah says then why is that the last thing that we say?

What happens if one doesn’t find the answers to those questions?

Then you need to stop again and keep asking those questions until those answers come to you. One of the early thinkers said “a life unexamined is not worth living.” We have to ask ourselves what does it mean? Why am I living a meaningless life? Why don’t I even ask the question why am I living a meaningless life?

I am realising that we are also, in a way, facing these questions at least five times a day with our prayers.

Yes and this especially relates to people who speak the Arabic language. To be honest, I am more baffled by that because you are hearing the Quran being recited and hearing Allah asking you those questions. But the reason you don’t hear those questions is because you don’t even remember you exist. So we need to slow down, hear ourselves and really just exist for a minute.

What’s the result of beginning such a process?

What happens is that you start to have The Conversation with yourself and I say that with a capital T and C. When that conversation begins you will have The Questions to ask Allah, the questions to ask the people of Allah and then the answers starts to come. Human beings are people of meaning. We look for meaning in all things because we care and it matters to us. But if you realise the thing that you care about doesn’t really matter then you will turn your care towards something that does. So yes we have the five prayers, the eids and all those rituals but they are absolutely meaningless to the vast majority of people because they never sat down and asked themselves the questions of why am I even here.

People are sometimes too scared to asked those questions.

But a Muslim should never have (such fears) in mind because Allah has made it very clear but we are disconnected. Allah has said “I didn’t create man and the Jinn except to worship me.” Okay fine, so what does that even mean to worship Allah? It has become very clear to us to know what the purpose of life is for us but you ask a lot of people about that ayah (verse) and they wont know the meaning  of it. Now is that because the meaning is not explained? Well, no because if you look at books by Mujahed and Ibn Abbas they explain the meaning which is to know. If that is the case, which is to know Allah, then that must be a valuable thing because Allah has made Adam the best of creation because of that attribute of having the capacity to know Him. So if I spend my life on any other pursuit then I am wasting my existence, isn’t it?

The ultimate waste.

The funny thing is, those who are practicing the deen have all the practical facilitation to be able to do these things. But the thing is that we have form without meaning. We don’t need to do more than what we are actually doing but we are doing it with no ruuh (spirit). There is no meaning it.

In a way, what you are suggesting then is not really a big leap. The path back to Allah really begins by just being more aware.

Yes. It is the difference between waking up and going back to sleep.

For more information on Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch go to http://www.imamabdullatif.com

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