There is a saying that the longest journey is from the head to the heart. We know, of course, that physically only a few inches separate the head from the heart, but emotionally and psychologically, it could be many miles; or if measured in time, trying to connect the head and the heart could take months, years, or even an eternity.
The journey from the head to the heart is a long and difficult journey. Itâ€™s a journey from what we think and say to what we really believe and do; from the world of thought and speech, to the world of action and commitment. We must shorten that journey if we want to develop the healthy, well-rounded personality of the ideal Muslim. There is a clear and unmistakable link between our inner world and the world outside. Look at any family or community, and you can read the contents of the head, heart, and soul of its members.
Muslim unity is not some miracle that will suddenly fall one day from the sky. Muslim unity, the unity of the whole Ummah, will be the reward for much effort and the culmination of a long process that begins with individual Muslimâ€”and I mean you and me. We must start that process. We must seek to unite our own mind, body, and spirit. We must not say one thing and do the opposite. Our goal must be a unity of thought and feeling, word and action.
Allah Most Gracious reminds us that
[Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves.] (Ar-Ra`d 103:11)
In other words, the condition that is within their hearts and souls. Our illustrious Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was the most perfect of all examples. Even his enemies acknowledged that he was always honest, truthful, and sincere. There was no contradiction between his head and his heart. His thoughts, feelings, words, and actions were of the same substance. There was never even the slightest trace of arrogance, hypocrisy, vanity, or conceit in his personality. He was the role model for personal character, upon which the unity of the first Muslim Ummah was based. We still need his example today.
The brotherhood, sisterhood, and unity of Muslims will only be as strong as the strength of individual Muslims. We are taught that the best jihad is the jihad against oneâ€™s ego. We need to tame this beast within our breastâ€”our pride. We must learn to submit our will, our ego, and our vanity to the will of our Creator, just as the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us. When, and only when, we have made a start on this greatest of journeys, we will earn the pleasure of Allah. And when we earn Allahâ€™s pleasure, we will find that we can easily tolerate differences of opinion without becoming angry or abusive.
We will then begin to see the unity of purpose that underpins the wide diversity of Allahâ€™s creation. We will see the good things that bind us together, without being distracted by the petty things that divide us. By keeping our ego under control and by cleansing our hearts of all vanity and false pride, we actually make room for Allahâ€™s divine wisdom; which must follow if we are sincere in our quest for knowledge and understanding.
In a hadith qudsi, Allah tells us
â€œI am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly even better than that one. And if he takes one step towards me, I take ten steps towards him. And if he comes walking to Me, I go running towards him.â€œ
What a beautiful and graphic description of Allahâ€™s love and affection towards us! All He wants is for us to take that crucial first step! I am sure that each and every one of us here would like to be among those towards whom Allah comes running at a great speed!
My dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to Allah to help us along this most difficult of all journeysâ€”our quest for self-discovery and self-renewal. O Allah, help us to acknowledge our own shortcomings with honesty and humility. O Allah, please plant within our hearts the desire to improve ourselves. Let this desire for self-improvement grow and give it expression, so that we can constantly refine our own character. O Allah, help us to strengthen our families, to uplift our communities, and to unite the Ummah. O Allah, please strengthen our resolve and our faith; give us courage and patience to endure hardship and overcome evil. O Allah, help us to build a strong foundation for Islam . And may we, as Your ambassadors of Islam, become excellent role models for our children and for those who have not yet received your message.
Based on a Friday sermon delivered at the Royal Holloway University of London
By Arshad Gamiet