When The Imam Said What I Didn’t Expect

Recently, things have been feeling overwhelming.

I am starting my second exam period at work, (if you are curious, my job requires me to pass x amount of exams to qualify as a Chartered Accountant), and I am currently studying for 3 papers in September. Work is getting hectic requiring me to travel around a lot more. My sister is pregnant and close to her delivery date and at the same time, I feel like I’m juggling way too many side projects all together.

Yep, things have been feeling a bit much. And a result, I felt like my adhkar (remembrance of Allah/ supplications) have been taking a backseat.

A Habit I Decided On

A few Ramadans ago I made the intention to incorporate the habit of Istigfar (repentance) into my life. I really wanted to recite at least 70 a day.

And so I decided to break it down so that I recite 30 with my morning and evening adkhar and then around 10 throughout the day. But as my days have been getting long and busy, my time with my adkhar started to shorten. I would finish my morning adhkar and get to the istighfar section. But then I’d tell myself ‘I’ll walk to the bus stop and do it there’.

And we know how that turned out. One day became two and I could tell I was slowly slipping.

Then Friday arrived. The day was warm and sunny. I was on study leave for the day which meant I was able to arrive for Jumu’ah nice and early.

The Friday khutbah

The Imam began his khutbah as a general conversation. He was like everyone around you here is going through some form of stress. I remember nodding and thinking how true is that.

He goes on to give examples — it could be exam stress. It could be difficulty in your job, not having enough income or just not enjoying it. It could be that you’re looking to get married. It could be that you’re married and trying to have kids.

He goes on to emphasise that yes we all have problems but don’t forgot, Allah hasn’t left us alone. He has given us the solution to these problem. He has given us a dua.

At this point I am already expecting the Imam to recite the following dua:

اَللّٰهُمَّ إِنِّيْ أَعُوْذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْهَمِّ وَالْحَزَنِ ، وَأَعُوْذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْعَجْزِ وَالْكَسَلِ، وَأَعُوْذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْجُبْنِ وَالْبُخْلِ ، وَأَعُوْذُ بِكَ مِنْ غَلَبَةِ الدَّيْنِ وَقَهْرِ الرِّجَالِ.

O Allah, I seek Your protection from anxiety and grief. I seek Your protection from inability and laziness. I seek Your protection from cowardice and miserliness and I seek Your protection from being overcome by debt and being overpowered by men.

This is definitely one of my favorite duas and one that I constantly keep coming back to.

But instead the Imam says one word — Istigfar (repentance) and then recites the following verses:

فَقُلْتُ ٱسْتَغْفِرُوا۟ رَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُۥ كَانَ غَفَّارًا

saying, ‘Seek your Lord’s forgiveness, ˹for˺ He is truly Most Forgiving.

يُرْسِلِ ٱلسَّمَآءَ عَلَيْكُم مِّدْرَارًا

He will shower you with abundant rain,

وَيُمْدِدْكُم بِأَمْوَٰلٍ وَبَنِينَ وَيَجْعَل لَّكُمْ جَنَّـٰتٍ وَيَجْعَل لَّكُمْ أَنْهَـٰرًا

supply you with wealth and children, and give you gardens as well as rivers.

(Surah Nuh: 10–12)

These verses are of Nuh (as) talking to his people. He tells them to ask for forgiveness from Allah and Allah would bless them with family, livelihood, money.

Ask for forgiveness from your Lord and He will sort out your problems.

Repentance and Rizq

The correlation between seeking repentance and rizq (provision) is an interesting one.

I remember coming across a tweet before that said — sin is a form of spiritual self-harm. And I can’t think of anything more true.

Every time we sin, we are blocking the goodness and blessings making their way to us. Every time we sin, we are furthering ourselves from the remembrance of Allah, and as a result making our own lives harder for ourselves.

…وَمَنْ أَعْرَضَ عَن ذِكْرِى فَإِنَّ لَهُۥ مَعِيشَةً ضَنكًا

But whoever turns away from My Reminder will certainly have a miserable life…

(Surah Taha: 124)

The thing is, a lot of the times we don’t even know we’ve sinned. And so the answer to that is to be constantly in a state of repentance.

The Imam carries on to tell us about this beautiful hadith:

Whoever increases his prayers for forgiveness, Allah will grant him relief from every worry, a way out from every hardship, and provide for him in ways he does not expect.

Source: Musnad Aḥmad 2234

Two learning points

1. Make istighfar part of your daily routine.

If you’re not someone who actively does it, start with a small realistic goal. Maybe start by reciting 5 after every prayer.

Trust me, you’ll feel the difference in your days. All the problems you were stressing about might still exist, but there will be this ease and peacefulness in your soul. Suddenly, no problem feels too big.

2. Attend your Friday jumu’ahs

This is more a point for the ladies. For men, the Friday jumu’ah prayer is obligatory and so its not uncommon to see guys make this a priority in their week. But for the women, we tend to hold a very casual relationship with our jumu’ahs. If we happen to have some free time on a Friday afternoon or happen to have a longer lunch break, then we decide to go for jumu’ah. But otherwise we are very content to hold up the ‘its not obligatory’ card up.

Yes, Allah has given us the concession and made life easy for us. But I think its still important for us to strive to attend the jumu’ah. To make it a priority in our week. There is wisdom behind why this weekly congregational prayer is made compulsory for the men.

One of the wisdoms is the khutbah. It is easy to get wrapped up in the responsibilities of life, week after week. And as life gets busier, its so easy to slip and grow further and further from the religion. But with jumu’ah, every Friday we are brought back to reality and reminded about what our true priorities on this earth should be. For myself, at the end of a khutbah I always think — why did Allah want me to hear this? And what can I do to implement this in my next week?

(Note: I am aware that there are mosques that don’t have the khutbah in the local language or don’t allow women to attend. That’s not in your hands, so don’t beat yourself for not being able to attend or benefit as much!)

If you reached till the end of this ramble, thank you my friend. I appreciate it!

I hope we get to meet each other in my next post too. Until then, if you have any thoughts about what you’ve just read let me know (in the comments or any other way). I’d love to start a conversation!

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I write to make sense of the world, to make sense of myself. Instagram: @neemu.reads

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I write to make sense of the world, to make sense of myself. Instagram: @neemu.reads