Start With What Allah Started With
We may become a little lost during our lives. Our sins accumulate into mountains, and our hearts become filled with impurities. We begin to stroll on the path. We stumble, get distracted, and sometimes peek our heads over the limits of the course of Allah. We first venture into the grey areas and then into clearly forbidden territories.
The Prophet ﷺ warned us of this in a compelling narration collected by Imam An’Nasaa’i in which he mentions that Islam is like a long path to Allah with walls lining both sides. In these walls, there are open doors draped with curtains. These walls represent the boundaries of Allah, and the doors are the prohibitions of Allah through which a person transgresses these boundaries. At the entrance of this path is the Quran.
Along the path, there is a warner that reminds us all to stay steady upon this path. Each time a person stops and is distracted by one of these draped doors, the warner calls out: “Do not peek through that curtain, for if you do, you will end up walking through the door!” He mentions that this warner is the conscience in the heart of every believer. Satan seeks to silence and mute that warner. He tries to train us to ignore just this once, just for today, just for this one thing or this one time. We continue to ignore our conscience day in and day out, a little here and a little there, and before we know it, we have accumulated mountains of confusion and sin.
When we catch ourselves and wake from our slumber, we realize that we have strayed from the path. We’ve lost our way and are in a panic to find our way back. With what should we start? How do we find our way back? How do we prioritize getting our feet on the path of Allah? These questions bring to mind a narration of the Prophet ﷺ collected by Imam Muslim in which he announced to the people with him in hajj: “Start with what Allah started with!” This is the key, to find your way back and begin the healing and cleansing process. We must start with what Allah started within the Quran. When we open the first page, we find a chapter worded as a prayer: “Guide us to the straight path, the path of those whom your grace is upon and not the path of those who have incurred your anger nor the path of those who have gone astray.” So the first thing is to have an honest, open heart and pray for guidance with conviction and sincerity.
Then we move on to the beginning verses of the very next chapter in which Allah says: “This is the Book and revelation from Allah which contains no doubt; it is guidance for the God-fearing.” We understand that the first step which takes you on to the path of Allah and is the direction of Allah is the Quran as understood by the Prophet ﷺ and his companions. We hold to it and hang onto every word and letter, allowing its light to penetrate to the core of our hearts. As the Prophet ﷺ says: “The book of Allah is the rope of Allah which extends from heaven to earth.” But the Quran and Sunnah cannot be approached in just any way; one must come to the Quran and Sunnah with an open and accepting heart. Allah says in the following verse, “Those who believe in the unseen and establish prayer and from what we have given them they, in turn, give to others.” One’s faith must be built upon absolute trust in the Quran.
We must let ourselves go between the verses and let the verses guide us. We must approach the Quran with the conviction that our mind has limitations, and we must trust Allah and His messenger ﷺ more than our own eyes and ears. We begin our worship and relationship with Allah based and built on prayer and the relationship with others based on generosity and fairness. These are the pillars of returning to Allah.
By Sh. Ali Mashhour