By Umarrah Javed Al Hadi
Mindfulness: A word that defines the human ability to be entirely present. To become conscious or aware of something and to truly notice what you are doing.
The Qurān repeatedly implores us to be mindful: in our day-to-day life and in our wider human journey. The concepts of elevated thinking, rising in consciousness and consistent expansion of perspectives are all rooted in Islam. We are reminded through the Qurān that Allāh is All-Seeing and All-Knowing:
Indeed, Allah knows the unseen [aspects] of the heavens and the earth. And Allah is Seeing of what you do (Surah Al-Hujurat, Verse 18)
Through the Qurān, we are given signs to expand our minds and become more conscious of the Majesty of our Creator as well as His complete competence over all matters of reality. The word ‘Ayah’ means ‘verse’ in the Qurān and in Qurānic context it means ‘sign’ or ‘evidence’ — when reading The Book, we are given 6,236 ayahs (verses) excluding Bismillah and 6,348 including Bismillah. Allāh chose incredibly specific concepts and words to send to us through our Beloved Prophet ﷺ in order to direct our attention to certain elements of reality, certain stories of the past and present as well as events that will take place in the future.
Coincidences are a product of an unintentional action from a human being. When referring to the Qurān, we know that Allāh is the Most Intentional and a notion of coincidence is not befitting of His Infinite Wisdom and Power.
This affirms the belief that every sign we are pointed towards and every instant that we are told to apply thought, believe in greater than what is the obvious or what is in plain sight, all such instances are of significant importance as Allāh has chosen these particularities to confirm our belief and increase our imaan.
The meaning of murāqabah
Another exquisite concept relating to becoming higher in consciousness, awareness and mindfulness is murāqabah.
Ibn al-Qayyim defined murāqabah as follows:
“Continuous knowledge and conviction of the servant in the awareness of the Truth, glory be to Him, over his outward and inward states.”
In a secondary definition, the Islamic theologian gave the below definition:
“Mindfulness is to observe the heart, in awareness of the Truth, with every thought and step.”
In addition to these, he also stated that murāqabah is:
“Continuous awareness of the objective, meaning, continuous presence of heart with Him.”
Murāqabah is to strive for and gain heightened awareness for each action, thought and utterance that comes from us. It is to recognise our thought patterns, how we are being influenced, our authenticity and emotional states and to measure the excellence of each of these. It is to sit at the door of our minds and guard it against harm that makes us forgetful of Allāh while ushering in the waves that take us closer to our Creator.
In his work, Sufficient Provision for Seekers of the Path of Truth, Sheikh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, muraqabah is realised in four aspects:
- Knowledge of Allah Almighty.
- Knowledge of the enemy of Allah, Iblis (Satan).
- Knowledge of your soul’s capacity to suggest evil.
- Knowledge of deeds to be done for the sake of Allah
We learn from Surah Ash-Shura, Verse 51:
And it is not for any human being that Allah should speak to him except by revelation or from behind a partition or that He sends a messenger to reveal, by His permission, what He wills. Indeed, He is Most High and Wise.
From this, we gain the understanding that we cannot experience Allāh in the same conventional ways that we experience the reality He has placed us in. However, Allāh sees everything and is closer to us than our jugular vein [50:16]. As we are the imperfect creation of The Perfect Creator, the more we apply mindfulness, the more we look inwards and increase the capacity of our hearts as well as the depth of our thinking, we are able to gain greater degrees of what our Creator wants from us. These actions within themselves allow us to attain closeness to Allāh, as does standing before Him in salah and studying His Book with alertness that these are the very words that Allāh selected to guide us to the path that leads to Him.
Mindfulness and the Qur’ān
When we apply mindfulness while studying the Qurān we are able to understand the human experience i.e. where we have come from and where we are headed – this perspective is incredibly powerful in expanding our mindset from living just for the here and now to building our hereafter. In addition to this, for our present lives, The Qurān gives us the means to be more mindful – not just within ourselves but also mindful of relationships, the disadvantaged portion of society and of our community. Further to this, Allāh encourages us to turn our attention to the unexplainable splendor of His creation when commanding us to apply thought and use intellect in observing animals, planets, time, oceans, gardens and when gaining knowledge. [Learn to reflect on the Quran with Quranic courses.]
As humans, we are made by Allāh on the primordial essence of goodness i.e. the fitrah. However, we can incline towards goodness or our human-ego throughout our lives. With that in mind, where there is mindfulness there is the potentiality for mindlessness.
In Surah An-Nahl, Verse 108, Allāh informs us:
Those are the ones over whose hearts and hearing and vision Allah has sealed, and it is those who are the heedless
We learn from this verse that while Allāh invites to observe, apply thought and broaden perspective, among His creation will be people that instead of observing the signs of Allāh, they will develop the tendency of observing the desire of their nafs (human ego). If such a practice is not halted, then one becomes entirely absorbed in fulfilling one’s own desires i.e. absorbed in self. With this, one strays further away from submitting the self to the Will of Allāh. The time, effort and energy that should be dedicated to connecting with The Divine is instead used for instant gratification rather than those that are mindfulness and apply the same resources to stay in a state of God consciousness to attain bliss in this life but most importantly, bliss in the hereafter.
Attaining internal balance
Al-Ghazali believed that the balanced nourishment we need for our hearts to become mindful would come from adopting four daily spiritual practices:
- supplication (du’ā) [Learn Quranic supplications]
- remembrance (dhikr)
- recitation of the Qurān (qira’at) [Learn to read the Quran]
- contemplation (fikr)
Not all thoughts or feelings that we have come from a good place or require action. As humans, we are receptive to whispers from Satan and his army as well as Angels that wish well for us, inspiring us. With that in mind, our awareness of our own feelings and thoughts must be sharp. We must notice what is coming into our psyche and we must choose to actively shun the negative thoughts that will cause us to stray from the straight path.
The idea of mindfulness is not just theoretical but requires strong action to be taken, mostly on an internal level but also externally. There are vast contrasts between modern-day mindfulness and Islamic mindfulness, while the former invites validation of self for the reason of self, the latter encourages an increase in consciousness of Allāh for the sake of Allāh. The former will benefit the human in worldly life while the latter will provide benefit in this world and the next.
The best example
The most excellent example of mindfulness in all aspects of life (worship and daily activities) is the example of the Prophet ﷺ. Al-Ghazali wrote:
“Do not think the actions of the Prophet ﷺ in all of his movements were without significance, rules, or procedures. Rather, all the preferred matters we have mentioned are habitually done in two or more ways, not because of one specific consensus, but rather a reason necessitating such procedure and giving it precedence. To proceed neglectfully is like the disposition of animals, but the governance of movements by significant meaning is the disposition of the allies of Allah Almighty… We seek refuge in Allah that control of our movement and stillness be in the hands of devils by means of our whims.”
The Prophet ﷺ was deliberate with his movements, actions and words. His gestures and tasks were carried out with utmost mindfulness of what is the most pleasing to Allāh.
10 ways to practice mindfulness today
Below are a few things that we can include in our daily lives to become more mindful with in our connection to Allāh:
- When reading the Qurān, remember that these are words of the Creator of the Universe — now read. [Learn to read the Quran in 20 days]
- When doing ablution, be mindful of each part that you wash and take time to reflect on the blessing of each limb and feature that Allāh has fashioned.
- When performing salah, empty your mind of all other distractions and pray with awareness that you are standing before Allāh. [Learn the meaning of what you are reciting]
- Study the beauty with which Our Beloved Prophet ﷺ carried out each motion and notice the subtleties of his mindfulness.
- Write down three things every day that you are grateful for – think about it deeply and really assess your day in a positive light. Each day may not be good but there is good in each day.
- While eating, focus on the food and eat slowly. Really look at the food that is on your plate and imagine its journey getting there — thank Allāh for such a blessing.
- If feeling like you are becoming less grounded, take deep breaths and regain your centre — feel the mercy of Allāh with each breath.
- Listen more to what people say, listen with attention and while being present. Provide them with words of benefit and good advice.
- Smile. It’s a sunnah and shows that you are mindful of the way you are making people feel with your expressions.
- When making du’ā, make du’ā with faith and expand your du’ās to encompass well wishing for the whole ummah. [Learn Quranic supplications]
May Allāh increase us in mindfulness and allow us to be aware of where we have come from and where we are going. May Allāh accept our sincere du’ās and increase us in closeness to Him.
What do you think? Share your reflections below!
- The Holy Qurān
- Ibn Qayyim, Madārij al-Sālikīn (Ranks of the Divine Seekers)
- Al-Ghazali, Iḥyā’ ’Ulūm Al-Dīn (Revival of the Religious Sciences)
- Al-Ghanīyah Li-Ṭālibī Ṭarīq Al-Ḥaqq (Sufficient provision for seekers of the path of truth