Rotten Oranges

Pfffft! My eighteen-month-old son, Ibrahim, spit an orange slice out of his mouth. A few seconds later, my husband, brother in law, and I spit ours out too, realizing that the orange tasted rotten. “How did Ibrahim realize that the orange was bad before us?” I wondered out loud. “I guess babies can sense when something isn’t right,” my husband answered.

This incident stuck with me all evening. It reminded me that we are born with a natural instinct, or fitrah, to do right. Our fitrah innately predisposes us to incline towards what is good and beautiful—to love and submit to our Lord. In fact in the Quran, Allah says, “So direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth; the nature of Allah upon which He has created the people” [Quran 30:30].

However, over the years, that nature often gets weaker and weaker. Our upbringing and environments take us away from our instinct to do right. We begin to do things that we know are wrong, but we tell ourselves that there is no black and white, only grey. Over time, our vision becomes murky and we can no longer even see the black or white.

What I find scarier is that I could be so used to committing some sins that I may no longer see that they are wrong; on the contrary, I might even think I am doing good. Allah (swt) refers to this condition in Surat Al-Naml when he describes the people of the Queen of Sheba, Balqees. Allah (swt) says, “Satan has adorned their deeds, averting them from His way.” Allah didn’t say that they were evil people. Instead, He said that they thought they were doing something beautiful or good, but in fact they were astray.

Could there be actions in my daily life that I think are good but are actually displeasing to Allah? What if my moral compass has become so dull that I can no longer see the sins I am committing? As I re-evaluate various aspects of my life, the way I dress comes to mind. I generally think I dress in a way that would please Allah: I wear hijab; I try to wear long, loose-fitting clothes. But what if Satan has made me believe that that I dress appropriately when in fact my style doesn’t always fit into the guidelines of hijab? As I think harder, I feel a sense of panic and wonder why I feel like I can’t see clearly.

The Muslim scholar Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyya says that like a metal, the heart can tarnish. When the heart tarnishes, it can no longer see things as they are. It then becomes hard for us to distinguish between true and false—our moral compass weakens. He says that as the tarnish grows thicker, the heart grows dimmer, until it no longer reflects reality at all.

But what causes it to tarnish? Following our unbridled passions and sin tarnishes the heart like oxygen tarnishes metals. When we heedlessly follow our desires and disregard Allah’s commandments, our hearts grow immune to the warning signals that our moral compasses send us—until the warning signals stop ringing altogether.

But also like metals, we can polish our hearts and get rid of the tarnish. How can we do this? Through the remembrance of Allah and asking forgiveness. If we keep our tongues moist with His remembrance and continually make istighfar (seek forgiveness), our lackluster hearts will shine bright. Our Prophet (pbuh) says, “Everything has its polish and the polish of the hearts is the remembrance of Almighty God”. If we persevere on the path of constant remembrance then, God willing, our hearts will shine with clarity and our moral compass will be restored. Then, just like a child spitting out a rotten orange slice, we will be able to recognize what is pure and distinguish it from what is rotten.

Bushra Tobah

Bushra is from Toronto, Canada. She has a Master’s degree in business and has now put her Phd in Organizational Behaviour on hold to stay at home with her toddler, Ibrahim. She loves to write because, unlike toddlers, writing makes sense.

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