The first step in the sequence of seeking the knowledge of Allah is to appreciate the value of the knowledge that we are seeking. This hinges on the value we give the underlying issue. In today's age of mobile phones and social media, our attention span has decreased tremendously, and we are unable to focus for more than a few seconds on any topic before our minds wander off.
Consider the concentration of a martial artist. It takes years of intensive mental and physical preparation to develop the state of zen, or pure concentration. Once mastered, he is able to block everything else out of his mind apart from the posture that he is concentrating on. His mind, body and energy are in complete sync, enabling him to strike with split second precision. His focus empowers him to converge a force powerful enough to shatter concrete. In fact, he is so alert to his surroundings that he can sense if someone is approaching him from behind, just by sensing the imperceptible shift in the air. Training to achieve such focus can take years.
Imagine how much spiritual power we can harness if we focus on something.
None of the Messengers and Prophets received revelation without first focusing his thinking on the Creator. None of them received the revelations before spending a period of seclusion during which they purged their hearts and minds of the material world and replaced it with contemplation of their Creator.
Today, the flavours of dunia and its intense demands distract us, and occupy us with too many things. Our lives are crammed with chores, jobs, phone calls, the internet and the social media. We neither have the clarity of direction nor inclination to focus on Allah. Our minds and bodies are constantly multitasking the on-going harassment of our daily tasks, problems and dramas.
With all the competing distractions, our time and thoughts are invaded by Shaitan and our own desires. Days, weeks and even years will drift by without us getting closer to Allah.
The rules and regulations of Islam exist to lead us towards living a pure life for Allah. If our thoughts and hearts are diverted from our purpose in life, and are instead cluttered with worries, anxiety and inconsequential issues, where is the slot for our focus for Allah?
Think of a crystal prism which can focus light into pure energy. What use is there if the crystal is shattered into a hundred pieces? It is the same with our thoughts.
When Ibrahim AS was undergoing his spiritual discovery, he discovered that the sun, moon and stars were creations just like him, belonging to and controlled by the Creator, and therefore not worthy of worship. When he realized that he was under the control of Allah, he pledged his whole life to the devotion and will of Allah, and he honoured that pledge until his last breath.
Muhammad SAW received the first revelation after he had cultivated the habit of secluding himself for prolonged periods in the Cave of Hira’. During this time he was in meditation and deep contemplation about his Creator, isolated and purified from the pagan influences of the Quraysh.
We can never obtain full information on Allah, but we can try to get on the right track. It depends on what we focus on and how much space we allocate in our hearts for Allah.
Lack of concentration makes us distracted and spiritually exhausted. Meanwhile Shaitan constantly preys on our spiritual gullibility, persuading us that our lives are empty. He busies us with chasing our ambitions and desires, for example, amplifying our belief that a spouse or a job is the way to a happy life, and all the other things that we wrongly think we need to accumulate for our success. This drains our time, energy and concentration to do anything else.
If we focus on getting to know Allah and His message, Allah will give us light, power and comprehension. Allah says:
"… There has come to you from Allah a light and a clear Book. By which Allah guides those who pursue His pleasure to the ways of peace and brings them out from darknesses into the light, by His permission, and guides them to a straight path." (Al Ma'edah, verses 15-16)
If we are distracted and preoccupied, our hearts and minds will have no space to accommodate Allah, and we will be spiritually lost. When you are at the crossroads in pitch black, how would you know which path leads you to safety and which lead you to danger? In life, this is why we need Allah's guidance. If we are in spiritual darkness, right and wrong become confusing.
To read, you have to open your eyes. To see, you need light. To travel in any journey, land or sea, or even internally within yourself, you need to focus.
Focus comes from value, belief, desire, eagerness and love. When we are distracted between our nafs, Shaitan, temptation and desires, wanting to maximise the pleasure of this worldly life, we lose track and focus of who we are, where we are going and our final destination.