Becoming a more religious Muslim should never cause you more anxiety. If it does, there’s something warped about your perception of Allaah. Your mental construct of what you should do or be is preventing your heart from directly connecting to Him. It’s creating resistance instead of resonance.
Don’t get lost in semantics. Emaan is a feeling. Let it flow. You don’t need to be perfect. You’ll pick up the pace eventually. But that won’t happen if you’re stagnant.
Maybe the problem with the hive mind of stereotypical religious Muslims is that there’s a delineation of practicing and piety?
I mean, who’s to say who’s ‘on’ or ‘off’ if purification of the self is a continuous cycle? Who’s keeping tabs? Do our deeds define us? Why do we need definition? Isn’t that an attempt at standing out? Wouldn’t Allaah be able to pick out your intentions from the crowd? Why then is there an emphasis on idiosyncrasies and nonessential mannerisms under the guise of ‘the sunnah’ ? It’s like this uncomfortably unnatural glitch where the person’s natural disposition is overlaid with what is deemed the proper way to act. The problem becomes that the acting effectively shuts out the person’s psyche, ensuring that the change in demeanor is nothing but superficial. And you’ll find plenty of examples in people who’ve gone from one extreme in practicing to the complete other of being morally depraved and heinous. Acting a certain way is actually counterintuitive because it doesn’t allow space for the person to organically get in touch with different facets of their being that would then spark the desire for transformation. There has to be a genuine interaction with the self in a non-judgmental and nonperfectionistic way.
To be clear, I’m not talking about ’deen is in the heart, you don’t need to wear it on your sleeve’. I believe that the deen is an integration of the spiritual and the pragmatic. But when the spiritual is stripped of its mystic nature and individuality, that’s when dogma becomes a real contender. Because it’s like the focus becomes to avoid slip-ups which leads to stagnation and fear. No matter how we try, we’ll always slip up because we’re innately ignorant. It’s how we learn and in fact, we’ve been given license to slip up so that we don’t let that be an obstacle. Instead we’re told to focus on restoration and authentic reformation (inaabah).
When we don’t interact with ourselves, we can’t relate to others too. And therein lies the problem that is so ubiquitous in the Muslim communities, that once someone becomes religious they effectively become elitist and interact with people like an authoritarian school master.
I think knowing the deen is the easy part. To try to implement the principles oneself while interacting harmoniously with others is the real crux..
أُخْبِرُكُمْ بِمَنْ يَحْرُمُ عَلَى النَّارِ أَوْ بِمَنْ تَحْرُمُ عَلَيْهِ النَّارُ عَلَى كُلِّ قَرِيبٍ هَيِّنٍ سَهْلٍ
Shall I not tell you for whom the Hellfire is forbidden? It is every person accessible, polite, and mild.
Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi, graded Hasan