The Prophet ﷺ once said to his companions, “Renew your faith!” and the companions responded, “O Prophet of God, how do we renew our faith?” and he responded with the very cure that they needed: “Increase in lā ilāha illa Allāh
Repeating this phrase of tawḥīd
grounds our hearts in Truth. It erases the darkness of lies and obliterates consensus on falsehood. It grants us the light we need to understand. It is the repetition of the Truth.
As we seek to build a community of Truth we need to first ask of ourselves to be truthful and trustworthy, in the footsteps of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. This is not the truthfulness of justifying hurtful words by saying “I’m just being honest,” but rather the truthfulness of kindness, manners, and a joyful, loving heart. It is truthfulness that builds trust and goodness. ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd (r) said, “It is not correct to lie, not in seriousness nor in jest. None of you should promise his child something and then not give it to him.”
The building blocks of a truthful community are found in how we interact with children. Here we are advised to be truth-tellers and promise keepers—two concepts woven together so tightly they can be used as thick yarn to knit a community of truth. When we keep our promises, keep silent instead of lying, and create joyful experiences around truthful and beautiful words we are fulfilling the sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ. We are building a community of Truth.
We have been called to be the best of people calling to what is beautiful and pushing back on what is ugly. As the poet John Keats said, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty—that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
While the repetition of lā ilāha illa Allāh, and a commitment to truth, will help us find the beauty we are all looking for, we also need to know how to maintain faith in a post-Truth world where oppression can be a truth claim and lies are presented as absolute fact. Herein is the intellectual challenge. Ideas need to be identified, untangled, and protected through a mental grappling with and defense of Truth.
When I became a Muslim in 1985, the very first verse I read of the Qur’an declared to me a recognition of women: “Verily the Muslim men and the Muslim women, the believing men and the believing women, the devout men and the devout women, truthful men and truthful women, patient men and patient women, humble men and humble women, and the men who give charity and the women who give charity, and the men who fast and the women who fast, and the men who guard their private parts and the women who guard theirs, and the men who remember Allah much and the women who remember—for them, God has prepared forgiveness and a great reward” (Sūrat al-Aḥzāb, 33:35).
This verse, with its rhythmic repetition, spoke a truth that I felt deeply. When I entered the Muslim community, however, I saw, heard, and experienced sexist jokes, masjids that did not welcome me, and cultures that saw women as less than men. I remember literally standing on a street corner and asking God for help. I was confused. My hold on Truth was challenged by truth claims that were harmful and oppressive. I threw myself into learning. I learned Arabic, studied Qur’an, and delved into the study of the Prophet’s ﷺ life and eventually other fields of Islamic study. I surrounded myself with a community of people of light. I avoided books and people who dabbled in the world of lies, ugly words, and corruption. In this way I was able to hold on to intellectual truths that held my heart to the Truth of God, the Prophet ﷺ, and Islam.
The identification of Truth is an exercise in connecting with fiṭra, cultivating curiosity, and examining external and internal signposts.
—the internal need for God—is part of the very make-up of every human being. As Allah (swt) says “So be steadfast in faith in all uprightness; the natural Way of God (fiṭra
) which has been instilled in all people. No change in the creation of Allah. This is the Straight Way, but most people do not know” (30:30). So everyone has a place deep within that craves to know God, to connect to Truth. It is this need and desire that provides energy for the search, and patience on the path of Truth. Yet it must be cultivated and not ignored. The busy nature of modern life often drowns out the inner call to Truth, but spending time in quietness can raise the volume. Convert stories, and stories of heritage Muslims who found faith in spite of great trials and tribulations, often include descriptions
of finding Truth, or becoming aware of what they already knew to be True. This is the gift of fiṭra.
Curiosity is a skill that allows for the discovery of Truth. When Ṭufayl ibn ʿAmr al-Dawsī entered into Mecca per usual, he was accosted by scaremongers warning him to stay clear of the man named Muhammad (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him), who (they said) spoke words of derision and danger. At first Ṭufayl, overtaken by their lies and fears, stuffed cotton in his ears. Standing in the sacred precinct, however, a few of the words of the man he had been warned against penetrated that cotton, at which point his own truth awoke. He was an intelligent man! Curious about those words he had heard, he removed the cotton and sought out Muhammad ﷺ. His curiosity brought him to Truth and he became a great sahabi. I know a young woman whose friends nicknamed her ‘Ṭufayla’ because she too ignored the warnings of some of her friends to avoid “those people.” She allowed her curiosity and the truth of her own discernment to bring her halfway across the world to study religion and the Qur’an, which she memorized on a one-year break from medical school.
A signpost on a road tells us to ‘stop,’ ‘yield,’ or look out for a tight curve up ahead. In life our signposts are less easy to read. Some are external—an unexpected opportunity, a clearly answered prayer, a sudden change of plans. Others are internal. Allah says, “We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the Truth. Is it not sufficient that your Lord is witness over all things?” (41:53). These internal signposts—the feeling that something is right or wrong—are aids on our path for identifying truth and Truth.
The formula is this: identify Truth by connecting to fiṭra, staying curious, and growing an awareness of signposts. Then hold on to it with lā ilāha illa Allāh and other acts of worship; be committed to truth; find people of light and truth and be a person of light and truth as much as you can. Do this through learning, loving, and living in a community of truth and goodness. Do this by rooting yourself in Truth, telling truths, and building and living in truthful communities of Truth.