It is easy to talk about something or make tall claims without having experienced the situation we’re so confidently declaring our opinions about. In times of ease and comfort, when the going is good and the prospects are bright, it’s not difficult to say that I would certainly remain thankful and patient if unpleasant or trying times come my way. Then again, we learn from our experiences and realize the true meaning of all the theory we’d been learning.
I’d like to share one such experience here, which taught me a lot about how to practice effectively what I learned in theory. Very recently, I was single-mindedly focusing on something I dearly desired, a matter of great personal relevance. I hoped and hoped I would be blessed by what I desired such that I started weaving great ideas and dreams into the hope. Alhamdolillah, I remembered that Allah(swt) knew best what was good for me and I modified my ‘hope’ to include an additional line – “if it’s good for me”. I prayed that if what I wished was, in Allah(swt)’s Knowledge, not good for me at all, then let my wish not be fulfilled and further, that I may remain satisfied with not getting what I wanted.
Then, I discovered that this specific wish of mine could not be fulfilled and in one tiny moment, all the dreams and hopes came crashing down. It was a very crucial moment for me, a “test” as I’d later realize upon reflection. How would I react to this verdict? What would be my response in the moments following immediately? How would I deal with the emotional baggage? If past experience with “crashing dreams” was anything to go by, I’d probably go into a depressive state, crying often and lamenting in silence and aloud about how pathetic my life really is and that my joy, as I wanted, could never be realized.However, the guidance of Allah(swt) through the Knowledge of the Quran and the Sunnah is truly a miracle that needs to be experienced in the most testing times of your life, to realize how precious it is. I could not be so calm and natural had I not the guiding light of Allah(swt) to take me through this trial. Thus, I want to share this serene calm with you because I know every person has to go through such situations in their life… the best solution is to be prepared for it.
- The first reaction: It’s difficult, oh yes, but shut the lid on those swear words and expressions. Allah(swt) looks for our reactions the moment we encounter the trial – will we remain composed and utter only words that please Him? Or are we going to collapse in a bundle and forget Him entirely?
The Prophet(saw) said, ‘No doubt, patience is at the first stroke of a calamity.'” (Sahih Bukhari)
Alhamdolillah and SubhanAllah, as well “Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilayhee Raji’oon” are the most beautiful words that Allah(swt) wants to hear from us.
Salamah narrates: I heard the Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam say, “Any Muslim that says when a calamity befalls him that which Allah commanded him: To Allah we belong and to him we return. O Allah reward me in this calamity and give me better then it – (any Muslim that says this) Allah will grant him better than (that which he lost).” (Sahih Muslim)
- The moments following: I find this the most difficult part because here’s when the reality starts to sink in and the analysis begins. And this is the fork in the road, I discovered – if you choose the road of despair, you will end up in Despair Land but if you pause to take the road of Patience, with Allah(swt)’s Help, you’ll be in Peace Land very soon. I felt sad, which was a natural emotion and not contradictory to the concept of Sabr (patience) but I remembered that Allah(swt) had merely answered my prayer when I had asked for my wish not be fulfilled if it was harmful for me. It was a moment to thank Allah(swt) for averting disaster from my life and even though my weak heart was sad at not getting what I wanted, I knew I had to try and focus.I quickly made Wudhu and performed a Sajda (prostration) to Allah(swt). Feeling shaky and trouble still, I opened the Quran and read the first Surah that I saw. I recited the Quran, read the translation and reflected on it for a while, all the while trying to stay positive. Abu Suhayb ibn Sinaan narrated that the Prophet(saw) said: “How amazing is the case of the believer; there is good for him in everything, and this characteristic is exclusively for him alone. If he experiences something pleasant, he is thankful, and that is good for him; and if he comes across some diversity, he is patient, and that is good for him.” (Sahih Muslim)
- “Seek help in patience in prayer”:
“O you who believe! Seek help in patience and As-Salât (the prayer). Truly! Allâh is with As-Sâbirin (the patient ones, etc.). ” (2:153)
This ayah just came to my mind and, Alhamdolillah, this is just what I needed. Vowing not to cry or even dwell on what had happened, I did try to distract myself and, as Sabr entails, not let the distress show on my face. However, when I went to offer my Ishaa prayer I truly realized how important it is to seek Allah(swt)’s Help directly and clearly by letting all the emotion flow before him. Yes, I let some tears flow but Alhamdolillah, without sinking into negativity, which would be wrong. Satan does whisper negative thoughts, some of which even go as far as blaming Allah(swt) for not letting us have our way! Yes, such thoughts strayed into my head as well but Alhamdolillah, with Allah(swt)’s Help I cut them off as soon as they appeared. Crying is okay but keeping the focus on the positive by asking Allah(swt) for His Help in facing the test He set me so that I may pass with flying colours is what is important.
- Keep asking Allah(swt) for what you want: I did this too and this is what helped me the most Alhamdolillah! I cried a little but I again prayed to Allah(swt) and asked for something even better than what I had been aspiring for, something He Knows is out there somewhere. I asked for strength to bear with patience what He had decided for me and tried to remember to thank Him again and again for averting trouble from me.
- Remember the great favors of Allah(swt) on you: This is something which made me realize just how a “bad time” can be so beneficial that it can create a special bond between Allah(swt) and His slave. My Iman had been weak for the past few weeks but, as a result of this situation, I reflected properly on just how much Allah(swt) loved me. The very fact that I was imploring Him to bestow patience on me and offering my Ishaa prayer was because He had chosen to guide me towards His Way. There are many who are unaware of the very existence of Allah and many more Muslims who, despite being born into Islam, are unable to experience the fruits of their faith. Such reflection brought on a wave of gratitude and positivity which felt like a warm glow within me.
- Don’t dwell on what happened: Again, impossible as it may seem, there is no joy or solution to be derived from pointlessly dwelling upon what happened. “Ifs” and “buts” may offer alternative scenarios to dream up and think upon but they are oftentimes a trapdoor to despair – and such despair that keeps worsening, making return to normalcy increasingly difficult. I was tempted to dwell upon what had happened and even make up theories as to the “why” of the situation but Alhamdolillah, I was able to find distractions.
- The hope of tomorrow: Even now, as I calmly write this, some part of my mind tells me that my optimistic hopes and prayers to Allah(swt) are not going to bear fruit but that’s a natural fear after being bruised. However, to say that “good” will definitely not happen is a great allegation on Allah(swt), Whose Mercy and Bounty have always given me better than I had ever dreamed. It’s only my limited and narrow vision that makes me forget all the good outcomes of such situations in the past and doubt the importance of “hoping again”. This is crucial – believe in Allah(swt) and leave your matters to Him, to be fulfilled in the right manner and at the right time, as He Sees fit.
- Pray for the reward of Sabr: Patience at the first stroke of the calamity, putting on a happy face when you’re sad and consciously putting a lid on the negativities is no easy job but when done for the sake of Allah(swt), His Pleasure and rewards makes the monumental task seem easier with every passing second.
“And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fuits, but give glad tidings to As-Sâbirin (the patient ones).” (2:155)
Writing this has further lessened the feeling of sadness in my heart and strengthened my resolve Alhamdolillah. This is the first time I was ever able to, by the Might of Allah(swt), to exercise patience in the right manner and this experience has taught me exactly what is expected of a Mo’min when confronted with a trial. It’s going to be a dynamic state, I know, because the heart keeps turning and changing… and so, the effort must continue untill I am able to fortify myself properly. It’s going to require conscious effort and most importantly, the Help of Allah(swt), to get on with my life… but then, who said we would be handed Paradise on a silver platter? =)
Allah says in the Qur’an:
Alif, Laam, Meem. Do people think that they will be left alone because they say, “We believe,” and will not be tested? Indeed We tested those who (lived) before them.” (Qur’an 29:1-3)