I remember the first time I got an eyelash in my eye. A shock to my then frail nervous system; my eyes were watering, naturally, it was painful to keep them open. I felt like that eyelash could make my eye go blind. Little did I know, my eye had the mechanism it needed to deal with sudden and unexpected foreign bodies. I just needed to give it time. But in my restless panic that ensued, I became too overwhelmed to let things take their natural course.
Looking back on this incident that seems irrelevant and juvenile now, I learnt something about human nature. When we don’t anticipate events, our whole life becomes disheveled. We panic. We forget to trust that life will become stable again. And just like Allah created my eye with the ability to deal with foreign bodies, He also created us capable of dealing with what is put in our way. Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can be bear [2:286].
But we are humans, and often we forget. The beauty of Allah’s decree is that when we look back, there is truly no other way we could have planned our lives. If we were to hold the pens of destiny and write our lives and futures, we would never be able to come up with a life as beautiful and well-rounded as the one Allah has written for us.
Sometimes we feel like we need to be in control. The fear of the unknown is a fear that consumes us. We need to know everything. We stress out about the unexpected. We are vulnerable to the deception of a set life.
It’s true: bad things do happen. Sometimes our lives are tipped upside down. Our hearts break, sadness consumes us, our lives are uprooted, we move, we stay, we lose people we love… Even a bad grade can seem like the end of the world. Sometimes it’s not easy to trust that our lives will get better. Sometimes it just feels like it’s all going downhill. The question is: how do we stay strong? How do we trust Allah to take care of things?
I think the most important lessons I’ve learnt in life have come from events that took place without my anticipation. When my life changed drastically, that’s when I learnt the most.
Sometimes you may lose someone you love, you may not get the job you wanted, you may be forced to go through something you didn’t think you would ever have to go through but during those darkest of times it is important that you remember that you will always have something to go back to.
And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided. [2:186]
Every time I feel hopeless and utterly helpless, I try to remember this verse. It is a reminder that Allah is near. He is closer to us than we think. He responds to our duaas – all we have to do is ask. There is a comfort in knowing that we are not alone in this vast, ghastly world. When everything seems to be going downhill, even when the closest of friends or family seem to have turned away from you, it will do you good knowing Allah is always there. “Indeed I am near”…
This Dunya is not meant to be paradise for us. For as long as we live, we will never be free from disappointment and hurt. But it is important to remember to thank Allah and be grateful for what we do have. It is very easy to focus on what we’ve lost. And no matter how much we are reminded, it is a lot harder to focus on the things we still have when times are rough. Allah does not take something from us to hurt us. There is a lesson in everything lost, a beauty in an ending that carves the way for a new beginning.
But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not. [2:216]
That beautiful aya. Remember it when you are lost in a storm of loss and despair. The things we hold on to the most are sometimes the things that cause us the most pain. Allah knows, while we know not. You may not realise it now, but when you look back you will be grateful for the beautiful mercy of Allah that saved you from holding on to the sharp end of the knife, even when you ignored the pain, thinking you knew what you were doing.
We are stubborn like a child who insists he can safely put his fingers in an electrical socket. A child who thinks he can navigate through life without help. Our stubbornness does not come out of disrespect, but of impatience. When we stumble, we think it is over. We think our life is meant to be lived in anguish. But if that is what we expect of Allah, isn’t that what we’ll get? Allah says, “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you” [14:7].
Allah has made it incredibly easy for us. If we just have faith in Him, if we fully believe that He is capable of changing our lives, of healing our broken hearts, of granting us happiness, then He will surely give us that and more. Take a minute now and think. Allah has created this beautiful world. Think about your eyes that are going over these words, and your brain that is making sense of them. Think of all the intricate designs that Allah has created within you. Do you not think a Lord so exalted, so beautiful and merciful, will not be able to take care of you, and soothe the whispered aches of your heart?
The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “Allah the Most High said, ‘I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.’”
The cure to a torn mind is istikhara. Whenever you are faced with uncertainty, confusion, or the pressure of a life-altering decision, remember the secret power of istikhara. Your heart can rest assured knowing that whatever happens was always meant to happen, and that it was the best that could have happened to you, as that is what the istikhara prayer entails. If what you desire does not come true, it is only and surely for the best.
Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab is reported to have said: “No amount of guilt can change the past, and no amount of worrying can change the future. Go easy on yourself, for the outcome of all affairs is determined by Allah’s decree. If something is meant to go elsewhere, it will never come your way, but if it is yours by destiny, from it you cannot flee.”
It is easy to feel at ease when things are going our way, but the true test of a believer is to accept and be grateful when things do not. If we believe that Allah will take care of us, and that we can rely on Him to look after us, it will be much easier to accept what life throws at us. Allah has given us the capabilities and means to handle situations, we just need to trust Him.
So that morning, when I felt the telling discomfort of an eyelash that had fallen astray in my eye, I did not panic, I did not fear. For I knew, that just like before, this too shall pass.