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Have you ever faced a problem that makes you want to give up immediately? It’s that moment when you feel like you have tried hard but then there’s something that does not work out according to your expectation. It ruins your mood, it ruins your day. Your mind is filled with all negativity until you try to remember why are you doing it in the first place.
That one important question. Why are we doing it?
As a Muslim, all of our actions should be for the sake of Allah. We eat to gain energy to do ibadah, we do our household chores to help our family which is also ibadah. With the right intention, we can turn many acts into ibadah. How wonderful isn’t it? The challenge is for us to do the right thing with the positive mindset when we encounter the bumpy road along this journey of gaining His pleasure.
The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said :
“Whoever Allah wants good for him, he puts them to test. He puts them through difficulties. Like a diamond or some metal that has to be burnt and then that which is bad from it is removed so that you have that which is the pure diamond or the pure gold or whatever. Put them to tests, trials and difficulties.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
So how can we tackle the obstacles in our daily life in a way that can transform us to be a better Muslim?
Sunshine and Storm
Acknowledge that there is a bad day and a good day. We know that there are easier times and that means we should approach the obstacle with a smarter strategy in the time of adversity.
Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah said:
“Allah has created us in such a way that we feel the difference between the time of ease and times of hardship, and all that we can do is refrain from panicking at times of stress. Patience does not mean feeling the same at both easy and difficult times. This is beyond us and is not part of our nature. Having an easy time is better for us than having a difficult time.”
There’s nothing wrong with the negative emotions we experience under a difficult circumstance. Rather it’s a challenge for us to solve the problem and project our emotions in a good way.
Have you ever felt like being swiped up by a huge rush of panic and fear when something doesn’t work out the way you expected it to? I did, even with something minor like forgetting my phone at home while I was already outside. In the state of panic, my mind was focused on the all negative things that may happen when I don’t find the phone right away: from being late to the event I should have attended early and not bringing the phone with me if I couldn’t find it quickly.With all that scary things on my mind, it makes it harder for me to focus on the important thing: remember where I put the phone. It leads to another stressful and time-consuming act of finding the phone; instead of going straight to the desk where I put it, I wandered around the house with my panicky mind even to the places where the phone is unlikely to be found.
How if we find it hard to stay calm refrain from being panic? The answer is, maintain your composure by exercising patience!
Rasulullah ﷺ said:
“Whoever tries to be patient, then Allah will help him to be patient.” (an-Nasaai)
In a stressful situation, our brain releases a chemical called ‘cortisol’ which makes it harder for us to think in a logical way. That’s why some people made regretful acts and decisions under stress because their mind was very vague that time. This is where patience plays a big role. Patience prevents us from doing unwanted things by trying to stop ourselves from panicking and making ourselves reflect on the situation. It’s shifting the energy from the chaos to the calm of making du’aa and finding the best solution.
Don’t be Hasty and Have Patience
Allah subhanahu wa ta’la said in the Qur’an:
“And man supplicates for evil as he supplicates for good, and man is ever hasty.” (Q.S Al-Isra : 11)
There is two kind of hastiness:
1. One that has direct consequences.
This kind of hastiness often results in direct physical consequences like forgetting something or falling because of running on a slippery floor. Even though some of the consequences have only short-term effects that can be solved right away, but some have long-term consequences especially if it affects the body severely. It may take years to heal an injury caused by hastiness that was done in only a few minutes.
2. One that has indirect consequences.
In every aspect of life, obstacles are inevitable. We sometimes find a hard school exam, or we had an argument with our family. We feel uneasy, it’s definitely not a comfortable situation. On facing the obstacles, we can seek the seek the hasty and instant way by for example cheating on the exam or shouting amidst the argument because we can’t just stand other people’s opinion. But is it helpful? Does it solve the problem? Again, the answer is a clear ‘no’.
With courage and determination, we can study hard to achieve an excellent score that’s a part of building the habit of perseverance which will help us to succeed in the long term bi idhnillah. In the family argument example, we can choose to stay calm the argument and try to listen attentively first before explaining our own opinion, none feelings’ will get hurt and it will train us to handle our emotions better in the long run. By being respectful and calm, we also teach people around us (especially children) on how to behave in a difficult situation. Is positivity contagious?
Sabr is not just the enormous patience when someone is struck by a great difficulty or fitnah. It’s also in our daily life, it’s in the little things we sometimes overlook because we think it doesn’t have to be treated specifically with sabr. According to Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, there are three areas in which patience is required:
1. Patience in worshipping Allah and following His commands
2. Patience in abstaining from wrong actions
3. Patience is accepting Allah’s decree and ruling
Patience in the form of studying hard and avoiding cheating (haraam act) in order to get good grades is also sabr. Patience in the form of being kind in dealing with our family/friends amidst conflict is also sabr.
When we face a problem, take time to calm our mind first to think about possible solutions before we act right away. Delay our emotional reactions because oftentimes, it results in negative activities such as being angry and shouting. Shift the emotional energy into a positive mindset and attitude.
Think about the root of the problem and what can we do to solve it? You have been in many tough situations before, remember how you used to resolve the same kind of challenge in the past. Think ahead of the consequences in each of the solutions you have in mind. Which solution can result in many benefits and very less damage (mudharat)? By examining the consequences, we can choose the most suitable solution for the problem.
Take accountability for the situation and make a decision. Act effectively and be brave, we ask Allah to guide us in every step we take.
This is the most crucial aspect. Life is full of the highs and downs, sweet and bitter moments. With many roles and many things we juggle in life, sometimes we forget that we’re not alone in this journey. In every matter we do in this life, we should do it with the intention to seek Allah’s pleasure. We should also realize that we will never be able to do anything without the help of Allah. So it’s the wonderful combination of:
For the sake of Allah + With the help of Allah
There’s nothing hard for Allah to do. He’s the source of all power, all strength. Any difficulty is a wonderful opportunity for us to get closer to our Rabb. Therefore, with all humility and humbleness, knock on His door.
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Allah says: ‘I am just as My slave thinks of Me when he remembers Me.’ By Allah! Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His slave than one of you who unexpectedly finds in the desert his lost camel. ‘He who comes closer to Me one span, I come closer to him a cubit; and he who comes closer to Me a cubit, I come closer to him a fathom; and if he comes to Me walking, I come to him running”.
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Tawakkul essentially means putting our trust in Allah and rely on Him only. It’s realizing that He’s the one who controls all the matter. We’re just humans, we can do our best but it’s He ‘azza wa jall who decides. There’s this inspiring du’aa recited by ashabul kahf (people of the cave) when they found themselves trapped in a difficult situation.
رَبَّنَا آتِنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً وَهَيِّئْ لَنَا مِنْ أَمْرِنَا رَشَدًا
rabbana aatina min ladunka rahmatan wahayyi’ lana min amrina rashadan
“Our Lord! Bestow on us mercy from Yourself, and facilitate for us our affair in the right way!” (Q.S Al-Kahf :10)
There’s always a way out. Allah knows, Allah listens.
Ali, Abu Uwais. (2014). The Greater the Hardship, the Greater the Reward. Abdurrahman.org.
Al-Jawziyyah, Ibn Qayyim. (1997). Patience and Gratitude. TA-HA Publication. PDF File.
Levitin, Daniel. (2015). How to Stay Calm When You Know You’ll be Stressed. TED Talk Videos.
Llopis, Glenn. (2014). 7 Ways Leaders Maintain Their Composure in Difficult Times. Forbes.com.