A Soul’s Burden


Trials and tribulations are a part of life. We do not like them; we do not like to go through them; but eventually we accept them. Even if we pray, fast, pay our zakat and do all different forms of ibadat we still get tested. Sadness sometimes fills our hearts. We could be the best of practicing Muslims, yet poor and unable to put food on our table. We could be rich yet lonely, or young yet unhealthy. It is in these instances that shaytan starts toying with our head. We look at what others have, especially the non-Muslims, and our core gets rattled. The shaytan ignites a fire that gets our blood boiling, hopelessness and frustration set in, and we ask “Oh Allah, why me?! Why am I being punished?”

3945231064_bc0a965d97_bPsychologists tell us that human beings go through five stages of emotion when struck with a calamity. Understanding the different stages of grief minimizes the first four stages (which are denial, anger, bargaining and depression) and gets us to the final stage – which is acceptance. I went through these stages on many different occasions, as I am sure you have.

I am not a psychologist nor am I trying to refute the works of psychology, but I would nonetheless like to offer a different view, a Qur’anic view, on how to deal with life’s trials.

Though we do not have a say in when we are born nor in when we die, life has a clear beginning and a clear end. What is sometimes unclear is the journey between the two points. For Muslims, however, the journey could not be any clearer. Allah says in Surat Adh-Dhariyat:

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ

“And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone)” (Qur’an, 51:56).

Now think back to the first paragraph of this article. You might think to yourself, “I pray five times a day, I fast during Ramadan and pay my zakat, yet I have an ill child, or still can’t find a job, or this stressor or that.”  You begin to wonder why you are going through this and why you are being “punished.” Before you know it, shaytan takes the helm and you are on a slippery slope of anger and denial.

Before falling down that slope, one must take a deep breath and ponder the following question: is it punishment or is it a manifestation of what Allah has told us in Surat Al-Ankabut:

أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَنْ يُتْرَكُوا أَنْ يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ

“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested?” (Qur’an, 29:2)

Allah tells us that through this journey we call life we will be tested. In Surat Al-Baqarah, He says:

وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ بِشَيْءٍ مِنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنْفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ

“And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits…” (Qur’an, 2:155)

Tribulations are a part of life but that doesn’t make them easy. We still grieve — but how could we not? We are, after all, a very emotional creation. So how does one cope with adversity? There are many ayat in the Qur’an that talk about different mechanisms of coping such as patience, faith, prayer and acceptance. But what I find the most profound and the most comforting is what Allah says in Surat Al-Baqarah:

لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا

“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear…” (Qur’an, 2:286).

If you stand back and take a look at the whole picture, you will realize that what you have when faced by a tragedy is a choice. Will you go through the stages of grief, denying Allah’s destiny and the wisdom of His plan for you? Or will you realize that what you are going through is something you know you can handle? Whatever trial comes your way is something that Allah has planned and which He has guaranteed you can handle. This ayah is comforting because I, as a faithful mu’min who believes in Allah and His wisdom, know deep in my heart that although the sadness is cumbersome it will not be overwhelming; that although the times might be tough, I am tougher; and that whatever comes my way will go away; and that eventually I will face my Lord whom, I hope, will be pleased with me as I am pleased with Him.

So when you go through a difficult situation, be it the inevitable death of a loved one or the loss of a job or just a flat tire on the side of the highway, take a deep breath and say:

قُلْ لَنْ يُصِيبَنَا إِلَّا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَنَا

“Say: ‘Nothing shall ever happen to us except what Allâh has ordained for us…’” (9:51).

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19 Comments

  1. Aisha says:

    Jazak Allah hu Khairun Katheer. Posted at the right time in my life, Alhamdulillah.

  2. Subhan Allah, I was just thinking about this today. Leaving my place today I had an appointment and I missed my bus it passed right in front of me but I was too far away from the stop. It was freezing and I was so upset I had missed it. If I had only just left a few minutes before.

    But, Subhan Allah the bus I did catch (20 minutes later) got me there right at the same time the sister I was meeting did, and I thought to myself that Allah (swt) teaches us, and He always knows best. And you bet I felt horrible for agonizing over that missed bus.

    Now I just have to internalize that, and not think about it in retrospect.

    JAK for sharing.

  3. Sumaiya says:

    Salam alaikum,
    I just want to say a huge thank you for sharing with us such a beautiful article. I really needed it. Alhamdulillah through your article, Allah swt has made it easy for me my situation. Jazakallahu khairan.
    Wassalam. :-)

  4. Abdel Aziz Ismail says:

    Jazak Allahu kheir brother for the beautiful reflection. insha Allah we are all able to internalize these (and all) words of the Qur’an in good times and in bad times.

    JUST ONE THING: There is a mistake in the tashkeel in the first Ayat it is supposed to be “al-jinna” not “al-jinni.” SubhanAllah wa Allahu a’lam.

    Jazak Allahu kheir

  5. I think the kasra is for the Jeem not the shaddah, because all the other Arabic verses have a shaddah without any secondary tashkeel on them.

    • Zainab says:

      Sumayah & Abd Alazeez,
      The Kasra is clearly for the Jeem. Any tashkeel for Shadda always comes JOINING the shadda where it is, weather kasra,fatha or thamma…just as it shows in the aya above.
      Salams

  6. Marya says:

    “And We will surely test you until We make evident those who strive among you [for the cause of Allah] and the patient, and We will test your affairs.” (47:31) http://quran.com/47/31

  7. Ali says:

    Assalamu alaykum

    Subhanallah, awesome article. One thing we also need to be reminded of is the fact that even the Prophets were tested. Take the Prophet (S) for example. This man went through a year of sorrow. A year! Can you imagine that? This is the Prophet of Allah, the one who is the leader of mankind, the one who is granted the highest jannah, and even he was depressed.

    We have to remember that trials and tribulations are merely tests from Allah (SWT), and the fact that we are being tested means that Allah (SWT) is watching us, not to say that he hasn’t been before, but now he watching a little more carefully than usual because he wants to see how you will react in the situation you are given. And if you think about it, this is an honor. Allah (SWT) could have placed this burden on anyone else, but instead, he decided to put it on you. He chose you. And he wants to know how you will do. He is giving you a chance to please him.

    May Allah give us the patience to deal with the many trials and tribulations we face on a day to day life. Ameen

    asa
    ali

  8. morisco says:

    Beautiful article mashAllah, we need to empathise with as many muslims as possible to help draw us all closer to Allah swt.

  9. Sadaf says:

    subhanAllah may Allah reward you Imam Suhaib for posting this, indeed a great reflection for the believers.

  10. Valimohammed says:

    As-salaamu-alaykum.
    Wa-alaykum-as-salaamh (Replying to those who presented a salaam here).

    Jazaak-Allah for writing this article. May Allah reward all involved. It has helped me much.

    A thing I would like to tell everyone is that when we quote the Holy Quran in a language other than the original, we should always indicate it with (Translation) or better (Interpretation of the text).

  11. saeed says:

    Asalaamo Alaykum, may Allah set reward you for this thoughtful article. However I think you have the same over simplified view of the ayah that many people have.

    The ayah taken literally is quoted by many when comforting people in trouble.

    The suggestion in doing this is that every problem a person confronts has a solution that is in the gift of the troubled person. Clearly evidence all around us indicates that failure is common and that it may be wrong to suggest that taking this ayah to heart will guarantee successful outcome. The only certainly in any tribulation is that it will end, but that end may be success or failure or even death. For example people who are starving from famine and see children dying from hunger have little hope of coming through this. The most likely end is death.

    I think the key thing is to ask ourselves what exactly the burden is. It may not be the problem or the events leading to the conclusion, but it may be the result itself. Perhaps you have problems at work or with neighbors, and enduring these may be hard, you may decide to take legal action, and you may fail. What is the burden in this case?

    People quote the ayah as if the meaning is that the person with the tribulations has all the compitencies to deal with the problem and come to a successful outcome. Could it actually be that the burden is the result. That even if you fail in your task and you will be sad that you will survive.

    For some people who suffer from a lack of confidence in their own abilities and suffer from critical self esteem even this ayah can be difficult to draw strength from.

    For people in difficulties, their anguish is two fold, first how to solve the problems and second what is the best outcome. Weaker people like us suffer because we lack the ability to think through a problem and execute the plan. People may offer advice on what to do and say, but it isn’t easy for meek people to say strong things, and trying to do so will often result in ridivule.

    It pains me to say this but I do not think many Muslim scholars are truly able to explain to suffering people how to be at peace. For people who have self doubt low self esteem and low confidence it is very very hard to seek comfort in dua.

    The story above about catching the bus etc is nice but everyone has stories about such small matters. What is more difficult to find are stories of true hardship and what the state of mind of the person was and how they came through.

    Maybe if in ha Allah I come through my difficulties with success I will write a book as it may help others.

    In the meantime if there is anyone out there who found themselves in a situation where they felt overwhelmed and unhelped and feared for their health, family, livelihood and happiness and felt really down and depressed, but came through in failure or success and how dua helped them especially if they suffered depression then please tell us.

    • Budoor says:

      Nice article mash’Allah .I agree with sis Reem that not all can be strong enough to find peace in dua’a ‘specially those who are facing really more of what they can handle. Not all problems can be solved whether we are strong or weak. The point is how to be patient enough to get the reward in the life after. So we ask for patience to keep our hearts firm enough to bear with this life.

    • Kauser says:

      Salaams,

      i have come from a background where there was a lot of disruption and calamity. My father abandoned us when i was newly born. leaving my mother with 6 children to raise by herself and with no education or chance of getting a job she fell into severe depression. alhumdulilah my brothers and sisters stepped up and took the roles of responsible adults even though they themselves were children.

      however, as much as they tried to be there for us and me, and tried to make me feel loved, i always had and always have remained emotionally lost, confused and unwanted. My family become very lost in their own emotions over the loss of our father, that they never turned to each other. there was no such things as hugs and kisses in my home. neither was there any communication on an emotional level.

      because of this i grew up in an environment where although there were people around me, i was completely isolated both physically and emotionally. I started suffering from severe anxiety from a very young age of about 10 years and have continued to live with this 18 years later.

      i started turning to and learning about islam in this difficult time and alhumdulilah although it has brought me tremendous amounts of comfort. My low self esteem, low self confidence and loss of faith in humanity still remains. I have tried to search for a way out of this but still struggle to find a solution.

      I have had people tell me that my Imaan is not strong enough, hence why i continue to feel this way, which deeply saddens me as I do love Islam and Allah… Allah is the only thing that is keeping me going and the only one that i find comfort in.

      I pray that Allah (swt) helps all those that struggle with their emotions, with their difficulties and with their hardships (ameen).

      I ask you all to remember me in your dua’s and pray that I one day find some answers or a form of relief from the on going torture that I live within myself. Jazakallah

      • Zaheen Uddin says:

        I reply to both Saeed and Kauser. I want to say I understand your pain and I feel for you. I don’t put down those who go through the minor everyday faults and are thus blessed in that way, kept away from many calamities, but I give a particular attention to those who suffer more. Because after all, we need to stop the hand of the oppressor from hurting the oppressed.

        After reading your post, Kauser, I realized that people have it worse off than me. I’m prudent about sharing my personal story because I know that I shouldn’t complain to anyone other than Allah, but I guess this wouldn’t be complaining, would it? Anyway, my story is that I also am going through a difficult time, a lot of emotional and psychological problems, but not from myself, but from friction with my family, but I realize there are other people out there who feel it too. It makes me happy that I’m not alone. :) Alhamdullilah my father never abandoned me, I didn’t suffer severe anxiety from a young age, and I don’t have as severe as problematic situations as you, but all of them are very similar. I, too, find peace with Islam. It’s what’s keeps me going. Unquestionably, Allah is my Patron and He keeps me going.

        Did you know that the believer will be put to test over and over until he meets Allah on the Day of Ressurection SINLESS?? So all the pain you or I might suffer is meant for a greater purpose. You have IMAN. You have the DEEN. You have GUIDANCE. And that’s what keeps me going. That’s what fortifies my faith that I truly am on the right path.

        So to Saeed I say yes, I’ve been able to go forward despite difficulties. Difficulties in school, friends, family, being attacked for my religousity, being diagnosed with psychological problems, trials left and right. It seems like there’s no stop. But I remember reading a hadith where the companions of Prophet Muhammad (SWS) asked for him to make dua that they are relieved of oppression. And you know what he said..?? He said the believers before him had been sawed in half and their flesh would be TORN off their BONES because they believed in Allah! They only said La Illaha IllAllah and thus they were brutally tortured!!! The Prophet Muhammad (SWS) turned back to his companions and said “Rather, you are impatient.” SubhanAllah!

        E-mail me if you like, I could go into detail about my 99 problems but I don’t like showing my weaknesses…I rarely do because I don’t like to be looked down upon.

        I leave you with this:
        “Say, ‘O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah . Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.’” (Qu’ran 39:53)

  12. reem says:

    Great article MashaAllah. It is easy to read, but we must implement into our life… it is so easy to get carried away with the challenges in life and remember to say al7amdulillah.

  13. Nelima says:

    This article helped me be more postive about all the struggles I am facing at the present & In’Shaa’Allah i will learn from it and change my ways

  14. Shazia says:

    JazakALLAH khaiyran!!
    A great lesson for every mankind.
    May ALLAH reward you with happiness and success for the effective article.

  15. Syed says:

    JazakAllah ! Nice article. Made my spirits very high. Take care and keep up the Good Work !
    May blessing of Allah be upon you .

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