Letting Go


The Amazing Race Series: Part I | Part II | Part III

Note: The lessons in this 4-Part Series were inspired by the free 7-Day Trial of the iPersonalEnrichment.com program. While this series focuses mostly on concepts, the program works to internalize them.

In The Amazing Race, we started off with the image of three runners: one with hidden weights attached to their body, one carrying a heavy load on their back, and a third person without any weights or loads running freely. In any race, it is the third person that we would all want to be. Specifically, in the race to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), it is who we actively seek to be. It starts with learning that we have the power and the right to let go.

Understanding the Weights and the Loads

There are so many people holding onto heavy loads trying to make it through the race. People are holding onto sadness and grief, fears and insecurities, anger, and all the other limiting emotions. Limiting and difficult emotions are normal to experience, and we are rewarded for enduring challenges with patience and perseverance. But after those events have brought us back to Allah (swt), it’s time to let go of the pain. And subhan‘Allah (glory be to God), we have always had the power to do that. Letting go does not mean giving up or justifying wrongs. It means you are willing to continue the race with all the lessons learned, without carrying the emotional load with you. In place of bitterness and feeling victimized, you allow yourself to feel free, and even grateful for the wisdom and reward attained. Experiencing negative emotions is not wrong, rather very normal and human, and it can even be a blessing that reminds us to turn to Allah (swt). But after we have turned to Him, we go back to being content with Him and His decree. We let go of the attachments of needing sadness, of needing anxiety and fear to protect us and help us, because we have Allah (swt) to do those things and we have been given power over our own immediate choices to work for them.

Negative emotions, when held onto, become part of the attachments of dunya (this world). They are the weights attached to the runner as they try to run to Allah (swt) and get exhausted early. A traumatic life event is the heavy load that someone carries over their shoulders after the calamity has passed and they have the ability to put it down. Sometimes it takes the help of others to say, “Here, let me help you put that down. You don’t need to carry it anymore.” Some are so used to the weight, they’re actually afraid of what it would feel like to live without it. The heavy load allowed them to turn to Allah (swt) and they are afraid that putting it down would mean they would forget Him and become heedless. So we have to understand something:

What does Allah (swt) Himself want for us?

While remembering Allah (swt) during our moments of weakness is a blessing from Him, He is more Merciful to us than His wanting us to hold onto that weakness in order to feel close to Him. Actually the opposite is encouraged:

The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) taught us, “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, while there is good in both. Guard over that which benefits you, seek Allah’s assistance, and don’t lend yourself to things devoid of benefit, and if something befalls you, then don’t say ‘If I only would have done such and such,’ rather say ‘Allâh ordained this and He does what He wills’ for verily the phrase ‘If I would have’ makes way for the work of the Devil.” (Muslim)

Imam al-Nawawi commented, “The intended meaning of strength here is a firm will and a desire to work for the Hereafter. So the one being described as a strong believer is more bold and stern against the enemy in Jihad, quicker to go out and searching for striving in Allah’s path, more in his enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, in his patience with the harms he faces throughout, and stronger in the way he carries out difficult tasks for Allah’s sake. He loves to pray, fast, make dhikr (remembrance of Allah), and perform the rest of the acts of worship, and he is more active in seeking after these affairs, as he keeps a closer watch over his performance of them.” (Sharh Muslim (9/341))

Allah (swt) is more Merciful than His wanting us to punish ourselves with hardship, pain, self-imposed weakness and heaviness. He wants for us ease and lightness despite the natural human tendency towards weakness:

يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ

“Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship.” (Qur’an, 2:185)

يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ أَنْ يُخَفِّفَ عَنْكُمْ وَخُلِقَ الْإِنْسَانُ ضَعِيفًا

“And Allah wants to lighten for you [your difficulties]; and mankind was created weak.” (Qur’an, 4:28)

Furthermore, whenever there is a command in the Qur’an or from the Prophet ﷺ, it means that following such a command is humanly possible. Here are just a few examples that show the option to hold onto an emotion or not is within our control:

Allah mentions in the Qur’an:

وَلَا تَهِنُوا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا

 “Do not be weak and do not be sad.” (Qur’an 3:139)

And to Musa `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him) and Harun (as):

قَالَ لَا تَخَافَا إِنَّنِي مَعَكُمَا أَسْمَعُ وَأَرَى

“(Allah) said, ‘Fear not. Indeed, I am with you both; I hear and I see.’” (Qur’an, 20:46)

The Prophet ﷺ mentions, “Don’t become angry.”

Tricks of the Mind and Nafs (Ego)

It’s interesting to note that ‘sadness’ in particular and emotions in general are often spoken about in English as nouns, making them seem static, unmoving, like you cannot do anything about them once they are there but wait for them to go away on their own. People become overwhelmed by their emotions when they feel they are static, and when they think they can’t control them, so instead of trying to regain control they simply give in, and even justify it. In Arabic, emotions are often used as active verbs that include the responsible party in the verb. So it’s as if it’s saying, “Don’t you do sadness,” or “Don’t you do fear.” Meaning, when it comes to holding onto emotions, we are the active doers, doing it to ourselves.

The nafs has tricked us into thinking we have no power over these weights, these loads we’re carrying. The nafs also tells us we need these weights in order to succeed, that they make us stronger. And sometimes they do, but only when we have learned about our power to remove them. Otherwise, the weights carried indefinitely lead to massive health and psychological problems, rather than strength. It continuously lies to us, like any oppressor for no other reason other than staying in charge, so that these lies control our direction. Subhan’Allah, fear and anxiety don’t help us become safer. They actually make us panic and become less safe. Anger makes us lose control even though people choose to become angry in order to gain control. Feeling self-pity, actively maintaining the ‘victim’ mentality does not bring the promise of self-approval or control in life. It makes the person desperate for the attention and approval of others (aka riya’), and can even lead to manipulative behavior in trying to control others. Holding onto sadness after loss doesn’t make experiencing the loss any easier, it makes it harder and more prolonged, more acutely felt.

To conclude this part, the nafs wants us to hold on dearly to all the emotions that can make us a slave to it. Letting go is about freeing our souls so we can run to Allah (swt), feeling secure, loved, and in control in the presence of al-Mawlaa, al-Wadud, and al-Qaadir. May Allah (swt) allow us to let go of that which slows us down in the race to Him, and may He make us of the strong believers.

Stay tuned for Part 3 which will discuss Four Common Emotional Weights!

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20 Comments

  1. Sarah F. says:

    A beautiful article. I never thought about the connection between the nafs and carrying such a heavy load. There’s more often talk about attraction of the dunya’s “good” things (wealth, children, etc.) but never about how negativity can keep us tethered to the dunya as well. JazakAllah khayr.

  2. Khajija says:

    Ameen Ya Rabb!!!

  3. UmmAzam says:

    Amazing article. JazakAllah khair for sharing this knowledge with us. I am looking forward to the next one, insha’Allah.

  4. Muslema says:

    @Sarah F.– wa iyakee. On the point of ‘good things’, a lot of times we think we’re attached to an actual physical entity, like people or wealth, but the essence of that attachment are the emotions that those entities to evoke. Wealth for example makes a lot of people feel secure. But if you allow yourself to feel secure regardless in the presence of your Creator, than money remains in your hands and not in your heart. You let go of the emotional weight: needing to feel insecure without it, and affirmed your freedom: to have security in your heart instead. We may think we’re attached to certain people, but what we’re really attached to is the approval (love, respect) that they may give us. If you let go of the emotional weight: lacking self approval, and affirm your freedom: really loving yourself for the sake of the One who loves you, then instead of being heavy with the need/dependency for other people’s approval, you allow yourself to love them without ‘needing’ anything back from them. Subhan Allah, the strange thing is as the hadith mentions, as soon as you stop ‘needing’ from dunya, that’s when it actually comes to you! Truly, Allah changes our condition when we change our hearts for Him (swt).

  5. umber says:

    JazakAllah for reminding me that being strong is a choice that we make and that only we can help ourselves do that.

  6. Yaqub says:

    As’Salaamolaikum. What an insightful article with great reminders and points.

    In one form or another, and to one degree or another..some more than others; we will all experience life/events that unfold which are painful and difficult (whether with family, illness, money, work, relationships, children etc.)…Allah (SWT) never places weight on one’s shoulders that is greater than they can carry or bear.

  7. Mohammad Wasim Ghori says:

    Jazaakh’Allah Khairan Sister Muslema! I look forward to the next article in this series, Insha’Allah!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Question for the writer: I have a tendency to feel I do not deserve what God has given me because I feel I’m not worthy of it or that I did not work hard enough for it. I am very hard on myself and as a result I fall into self doubt. How can I break the self doubt and have a better opinion of Allah ?

    • AbdelRahman says:

      You are not worthy, yet Allah has given you it and as such He has deemed you worthy…Allah knows better than you whether you are worthy or not, right ?

      Also, it’s not how hard you work that determines whether you get something… It’s whether Allah bestows it upon you or not – through the illusion of your work, or otherwise…

      When did you first have that thought that you needed to deserve something ?
      Within ethnic minorities there is a tendency for parents to teach their kids to over stretch… Was this instilled in you ?

      What advantages are there in having to work hard for something… In having to ‘deserve’ it ? Does it make you more noble ? Who will it please ?

      If you answer these questions… The need for approval will shrink, but you will still have to ‘press delete’ to begin to overcome it…

      If you value your freedom more than self approval or the approval of others… Then all you need to do is to make a decision to let the constriction that comes with needing approval go. Do this until there is no constriction when you think about have something big for no effort.

      The 7 day free trial at http://www.iPersonalEnrichment.com will teach you the foundations of letting go… I would advise you to listen to the “being worth it” module that is on the Gold Package which is released further on in the month. (the modules are drip fed to ensure that you are building on previous absorbed knowledge/experience)

      Hope this helps,
      AbdelRahman Mussa

      Founder of iPersonalenrichment.com

    • Muslema says:

      AA,

      Feeling humbled because of Allah’s blessings on us and grateful to Him (swt) is a good thing. Having Shukr is an integral part of receiving guidance.

      But at the same time that one knows their own weaknesses and mistakes and are overwhelmed with feeling thankful to Allah (swt)– that should not be a reason to punish oneself because of feeling they didn’t deserve it. First, to do so means you’re questioning the qadr of Allah (swt)– and He is the Most Wise. You have what you have in rizq by the plan of the Most Wise.

      Second, even blessings are a test. In fact they can often be a bigger test than difficulties. So yes, be thankful but also be aware and careful with your blessings.

      Third, realize that the best way to show your gratitude for what you have been given is to use it and spend it in the way that is pleasing to Allah (swt). Allah (swt) tells Dawud (as)– “I’malu aala Dawuda shukraa”– “Work, O family of David, in gratitude.” (Saba: 13) And know that no matter how much we worship Allah (swt) in words and actions, it can never repay Him (swt). We simply show our gratitude out of our love for Him (swt).

      Fourth, take your blessings from Allah (swt) as a sign of His Love for you and His Mercy on you. Your biggest blessing is that He guided you to Islam. Furthermore, any good deed that comes from you is by His permission. These are all signs of His love– and if you allow yourself to really feel His love, you will have a better opinion of Allah (swt). If He loves you, then who are you not to love yourself?

      A person who knows their mistakes can love themselves as long as they continue to repent and believe in the infinite Mercy of Allah (swt).

      Please see this article for details:
      http://www.suhaibwebb.com/personaldvlpt/purification-heart/30-reasons-for-redemption-and-elevation-not-despair/

      I hope this helps insha Allah!

      • Aiseh Smith says:

        Your light [ and knowledge] has made me happy, so thank you, and may Allah bless you, myshallah! Thank you, good Muslims. You’ve made me so happy that I want to cry, I may only be 14, but Islam starts when you’re young. You have proven to me that all the light in world has not been snuffed out. Myshallah, and may Allah protect you and your family from the fire. Also my doctors appointment in Atlanta is coming up for cancer please hope and pray that Allah does not allow there to be anything wrong- I’ve made it 11 years now because of Allah [ swt]. Ameen

  9. HS says:

    May Allah (swt) reward you for sharing your insights and thoughts Sr Muslema – and your point about being attached to that way ‘things’ make us feel rather than the things themselves is so true! Its amazing how simple concepts like these make a big difference in our understanding of ourselves and the world, and thus in the way we feel and behave towards ourselves and others. Totally recommend the IPE program!!

  10. Lucinda says:

    Subhan Allah, this is exactly what I needed to read. I havent even read part two yet but i’m excited about it none the less. Ensha Allah it will direct me on the “how to’s” or what to do next.

  11. lucinda says:

    I don’t know how to get over being sad about straying from the straight path , which makes me feel weak .

    • Aiseh Smith says:

      You are not weak or alone. May Allah protect you from the fire whose fuel is men and stones. You are stronger than you know, and you may accomplish anything. I feel being 14 that I have caused major sins, but I have taken heed, fell down on some hard stones, and may Allah forgive me. I may have done bad things but I did not lie, so maybe it won’t be so terrible. But you can do anything, you just have to believe! May Allah forgive all my sins! Also, don’t worry, you can get back on the right path. Obey Allah, and do righteous. Inshallah, things will work out. Ameen

  12. Sarah says:

    Masha’Allah, great article! Jazakum Allahu Khair for taking the time to write it. May Allah help all the Muslims let go of these emotions and keep us on the straight path, Ameen!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thank you! I shall overcome IA. Wasalam. Amazing words Brother AbdelRahaman and Sister Muslimah. I feel better already.

  14. AQ says:

    Jazakallah for writing this piece! It was a answer to my dua and an end to my sorrow! Alhumdulillah Allah works in wondorous way! May Allah grant you Jannatul Firdous for all your efforts! Ameen

  15. Masoodah says:

    Ma’Shaa’Allah! Beautiful, thank you! It was meant for me to read by Allah’s will.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Tricks of the mind and nafs are so true. Jazak Allah khair for the precise clarification. Reminded me of Musa Alaihi Assalam, when he feared approaching Fir’aon, then Allah swt reassured him that He will be with him:

    ( 12 ) He said, “My Lord, indeed I fear that they will deny me
    ( 13 ) And that my breast will tighten and my tongue will not be fluent, so send for Aaron.
    ( 14 ) And they have upon me a [claim due to] sin, so I fear that they will kill me.”
    ( 15 ) [Allah] said, “No. Go both of you with Our signs; indeed, We are with you, listening.
    Surah Ash-Shu’araa’

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