Why do people have to leave each other?


Why Do People Have to Leave Each Other? Part I Part II

When I was 17 years old, I had a dream. I dreamt that I was sitting inside a masjid and a little girl walked up to ask me a question. She asked me: “Why do people have to leave each other?” The question was a personal one, but it seemed clear to me why the question was chosen for me.

I was one to get attached.

Ever since I was a child, this temperament was clear. While other children in preschool could easily recover once their parents left, I could not. My tears, once set in motion, did not stop easily. As I grew up, I learned to become attached to everything around me. From the time I was in first grade, I needed a best friend. As I got older, any fall-out with a friend shattered me. I couldn’t let go of anything. People, places, events, photographs, moments—even outcomes became objects of strong attachment. If things didn’t work out the way I wanted or imagined they should, I was devastated. And disappointment for me wasn’t an ordinary emotion. It was catastrophic. Once let down, I never fully recovered. I could never forget, and the break never mended. Like a glass vase that you place on the edge of a table, once broken, the pieces never quite fit again.

But the problem wasn’t with the vase. Or even that the vases kept breaking. The problem was that I kept putting them on the edge of tables. Through my attachments, I was dependent on my relationships to fulfill my needs. I allowed those relationships to define my happiness or my sadness, my fulfillment or my emptiness, my security, and even my self-worth. And so, like the vase placed where it will inevitably fall, through those dependencies I set myself up for disappointment. I set myself up to be broken. And that’s exactly what I found: one disappointment, one break after another.

But the people who broke me were not to blame any more than gravity can be blamed for breaking the vase. We can’t blame the laws of physics when a twig snaps because we leaned on it for support. The twig was never created to carry us.

Our weight was only meant to be carried by God. We are told in the Quran: “…whoever rejects evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And God hears and knows all things.” (Qur’an 2: 256)

There is a crucial lesson in this verse: that there is only one handhold that never breaks. There is only one place where we can lay our dependencies. There is only one relationship that should define our self-worth and only one source from which to seek our ultimate happiness, fulfillment, and security. That place is God.

But this world is all about seeking those things everywhere else. Some of us seek it in our careers, some seek it in wealth, some in status. Some, like me, seek it in our relationships. In her book, Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert describes her own quest for happiness. She describes moving in and out of relationships, and even traveling the globe in search of this fulfillment. She seeks that fulfillment—unsuccessfully—in her relationships, in meditation, even in food.

And that’s exactly where I spent much of my own life: seeking a way to fill my inner void. So it was no wonder that the little girl in my dream asked me this question. It was a question about loss, about disappointment. It was a question about being let down. A question about seeking something and coming back empty handed. It was about what happens when you try to dig in concrete with your bare hands: not only do you come back with nothing—you break your fingers in the process. And I learned this not by reading it, not by hearing it from a wise sage. I learned it by trying it again, and again, and again.

And so, the little girl’s question was essentially my own question…being asked to myself.

Ultimately, the question was about the nature of the dunya as a place of fleeting moments and temporary attachments. As a place where people are with you today, and leave or die tomorrow. But this reality hurts our very being because it goes against our nature. We, as humans, are made to seek, love, and strive for what is perfect and what is permanent. We are made to seek what’s eternal. We seek this because we were not made for this life. Our first and true home was Paradise: a land that is both perfect and eternal. So the yearning for that type of life is a part of our being. The problem is that we try to find that here. And so we create ageless creams and cosmetic surgery in a desperate attempt to hold on—in an attempt to mold this world into what it is not, and will never be.

And that’s why if we live in dunya with our hearts, it breaks us. That’s why this dunya hurts. It is because the definition of dunya, as something temporary and imperfect, goes against everything we are made to yearn for. Allah put a yearning in us that can only be fulfilled by what is eternal and perfect. By trying to find fulfillment in what is fleeting, we are running after a hologram…a mirage. We are digging into concrete with our bare hands. Seeking to turn what is by its very nature temporary into something eternal is like trying to extract from fire, water.  You just get burned. Only when we stop putting our hopes in dunya, only when we stop trying to make the dunya into what it is not—and was never meant to be (jannah)—will this life finally stop breaking our hearts.

We must also realize that nothing happens without a purpose. Nothing. Not even broken hearts. Not even pain. That broken heart and that pain are lessons and signs for us. They are warnings that something is wrong. They are warnings that we need to make a change. Just like the pain of being burned is what warns us to remove our hand from the fire, emotional pain warns us that we need to make an internal change. That we need to detach. Pain is a form of forced detachment. Like the loved one who hurts you again and again and again, the more dunya hurts us, the more we inevitably detach from it. The more we inevitably stop loving it.

And pain is a pointer to our attachments. That which makes us cry, that which causes us most pain is where our false attachments lie. And it is those things which we are attached to as we should only be attached to Allah which become barriers on our path to God. But the pain itself is what makes the false attachment evident. The pain creates a condition in our life that we seek to change, and if there is anything about our condition that we don’t like, there is a divine formula to change it. God says: “Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves.” (Qur’an, 13:11)

After years of falling into the same pattern of disappointments and heartbreak, I finally began to realize something profound. I had always thought that love of dunya meant being attached to material things. And I was not attached to material things. I was attached to people. I was attached to moments. I was attached to emotions. So I thought that the love of dunya just did not apply to me. What I didn’t realize was that people, moments, emotions are all a part of dunya. What I didn’t realize is that all the pain I had experienced in life was due to one thing, and one thing only: love of dunya.

As soon as I began to have that realization, a veil was lifted from my eyes. I started to see what my problem was. I was expecting this life to be what it is not, and was never meant to be: perfect. And being the idealist that I am, I was struggling with every cell in my body to make it so. It had to be perfect. And I would not stop until it was. I gave my blood, sweat, and tears to this endeavor: making the dunya into jannah. This meant expecting people around me to be perfect. Expecting my relationships to be perfect. Expecting so much from those around me and from this life. Expectations. Expectations. Expectations. And if there is one recipe for unhappiness it is that: expectations. But herein lay my fatal mistake. My mistake was not in having expectations; as humans, we should never lose hope. The problem was in *where* I was placing those expectations and that hope. At the end of the day, my hope and expectations were not being placed in God. My hope and expectations were in people, relationships, means. Ultimately, my hope was in this dunya rather than Allah.

And so I came to realize a very deep Truth. An ayah began to cross my mind. It was an ayah I had heard before, but for the first time I realized that it was actually describing me:  “Those who rest not their hope on their meeting with Us, but are pleased and satisfied with the life of the present, and those who heed not Our Signs.” (Qur’an, 10:7)

By thinking that I can have everything here, my hope was not in my meeting with God. My hope was in dunya. But what does it mean to place your hope in dunya? How can this be avoided? It means when you have friends, don’t expect your friends to fill your emptiness. When you get married, don’t expect your spouse to fulfill your every need. When you’re an activist, don’t put your hope in the results. When you’re in trouble don’t depend on yourself. Don’t depend on people. Depend on God.

Seek the help of people—but realize that it is not the people (or even your own self) that can save you. Only Allah can do these things. The people are only tools, a means used by God. But they are not the source of help, aid, or salvation of any kind. Only God is. The people cannot even create the wing of a fly (22:73).  And so, even while you interact with people externally, turn your heart towards God. Face Him alone, as Prophet Ibrahim (as) said so beautifully: “For me, I have set my face, firmly and truly, towards Him Who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah.” (Qur’an, 6:79)

But how does Prophet Ibrahim (as) describe his journey to that point? He studies the moon, the sun and the stars and realizes that they are not perfect. They set.

They let us down.

So Prophet Ibrahim (as) was thereby led to face Allah alone. Like him, we need to put our full hope, trust, and dependency on God. And God alone. And if we do that, we will learn what it means to finally find peace and stability of heart. Only then will the roller coaster that once defined our lives finally come to an end. That is because if our inner state is dependent on something that is by definition inconstant, that inner state will also be inconstant. If our inner state is dependent on something changing and temporary, that inner state will be in a constant state of instability, agitation, and unrest. This means that one moment we’re happy, but as soon as that which our happiness depended upon changes, our happiness also changes. And we become sad. We remain always swinging from one extreme to another and not realizing why.

We experience this emotional roller coaster because we can never find stability and lasting peace until our attachment and dependency is on what is stable and lasting. How can we hope to find constancy if what we hold on to is inconstant and perishing? In the statement of Abu Bakr is a deep illustration of this truth. After the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ died, the people went into shock and could not handle the news. But although no one loved the Prophet ﷺ like Abu Bakr, Abu Bakr understood well the only place where one’s dependency should lie. He said: “If you worshipped Muhammad, know that Muhammad is dead. But if you worshipped Allah, know that Allah never dies.”

To attain that state, don’t let your source of fulfillment be anything other than your relationship with God. Don’t let your definition of success, failure, or self-worth be anything other than your position with Him (Qur’an, 49:13). And if you do this, you become unbreakable, because your handhold is unbreakable. You become unconquerable, because your supporter can never be conquered. And you will never become empty, because your source of fulfillment is unending and never diminishes.

Looking back at the dream I had when I was 17, I wonder if that little girl was me. I wonder this because the answer I gave her was a lesson I would need to spend the next painful years of my life learning. My answer to her question of why people have to leave each other was: “because this life isn’t perfect; for if it was, what would the next be called?”

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348 Comments

  1. mehmudah says:

    SubhanAllah, praise be to Allah! What a beautiful, heartfelt piece. Yasmin Mogahed, pls write more often!

    If you’ve got a moment here’s another take on dunya and it’s fickle nature – http://mehmudahrehman.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/the-truth-about-time/

  2. Farida says:

    Mash’Allah! As always Sr Yasmin, you have an amazing way of putting things into perspective and tangible for readers of all ages
    jazaki Allah kol kheir

  3. ai says:

    A truly moving piece. JazakAllah khair.

  4. Fahd Abdal Wahhab says:

    Jazak Allah Khairan for this article dear sister.

    I had certain lingering questions in my mind, and I just made dua that they be answered and believe me I found them in this article, Alhamdulillah!

    Truly wonderful!

  5. Jinan says:

    “After years of falling into the same pattern of disappointments and heartbreak, I finally began to realize something profound. I had always thought that love of dunya meant being attached to material things. And I was not attached to material things. I was attached to people. I was attached to moments. I was attached to emotions. So I thought that the love of dunya just did not apply to me. What I didn’t realize was that people, moments, emotions are all a part of dunya. What I didn’t realize is that all the pain I had experienced in life was due to one thing, and one thing only: love of dunya.”

    This really hit home. JazakiAllah alf khair.

  6. Nesrodeen says:

    JazakiAllah khair Sister. It was beautifully written. Great Job.our articles touch the hearts of every generation. We need more sisters setting great examples for the next generation. I also love your radio show. I ask Allah to keep blessing you with hiqma and passing it down to the umma.

  7. sana says:

    thank you for sharing for the sake of our benefit! really great gems of advice mashAllah

  8. SZ says:

    I can just say “WOW”… Masha’Allah this article just had me in a state of pause for some time.

  9. ummahmed says:

    Jazakumallahu khairaan sister..It felt like as if you are telling my story.We are created for worship and we all need something to hold on to.May Allah include us among the people who love him the most.This is the only love that will get thru this duniya and in aakhiraa easily.

  10. Absolutely love this.

  11. It just felt that you are writing my story.
    Your video conveyed the same thing
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9xxInnDPs0

    I wondered (after it dawn on me) that why nobody told me about this before? Why those who were experiencing this didn’t tell me beforehand not to love the ‘dunya’?
    But with time, I saw that some are so absorbed in the dunya that they cant see this and some are still trying to figure it out.
    The main thing is the experience of breaking that ‘attachment’ with the dunya. That experience makes one realize that to what you have stated, that attachment, that hope, that trust only belongs to Allah and the ayahs you have mentioned becomes clear
    May Allah bless you sister.

  12. Sister says:

    Beautiful article :)

    Just a slight error though, Eat Pray Love is by Elizabeth Gilbert.

    But amazing nonetheless. May Allah bless your efforts.

  13. Noor says:

    I’ve been thinking about the idea of separating one’s self from this dunya. I feel like the idea of attachment is something every person is tested with, although most are blinded and cannot see the severity of their attachments.

    “I had always thought that love of dunya meant being attached to material things. And I was not attached to material things. I was attached to people. I was attached to moments. I was attached to emotions. So I thought that the love of dunya just did not apply to me. What I didn’t realize was that people, moments, emotions are all a part of dunya. What I didn’t realize is that all the pain I had experienced in life was due to one thing, and one thing only: love of dunya.”

    I’ve had this realization as well. At times, we think that we are doing ourselves better by attaching ourselves to emotions rather than materialistic things. Maybe attaching ourselves to people and emotions can be more dangerous.

    JazakAllahu Khairan

  14. umm yusuf says:

    Subhan’Allah- it reminds me of what my husband said to me when we got married 15 years ago- He said to me “Don’t rely on me, don’t rely on anyone- just rely on Allah”

    Of course- being a typical star struck newly wed wife- I was a tad phased. Then he explained “people are fallible, Allah is NOT”

    Since then I am ever aware of our lives, relationships, jobs, families, belongings, and even time itself being merely tools. Tools that will be used for or against us.

    When one realises that Allah is enough- and everything else is temporary- it helps one stay focused no matter what happens. To put hopes in anything other than Allah will not lead to peace of mind. The beauty of Islaam is that it certainly leads to peace of mind-and THIS is something no amount of money can buy.

  15. Ahmed says:

    Mashaallah! Great post. Great reflections. Worth the read. Though Im still looking for a more purpose oriented answer to the question “Why do people have to leave each other ?”. “This world is not perfect”:- aint a intellectually satisfying answer, to me atleast.

  16. Teresa says:

    JazakAllah khayran for writing this! I truly needed to read this & insha’Allah I will go back to it often as a beneficial reminder in this journey to improve myself always.

  17. Hajra says:

    Beautifully written mashAllah. I did not realize how much this article would apply to me…subhanAllah…I’m so glad I read this.

  18. I was watching the following video of dua khatm al Quran by Sheikh Abdur Rahman Sudais. The following lines forever struck my heart:

    “Allah! I’ve lost hope from everyone except from you, and I’m disappointed of everyone except of you, and I’m weakened by my dependence on everyone except on you! So Allah, please do not expel me from your side! If you did, then there are no power and no strength except in you, Allah! Whoever has asked you, and then you have deprived him? (None). Whoever has called you and you discarded him? (None).”

    BTW, jazakhallah for this beautiful article and beautiful reminder.

  19. UmmSarah says:

    “I had always thought that love of dunya meant being attached to material things. And I was not attached to material things. I was attached to people. I was attached to moments. I was attached to emotions. So I thought that the love of dunya just did not apply to me. What I didn’t realize was that people, moments, emotions are all a part of dunya. What I didn’t realize is that all the pain I had experienced in life was due to one thing, and one thing only: love of dunya.”
    I can relate to this. Breaking this attachment is very tricky. For example, love for your child, so much so that if something were to happen that would cause separation, it can break someone with attachment into pieces.

  20. Uk says:

    Thank you for this piece. Even though I am not Muslim , I completely relate to this post so much that it’s a bit scary. I am at a stage in my life where I am understanding that my expectations of man, my inner desires, the void in my heart, can only be filled by God and that has relived me from a lot of pain, heavy heart … Just surrendering and knowing that God can only give me the degree of love and intimacy that I need and a stable life in Him with no disappointments….

    Thanks again for this post

    • “Truly in the heart there is a void that can not be removed except with the company of Allah. And in it there is a sadness that can not be removed except with the happiness of knowing Allah and being true to Him. And in it there is an emptiness that can not be filled except with love for Him and by turning to Him and always remembering Him. And if a person were given all of the world and what is in it, it would not fill this emptiness.”

      -Ibn Qayyim al Jawziyya, a great Muslim scholar.

  21. urbandeen says:

    Absolutely amazing. Thank you for sharing.

  22. urbandeen says:

    This really hit home. I was wondering all these years on disappointments on the train today and asked for an answer and subannallah I got it. Thank u again.

  23. Asma Hajjaj says:

    Truly an amazing article – enjoyed every second of it mashAllah .. May Allah help us and guide us all on this journey in our temporary home into our forever lasting homes in Jannah .. inshAllah.

  24. waffa says:

    JazakAllah khayrun! Your article couldn’t have come at a better time for me, thank u so much. By far one of my favourite writers, mashAllah all your articles are so intelligently written!

  25. Ali says:

    Assalamu alaykum

    I feel like Neo in the matrix. Every time I read this I feel like I’m believing and trusting more and more in Allah and life is becoming easier and easier for me to deal with.

  26. MusliM-Firefighter says:

    Subhan’Allah I have a similar problem and lost someone who was important to me, but I think it was for the best alhamdulilah

  27. Fatemah says:

    Ma sh’a Allah, a beautiful approach to daily disappointments we face everyday. Indeed, we shouldn’t expect anything from anyone, because Allah is the source of everything, because people keeps on letting us down, and we we depend entirely on Allah (SWT), people reactions then don’t matter, because if they do us good, we thank Allah for his gifts to us, and if they don’t do us any good, then we don’t grieve ourselves, because we didn’t expect anything from them originally.

    Jazaki Allah khyran.

  28. Maria says:

    MashAllah! What a beautiful article. I’m sure many people can relate to this. JAK for sharing.

  29. Bahia says:

    Absolute beautiful article may Allah reward u for posting

  30. ZAI says:

    Nice post alhamdulillah.
    As the hadith says “God is with the broken hearted” and sometimes we need to be reminded of that…

  31. Unnisa says:

    Amazing! MashaAllah very true no matter how hard we try we can never be fully pleased only if we are pleased with Allah and everything he does for us then we truly become self efficient. We struggle so hard work long hours to buy property,materials,electronics, etc hoping that it would please us but a week later we want something more because we are not full satisfied anymore and this continues. Ok lets say we keep buying and buying stuff and when u have enough to keep buying and staying satisfied then ur happiness becomes dependent on money. I believe in this dunya few people truly have self happiness, the happiness that isn’t dependent on other things relationships,materials,property,wealth, etc. if we have divine happiness with Allah then truly we are successful. My dua is that everyone finds true happiness.Ameen

  32. Faizunnahar says:

    Wow, JazakAllah khair! That was definitely a beautiful piece!

  33. Farah says:

    SubhahanaAllah!!! Jazaki Allah Khair so much for sharing this with us all. Indeed it is Haqq and it a deep and beautiful lesson you have been blessed to learn and to share
    Subhahana wa ta’ala, our only goal, our only Lord, our only Cherisher, Nourisher, Protector

  34. JazakAllah Khayr, this is such a brilliant, beautiful & moving article! Yasmin Mogahed, you have an innate talent to resonate such profound feeling & realisation into something so relatable to all us masyaAllah!

    Certainly 1 of my favourite writers. This piece resonates deeply to my struggles too & reminds us to never stop learning of our true purpose. Obsession with dunya is a disease in our modern times. Thank you Yasmin, your clarity & lawful introspection to Allah SWT in this article really comes through.

    Much Sinceres,
    Mashel Hamsah

  35. imsaeed says:

    I actually read everything to the end.. Quite the masterpiece. Thank you :)

  36. JazakAllah Khayr. A brilliant, beautiful and moving article. Such a profound realisation and poignant lesson Yasmin Mogamed, you truly have an innate talent to reach out & relate to us all, masyaAllah!

    This piece resonates to my own struggles too & the need for personal development to purify our soul. Obsession with the dunya is sadly a disease of our modern times. Thank you, your clarity & lawful introspection to our relationship with Allah SWT is a beyond welcoming reminder. Certainly 1 of my favourite writers around.

  37. SultanaPasha says:

    outstanding………..

  38. Fatima says:

    I don’t know you, but i have already bonded with you!:) I learned the exact same lesson the hard way. I guess the only way you can learn something so profound and liberating is through the hard way, by experiencing pain.It’s human nature to always want to avoid pain and we would do absolutely anything to escape it, but sometimes we are made to experience it to protect us from causing ourselves even more pain. Indeed, whatever God chooses for His servants is for their own good, even though they may dislike it.

  39. Mohammed says:

    Beautifully Said msA!

  40. Sami says:

    This is probably the most profound piece I’ve read on this blog so far, and I’ve been reading for many years.

    May Allah reward you Sr. Yasmin

  41. Hassan ahmed. says:

    Ua r article us rly taught me alot and maashalah mst of ma qsns dat i never had imediate answer…hv jst bn answered……..a.way de article iz much tching and may Allah lead us in realizing His bounty…..and may He lead us in de corect path…cz de curent world iz ful of evils and temptations.

  42. Dinda says:

    Masha Allah, sister! Very beautiful article! Just what I need right now. Masha Allah, Allah really does understand our very heart.
    Beautiful indeed, sister..beautiful..
    Jazak Allah Khayr

  43. Navroz says:

    SubhanAllah, beautifully written. You wrote, in words, what I have been feeling for years after my dear father’s passing. Allah yer7amo.

  44. Tricia says:

    Some may say that the cruel irony is: turn away from dunya, yet the dunya is all we know. I take comfort in the fact that the people we love will be with us in jannah, as the Prophet indicated with his two fingers, saw. Allah uses some aspects of this life to tell us about the next one, i.e., gardens underneath which rivers flow. That is a dunya analogy, since nothing in jannah is like what is here, yet Allah has us visualize using things in our sensory world. As long as we remember that ‘everything is passing away but the face of Allah’, then there can be a healthy way to engage the dunya. After all, Allah says he did not create it just for play.

    Thank you for this piece.

  45. nas says:

    amazingly written…masyaAllah…Thank you

  46. Muslema says:

    Very beautiful reminder Sis. Yasmin– may Allah allow us to detach from all the entrapments of the material world, yet give them their rights at the same time :) May our love of people be for His sake, and may trial and separation bring us closer to Him, and invigorate our servitude rather than paralyze us.

  47. Naaz says:

    Love this!

  48. Husnara says:

    very powerful, jazakAllah khair

  49. reem says:

    jazaki Allahu ’7ayr… this is so wonderfully written and its message so powerful… God bless u and make this a sadaqa jariya for u… ameen

  50. Mohamed soltan says:

    Mashallah! Amazing piece, perhaps one o your best. May Allah bless you and give you the knowledge, and wisdom to keep benefiting the Muslims. JAk

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