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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349 Comments

  1. Rhonda says:

    MashaAllah I really loved this piece. JazakyAllahu khayr!

  2. Maryam Taher says:

    Speechless !
    @Yasmin Mogahed ,I Seriously Owe you A LOT !
    Thanks for this Master Piece !
    SO Honestly It is the BEST thing i EVER read !
    ( Excluding Qur’an)
    I ll Print it out ,stick it to my diaries ,title it (The Article that changed my life )
    Again thank you <3

  3. Ahmed says:

    Ma’sha’allah, Sr. Yasmin, this is one of your most beautiful and touching pieces. Like so many comments have mentioned, it really hits the spot. Indeed, we do put so much expectation on having things the way we want or desire here, when in the end, it all doesn’t really matter, as it is temporary. The one relationship that began before we entered, as we live in and lasts beyond this world is the one with our Creator. A really great reminder to say the least in a time when maybe we get caught up in the various connections, as yo mentioned, while we go about our lives.

    Again, truly awesome. Jazak’Allahu Khairan

  4. cashsmart says:

    Really beautiful. You are clearly a very talented writer. MSA

  5. Maryam says:

    gave me goosebumps. JazakiAllahu kul khayran<3

  6. Abdessamad says:

    whatever we say..séparation is painful..it’s a bad moment to live..not to understand..I think..
    thanks

  7. Rubana says:

    Salam aleykem sister Yasmin,

    I have read alhamdulillah so many articles in this site and many others,but none has touched me so much as this one.

    Jazak Allah for putting your feelings into such beautiful words and helping us realize what’s more important,i.e the Hereafter.

    May Allah(swt) help to detach ourselves from the dunya,ameen.:)

  8. Sukaynah says:

    Wow! MashaAllah. A beautifully written article filled with wisdom and insight. You words touched me at the core, and brought about much realization with in my heart. May Allah reward you, InshaAllah. I would love to see more articles published along these lines, InshaAllah.

  9. Erum says:

    MashaALLAH this piece REALLY hit home for me. . . I too am one to get very easily attached and thus VERY EASILY broken. You have really hit the nail on the head by getting straight to the root of the problem- our strength would be to let go of what can never please us, no matter how hard we try. . . But instead place our utmost hope and faith in the ONE who can never ever dissappoint or abandon us!

    SubhanALLAH. This piece will benefit so many people!

  10. Azhar says:

    JAK sister. This is exactly what I needed.

  11. Neer says:

    Thank you so much sister for writing this. I found it at a time when my heart was really yearning for the peace this article brings. I wish I could thank you in person for helping me so much. I hope to carry the feeling of liberation from worldly pain, and closeness to Allah, that I felt while reading this article, for as long as I live, inshaallah.
    May Allah truly be pleased with you.

  12. Ryby says:

    This statement is so correct it’s like someone has lived in my head and played my thoughts and put them on paper.

  13. Tasneem says:

    MashaAllah, this is amazing and extremely beneficial. This is just what i needed!! May Allah reward you!

  14. Sarah A says:

    Jazaki Allahu Khair Yasmin for sharing this beautiful and touching piece. I love them all but this one is my fave so far mA…it truly touched my heart and made me feel so much better. Baraka Allahu feeki habeebti, May Allah(swt)continue to bless you and your family =)

  15. Silvi says:

    your writing is the most inspiring and soul freeing writing that i’ve ever read in my whole life… thank you for writing it down for us… jazakillah Khair….

  16. Mustafa says:

    May Allah bless you immensely for sharing these profound words. This matter is so fundamental to success and happiness. I hope Allah purifies our hearts from dependency on everyone other than Him.

  17. sayed says:

    salam alihoum
    thx you for this beautifull artical>>god bless you..i hope its help the other in their life…thx you again

  18. Zahra says:

    I get the gist of this beautiful article, but what if something you expect from a relationship is something essential to you? Or what if that relationship hinders you from doing what you wanted to for Allah’s sake and demotivates you?

  19. Idris says:

    mashaAllah, this article is something else. I don’t think even the author realises the magnitude of what she has written. This is possibly her Ticket to Paradise, inshaAllah.

  20. DR.YASSER EL-TOUNY says:

    CONGRATULATION SISTER, YOU’VE JUST RECOGNIZED THE ABSOLUTE AND THE ONLY TRUTH.

  21. Nazia Lakha says:

    these beautiful words made a profound impact on me today.
    thank you for sharing these…

  22. abuihsan says:

    MashaAllah something that sufis of Islam only able to deduct but sister Sarah you are contemplating to the like of sufis thats interesting and entertain us further by bringing articles like this in the future

  23. Tariq says:

    Excellent piece! I loved it! It definitely gave me a new perspective to look at upon my own life because I am the exact same way.
    Everything you wrote in your article, in regards to being attached to people, moments, and emotions; that is me, truly!
    Jazakallah Khair for this insight! Mash’Allah!
    May Allah (SWT) bless you and your efforts.
    Salaamualaikum!

  24. Yamlika says:

    MashAllah beautifully written sister yasmeen,JazkaAllah Khairan for this wonderful article,May Allah (swt) reward you

  25. Muhammad Ali says:

    This is a masterpiece which will always be close to ma heart!!

  26. Junaith Haja says:

    Asalamualaikum Sister,

    Masha Allah one of the best article I have ever read.
    I ‘ve always found myself attached to people and feeling for what they did to me and your article gives me a better perspective to look at things…

    JZK..

  27. Pary says:

    I enjoyed the psychological analysis of attachment… and personal way of explaining the feelings we have as humans when we love something & that something is gone from us… as far as the religious aspect lol i could do w/o.

  28. Meimuna says:

    This resonates so much. Its hard to come to grips with the reality that we are so attached to everything and everyone. Painful but freeing realization.

  29. Rafina Rahim says:

    I loved this article. It touched me to the core and I learnt a lot from it. Extremely well written and I simply loved how everything was put in context giving me a better understanding of my self and my beleifs and my faith and the last sentence sums everything up in its pure simplicity: “because this life isn’t perfect; for if it was, what would the next be called?”

    Thank u so much

  30. Dina says:

    i Just have to say that i kept reading this piece over and over again!..it’s just amazing how you’ve pictured my thoughts into those touching words,that made me have that sudden realization that we all at a certain point are driven by the same urges,we’re created to needy,needing something..someone to rely on,but when we put all that behind and have a deep look into things,we find the best to be relied on;Allah:)..Thanks a lot for sharing this extremely touching article

  31. diana says:

    jazaki Allah khayran it is an amazing master piece
    i am soo similar to what you used to be i wish i could become what you are right now , i am now at that stage where im still getting my heart broken and i wish i could be liberated ! i love ALLAH (swt) and our religion but it feels so difficult at this point where im at to just let go of all who i am attached to or what i aim for ,i mean objects or money all that doesnt mean anything to me but true love a trustworthy partner i would lie if i said it dsnt mean alot .. i hope i could reach the point where i am totally liberated inshala

  32. Ikhwan Ng says:

    Ya Allah… Thanks for writting this article. really inspired me and pull me away from sadness among peoples who never cherish me

  33. parrotsforpeace says:

    extremely touched and so right on. ive suffered my share of heartbreaks and this was the conclusion i had come to…that i had put my faith in him, and not in Him. and after my most recent heartbreaking experience, i only turned to the One that had been there all along, and I get closer to Him each day. thank you for this piece.

  34. Yousaf says:

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa baraktuhu,

    MashaAllahu La quwatta illa billah.

    May the One blessed you with such clarity of expression, bless your writings even more and make them a source of blessing for all those who read them.

    Jazakumullahu Khairan,

  35. Yousaf says:

    Reminds of the last part of the ayah from Surah al-Hajj,

    022.073 ضَعُفَ الطَّالِبُ وَالْمَطْلُوبُ

    Feeble are those who seek and those sought!

    • Yasmin Mogahed says:

      Yousaf:

      SubhannAllah. It was those EXACT three words that triggered the epiphany! SubhannAllah. They were mentioned in a lecture that I was listening to. I actually refer to that ayah in this article (see part about creating the wing of a fly) and I speak about it in “Escaping the worst prison”: http://www.suhaibwebb.com/relationships/escaping-the-worst-of-prisons/

      I write: “The message of this ayah (verse) is deeply profound. Every time you run after, seek, or petition something weak or feeble (which, by definition, is everything other than Allah), you too become weak or feeble. Even if you do reach that which you seek, it will never be enough. You will soon need to seek something else. You will never reach true contentment or satisfaction. That is why we live in a world of trade-ins and upgrades. Your phone, your car, your computer, your woman, your man, can always be traded in for a newer, better model.

      But there is a freedom from that slavery. When the object upon which you place all your weight is unshaking, unbreakable, and unending, you cannot fall. You cannot break.”

      • Yousaf says:

        I remember reading that alhamdulillah. I remember it being one I frantically shared with people.
        But more recently I came across this ayah in Brother Nouman Ali Khan’s khutbah where he talks about verses from Surah al-Hadid, “An Overview of Life”:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvOpol1cXhM

        I wanted to ask your permission to publish this articlein a magazine we publish from our Medical School in Islamabad. Here’s the e-versions of the magazines

        http://www.shifastudentsociety.com/transcend.html

        Jazakumullahu Khairan

        • WebbStaff says:

          asalamu `alaykum br. Yousaf,

          You can republish the article in your magazine but please be sure to:

          1. Cite Yasmin Mogahed as the author
          2. Cite SuhaibWebb.com as the original publisher
          3. Do not make any changes to the content of the article.

          You can see the entire Repost Policy here: http://www.suhaibwebb.com/miscellaneous/announcements/article-reposting-policy/

          If you have any questions, please email us at info[at]suhaibwebb.com

        • Yasmin Mogahed says:

          Brother Yousaf:

          That’s the exact lecture! SubhannAllah. That’s the one. I remember when Nouman Ali Khan got to the part where he mentioned and explained that ayah…those 3 words in the ayah…I actually paused it and said to myself: ‘THAT’S IT! That’s my quintessential problem!’

  36. Fouad says:

    my beautiful sister, may Allah reward you for sharing this universal strife that is known as dunya, and the importance of holding on to something more lasting.

  37. osuzanna says:

    i read this article right after praying isha’ tonite. i was making du’a and asking Allah to help settle my heart. I am like you…my attachments are on relationships. my heart breaks often and easily. This article is a direct answer to my du’a, subhan’Allah. I was telling myself that i have too many expectations, and that i need to let go of that. However, deep down i knew that totally letting go of expectations is impossible. Intellectually I know that I need to connect more to Allah. I wonder if you have any practical recommendations for how to go about this. I’ve been telling myself for a while that I just need to be content with what I have and not to have expectations, to turn to Allah for that…but I find myself still getting hurt often, being in what I call an emotional funk. How do you create that barrier around your heart? I’d love to hear advice on that. JAK for this. I will definitely be reflecting a lot and attempting to remove my love of dunya…

  38. sahar says:

    I also do believe, like the author does, that this article is meant to be written..a revelation and blessing from Allah to lighten the path for many….in sha Allah…

  39. Brother says:

    Assalmau Alaikum,

    Wallahi, this article is one of the most fulfilling Islamic articles I have read on the internet.

    Would it also be possible to give some practical steps to attaining a stage in which we don’t play our hope in people/emotions?

    Jazakillahu khair!

    Once again, superb article!

  40. sukainah says:

    assalamualaikum warahmatullah.

    alhamdulillah with Allah’s will i found this article ‘alive’ and being a major weeper myself,what you’ve written healed me alhamdulillah mashallah.Even if i will still be crying for the next 20 years i hope it is not for nothing,not for disappointments in al-makhluq,but a cry that will bring me closer to Allah,closer to meeting Him.

    Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said,
    “One who weeps out of fear of Allah, will not enter the Hell till milk returns back in the udder(i.e: impossible.)”(Timridi)..

  41. Kiran says:

    Extremely well written, brings alot into perspective for me.

  42. Shamir says:

    Assalaamu alaikum,

    Truly beautiful. Indeed the heart can see what eyes cannot.

    This is so, so, so true:
    “…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).”

    May He (swt) increase His light in our hearts.

    Thank you.

  43. Mai says:

    am speechless , am one of those who attaches to people a lot and am trying with every single mean to make them happy as thats how i love to treat my friends and thats how i want them to treat me back but they always let me down and i wonder why this keeps happening to me..i started to look at the bright side saying ‘maybe this happens to warn me that i should love Allah and attach to him more than people whoever they are , Allah ll never let me down’ … and your article seriously helped me a lot. it made me feel much better and it pushed me to begin changing my life and my heart :)

  44. Sister A says:

    I am truly grateful that Allah guided me to read your article today, it clicked. Alhumdullilah.

  45. muslimah says:

    jazakAllah kheir for this heart-warming piece, may Allah use it to awaken others like it has for me. barakAllah feeki..

  46. rahimah says:

    you just woke me up. cannot stop crying. Ya Allah, let me meet sister yasmin in Your Garden.

  47. medical says:

    These wirting reflects very much my past life, my joy, happiness, sadness always depended on friends and i was always afraid of being alone despite having a huge family i spent so many nights sleepless thinking about what i have done wrong that their angy at me , i avoided disputs with them it was so humiliating i was like a slave without a will and i was disgusted by myself it was really a ugly chapter in my live till i found the greatness in Allah, now i know i will never ever go to that state again, cuz i have found Allah again and he showed me really that nothing is worth in this dunya except him and he is the only one who can help me.

    Thank you very much Sister Yasmin.

  48. Umm Allif says:

    MashaAllah, I luv d article, but only do not agree about Ibrahim a.s. being let down by the sun, moon, stars… I don’t think that is the right interpretation … from what I learnt, he did that in order to show the people what twere worshipping was wrong.

  49. J says:

    This actually helped me get through some of The things I’ve been facing and realize my state it provides a great way of explaining the idea. Thank you

  50. A. says:

    Jazakullah Khair for writing this, it touched me on so many levels.

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