“With hardship come ease, verily with hardship comes ease” (Qur'an 94:5-6).
I had always interpreted these verses to mean that after every hardship comes ease. That is, until someone pointed out that the word is “with”. So, coupled with the circumstances I was facing, a period of ease was the flipside of the coin, waiting to happen. For, after all, the words of Qur’an are the absolute truth. What a relief! Help was closer at hand than I thought. All I had to do was to ride the storm with patience, let the currents flow their course, and better times will come.
When a calamity befalls you, say Alhamdulillah.
No way! At least that was my initial reaction. But, when thinking about it, what else can you do, if something happens in your life and you are powerless to stop it? You can hate it all you want, or, you can go back to the root of your faith, and remind yourself that everything that happens, good or bad, is pre-ordained by Allah. If you are angry at your circumstances, then implicitly you are angry with Allah for allowing such events to occur. And very simply, if you are angry at Allah, you are, consciously or not, refusing to submit to His will. If the root word of Islam is “submission”, where does such misplaced anger put you in the eyes of Allah? This is not an issue to be trivialized, for the simple act of acceptance and thankfulness can affect the core of your belief.
Whereas, “Alhamdulillah” in times of calamity is the ultimate sign of submission. It is the acknowledgement that what Allah has ordained for you, even if not that pleasant in the short term, is what is best for you, even if you do not know it. It is like thanking the doctor for a bitter pill. It is like thanking your parents for disciplining you. Just that, it is on an exponential magnitude that cannot be compared with anything on earth. It is the humbleness to acknowledge that you, with your successful career and string of degrees, are not the best person to plan your life. Allah is. If there are a few obstacles along the way, these will simply strengthen you. Allah does not give you insurmountable challenges to break you, He gives you obstacles so that you can rise above them and emerge on the other side a stronger person. When you are put through a trial, it is not because you are hated. It is because you are loved, for it is in times of adversity that one instinctively seeks the Creator and reconnects with Him.
So, I re-acquainted myself with my prayer cloth, performed my first salat in many long months, and said Alhamdulillah at the end of it. It was a declaration that came from my heart, and I found myself weeping, not at my circumstances, but rather at the sheer feeling of relief and comfort I felt as a result. A tidal wave of realization hit me, whacking my senses from every angle. It was as if, in the past few months, I had been viewing the world through a black veil of gloom and despair, and the veil had been lifted from my eyes, displaying the beauty of everything around me in literally dazzling colours and radiance that I had never noticed before.
I walked around my apartment in a daze, and my mind went into overdrive of how blessed I was, and how much I should be thankful for. My life, my health, my sanity, a roof over my head, decent clothes, friends and family who loved me. My ability to think, feel, breathe. The monstrous weight that had been bearing down on me disappeared, as if some unseen hand had felt that it was time to relieve me of my burden. The constant ache that I had been carrying in my heart dissolved, like dust being gently washed away by the rain. I had not gone into some sort of religious trance or stupor, it was the direct opposite, it was as if I had been wearing the wrong glasses and finally my vision was clear again.
I now understand that when one distances oneself from Allah, a veil is created over the heart, growing darker with each passing day, until the veil becomes a seal which none but Allah can remove. Was that what it was, a veil? If so, Alhamdulillah for being given the ability to say Alhamdulillah! For Allah to lift the veil and allow me to see the light of His guidance.
A Full Circle
So, yes, I had come one full circle. Just that this time, I did not feel smug (for wasn’t it was own pride in my religious achievements that precipitated the previous events?)
In the days and weeks that passed by, things gradually fell into place. Without the darkness of despair to cloud my vision, I finally understood that all that had happened to me, all that had been snatched away from me, and all the loss I had suffered was for my own good. My prayers for my previous life to be reinstated was the wrong prayer to make all along – the right one would have been to ask for wisdom and comprehension behind all these confusing changes of circumstances, and of course, the iman to face and accept them. On hindsight, if Allah had answered my prayers in the terms that I had dictated (this being another point – what right did I have to dictate Allah in precise terms what I wanted?), my life would have been a living nightmare up to today. I cannot explain the private details, but this, I know without a doubt.
Whatever it was that I was attached to previously was toxic for my wellbeing and my iman, for I gave it more priority and loved it more than I loved Allah. That love grew into an obsession and became the centre of my existence. My constant refusal to remedy matters with my own hands when I had various opportunities to (including a few gentle warnings), resulted in Allah eventually snatching it away from me. The pain was akin to poisonous thorns being ripped out of my flesh. However, the bleeding drained all the venom from my system, and was necessary for me to heal and have a clean start.
My final realization was that throughout all my sadness, Allah had never abandoned me, not for a single second. It was I who abandoned Him. Yet despite my defiance, rebellion and ingratitude, He was still there when I finally realized that I had no choice but to turn back to Him for help.
And how different life is without the veil – the veil of pride, doubt, ignorance and sadness suffocating and choking the essence of the soul. How differently one sees the world and all that happens if one humbly relies on Allah.
I drank in all this newfound knowledge and vision with an incredible thirst, and until one day something clicked. A subtle change in the air which literally made me stop in my tracks. I realized that I was about to be tested again – and within a week, another set of life changing anomalous events occurred. Again, unprecedented and baffling, and on paper, even worse than before. Just that this time, as sincerely as I could, I uttered Alhamdulillah and relied on Allah take care of me until once again, the hardship was followed by ease. And this time, it was not a tumultuous ride of anguish, but rather a calm journey of submission and trust, filled by, dare I say it – happiness. That’s the secret – do not resist fate, but rather do your best to solve the situation and let Allah navigate you until the turmoil has passed. And it will pass.
I know that more periods of hardship and ease will follow, for such is life. The test does not stop until we exhale our last breath. May we all trust Allah to guide us all through our ups and downs, and may Allah never veil our hearts from His Noor, Ameen.