Before truly discovering the depth and beauty of Islam, it irritated me when, upon a tragedy, lost love or disappointment, someone would assure me not to worry, with quite corny sayings such as when the door is closed, a window will open.
To me, these words were groundless, because no one can see the future. These words sounded hollow and were more to lighten the situation rather than to provide solid comfort. It seemed to be a substitute for the more obvious truth that we simply don’t know what’s going on, and that there is no assurance that something better is on the way.
Could the person saying those words guarantee a better future? I didn’t think so, based on those who kept waiting for the window to open, and often ended up disappointed.
Are these words of comfort totally off tangent, though? Here is how we see things if applying the knowledge of Islam:
1. Dunia is temporary
Nothing is forever. We cannot freeze a moment in time. That rainbow will disappear, the shadows of the tree will shift and leave us exposed to the sun. Our bodies change, our thinking constantly evolves and even our hearts can switch between love to hate to indifference in a second. Our lives will end. This state of flux extends to everything in our lives. The elements of it which bring us joy will evaporate, and the elements that bring us sadness will also fade away. So whatever we are facing, good or bad, will pass. We have to be open minded and ready to cope with these changes, and to understand that whatever we are going through, is not forever.
2. The past is the past
Many of us cling to the past, and hope that whatever happy situation before will be restored to exactly how it was. We romanticize our memories and are unable to move on, waiting for the past to catch up with the present. Back to the days before that person passed away. Back to the days where we were working in our old jobs. Back to the days before the war started.
The reality is that time moves forward, things change and will never be the way they were before. You can go to the same restaurant and order the same dish that you ordered last week, but the experience of eating it will not be the same. Life goes on and the past cannot be recreated. The faster you understand this, the easier it will be to write a new, better chapter in your life, instead of flipping the pages backwards and to wait for something which will never happen again.
3. The world is a testing ground
There is never a perfect situation. A happy family would have a black sheep, a good job might require you to move town, a marriage might be destroyed by an early death.
Allah always tests our sincerity, and like most tests in this world, we are tested where it hurts, where it matters and on topics which are the most difficult to us.
“Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere.” (Al Qur’an 2:155)
We are tested with our deepest fears and our wildest dreams. The harder the test, the higher the rewards IF we pass the test, and the solution is given together with the test – to patiently persevere with what Allah has decreed. It means not to fear, not to complain and not to despair, but to be optimistic and patient.
Life is like a food platter, with some components of them sweet, and some of them bitter. The series of tests is to determine whether we are grateful to Allah with the whole platter and all its different parts, or whether we will complain, rebel, and disobey Allah when we take a bite of the bitter. To pass the test, we have to be grateful for what we have, and to be patient with what we don’t.
No one said that the test would be easy, and in fact Allah asks us: “Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried?” (Al Qur’an 29:2)
Allah tests us all the time, through ease and hardship. Through hardship such as heartbreak, tragedies and dead ends, Allah is reminding us that HE is our first, last and only option, and that we are to turn to Him. Through ease, our test is whether we remember Him, or whether we grow spiritually complacent and place our reliance on our success, be it our jobs, banks or those we love.
4. You can handle it
Especially in times of hardship, things might not make any sense to us. We struggle to see the justice in what has happened, and all we see ahead is an impenetrable wall. We cannot visualize a future without the thing or the person we lost. We get furious and scared if afflicted with disease and pain. When in such a vulnerable state, it is easy for us to feel broken, lost, sad and desperate. We mourn and cry, and sometimes it feels like our world is crumbling.
Allah promises us that He will not burden a soul with more than it can bear: “Allah does not burden any soul with more than it can bear.” (Al Qur’an 2:286)
If you feel yourself unraveling, trust in Allah that He had already empowered you with the strength to bear the weight of the problem. He knows our personal and individual limits and He would not torment us with what we cannot cope with.
The problem occurs, when we add on to the original problem with other problems of our own creation. For example, a woman in a failing marriage tries to make herself feel more confident by having a relationship with another man. A man in a difficult situation turns to gambling for release. These are self imposed problems, so if you drink alcohol to ease a broken heart and wake up with a hangover, you did this to yourself! Instead of working on lightening that load, your actions actually made the problem harder to solve.
However, if you trust in Allah, know that whatever the original problem is, you have the inner strength to see the matter through.