Our misfortunes: fate or fiction?

Thinking that our suffering is a punishment from Allah, or just a doing of His because that is what He does, is a very superficial way to look at things.

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Thinking that our suffering is a punishment from Allah, or just a doing of His because that is what He does, is a very superficial way to look at things.

I have always been a successful, smart, admired and well-loved person. I always had an idea of what I wanted to do next, and how I would achieve it. I always felt like Allah is on my side, that He answers my prayers and gives me the best of what I ask for. Life has been so rewarding and so fulfilling to my sense of self, until one day, when everything started to change. Unexpectedly, the professional paths I took no longer landed me where I wanted, it threw me on the opposite side of the plan. The people I met are no longer appreciating or admiring the person that I was, they overlooked the obvious. They only judged, criticized and belittled me. My financial situation became so unpromising, and my health deteriorated. Those who seemed so far away from where I was yesterday, are way ahead of me now. Yet, on top of everything, Allah was no longer answering my prayers. No matter how many times I prayed and begged all night, nothing seemed to change. It suddenly felt like a one-sided relationship and that He was no longer responding.

Disappointed, exhausted, frustrated, and torn apart, I asked a thousand questions: why, how, and why me? Am I being punished, or is it how things go? Does Allah sometimes not respond although He is capable of it, and do I just need to get along with that? I got trapped inside myself and started to feel like the world had become my enemy, and even worse, that Allah was no longer by my side. I went through a very bitter journey both on the inside and outside that many of us pass through in our lives.

Don’t feel agitated, for you are not alone in that. You are not the only one who has unanswered prayers, or question marks about Allah’s doing. You are not the only one who have doubts. We are partners in the same “elevating experience”.

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Why Do Bad Things Happen?

Allah SWT says “What would Allah do with your punishment if you are grateful and believe?” [Quran 4:417]

So, thinking that our suffering is a punishment from Allah, or just a doing of His because that is what He does, is a very superficial way to look at things. Yet, if Allah is not punishing us, nor merely imposing misfortune on us, then why is He doing so? There must be something else beneath the surface that we need to understand. However, to be able to understand what that thing is, we need to look a bit into our own psychology.

The Psychology of Our Suffering

As we start our journey in this world, from a very early age, we try to define ourselves through things: relationships, possessions, successes, and accomplishments. Our identification with things is our basic level of self-identification and the most common form of it. Once we define ourselves with things, we cling to them as they become who we are. We start doing anything we can to preserve this false identity. We want more to feel whole, yet, we are farming on fallow land.

The reality is that what we are really looking for is the thought that has the label “I, me, mine” on it, or anything that feeds our ego, our false sense of self! Rather than pursuing a sense of identity, we are only pursuing slavery! We are slaves of the things we pursue, slaves who look high upon themselves and value our ego to the extent that we don’t take losing easily. In fact, if there is a good definition of slavery, it would not be better than the definition we set for ourselves.

Breaking Free from Slavery

A very wise man once said, “He who thinks highly of himself, degrades his religion”. Contemplating on this statement solves the mystery of Allah’s doing in our lives. Allah does not inflict calamities upon our lives to punish us, rather He does so to free and elevate our souls. This is clearly declared in Allah SWT saying “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me [51:56]”.

Our mission is obvious and clear, although we tend to overlook it most of the time. We are here to transcend our egos to a higher consciousness, our “ROH” or purified soul. Because it is this purified soul that knows Allah well and is capable of His worship. Egos, on the other side, are a diversion, a test from Allah to measure our sincerity and perseverance in our pursuit of knowing Him and hence worshiping Him at our best. That is why Allah SWT will give us whatever experience that is most helpful to free our souls from the chains of slavery, as our purified souls are found on the other end of attachments. Yet, purifying our souls can only be attained through our servitude to Allah, not through our slavery to this Dunia.

So, when Allah finds us imprisoned inside our clinginess for wealth, success, or social status, and trapped inside our dependence on people- who are as weak as we are- for emotional security, sustenance or well-being, then He throws us the gift of freedom wrapped in a calamity. Accepting His presents with that level of consciousness would direct us in unwrapping it right. Just like taking off your shoes and walking bear-foot on soft sand feels very liberating, so is taking off all this Dunia from your heart. When we look upon Allah’s actions through this lens, we can easily comprehend why He threw His most beloved Prophets with the most difficult of trials. It is because the highest of tests only suit the best of His servants.

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Philosophy of the Trials of Prophets

Although it was heartbreaking for Prophet Ibrahim to leave his son Ismail and his wife Hajar in the middle of the desert, it was Allah’s gift to free Ibrahim’s heart from the unhealthy attachment to his one and only son at that time. Yet, if it hadn’t been for that, our Prophet (PBUH) would not have been born in Mecca. And if it hadn’t been for the Prophet’s loss of both of his beloved wife Khadija and dear uncle Abu-Talib at the darkest of hours, the rising of Islam would have been attributed to their support, not to Allah’s.

If it hadn’t been for the change of tides in the battle of Uhud and the close defeat of the companions, the remains of Dunia in their hearts wouldn’t have been completely removed, and their faith wouldn’t have been bulletproof.

If the incident of Moussa killing an Egyptian by mistake hadn’t happened, he wouldn’t have left the castle of the Pharoh and traveled to Madyan to grow a thick skin, and hence be prepared to be spoken to by Allah SWT.

Unwrap Your Gifts

So regardless of your suffering, try to unwrap the message inside. There is something in it for you, something that is coming especially for you to liberate your heart from depending on a person, a job, a boss or even a child for matters that only Allah is responsible for. Something that intends to redirect your heart from its intense occupation with Dunia to Allah. Something that is teaching you step-by-step to trust in Him, rely on Him, call onto Him, speak with Him, repent to Him and really get to know Him. He created us and He does love us more than a mother loves her child. So, trust His education and let it bring you closer to Him, never far.

“Let the pain of trial be eased by your knowing that it is Him (SWT) who is giving you this trial; For the One whose trials are overwhelming, is the One who has always chosen the best for you (Ibn Atta’ Allah)”.

May we always find peace and understanding.

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