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FaithSpirituality

Recurring Emptiness: What To Do When Feeling Spiritually and Mentally Empty

“Emptiness is another form of Allah’s mercy—a wake-up call that prompts us to reflect on life itself. Isn’t it beautiful that Allah allows us to experience this distress so that we may turn back to Him?” 

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“Emptiness is another form of Allah’s mercy—a wake-up call that prompts us to reflect on life itself. Isn’t it beautiful that Allah allows us to experience this distress so that we may turn back to Him?” 

I have felt it many times, and so have my friends. Although we are blessed with everything in this world—food, shelter, and wealth—we still experience this unexplained feeling. 

We start to believe that the people around us don’t truly love us, or that we are incapable of loving anyone. Trust issues arise, and doubts fill our minds. We find ourselves diving into the depths of unexplained emptiness. 

We often attribute these feelings to mood swings or search for specific reasons to blame. We open up to each other, spend time with our parents and family, and things momentarily improve. However, it’s not long before we once again fall into the grip of that unexplained emptiness. 

I call it “unexplained emptiness” because I believe it’s the same problem expressed differently among different people. It can manifest as a loss of interest, diminished love, trust issues, doubts, loneliness, sadness, hopelessness, depression, and even thoughts and ideations of suicide—sometimes tragically resulting in suicide itself. 

I have always pondered over this recurring phenomenon, wondering what the root cause could be. If something keeps recurring and cannot be expressed or explained, growing in intensity each time, then there must be an underlying problem that is not being addressed. 

That’s when I heard Nayef Al Sahafi, a young dynamic daee from Jeddah, speak about this issue during one of his interactions with the youth. Nayef Al Sahafi, who speaks with a unique Jeddawi Arabic slang (although I’m not certain if such an accent exists!), brought up the question: “You have the best cars, the best clothes, and the ability to have whatever you want in this world, so why are some young people still ending their lives?” 

Indeed, it remained a paradox to me. Why does this unexplained emptiness grip our hearts, despite having everything and even feeling a sense of gratitude for it? 

That’s when Mansur al Salimi, another Jeddawi known for his soothing recitation, recited the following verse, and it felt like I had finally unraveled the enigma: 

“Allah says, ‘We shall certainly make them taste a nearer torment [in this life] prior to the greater torment, so that perhaps they may return [to the right path].'” (Quran, Surah Sajdah 32:21) 

Ibn `Abbas explained this verse, saying, “The near torment refers to diseases and problems in this world, the trials and tests that Allah sends to His servants to guide them towards repentance.”

Emptiness is another form of Allah’s mercy—a wake-up call that prompts us to reflect on life itself. Isn’t it beautiful that Allah allows us to experience this distress so that we may turn back to Him? 

The fact that emptiness comes from Allah is something I find very soothing and safe for some reason. 

Allah says, “And whoever turns away from My remembrance – indeed, he will have a depressed life.” (Surah Taha 20:124) 

In his tafsir, Ibn Kathir states, “Even if someone outwardly appears to be comfortable, wearing whatever they like, eating whatever they desire, and living wherever they please, they will not find true happiness. Their hearts will lack pure certainty and guidance. They will be in a state of restlessness, confusion, and doubt, always uncertain and confused. This is the hardship of life.” 

Allah also says, “Verily, in the Remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (Quran, Surah Raad 13:28) If we examine this verse linguistically, we find that the subject comes later than the object/verb. It is a rhetorical language used to emphasize and imply that it is “only” through the remembrance of Allah that hearts find rest—there is no other way. And Allah knows best. 

Perhaps the enjoyment we yearn for, whether it be seeking attention, seeking praise, listening to music, smoking or drugs, or engaging in secret and public sins, leads us further into emptiness. When we base our lives on fleeting feelings and ever-changing philosophies driven by desires and temptations, the more we try to fill our emptiness, the emptier we become. 

One thing that makes me wonder is that if one justifies one’s existence in this world, i.e to worship Allah, then there is no need to worry without any reason. Allah says, “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (Quran, Surah Dhariyat 51:56) 

Some of these things/sins may be part of our lives or daily routines, but when we leave something for the sake of Allah, He replaces it with something better, as mentioned in a hadith narrated by Abu Qatadah: The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم)said, 

“Verily, you will never leave anything for the sake of Allah Almighty but that Allah will replace it with something better.” (Musnad Ahmad 22565, authenticated Sahih by Shaikh Albani) 

Maybe you can ponder upon what Nayef Al Sahafi said in one of his famous talks: “When you leave these things, the first reward for you is Jannah. Is it enough or not enough?”

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