Practical, Islamic Optimism in Testing Times

By Ameen at Seera Masters | Personal Growth

Listen to audio version: on iTunes or stream below. 

There’s so much to say.

Times are hard and we know it. From the displaced and traumatised family in Burma, to the anxious lady wearing her headscarf in London.

There is physical strife in places like Syria and Central Africa and likewise there is spiritual strife in places like Egypt and Paris. It does seem like things have only gotten worse and worse in the past years.

The media seems to amplify the problem as well as our seeming inability to act in a united and effective way.

I Saw Gloom Ahead

Just like you, I’ve often felt impending doom.

As though there was nothing to really look forward to in my individual life or for the planet and ummah as a whole. Visions of the first cruise missiles hitting Iraq in 2003 are as clear in my mind as the feelings of doom that came with them.

Imagine the outlook of the Syrians who are still in their home town, trying to keep it together. They’ve seen their whole country be destroyed, hundreds of thousands killed and yet they stayed put. After 5 years of revolution with minimal improvement, what is it that keeps them going?

It’s hard to imagine.

A Complete Solution

As we always hear and say: Islam is the solution for mankind. I agree of course and I’m sure you do too!

One thing that annoys me though, is abstract concepts that are rarely broken down into practical actions or attitudes.

Seera Masters is all about equipping us with the tools and skills needed to take real, meaningful action to change our world(s)!

So allow me to break down this concept into something practical: Islam is the solution.

This is the juicy part.

From the Pages to the People

Believe it or not, harder times have come and gone for humanity and for Muslims in particular!

Damn…

The famous hadith of Al Khabab gives us a glimpse of the tests early Muslims faced:

We complained to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) (about our state) while he was leaning against his sheet cloak in the shade of the Ka`ba.

We said, “Will you ask Allah to help us? Will you invoke Allah for us?”

He said, “Among those who were before you a (believer) used to be seized and, a pit used to be dug for him and then he used to be placed in it. Then a saw used to be brought and put on his head which would be split into two halves. His flesh might be combed with iron combs and removed from his bones, yet, all that did not cause him to revert from his religion.

By Allah! This religion (Islam) will be completed (and triumph) till a rider (traveler) goes from San’a (the capital of Yemen) to Hadramout fearing nobody except Allah and the wolf lest it should trouble his sheep, but you are impatient.

(See Hadith No. 191, Vol. 5)

wow! They stuck by their tawhid!

Also, notice that the Prophet didn’t give him a chance to play the victim. He told him that others had it much worse, to stick to his Islam and to be more patient.

 

Ya’qub (AS), the father of Yusuf (AS) was tested so greatly too! We know the story: being betrayed by his sons, losing his son and going blind! What was his response?

قال انما اشكو بثي وحزني الى الله واعلم من الله ما لا تعلمون

“He said, “I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah , and I know from Allah that which you do not know.”

يا بني اذهبوا فتحسسوا من يوسف واخيه ولا تياسوا من روح الله انه لا يياس من روح الله الا القوم الكافرون

“O my sons, go and find out about Joseph and his brother and despair not of relief from Allah . Indeed, no one despairs of relief from Allah except the disbelieving people.”

[Yusuf 86-87]

Do not despair of the relief from Allah people!

 

To bring a more recent example: Just a few decades ago, the Muslim land of Algeria was colonised by the French who tried to humiliate the people and destroy their Islam.

Men were slaughtered (my grandfather and uncle included), women were humiliated and Arabic was forbidden to be taught in schools. May Allah have mercy on the dead.

Today Algeria is 99%+ Muslim, is no longer (directly) colonised and has what I think to be one of the strongest Islamic identities in the world. Their test caused them to turn to Allah alone for help and during their ambushes on the French soldiers cries of Allahu Akbar could be heard.

These examples show you the power of an Islamic attitude. This is tawhid coming out from the Quran and into the hearts of the people. Tawhid in action!

Let’s look at some exact examples of how you can develop this attitude…

Action Point 1: Set Your Expectations

Sometimes I wonder how humans can be shocked so easily.

For example, car accidents are shocking yet when you think of it deeper, you realise that thousands of humans that are prone to mistakes are driving metal containers at high speeds on fairly narrow roads. What’s there to go wrong right?

If we thought of how crazy that is and took an objective look at the statistics then we wouldn’t be so shocked when we hear of someone having an accident. When driving we’d drive knowing that an accident really may happen. We ask Allah for protection.

Likewise, the Quran sets our expectations for life for us. Now, hold onto that point while I explain something very important.

The Quran is the speech of Allah, our Creator. We take it as the absolute authority on everything. It is the absolute truth and therefore more accurate than what our limited senses tell us. We read, we understand and we believe with certainty.

Now…

Allah says:

ولنبلونكم بشيء من الخوف والجوع ونقص من الاموال والانفس والثمرات وبشر الصابرين

And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient,

[Al Baqarah 155]

And He says:

ولنبلونكم حتى نعلم المجاهدين منكم والصابرين ونبلو اخباركم

And We will surely test you until We make evident those who strive among you [for the cause of Allah ] and the patient, and We will test your affairs.

[Muhammed 31]

And He also says:

كل نفس ذائقة الموت ونبلوكم بالشر والخير فتنة والينا ترجعون

Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as trial; and to Us you will be returned.

[Al Anbiya 35]

As we said above, the Quran is the word of Allah and we have absolute certainty in His speech. So it’s only normal to swallow, digest and embody this fact…

That we will be tested.

Certaintly, no doubt, for sure, for real, really really, defo etc.

It’s something to expect, to be on the look out for and also to know how to combat.

When we have correct expectations of this life we will no longer be disappointed inshaAllah. With this seemingly negative expectation comes something positive though.

We expect SO much more of the next life and we can never be disappointed in how amazing that will be!

Example in Action: Murders

So when we hear of a massacre in Syria for example, we say “Inna lilahi w inna ilayhi rajoun” (To Allah we belong and to Him we return), we hurt for their families and we straight away remind ourselves what to expect:

Such are the ways of this life but what a great place they are off to, inshaAllah.

Straight away ask yourself: From what Allah has told us, is this surprising?

Practical takeaways:

  • Read the Quran often and take it’s meanings as absolute truth
  • Set your expectations of life based on what Allah has told you is to be expected
  • Look at the brighter side, the akhira side

Action Point 2: The Hadith That Changed My Life

Yes, I know. It may seem pretty bad to go through life expecting trials. Here’s a more positive side though.

The hadith that changed my life:

‏ قَالَ اللَّهُ أَنَا عِنْدَ ظَنِّ عَبْدِي بِي‏‏”‏”

“Allah said, ‘I am to my slave as he thinks of Me”

[Bukhari]

We know that we will be tested in this life but this hadith adds something to this expectation:

if we expect good from Allah, there will be good.

We’re going through hardship -> we want it to end -> we remember that this is a test -> this is what to expect from life.

then…

We say to ourselves:

This is decreed by my Lord, Allah and therefore there IS good in it, no doubt.

We see beyond the test, we see good in it. We assume, no matter how bleak things look that there is good and love in it from our Master. Again, we must be absolutely convinced of this because this is from Allah!

We might be blind to the good physically but Allah sees all and He told us to expect good.

He says:

ان تمسسكم حسنة تسؤهم وان تصبكم سيئة يفرحوا بها وان تصبروا وتتقوا لا يضركم كيدهم شيئا ان الله بما يعملون محيط

If good touches you, it distresses them; but if harm strikes you, they rejoice at it. And if you are patient and fear Allah , their plot will not harm you at all. Indeed, Allah is encompassing of what they do.

[Al Imran 120]

In addition, think of a time when you were facing trials and challenges. How terrible did it feel? Didn’t you feel then that you wouldn’t make it? That you just wanted it to end?

Then what happened? It passed, just like all trials do and now you look back and see the good that was in it. You got closer to Allah or you were saved from a worse trial that you were eagerly walking towards without realising.

Example in Action: Failed

You’re at college/university and you’re trying hard to do well in your studies but you end up doing really badly in an exam. This might mean you have to repeat it or repeat the whole module. Sucks right?

Maybe even your friends are going on to progress in their education and you’re held back.

This is where you expect the best of Allah! You tell yourself:

I tried hard and Allah decreed for me to fail this exam. Since Allah decreed it there is good in it. Perhaps this delay will mean a massive opportunity will present itself to me that my friends won’t get. Maybe I will enter jannah because of an opportunity to do a good deed that came during this time!

Practical takeaways:

  • Know that if you expect a good outcome from Allah, it will come, no doubt
  • Trust that the good is in the struggle even when you can’t see it
  • Look forward to the invisible good that is coming your way
  • Be grateful to the Master of the good.

Action Point 3: Buy Some Glasses

Part  of expecting good from Allah in every situation is to get a pair of glasses. I’ll explain.

Allah tells us in the Quran time and time again that the akhira is better, longer lasting and ultimately much more significant than the dunya:

والاخرة خير وابقى

While the Hereafter is better and more enduring.

[Al A’la 17]

So we need to act on this reminder and get akhira vision. We need to make the habit of seeing everything from the perspective of the akhira.

This is part of expecting the best from Allah.

Maybe the good that we expect won’t be found in the dunya but in the akhira instead!

Example: Orphan Child

The orphan child who never knew their parents and lacked their love and support in life will never have parents in this life, but they will be compensated for that pain in the akhira and that will make their judgement easier inshaAllah!

The good in this situation is that the akhira (which is more important) will be easier for the orphan. The deeper good we can find is that this orphan becomes an opportunity for those around them to gain great reward by being as much a family to them as possible.

Again, both of the types of good that come from this bad situation are linked to the akhira. That’s why akhira vision is so important to have.

Allah says:

ولا تهنوا ولا تحزنوا وانتم الاعلون ان كنتم مؤمنين

So do not weaken and do not grieve, and you will be superior if you are [true] believers.

[Al Imran 139]

If we truly believe in the promise of the akhira then we will not be weak or sad because we see the good that is on it’s way!

Optimism gained from expecting the best of Allah and having akhira vision makes us strong and positive!

Practical Takeaways:

  • Read the Quran daily to be constantly reminded of the akhira
  • When something bad happens ask yourself: what might the result of this be in the akhira?
  • Don’t limit your view of reality to the dunya, think further
  • See all the good that can come from any situation in the akhira

It Comes Down to 1 Point..

This point is..

Humility. Let me explain.

When we are humble in front of Allah we accept a few things:

  1. Our senses and understanding is very limited
  2. We don’t know the unseen
  3. Allah knows the unseen

Allah has told us in the Quran what to expect and how to react and it. Our certainty in the Quran must overpower our limited senses. To believe in the Quran more than we believe in our senses.

This is humility.

Examples of Those That Were Humble:

  • When the mother of Musa (AS) threw him in the river could she fathom the outcome? No, she trusted Allah and expected the best of her Lord.
  • When the Prophet and his companions were attacked from all sides and he told them that they would conquer Persia. Did they tell him he was lying and that it wasn’t possible? They trusted and expected the best.
  • When Nuh (AS) was instructed to build the massive boat with his own hands with no body of water in sight (while being mocked) did he question his limited perceptions or the order of His Lord?

That’s right brothers and sisters. We trust Allah and expect the best from Him in ease and hardship.

 

To top it all off…

I’ve got  a treat for you.

Two, 1 hour lectures on the topic of patience in hard times bursting with ayat, ahadith and stories to reinforce what you’ve learned here and really complete that mind shift.

I think these are the best talks on the topic, anywhere and come from an extremely qualified teacher. You can tell because he doesn’t even need notes! Just sign up below inshaAllah and I’ll send them right to you.

Please do comment below with the biggest change in mindset you got from this post. I read every single one. Jazakum Allahu kheir.

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About the Author

Founder of Seera Masters, a blog that helps Muslims design their mindset and lifestyle to reach their goals. Massively passionate about Quran, travelling, technology and life-long learning!