By Asmaa Umm Mikaal
In the name of Allah, Most merciful, Most compassionate
“Indeed, man was created anxious,
When evil touches him, (he is) impatient
And, when good touches him, (he) witholds it;
Except those who observe the prayer”
Isn’t it amazing that Allah created us in a state of anxiety? If you think your condition of having anxiety is abnormal, think again. You were actually created thus. It is normal and it is ok if you are anxious about something in your life. There is no need to label yourself… read on.
At the start of the COVID lockdown around the globe, many of us were feeling very anxious, uncertain about what may come. We are living in an unprecedented era. Allah has tested us all, Muslim or not, with this strange virus which unleashes its power on its victims in mysterious and unintelligible ways. For some, it has brought them to their knees, and for others it has taken their lives. It has been a time of fear: we are fearful about our livelihoods, about our wellbeing, about our very survival.
When the lockdown was announced in our country, a sister came to visit me and say her final goodbyes to me because she was so shaken about what was going on – she thought the world was going to end, or at the very least, her life. As I opened the door, my cheerful presence was met with that of someone very fearful, confused and anxious. I was taken aback. I didn’t know what to say and soon my smile turned into silence as I listened to her. As the strange days passed, and as we learned to cope in new circumstances, this lady’s presence stayed with me. I couldn’t shake it off. I was a bit disturbed and I started feeling anxious, too. Thoughts of what might happen to me, my family, my children, all flooded my mind. Some days I felt as if the walls would close in on me as I became more and more trapped into my negative thought cycle. I was overwhelmed. I was tired.
The release of writing…
Alhamdulillah, at one point I realized if I kept on entertaining the negative thoughts, I would continue to suffer. I then started to write down my thoughts to find some clarity and to also just get it all out of my chest. I wrote daily and wrote down what I was grateful for; I had a home to live in, I was surrounded by family and my children, I had food to eat, I had a means of communicating with the outside world, I could go up on my roof to get some fresh air, I could keep up with my fitness right here at home…the list went on. I wrote in my journal daily until I felt I had regained my strength, corrected my projection by the pure grace of Allah Most High.
You are what you focus on…
What I realised is that we are the ones who control the thoughts we entertain in our heads, and whatever we choose to allow there, will grow there, and that will be the thing that we choose to focus on in that moment, and that will then influence the next thought that will follow. If you are thinking of positive thoughts, you will attract more positive thoughts, and more importantly, will feel more positive and thus be inspired to act in a positive way. I realised that I don’t have to entertain every thought that comes into my mind – I can choose to observe it as a thought and let it go, once I’ve noticed it. I can ask myself if this thought is useful to me, if it brings me closer to Allaah, if it’s relevant, and whether I want to hold that thought or not. In the middle of any “mindstorm”, I can choose to leave that storm of thoughts and move on. I am what I choose to focus on, so I can choose the thing that will help me the most in my journey, and at any particular time…
“Indeed, man was created anxious, When evil touches him, (he is) impatient,And, when good touches him, (he) withholds it; Except those who observe the prayer”
What I find really interesting is what Allah Most High says in the above verses…that man has been created anxious and that perhaps he may continue in this nature except if he is of those who pray. It means that the state of anxiety will not be as big, as deep and as painful for that person who establishes their prayers, who prays them regularly, and who seeks to connect to Allah Most High during the entire prayer and if they get distracted, they readjust their consciousness and reconnect. The prayer is designed to make us able to withstand the pressures and anxieties of this life. If we work on establishing them, making them solid connections that we never let go of, then we will be of those whose anxieties may still be there, but who won’t be drowned by them, with the permission of Allaah. We need the prayer, and the One Who Created us knows our needs better than we know them ourselves, and due to His knowledge, He made the prayers an obligation for us. Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, does not need our prayers – He is Far Removed from being in any need; we are the ones who need it. What this ayah is teaching us is that if we came to the prayer with this utter neediness, with this recognition of our weakness, then that prayer would suffice us and make us stronger against the onslaughts of this life.
Besides the prayer, if we were to look at life in general, we have to remember that we were created to live through this realm and that the wonders of this life are not our goal. Alhamdulillah! I find so much relief in knowing that beyond this difficult journey, we have a safe haven, an abode that is completely free of worry, hate, lies, and any negativity. That beyond this, we will be surrounded by complete peace, having anything and everything that our hearts shall want. That world is beautiful. That world is forever. That world is the very abode of peace.
Until then, however, we will be tested and tried. We will be very anxious; we will experience fear and confusion; we will be pushed to our very limits:
“And surely We shall try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and crops; but give glad tidings to the steadfast.”
Here again, Allah Most High tells us about what to expect in this world and in the same verse, He, Most High, gives us the solution. Alhamdulillah that our suffering comes with ease! So despite the fact that we will be tested, Allah Most High says that if we have patience and are steadfast, we will be able to navigate through the test with, what I imagine, a heart grounded in patience.
What does this exactly mean? Are we to just stop what we’re going through and beg Allah for patience? What is our role? Yes, I know making dua for it is important. However, my new understanding of patience itself is a thought process; it is the rewiring of our brain to let go of the intense emotions attached to an outcome we seek from a situation. Instead, we hold on to Allah Most High. It is the act of simply watching these intense thoughts as an observer and remind one’s self that this, too, shall pass. Everything will be fine. Talk to yourself: acknowledge that you’re going through a difficult period (anxiety, loneliness, depression, whatever it may be) but that Allah is with you and He shall guide you out.
“…my Lord is with me: He will guide me.” Quran 26:62
Bring to mind these words with full consciousness of heart, and have absolute certainty that you will be out of this pandemic of emotions and that inshaaAllah you will have clarity soon. What you’re going through is not a punishment. It is not Allah’s way of getting back at you for what you might have done. Allah Most High is beyond that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, was perfect and he was created sinless, yet Allah Most High tested him over and over again. Allah wants to see Himself in your heart and He is jealous of this state of your being; He doesn’t want to share your heart with anyone else or with anything. Our hearts were created for pure love and only through loving Allah do we attain to this; and only through Allah’s love do our hearts finally find peace and find joy in this life. When you have learned how to navigate yourself through these inward states, will you find peace on earth, whatever your external circumstances, inshaaAllah, but know that that is a journey that can take the entirety of a lifetime…
So, my dear sister: remain in the present and let go of the shackles of the past thoughts, emotions (as, practically speaking, there’s not much one can do about them) and future expectations, worries, fears. Cling to Allah Most High and you will find Him closer to you than your very self.
“We verily created man and We know what his soul whispers to him, and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.”
The company we keep
Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “A man is upon the religion of his best friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends.”
Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2378
Be keen to keep the company of those who are aright in their souls. Seek out those who are positive, and who understand the reality of this world through the prism of the Akhira ( Hereafter); those who are confident in their deen, in their person, and in their connection with their Lord. Those who seek their strength through Allah Most High, and through following the beautiful being of the most perfect man and example for humanity, Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him. Be with those who, when they do something wrong, are humble and acknowledge their mistakes and seek forgiveness from their fellow man and from their Lord. When you find such gems, hold on tight to them for they are indeed very few on this earth at this time of ours.
About the author:
Asma Nemati is a full-time mother who lives in Jordan with her husband and three children. She loves to cook, organize and deepen her understanding of Islam.