By Asma Nemati
When we talk about lessons learned from anything in life, each one of us brings a unique perspective. Allah Most High has created us in our own special ways. No two souls are alike. No two opinions are the same. They might have a general similarity, but when it comes to details, each one of our unique souls adds something different. Bear this in mind as I walk you through the following gems that I have learned through living in a tight-knit Muslim community.
I once found a haven in a beautiful community somewhere in the Muslim world. This community was comprised of people from all walks of life, representing a selection of countries, cultures and languages. Allah Most High granted me this blessing at a time that I needed it most and I was very happy to change the way I was so that I could benefit from this unique community. My goals were quite simple: to increase my iman by practising excellent character with other people, by learning the details of our beautiful religion and by helping those around me. This community became my family and the joy only increased as, by the grace of Allah, I got married and had several children.
As time went by, however, problems began to surface. I could feel the tension rising until in one particular month it was almost tangible. It felt really odd and my haven didn’t quite feel like it used to. You may have seen this in other communities, or in your families, when something big is brewing up. Regardless of what ‘it’ may be, this is the time that the Shaytan is deep at work, sewing discord between people, whispering louder and louder into people’s hearts. Before my very eyes, I saw the dismantling of this beautiful community; I saw people pointing fingers at each other for the problems they faced. I saw others saying the most horrible things about other Muslims who were trying their best. And worse still, I saw a few who were using their position in the community to manipulate people’s feelings. I couldn’t believe the amount of devastation that was going on and it really pained my soul. I was in deep grief for a long time. My mind was trying to come up with a reason for all of this, and in order to try to protect myself from all sides, I began to retreat and shelter myself away from others until the realisation hit me: I had to do more.
This situation is what is called a “fitnah” in the Arabic language. It has many meanings but the one appropriate for this story is confusion or conflict. If you look at Islamic history, it is filled with such instances, right from the time of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. When such events unfold, we may feel powerless, but there is something we can do: the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, directed us:
There will come tribulations in which the one sitting will be better than the one standing. The one standing will be better than the one walking. The one walking will be better than the one running. Whoever seeks these tribulations will be destroyed by them. Whoever finds a place of shelter or refuge, let him take refuge in it.
( Sahih al-Bukhari, 7082)
The general meaning is that if you have been put in a situation where there is conflict, where people are moving and shaking things, it’s better to steer clear. Even if you’ve only been listening to things, these things can change your heart towards certain people, so it is better stop listening to such things and step away. Looking back, I really wish I had physically left the place of conflict as it was quite heavy on my soul, even though I wasn’t involved at all. However, if you can’t move, you have to migrate psychologically, and with this in mind, I did just that until I stopped even reading the names of people related to the conflict, let alone hearing what they had to say or keeping physical company with them.
The thing we need to remember is, everything we do in life is recorded. Standing up in the name of justice is recorded for you. Talking bad about someone — called “ghiba” — is recorded, and Allah Most High in the Quran says making ghiba is like eating the raw flesh of the person you are backbiting. Think about that for a second. Nothing, absolutely nothing is lost on Allah Most High. Think about how you will answer the Lord of the Worlds on Day of Resurrection. What reasons or excuses will you have for Him? How will you present your case? Alhamdulillah that we have an opportunity now to repent, but the harm that we cause to others by our words and deeds are not lost on Allah Most High.
Alhamdulillah, as things started to calm down and people made decisions to leave the place of conflict, a lot of things became clear to me in my personal experience of living in a Muslim community: these are the three lessons I offer to you from my experience of living in a Muslim community:
1. PRIORITIES FIRST!
The first big lesson that I learned was that my priority and yours is to first protect ourselves, our children, and our families from harm. This harm could be physical harm, psychological harm, or the harm of being around someone who is creating conflict. You have to make the difficult decision of protecting your iman, as well as that of your children and your family. It is at these difficult times when we are most vulnerable that the decisions and choices we make can have the most impact, and a bad choice could cause a change in our souls and characters that could end up being both permanent and lethal. People can have their own reasons for their opinions and decisions, but you don’t have to have the same reasons or opinions. You might have no opinion about a matter. You might not see anyone in a negative light. You have to protect your soul from being plagued by negativity from others. This is destructive. Personally, I had to cut off all ties with a few close friends. I started feeling like their company wasn’t good for me, even if nothing explicitly was said. The vibes just felt off, and I thought to myself: Hmm, this is strange. I know I haven’t changed. Why do I feel negative vibes around this person?
If you expose yourself to negativity, those around you will pick it up easily. This means your children will pick up on the negative vibes, as well as your spouse. You want to be the last person to influence your family in such a way, especially when it comes to your children. Instead, use this time to strengthen your bond with your family and involve yourselves in that which is good for your souls, bodies and minds.
2. YOUR ULTIMATE MODEL IS ONLY IN THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD (s.a.w.s.)
In life, we look to those around us, living now, as our examples. We hear of a Mufti here, or a Sheikh over there, who is very pious and religious. We also hear about wives of so-and-so or daughters of so-and-so who are put on a pedestal as examples of how a woman should be. It is good to start off with this but at the end of the day, only see our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, as the example you should follow. Allah tells us in the Quran:
Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah you have an excellent example for whoever has hope in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah often.
( Quran 33:21)
He was the most perfect man. The most gentle man to deal with. He was wise. He was kind. He was excellent with children. He could take care of a sensitive soul. He knew exactly what to say to those around him (Peace and blessings be upon him.) He was divinely sent. He had a connection to Allah Most High like no man ever has had. SubhanAllah, if we only realize his rank, we would rush to be like him in every single situation. The Prophet’s hadith (sayings and actions ) leave us with so many things: we know exactly how to deal with people. We know exactly what to say in a variety of situations. We know exactly how to be with Allah Most High through the Prophet’s example, peace and blessings be upon him. He was a light and a guide for both man and woman. For both children and the old.
Don’t settle for anyone less as the role model for you, and when in distress, send salawat on him and imagine him speaking back to you and giving you salam, peace and blessings be upon him. Make his presence come to life in your soul, have your soul interact with him on a daily basis. This will bring so much calmness and peace in your life. I know it has for me – especially in my most difficult moments. Learn about his life. Learn how to deal with others through his example, peace and blessings be upon him. And, most important of all, teach your children about him through your practicing of his sunnah, peace and blessings be upon him. Bring the Prophet’s person to life by remembering him often and contemplating his beauty, the light that he was, the mercy that he represented. Imagine that. All of these beautiful characteristics in one person. SubhanAllah. Feel his presence and bring this light into your heart. Bring this beauty in your being and allow your soul to taste mercy. We cannot thank Allah enough for this most amazing human being He has given us to follow, peace and blessings be upon him.
3. BE MERCIFUL!
Jarir bin Abdullah narrated that the Messenger of Allah said:
“Whoever does not show mercy to the people, Allah will not show mercy to him.”
( Collected by Tirmithi #1922, graded Sahih)
The third and final lesson is to be merciful on yourself and others. Learn your lessons and move on. Don’t hold any grudges against anyone. In fact, make du’aa for them when you think of them, even when you think of all the hurtful things they did to you. It’s not worth it to carry a heavy load on your soul. Feel light and move with grace. Forgive and forget. Give yourself time and distance to do this. It’s not easy, but it is possible and the reward of it is tremendous. Don’t let anyone disrupt your energy at this time. You need time for introspection and you need time to digest things. The more you give this to yourself, the easier you will be able to move on and actually become stronger inshallah.
When a fitnah hits a community, it can be very hard. However, know that as long as you are doing the right thing and not harming another Muslim (in name, reputation, property, etc), then inshallah you will come out on the other side stronger, more beloved to Allah Most High, and more mature in soul. And, remember, too, that the nature of this life is to be turbulent. Only in the next life will all the turbulence disappear and will we all be in one, blissful state; one that does not change, but lasts forever, by the Mercy of Allaah.
About the author:
Asma Nemati is a full-time mother of three cuddly bears and a traditional wife to her better half. She loves to cook, write, and deepen her understanding of Islam in her free time.