By Aliya Vaughan
When we face difficulties and hardships it’s easy to focus on what is missing rather than what we actually have. This misfocus is compounded if we keep comparing ourselves to people who show off their blessings and achievements on social media. Remember Allah (ﷻ) tests everybody, even those who appear to ‘have it all.’ We rarely see their difficulties and hardships as they are hidden from camera. But no one is perfect, and no one has the “perfect life.” This is because only Allah(ﷻ) is Perfect, free from imperfections and the Hereafter is the only life that will be perfect. So in the meantime we have to be realistic about what this life can offer and what we can gain from it. This is not to say that we shouldn’t strive or achieve and improve – we must! However we should do so in moderation, within halal limits and with the knowledge that it may not always be achieved in the time we want or in the exact way we would like it. And in some cases it may not be achieved at all (in this life anyway) despite our efforts. In the latter case we need to turn to Allah (ﷻ) to guide us in our decisions and endeavours with dua, Istikharah, and sincere advice from fellow Muslims and experts and then take the necessary steps to achieve it.
Sometimes what we want may not be good for us, so we need to be aware of that too. If Allah (ﷻ) blessed us with material wealth, fame, and status, would it corrupt us? Only Allah Knows. So we ask Allah (ﷻ) to guide us to what is better. Allah (ﷻ) may not grant us what we want as He wants to save it for us in the Hereafter.
Let me use a personal example. Throughout my life I have been blessed with nice living accommodation. But I have also been tested many times with accommodation that is sub-standard. I have been homeless twice in my life. The first time was over 20 years ago and is a story within many stories and has enough content for a blockbuster movie. The second time was seven years ago and although it wasn’t quite as traumatic, it was still testing, and even to this day we are experiencing housing difficulties because of the Landlord’s inability to repair or improve our living standards. Leaks, mould, and disrepair are ongoing struggles despite countless phone calls and emails accompanied with photographic evidence to try to speed up the process. We’ve even contacted our MP but to no avail. I’ll be truthful, I do find the situation frustrating and on some days, quite depressing, but words of advice from our beloved Prophet(ﷺ) always helps me cope, which is to ‘look at those who are worse off than you (financially) so you do not belittle the favours that Allah has blessed you with,’ (Agreed upon). The current housing situation is not favourable for many families. When I compare our situation to those who have lost their homes because they cannot afford the rent or mortgage repayments, and even with people abroad who are forced to flee their homes and live in refugee camps because of war, I realise our situation could be a lot worse. At least my whole family are together under one roof and are not separated and dispersed, or worse, deceased. Allah(ﷻ) grant my family long life for achieving success. Ameen. This doesn’t justify inaction from a landlord but I’ll cover this aspect that later.
There are other coping strategies we can adopt when our circumstances are restricted. I document my experiences of homelessness in an earlier Solace blog under ‘Blessings in Disguise’ entitled ‘Allah’s blessings during Homelessness,’* so I won’t repeat myself, but if I only focused on the negative aspects I could have become ungrateful and resentful. Allah(ﷻ) teaches us to search for His blessings during difficulties with the following ayah:
‘So surely with hardship comes ease.’
Surah Ash-Sharh 94:5
The first time we were homeless we had to share a bathroom with many other people in a hostel. One February night my baby was very ill with gastroenteritis. He was vomiting and had severe diarrhoea. I wanted to give him a warm bath and clean him up, but I realised we didn’t have a bath plug. So I had to wash my very poorly baby with jugs of warm water as he sat on a cold enamel bath in a very cold room. This was no easy task as he was too young to sit unsupported. The second time I was homeless I was grateful that I didn’t have to share a bathroom and my kids were capable of taking care of themselves. Comparing my situation to our previous situation, I was able to search for the ease. The more I searched, the more aware I became of Allah’s blessings, and I was even thankful for something so small and simple as a bath plug! Its only when something is taken away from us that we realise how much of a blessing it really is and so we learn not to take anything for granted.
For a whole year our washing machine had to be left in storage because we were in temporary accommodation. This meant we had to take our clothes to be washed at the laundrette. While this was an inconvenience and created more work and was more costly, I was grateful to Allah for the blessings of having a car. Imagine the difficulty of taking bags of heavy laundry on public transport or paying for a taxi. And yet this is a reality for many people. While our accommodation had its flaws and setbacks, we were grateful for having a roof over our heads. We had running water, electricity, and central heating. For many people living in refugee camps this is not the case. Closer to home, when winter approached, there were two homeless people living in a tent under the trees, near our flat in the snow. A few months later when we went abroad on holiday there were days when we didn’t have running water or electricity. So when we look at people who are worse off than ourselves or compare our lives to previous experiences, we become more aware and more appreciative of Allah’s Kind Favours. This humbles us and if we are grateful to Allah(ﷻ), He will give us more of His blessings (Surah Ibrahim 14:7).
Another coping strategy is to imagine that our difficulty is an opportunity to make dua. Perhaps Allah(ﷻ) wants us to turn to Him in dua and beg of Him so He(ﷻ) can give us what we want. If we already had what we yearn for maybe we would become complacent and forget about Allah (ﷻ) altogether. If we patiently make dua for whatever we desire Allah (ﷻ)will either bless us with it in this life, remove a calamity from us, or He will gift it to us in the Hereafter. So either way our dua is never in vain and will always be answered, so never give up making dua.
Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said,
“No Muslim makes supplication – unless he is someone who has cut off his relatives – but that he is given one of three things: either his supplication is answered quickly, or it is stored up for him in the Next World, or an evil equal to it is averted from him.” It was said, “Then many supplications will be made.” He replied, “Allah has more still to give.”
Can you imagine if Allah(ﷻ) blessed me with better accommodation in Paradise? There is very little chance of me ever living in a mansion or palace in this life, but in Paradise this type of abode is available to me if Allah grants it! This prospect fills me with hope and helps me endure the sub-standard dwelling I am currently living in, as I know it is only temporary. It is my home in the Hereafter that will be superior and everlasting. So remind yourself that whatever you do not have in this life, you will be blessed with something much better in the Next, bi’idhnillah.
Tests are difficult and they should not be undermined. After all Allah (ﷻ) doesn’t reward us without some kind of struggle. Allah(ﷻ) rewards us for how we react and behave when we are going through hardships. It is therefore best to focus more on what we have rather than what we haven’t yet been blessed with. Our circumstances do not remain the same forever. Life does change over time. So as long as we focus on the positives rather than dwell on the negatives, and search for the ease and keep taking steps to change and improve our condition, Allah (ﷻ) will bring new opportunities, new people, and new circumstances in our lives. Have reliance and trust in Allah (ﷻ)(tawakkul) with certainty (yaqeen) and hope. The solution or change may be just around the corner. And if it isn’t coming yet, do not dwell on what’s missing. Focus on the small and significant blessings you actually have and be thankful to Allah for them. Your thanks may open the door to more of Allah’s blessings, even those that are missing.
Please note, there are times when we try our best to change and improve our circumstances, but things are out of our control. Allah (ﷻ) will reward us for trying of course, but He will also hold specific people to account who have the power to change things but choose not to i.e. landlords who refuse to fix repairs to their tenant’s houses. If injustices are not settled in this life, know there is a Day of Judgement when Allah (ﷻ) will settle all injustices in the Next. This is reassuring and helps us to bear our frustrations with more patience.
“Then on the Day of Judgment you will ˹all settle your˺ dispute before your Lord.”
Surah Zumar 39:31
Please note there are some situations when this can apply and other situations when it does not i.e. injustices that involve emotional, physical, or financial abuse, exploitation, and manipulation. Know when your rights have clearly been violated and remove yourself from that type of environment. Remaining silent and bearing abuse with patience is not the solution.
I’d like you to carry out an exercise. Take a look at your current situation or a time that was particularly difficult. Now take note of the following:
· Who is/was with you to offer support? How do/did they make it easier for you? Make dua for them so Allah (ﷻ) can provide ease for them during their difficult times.
· Despite being difficult, what makes/made your situation easier i.e. having access to resources, information, people, or other circumstances to take your focus off your difficulties?
· List at least three other blessings you have in your life right now or when you were being tested.
· Who is in a situation worse than yours? List the things you have that they do not have. Make dua to Allah(ﷻ) to bless them with the same and more and the angels will say ‘Ameen and to you too,’ Abu Dawud & Ibn Majah
· What can you do to improve your circumstances? (i.e. make dua, contact people who can help you, research possible solutions and look at those who have been in similar situations and copy what they did to overcome their difficulties and hardships. Write it all down and put it into action)
· Be mindful of any sins that you may be consciously or unconsciously committing. Stop, repent, and do not return to that sin. Allah (ﷻ)is Most Merciful. “Allah will never change a grace which He has bestowed on a people until they change what is in their own selves” [al-Anfaal 8:53]
· Keep moving and never give up! Keep taking steps to improve your situation with full trust, reliance, and hope in Allah(ﷻ).
If you are being tested right now, I pray Allah(ﷻ) improves your condition and makes it easy for you. If you are struggling and need more support, please reach out to Solace here: https://www.solaceuk.org/support/apply/
* Blessings in Disguise blog: https://www.solaceuk.org/2019/04/29/the-blessings-of-homelessness/
About the Author
Aliya Vaughan is the North Branch Manager for Solace UK. She has been a Muslim for 28 years and lives in the UK. She is an award-winning author and her children’s stories ‘A Race to Prayer,’ ‘Turning back to Allah,’ and ‘Tides of Change’ are available from Kube Publishing. Her fourth title ‘Wrestling against Anger’ is soon to be released this year (2023) in sha Allah.
You can follow @aliya_vaughan on Instagram.