Creating Shifts: From Rigidity to Flexibility

By Romina Afghan

There is a powerful maxim in NLP – flexibility is power. The person with the most flexibility in a system has the most power in that system. What this maxim really is, is an encapsulation of the truth of the hadith of the Messenger of Allah, the Truthful, the trustworthy, the best example to be followed, sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam:

Abu Hurairah said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: ‘The example of the believer is like that of a plant which is continually bent over by the wind; the believer is continually beset with afflictions. The example of a hypocrite is like that of the cedar tree, which does not yield until it is uprooted in one go.” (Muslim, 5024)

The believer is like a plant continually bent over by the wind. The wind represents the trials, afflictions and challenges that the believer faces, the forces that push and pressure that plant, until it bends, bows down and may even eventually touch the ground; and yet that bowing, drooping and bending are not permanent – when the wind passes the plant is able to stand up tall again. The plant bows and bends because to resist and challenge the wind would be futile; to resist and challenge would mean risking becoming uprooted. The ability to bend and bow with the bend may look like weakness, but it is actually a strength of the plant that enables it to survive and eventually bounce back. Compared to the cedar tree which is brittle and unbending, and may even appear to us to be stronger, the flexible plant has the ability to withstand a more tumultuous and stronger wind. Where the flexible plant will be blown down for the duration of the storm, the brittle tree is actually weakened by it and makes itself more susceptible to eventually become uprooted by it.

The ability to bend in the wind and submit to the challenge shows the inherent wisdom of that plant, that is willing to move and shift in the short term in order to enable a longer term and more important goal to be fulfilled, and in the same way, the believer makes wise choices about what to be flexible with in the present short term for a more prosperous long term future.

And in this parable and real life, the wind has a wisdom and purpose too – it is not simply there to test the ability of the plant and the believer to bend to its power- the wind has an important function that scientists have only recently discovered when they attempted to shelter young trees from the wind. What they found was that the trees who were artificially sheltered from the wind grew weak, were smaller and failed to develop the necessary strength in their roots and trunks to be able to grow to their full potential. This showed the scientists that the wind was actually stimulating growth within the roots and trunks of the tree to enable it to grow taller and stronger than if there was no wind. In the same way, our challenges and winds enable us to grow the necessary strength in our roots and structures to be able to grow to our full potential.  Without the winds of challenges, we would never have the strength to be able to stand unsupported by others.

Building flexibility into our lives gives us so much power; and the opposite of having too much rigidity actually restricts our power. We encounter so much resistance and so many problems when we become rigid- we might encounter problems in our relationships where a person has to behave and do things a certain way in order for us to feel happy with them; you might even have rigidity in how you view a person – and this is something that can strangle a relationship as a rigid view of a person effectively puts them in a straightjacket and makes us judge them harshly according to their past, without taking into account their ability to grow, change and transform.

Rigidity and inflexibility is a weakness that constricts you and those around you.

Building flexibility opens our hearts to being able to receive blessings in any form and from any channel that Allah chooses, whereas being inflexible shows an attachment to your own plan, your own outcome and your own vision. Being flexible allows us to lean into trusting Allah more and building more humility in ourselves. In its essence, flexibilty is about humility and the actualisation of tawheed and trust in Allah in your heart. When we have actualised submission and humilty in our hearts, becoming flexible is easy – because if we truly were open to knowing that Allah’s plan for us is always, hands down, going to be the most perfect, best-case scenario for us, then it doesn’t matter what we think and what we are working towards- because Allah’s plan will always prevail and that will always be the best way for things to be and we are at peace with that.

The more flexible we can be with how we see the world, how we see the people and situations around us, the more options it gives us.

The more options we give ourselves, the more liberated and connected we feel, because humans were created with free will and choice as part of our natural fitrah.

The more liberated and connected we feel, the more powerfully we can choose to step into who we want to be in that moment, in that situation.

When you choose to step forward towards flexibility, you choose to step powerfully towards fulfilling and actualising your highest potential as a believer and as a human.

Where in your life is there a situation that’s giving you a challenge that you can choose to look at with more flexibility? Who are you interacting with that you are seeing in a very rigid and constricted way, and how will you be with them differently when you are more flexible with your idea of who they are?

Let us know in the comments what embracing flexibility and releasing rigidity has felt like for you.

About the author

Romina is a mother of four, an Islamic NLP-practitioner, transformation coach, aspiring haafithah and passionate believer in unlocking the wonderful potential of each and every soul by connecting them to Allaah and His Book. She has been blessed to be a  part of Solace for some years now, and loves connecting with sisters and children everywhere! You can connect with her on Instagram at @connectedcoachingbyrom and listen to her podcast “Grounded in Guidance” at or on Spotify.

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