Many of us strive to achieve contentment and success; however, given the nature of the world we live in, we will encounter hardships which will impact our ability to achieve our goals and live the life we want.
First, we need to acknowledge that none of us is immune from experiencing sadness, loss, hurt, hopelessness, anxiety and/or a lack of confidence. These hardships may lead us to lose faith in ourselves and those around us if we don’t learn how to manage them properly.
Allah [swt] explains to us the inherent lack of perfection in this world and the nature of trials and tribulations in the Quran in various verses when He [swt] says:
“Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such [trial] has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until [even their] messenger and those who believed with him said “When is the help of Allah?” Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near.”[Quran: Chapter 2, Verse 214].
“And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sabirin (the patient ones) …” [Quran: Chapter 2, Verse 155].
And once again, Allah [swt] in His Infinite Mercy explains to us in many places how to deal with these tribulations when He [swt] says:
“And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah]” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 45].
Therefore, there are key elements to dealing with all kinds of trials and tribulations. They begin with our faith and trust in Allah [swt], as well as, our dua and the will to change.
Let us explore those ideas in more depth.
The importance of having strong faith in Allah
Our belief in Allah [swt] can provide us with the power to accomplish great things as it allowed the Prophet [saw], the companions and other great Muslims to accomplish what may have seemed impossible. Our understanding of the attributes of Allah [swt] – Arrahman (The All-Merciful), Arraheem (The All-Compassionate), Al-Malik (The King), Al-Wadood (The Loving), Al-Hakeem (The All-Wise), Al-Aleem (The All-Knowing), Al-Kareem (The All Generous) and the many other attributes of Allah [swt] provide us with a source of comfort and strength that we have The Creator of the Heavens and the Earths to take care of our every single need.
Furthermore, to strengthen our relationship with Allah (SwT), we are given the five pillars of Islam. Our declaration that there is no God except Allah and that Muhammad is His prophet is not just a statement we repeat, but the key to how we conduct ourselves in this life; our prayers are our daily source of comfort, strength, and healing; fasting Ramadan is an annual form of cleansing and spiritual rejuvenation for our bodies and souls; our Zakat (giving in charity) ensures we take care of the less fortunate in society; and our Hajj is a form of leaving all our luxuries to journey to the house of Allah [swt] to perform a once in a lifetime spiritually-reviving journey.
Next comes our belief in the six pillars of faith which are to believe in Allah, His angels, His revelations, His prophets, the Day of Judgment and fate, whether it is good or bad. Our conviction that there is a Day of Judgment where all will be held accountable for their deeds and every oppressor will be met with the consequences of their oppression and every oppressed will be met with the reward of their patience and have their rights returned, should give us comfort when we witness so much oppression in the world yet may not see relief for those who are suffering. Also, our belief in fate gives us assurance that there is nothing that can happen to us without the will of Allah [swt] as per the Prophet’s [saw] hadith:
“O young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice]: Be mindful of Allah and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, then ask Allah [alone]; and if you seek help, then seek help from Allah [alone]. And know that if the nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they would not benefit you except with what Allah had already prescribed for you. And if they were to gather together to harm you with anything, they would not harm you except with what Allah had already prescribed against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.” [At- Tirmidhi]
These are all crucial elements to dealing with life’s greatest trials and tribulations and returning to the path of success, and contentment in sha Allah.
The power of our dua
After the elements listed above, dua deserves mention on its own because the Prophet [saw] described dua as the “essence of worship” and we are told in the Quran “If my servants ask you about me, then tell them I am near, and I answer the call of the one who calls on to me” [Quran: Chapter 2, Verse 186]. We all need something in life and strive to achieve some goals – we all need faith and guidance, we all want love, we all want shelter, we all want sustenance, we all want a caring, supportive family and community, we all want to be healthy and happy, we all want to have a great vision that we strive to actualize, among many other wishes and desires. We need to search deep inside our hearts for our innermost desires and call unto Allah [swt] knowing that no dua is too great for Allah [swt], and that the power of dua is truly beyond our imagination. We may make a dua once or even for years and later forget that we made that dua when Allah [swt] answers it. If we were to closely examine all of the blessings in our life, we will realize that they were a result of our dua or the dua of loved ones for us by the grace of Allah [swt].
Having the will to change
One of the greatest gifts we are blessed with after guidance and faith is the will to change. Allah [swt] tells us “Allah will not change the status of a people until they change what is in themselves” [Quran: Chapter 13, Verse 11] and that
“Indeed whosoever purifies himself shall achieve success” [Quran: Chapter 87, Verse 14].
Experts in personal development also say one of the greatest keys to success is the belief that we are not the results of our circumstances, meaning that our circumstances do not have to dictate who we are or the quality of our life.Poverty, illness, sadness, a lack of safety, a lack of opportunity, a lack of a supportive family and other unfortunate circumstances do not have to doom a person to misery. People can indeed overcome the circumstances around them, but sometimes may not be able to change due to three reasons:
1. They are either too anxious to leave their ‘comfort zone’: they are not willing to try something new or develop a new skill or enter a new experience because they’re too comfortable and may be afraid of failure, or maybe even afraid of success!
2. They are in denial: they do not see any need for them to change and ‘believe’ they are fine just the way things are.
3. They tried and they didn’t succeed so they lose hope.
To combat these barriers to change, once again it is important to believe that with your will which you have been blessed with by Allah [swt], you can change anything. You find people who have lost hundreds of pounds, people who have left behind an entire life that was misguided to enter into a beautiful life filled with faith and guidance and helping others realize that beauty, you find people who have left laziness and lack of productivity to build some of the greatest companies and organizations in the world which impact millions of people positively, every day.
Our achievements in life are proportionate to our level of courage, which are based on our beliefs about whether we can make our goals happen or not. So we must believe that we have immense courage inside of us, we must believe that we can overcome adversity, and we must believe that we can achieve success and contentment In sha Allah.
And once we’ve ascertained that belief, it’s time to take action. As we are shown in the Qur’an, belief is always coupled with action and the reward for those who consistently do good is great: “Those who believe and do good, righteous deeds, We will most certainly lodge them in high, lofty mansions in Paradise through which rivers flow, therein to abide. How excellent is the reward of those who always do good deeds!” [Quran: Chapter 29, Verse 58].
Take action, no matter how small it is to overcome the trial you are in and come back to the road of contentment and success in sha Allah, as the Prophet [saw] tells us: “The deeds most loved by Allah (are those) done regularly, even if they are small.” [Muslim]”.
Those actions may include:
1. Anchoring ourselves everyday with our prayers and supplications to Allah [swt]
2. Creating and maintaining a supportive network
3. Starting each day with a strong affirmative statement such as “In sha Allah I will overcome this grief/hurt/illness, etc.)
4. Remember what you are grateful for everyday – express it in your dua to Allah [swt] and/or in a journal. Research has shown that people who keep gratitude journals are generally happier and healthier
5. Take care of your body by sleeping well, eating a healthy diet filled with protein, omega-3 rich foods, anti-oxidants, plenty of water, eliminating toxins like artificial sweeteners and of course exercise, which has been shown to be just as effective as anti-depressants and subhan Allah is a natural way to release endorphins (the “happy” hormones”).
6. Show love and mercy to those around you by expressing your love to your family and friends and giving of your time, wealth and effort to the greater community – experts in happiness once again have shown that dedicating two hours a week to a worthy community effort could increase your feelings of happiness and therefore your productivity. Another beautiful expression is that if you’re experiencing great hurt, become a ‘wounded healer’, knowing that Allah [swt] is ultimately The Healer of broken hearts and that He may have allowed you to experience that great hurt in order to empathize and be able to enable others to heal from their hurt.
7. Create purpose and passion in your life that compels you to work through and overcome your trials and tribulation
8. Finally, believe that difficult times will come to an end and that experiencing your greatest weaknesses could have enabled you to develop your greatest strengths. Believe that Allah [swt], in His Infinite Wisdom and Power, will heal your pain, mend what is broken, and grant you comfort and contentment.