When times are hard, and you’ve fallen down…

A single tree on a grassy hill

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

When times are hard, when your spirit is low, when you’ve been knocked to your knees, or maybe just one knee… use that moment of humility to praise Allah, the Most Glorious. Then find something in your life to be grateful for.

Maybe you are grateful for your children, or your good health, or the plentiful food on your table, or having good clean drinking water that doesn’t give you diseases, or a friend who makes you laugh, or the fact that Allah has blessed you with Islam when so many are wandering in darkness and despair. Or even just sitting on the grass feeling the breeze, or a cat that sits in your lap and purrs… Find the many blessings in your life, the hidden sources of happiness, and stand up, and thank Allah.

Move forward with your head up, keeping your focus on Allah’s gifts to you, and your gratitude. Step, step, step with a grateful heart, and that’s how it’s done.

The Hidden Blessings of Illness and Hardship

Huge sunrays in a blue sky

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

I’m glad and grateful that I am ill right now, and that times are hard. Does that sound crazy?

Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) reported that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “For any adversity a Muslim suffers, Allah erases some of his sins, even though it may be no more than a thorn pricking him.” (Related by Al-Bukhari).

Another version of this Hadith is also related by Al-Bukhari on the authority of two of the Prophet’s (pbuh) companions, namely, Abu Saeed Al-Khudri and Abu Hurairah who quote him as saying: “Whatever befalls a Muslim of exhaustion, illness, worry, grief, nuisance or trouble, even though it may be no more than a prick of a thorn, earns him forgiveness by Allah of some of his sins.”

My father recently suffered a fall and broke his leg badly, and is now in a rehab center. In my personal life, two moves and one divorce in the last five years have made it hard to retain friendships, and I find myself feeling isolated. I’ve been through some painful personal experiences. And these are hard times economically as well. So there’s a lot of stress in the household.

I do my best to love my daughter more than ever, to play with her, hug and kiss her, and always remind her of Allah’s barakah. I try to make her world full of happiness, learning, and talks about Allah. I try to never let her see me sweat, as they say. But once she’s sound asleep in bed, I feel the weight of responsibility on my shoulders like a sack of stones.

So if by patiently enduring this illness and these hard times in general, I will earn Allah’s forgiveness for my sins, and maybe will be blessed in ways that I do not see, then I am grateful.

One more hadith: Jabir ibn Abdullah narrated that Allah’s Messenger salallahu alayhi wasallam said, “On the Day of Resurrection, when people who have suffered affliction are given their reward, those who are healthy will wish their skins had been cut to pieces with scissors when they were in the world.” (Al-Tirmidhi, 1570)

In other words, when people see how much reward is given to those who suffered in life, they will wish that they had suffered terribly, in the worst possible ways, so that it might become a cause of forgiveness for them in the Hereafter.

SubhanAllah, whatever pain we suffer in this life is not in vain. It is not wasted. We may cry and wince and groan over small pains, but Allah sees our suffering and will compensate us more than we can imagine, as long as we are patient and keep faith in Him. Allah the Most High has a plan for us, and He is the best of planners. We must have faith in Him and His plan for us.

Seeing the Good

Also, let us not be blind to the good things that have happened. I think this is very important. All too often we get caught up in our losses and dismiss some of Allah’s quiet gifts and blessings that have budded and opened up when we were hardly looking.

For example, I have always thought of myself as a writer at heart and have been happiest when I was pursuing that calling. When I was single I was obsessive about it. Even after a long day at work I would sit down in front of the computer in my little San Francisco loft, and write. After I got married and the responsibilities of family life fell on my shoulders I neglected my writing. Lately, however, I find myself writing daily and expressing ideas that have been growing in my heart for decades. The words flow as if they have been bottled under pressure, waiting for release. What a blessing!

In my teens I studied martial arts for some years. Life carried me in different directions and I stopped practicing but I still thought of myself as a martial artist, and kept meaning to get back into it. Finally in my late thirties I realized that my dream was passing me by. I got back into it and made a do-or-die commitment. Since then, with the moves from the Bay Area to Panama City to El Valle to Fresno, it’s been a struggle to find teachers and training partners, but I have persisted, in some cases creating my own training group out of scratch. For the last year and a half, partly as a way of dealing with loneliness and stress, I plunged myself into an intensive study of the arts.

Now I suddenly find myself entering this phase when my understanding of the arts is expanding like a tidal wave. I seem to have moved beyond rote memorization of techniques and I am able to spontaneously create combinations and visualize new possibilities. My balance is solid, my form is good. Basically, I have grasped the underlying principles of the arts and have moved beyond the 1-2-3 stage. I can finally call myself a martial artist.

That’s something I dreamed of all my life. And it came about because I was stressed!

What other secret blessings await me? What other lifelong dreams are quietly budding, getting ready to bloom?

Only Gratitude

That’s why the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “How amazing is the case of the believer; there is good for him in everything, and this is only so for the believer. If he experiences something pleasant, he is thankful, and that is good for him; and if he comes across adversity, he is patient, and that is good for him.” [Muslim]

How amazing indeed! What a treasure trove of strength and mercy there is in this deen! Who can say that this is not a religion of hope?

Allah rewards the believer even for the pricking of a thorn. Who can deny that this is the attitude of a Compassionate God, One who understand us, sees our pain, cares about our suffering, and wants only good for us?

And what does Allah want in return? Only gratitude, and that our actions manifest that gratitude. Nothing more.

Allah says, “And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.’ “ [Surat Ibrahim 14:7]

Which brings us back to my opening statement. I am grateful and glad even for the hardships. I am aware of all of Allah’s favors, and when He says, “Then which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?” my response is, “I deny none of them, O Lord!”

Try to count Allah’s blessings in your life

Photo of the rising moon taken from the Valley of the Moon, California

Photo of the rising moon taken from the Valley of the Moon, California

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

Today, try to count Allah’s blessings in your life.

Start with your breath, your beating heart, your ability to see, smell and touch, and the ability to laugh…

Continue to your favorite foods, the roof over your head, and the people who love you…

From there move out to the blue sky, the beauty of a single tree, the sunshine on your face, and the majesty of a rising moon…

Keep counting…

Don’t forget your imaan (your faith) and your knowledge of Allah. That is the greatest blessing of Allah and the truth is that you did nothing to earn it; rather it was a gift from Allah’s infinite mercy.

Also do not forget your safety. So many people in this world live in unsafe conditions; in war, poverty, starvation, refugee camps, political imprisonment, and other forms of extreme hardship. Just to wake up in your bed in the morning and know that your life is not in immediate danger is a great blessing.

Keep counting…

Allah says:

“[…] and if you should count the favors of Allah, you could not enumerate them,” (14:34).

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