Where Are the Answers?

Sunrays shining through the forest

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

“What am I going to do? Why is my life so messed up? Why can’t I find happiness? Why am I alone? Why do I feel stuck? Why do I have these problems?’…

These questions only have meaning if we direct them to Allah. No one else can answer them. Consider the words of the Prophet Ya’qub (alayhis-salam, peace be upon him) when his son Yusuf (as) was secretly thrown into a well by his brothers. They then reported to their father that Yusuf had been killed by a wolf.

And he turned away from them and said, “Oh, my sorrow over Yusuf,” and his eyes became white from grief, and he fell into silent melancholy.

They said, “By Allah , you will not cease remembering Yusuf until you become fatally ill or become of those who perish.”

He said, “I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah , and I know from Allah that which you do not know.

– Quran, Surat Yusuf, 12:84-86

“I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah…”

When you feel stuck, when you feel that no one understands your situation, when you’re in pain and you can’t even imagine a solution, only Allah has the answers. You can’t see a way forward, but He can. You don’t see your own worth, but He does. You can’t figure out the road to happiness, but He can show you.

I remember a night in Arizona when I was twenty six years old. I lay on a cot in a small, frigid cell. There was snow outside and I had only a thin blanket. As I often did, I put on all my clothing in layers – three pants, three shirts, an army jacket and a pair of boots – and still I kept waking up shivering and shaking. Yet, even more than the physical discomfort, my spirit was tired. I had made mistakes in my youth and had been locked up for almost five years. I had become hard mentally and physically, but my heart was full of sorrow. I lay there that night and I thought, “I have nothing in life. I have accomplished nothing. I have no university degree, no wife, no children, and not even my freedom.”

That was a bad time. But I had my faith, and I used to weep to Allah, asking Him to have mercy on me. I think I gave up on myself for a while, but I never gave up on Allah. It would not even have occurred to me to do so. I did cry to Him sometimes saying, “Why, Allah? Why? Why am I here, suffering like this?” But it wasn’t despair, only confusion. In my heart I knew that He heard me and that an answer would come.

Shortly after that I received a letter from the parole board granting me early release. I had previously been told very clearly that I was not eligible. It was entirely unexpected, and if you are familiar with the American penal system, miraculous. But for Allah, nothing is impossible or even difficult.

Within a few months I was free. I found a  job a week after my release, and I excelled. I began writing, sitting at my desk every night after work and disciplining myself to work on poetry, stories and articles. Eventually I went back to school and began a new career, got married, bought a beautiful house, and one day had a child…

What can I say except Alhamdulillah! SubhanAllah! What can I do except weep in gratitude for these blessings that I did nothing to earn, but were given to me by my Lord who loves me and cares about me, and wants good for me. I am so deeply touched and moved by the way Allah has answered my prayers from the depths of darkness. If I did anything to merit His blessings, perhaps it was only that I directed my pleas to Him. I knew that no one else could help me.

This is a very emotional post for me to write. I want every Muslim to have this sense of Allah as their friend, as someone who cares for them deeply. I want to put that awareness into your heart like a gift.

When I was in that cell I used to pray the same dua’ over and over, begging Allah repeatedly. If I had made such pleas to a human being they would have stopped hearing me long ago. When we’re needy with people it pushes them away, but when we’re needy with Allah He comes closer to us! He never tires of answering our need and forgiving us.

I know of many similar stories of people who have hit rock bottom and have called upon Allah – or , not even knowing “Allah” by that name, have called to the Supreme Being, saying, “I know you hear me, tell me what I need to do, show me the way!” – and then, like a circle of sunlight piercing a cloud, something or someone comes into their lives to show them the way forward.

When we’re out of ideas, surrounded by problems, and feeling totally alone… we’re not alone. Allah is with us. If we pray sincerely and strive, He will put light in our hearts and help us from directions we did not expect.

Ask Allah sincerely, open yourself to Him, and accept what He gives you even when it goes against your own desires. The answers to your questions are there, with Allah, I promise you. All those terrible questions that you ask yourself in the silence of your mind, the answers are with Allah.

When you’re weary and alone, let faith carry you

Desert buttes

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

There are times when we’re alone, discouraged, and just plain weary. Times when it seems like there’s no one left who matters.

That’s when faith counts more than ever. That’s when faith is tested.

Don’t give up. Keep hope in your heart. Remember that in the darkest cave, the deepest canyon, the most barren desert, Allah is still there.

Let faith carry you at those times, and let Allah guide you, and you will come through to a better place. It’s a promise from Allah:

“And whoever is conscious of Allah, He will make for him a way out (from every difficulty). And He will provide for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Indeed Allah has sent a measure for all things.” (Quran: 65/2-3)

You Are Not Alone

Lonely tree and sun rays

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Sometimes it seems like every person in this world of seven billion souls is living a quarantined, lonely experience. You take the subway to work and everyone reads her own novel, or rests his head against the seat, not meeting anyone else’s eyes. Each person is surrounded by an invisible sphere of seclusion. Or you walk down a crowded downtown street, with thousands of people intent on their own lives and errands, disengaged from all around them…

Every one of us is the center of our own universe, living within our own skulls, constrained by the limitations of our senses. None of us can ever truly know the inner thoughts and feelings of another. This awareness can be isolating and depressing.

But let me give you a different perspective:

First, there is Allah. He knows the innermost hopes and fears of each of us. He is with us, watching us, protecting us and guiding us at all times. He loves us and wants good for us. So in a very real sense, none of us is alone. Allah is the unifying factor, the Master of all, the One who created a universe that functions in harmony and symmetry; even the chaos of nature is part of a greater pattern, and serves Allah in its way.

In fact, check this out: Abu Huraira narrated, “The Prophet said, “If Allah loves a person, He calls Gabriel saying, ‘Allah loves so and-so; O Gabriel! Love him.’ Gabriel would love him and make an announcement amongst the inhabitants of the Heaven. ‘Allah loves so-and-so, therefore you should love him also,’ and so all the inhabitants of the Heaven would love him, and then he is granted the pleasure of the people on the earth.”
(Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Hadith 431)

Wow, subhanAllah. That is a lot of love being directed your way! That’s hardly congruous with the notion of an isolated existence.

Second, there is our noble Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Regardless of our nationalities, our schools of thought or “sects”, we are united in honoring and revering him. We study his life, repeat his words, and send blessings on him. We live our lives by his teachings. We look up to him and love him as we love ourselves.

Third, there is our great deen of Islam. At any given moment, at this very second, there are Muslims in the world standing shoulder to shoulder in prayer, all facing the same location on the earth. Islam has brought us together in a unique and unprecedented global brotherhood and sisterhood. Though we may be strangers to each other in a physical sense, spiritually we are connected. We care about each other, we feel each other’s joys and fears.

Yes, we are biological beings, each living within our own limited bodies. When you or I think, no other human hears us. When you eat, no one else tastes it. When your head hurts, no one else feels the pain. When you harbor private aspirations and terrors, no one else feels the beating of your heart.

But Allah is with you, my brother, my sister. Allah hears. Allah is always ready to comfort you, respond to your prayers, and bless you with His grace.

And the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) struggled so hard for you. Yes of course, he fought for you! You are a part of his Ummah. You are one of his flock. His mission was for you as much as anyone else. On the Day of Judgment he will intercede for his Ummah; he will claim us, and struggle for us just as he did in his earthly life.

Lastly, we Muslims all share a spiritual bond, a common understanding of the world. We are family (even if some of us don’t act like it).

When the loneliness of life feels heavy on your back, remember that the isolation of human existence is an illusion. You are not alone. You are surrounded by guidance, blessings, and caring. You are loved, even when you do not see it. You are not alone.

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