By Amy Estrada for IslamicSunrays.com
Ibrahim has just graduated and started a good job, and is ready to marry. He and his family meet several prospective spouses, but more than one of them is a suitable match. Ibrahim is confused. He wants to make a wise choice, but the choice isn’t clear. Of the few that seem like good candidates, none rises above the others. Who should he choose?
He prays istikhara and consults family and friends. He makes dua’, but the uncertainty remains. The only thought going through his mind is which person is the “right” one. The idea that he may choose the “wrong” one, thereby making a mistake and perhaps creating a future of pain for himself, becomes crippling.
We all make mistakes. When I say mistakes, I don’t mean moral errors, or temptations to which we succumb. I mean honest mistakes in judgment and in choice.
It’s part of the human condition to hold ourselves to high standards. We want to never make a wrong choice, or create regrets. Regrets are painful, and we are programmed to get away from pain. In fact, most of us spend our lives trying to avoid pains of all kinds. Avoiding regrets is a logical part of that endeavor.
But is that really the type of life Allah expects or even wants us to live?
It’s clear Allah wants us to avoid sinful actions and habits. He clearly outlines the consequences of errors not only in the way we live our lives apart from His laws, but even errors in our belief and understanding. The Quran warns against waywardness over and over. Yet I think sometimes we take these admonitions and use them to create an expectation of perfection for ourselves.
Fatima has been offered a job ninety minutes from her home. She’s not excited about spending a total of three hours commuting each day, not to mention the cost of gas and bridge tolls, but the job is a good one in her field. A week before she is to begin the new job, she is offered another job only ten minutes from home. It’s not quite as good as the other, but she could do so much with those extra three hours. Pray, read, spend time with family and friends… What to do? The wrong choice could affect her entire career. For days she racks her brain trying to decide, until she becomes physically ill.
These scenario can also play out when someone is deciding which university to attend, thinking about moving, or even taking a vacation. We have programmed ourselves to think there is only one “right” way to do things, and every other way is wrong. We stress ourselves out trying to figure out what that one “right” way is when it’s not readily clear.
The Prophet SAWS said:
“The believer is not required to humiliate himself.” He was asked, “How does one humiliate himself, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “He takes on tests that he cannot bear.”
This hadith can be applied to many different situations, but the takeaway is that we shouldn’t put undue stress on ourselves. Essentially, we shouldn’t make life harder on ourselves than it already is. To do so is a form of self-humiliation.
When we try to be perfectionists, striving to make choices that are flawless and regretless, we put a standard on ourselves that we as humans were not meant to bear. In trying to get it “exactly right”, we create more pain – perhaps even greater pain than the one we’re running from.
In the Quran, Allah describes the people of Paradise as those “who avoid great sins and shameful deeds, only (falling into) lesser faults; truly your Lord is ample in forgiveness. He knows you well when He brings you out of the earth and when you are hidden in your mother’s wombs. Therefore do not ascribe (claim) purity to yourselves. He knows best who the God-conscious ones are.”
It seems here we are told to avoid sins and shameful deeds, but we are allowed to have ‘lesser faults’. We are allowed to make mistakes and still have a fair chance of achieving Jannah. We aren’t supposed to live such a life that we could “ascribe purity to ourselves”. A life of perfection. It’s not meant for us.
Let’s give ourselves permission to be human. Allah made us in a state He loves and cherishes, so why try to make ourselves something we’re not? It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to make a choice and it not be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It’s just a choice, and in shaa Allah we will learn from it either way. It’s okay to start on a path, take a risk, or even make an investment, and fail. No one intends to fail, but failure is one of the best ways to gain wisdom and valuable experience.
There’s an uplifting movie I recommend to anyone struggling with this issue. It’s Disney’s Meet the Robinsons. As Aunt Billie said in that movie: “From failing, you learn. From success, not so much.”