How to Cross the Oceans of the Duniya without Drowning? – Part 1 of 2

– By Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed

Firstly, we’ll start by looking at the following questions. These are based on your personal answers – not to be shared with anyone else.

1. What do you think about all day?
2. What makes you cry the most?
3. What are you most afraid of?
4. What makes you most angry?
5. What do you think of most when in salaah?

These must be answered as honestly as possible to be of most benefit inshaaAllaah. Ensure to have them jotted down somewhere and then keep them to the side. InshaaAllaah we are to return to them.

Let’s now explore the term tawheed. We understand it as believing in the Oneness of Allaah. Although this is correct, there are more connotations to this. It not only means the Creator or Sustainer, but also the One who has the right to be worshipped. The One who should be the centre of our world.

Whatever we fill our hearts with; it will have the effect of the above questions. It’d be the thing we think of all day, the thing that makes us cry or scares us, or makes us angry. It’d be the thing that springs into our thoughts during salaah. We should be obsessed with Allaah, but we are not. We are obsessed with duniya related stuff – which end up answering the above five questions.

Now let’s look at the final question:
6. What causes you the most pain?

The answers to questions 1-5 will be the answer to question 6.

What we tend to do is take those other than Allaah, and place them where He should be positioned. We end up making the things of the duniya the centre of our world – Tawheed. Hence why we end up hurting so much.

Allaah states several times in al-Qur’an:
Do not make [as equal] with Allah another deity and [thereby] become censured and forsaken [17:22]

And do not invoke with Allah another deity. There is no deity except Him. Everything will be destroyed except His Face. His is the judgement, and to Him you will be returned. [28:88]

Remember that everything is perishing, save Allaah. He is the One who is Everlasting. He is the One who we should be holding in our hearts.

It’s when that thing we compete with Allaah (spouse, children, careers) – which ends up hurting us and disgracing us. It is then we feel forsaken and empty. Filling a car with orange juice will cause the car to break down. We will break that car. This is the reason why we break down. We fill our hearts with something which it was never meant to be filled with. We are damaging ourselves in the process. Needs, such as marriage, are character builders. They are not there to fill our emptiness – that is Allaah’s role.

But this doesn’t mean we can’t love things in the duniya. This doesn’t mean we should love our spouses, our children, our careers. But you are to hold a gift in your hands, not your heart. The problem arises when we place the gift in our hearts – and when we become dependent on this thing – that is when our hearts break. Gifts are given and taken, but – inna lillaahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un – Everything passes and perishes, save Him!

Once we place these gifts in His position – our hearts – they become an obsession. It is then when it becomes the answers to the above five questions – leading to the answer to question six. Then this will follow you to your salaah.

Let’s look at the difference between the feelings of the pain of the hand, and the pain of the heart.

Pain of the hand:

Think of a gift of life – a gift in the duniya that you admire, but do not depend on. When this is lost – it leads to normal, human sadness. For example, imagine you wanted a job – but got rejected. That feeling of sadness is not devastation. It’s a normal feeling. Remember our prophet SalAllaahu ‘alaihi wa salaam also felt sadness. This is a normal human emotion.

Pain of the heart:

Think of a gift of life – a gift in the duniya that you revolve you life around. Something which captures your thoughts and occupies your heart. When this is removed – you feel absolute devastation. It debilitates you, preventing you from functioning adequately. Perhaps, this is due to false attachments. These entities are competing with Allaah – for the position of your heart.

Allaah tests us with what we love. Spouses and children are said to be fitnah for this reason – they occupy Allaah’s position in our hearts.

So if these are not haraam relationships, what is the problem? Perhaps, one has replaced Allaah’s position with these relationships. Perhaps they have become the centre of your universe. These entities are filling the emptiness and sadness of our hearts – forming false attachments to things which are bound to perish.

Pain tells you something is wrong. If your elbow touches a flame, you will move it away. Pain tells you to move your arm from this stimulus. Allaah does exactly that. Thus, if there is deep, excruciating, devastating pain in your heart – perhaps something needs to change. Inside, there is something wrong with your attachments. But remember, Allaah doesn’t change the condition of a people unless they change themselves [Qur’an 13:11].

There are a number of ways that creation can push you towards Allaah. One way is that Allaah has made His creations beautiful. Only those who remember Allaah standing, sitting and on their sides will be able to understand this. They reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth and they’re lead to the understanding that, ‘O my Lord, you have not created this – but without a purpose’.

Allaah is greater than doing something without a purpose. You go through everything – due to a purpose. It’s when we enter too close that it hurts us. Getting too close to the sun causes you to burn. If you get too close to the ocean, you’ll drown. With humans, it is the same thing. They’re there to be the coolness of your eyes – but so long as you don’t make them your ilaah – the centre of your universe. That is when they let you down. That is when you get hurt.

The mistake we make is, we seek to make this duniya perfect for this is where we have originally come from – perfection of paradise. However, we forget that this duniya is far from paradise, thus far from perfect. We forget we are in a place which is bound to be filled with imperfections – for if it were not, what will the next life hold? What more could it be?
We must stop expecting from His creations – and place our expectations in Him instead. People will perish and diminish in their abilities to sustain us. People will leave, for they have limited time to occupy upon you – but Allaah doesn’t.

The close you are to Allaah, the more you will be tested. However, this does not lead to pain. Pain – that soul crushing, agonising, intense feeling – is not meant to be there. When we are tested, we should feel a sense of internal acceptance and contentment. It is pain described in the gift of the hand – not that of the heart which we feel. Should we feel the latter – know that something is not right. It is perhaps, not a test. Rather something you need to change.

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