That’s an enigmatic problem that no one has ever had a convincing answer to. It's part of the Divine Secret. One can only do some self-coaching to try to overcome one’s difficulties while waiting to see more clearly. Why self-coaching? Well, it is because the best of the ulema (religious scholars), the best of the preachers, the best book in the world, the best of your friends can only advise you to have patience and warn you against pessimism. You alone are perfectly aware of the limits of your patience and your immunity against pessimism. If you have a problem with money (unemployment, etc.), words of consolation would never suffice you. You could hear the same words in the first month, the seventh month, the fourth year, the twelfth year, with nothing really changing to your situation. Even flattering love poems that you could be told morning and evening, every day, every month, every year, that will change nothing to your problem because you want a wife / husband / children / a stable job and not beautiful hollow words repeated like by a parrot. But this is just what people can ever offer you ! You cannot ask them for more than that. And you're lucky if you only have people around you who show compassion. What if you had people around you who would only make your life harder than it already is? Hence the importance of a self-coaching. I mean by self-coaching the way you speak to yourself when nobody else can speak to you the way your heart wants.
Now, how to proceed? A good self-coaching requires a minimum of knowledge of the Qur'an and the Hadith. The Qur'an, for example, speaks clearly of punishment. The story of Yunus (Jonnah) shows that even a prophet could be punished if there is anything wrong. So you have to be fair. If you have sinned, you have to accept punishment. Just as when you do something good, God will give you something good. These are rules that will never change. "10.64. There is no changing the Words of Allah." This does not mean, tough, that you are punished for all your mistakes. "42.30. Whatever of misfortune striketh you, it is what your right hands have earned. And He forgiveth much" If you begin to ask yourself why so-and-so does this and that and yet he/she is never punished, or why should anybody be punished in the first place, that will only stir up your anger and frustration and will not change anything to your state. If you focus on yourself, if you take care of your own soup, you will have a chance to avoid depression unless you are already in there. The Qur'an calls you to siyaha (spiritual tourism): "50.6. Have they not then observed the sky above them, how We have constructed it and beautified it, and how there are no rifts therein? 50.7. And the earth have We spread out, and have flung firm hills therein, and have caused of every lovely kind to grow thereon, 50.8. A vision and a reminder for every penitent slave. 50.9. And We send down from the sky blessed water whereby We give growth unto gardens and the grain of crops, 50.10. And lofty date palms with ranged clusters, 50.11. Provision (made) for men; and therewith We quicken a dead land. Even so will be the resurrection of the dead." "Have they not travelled in the land, and have they hearts wherewith to feel and ears wherewith to hear? For indeed it is not the eyes that grow blind, but it is the hearts, which are within the bosoms, that grow blind." (Al-Hajj : 46) "Such as remember Allah, standing, sitting, and reclining, and consider the creation of the heavens and the earth, (and say): Our Lord! Thou createdst not this in vain. Glory be to Thee! Preserve us from the doom of Fire" (Al-i'Imran : 191) It’s extremely hard for people like you and me to imagine that the heart plays the role of the mind. But if you want to take on this approach, you have to adhere to the whole conceptual system. It’s all from God. Once you believe in God you have to believe in the Word of God. You believe that it’s God Who knows. “Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Would ye teach Allah your religion, when Allah knoweth all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, and Allah is Aware of all things?" (Al-Hujurat : 16) "So coin not similitudes for Allah. Lo! Allah knoweth; ye know not." (An-Nahl : 74)
Life is fascinating, it’s dazzling. We’re all tempted by the big-strong-and-fast kind of life. The funny thing is, whatever we do, however genius we are, there’s always somebody one step ahead of us, with something a little bigger, stronger or faster than we have. It’s a Tom-and-Jerry game! What a shame! Focus on your soul: the gold is in there, the peace is in there, the happiness is in there. And few people will beat you on that front! If you’re not hungry, why rush to that trendy restaurant? Just to impress somebody (who doesn’t have your financial problems)? Why don’t you give importance to yourself?
In a garden we gaze at the beautiful flower; we turn a blind eye to the dead one. We clap eyes on the palace and ignore the hut beside. But no (straight) man would ignore a young woman passer-by to see flowers instead. A young woman is more precious than a beautiful flower. Just as you are more precious than all the things you have.
The world is beautiful. We can see its beauty with our own eyes. We all have mirrors in which we look at ourselves. We all like nice clothes, nice homes, nice furniture, nice cars. Who wouldn’t be happy to be invited by a friend in a splendid guest room and served the best food?
Sometimes, one just can’t help sighing at seeing a dead rose beside a beautiful one. What makes him/her sigh? It’s clear: all beautiful roses will die in the end. All beautiful abodes will crumble one day. All nice furniture will decay. Friends go. Nothing is there to stay. Seasons change. There must be a winter before the spring. You may have to go through a nasty place before reaching the wonderland. The tiring return trip may make you forget the pleasures of your stay in the beautiful place. Things like these may push some to think about the transient beauty of our world. Is it our world, by the way? Or are we just passers-by? What’s next?
Stop from time to time to meditate about your own life. If necessary, isolate yourself in open spaces (park, woods, beach, etc), where you could speak loud to yourself: ask yourself questions like, “Hasn’t there really been anything new happening in my life since the beginning of this ordeal?” ...or questions like: "Did He not find thee an orphan and protect (thee)? Did He not find thee wandering and direct (thee)? Did He not find thee destitute and enrich (thee)?" (Adh-Dhuha : 6-8) Ask yourself: what was your reaction the last time you were relieved of a hardship? "And if misfortune touch a man he crieth unto Us, (while reclining) on his side, or sitting or standing, but when We have relieved him of the misfortune he goeth his way as though he had not cried unto Us because of a misfortune that afflicted him. Thus is what they do made (seeming) fair unto the prodigal." (Yunus : 12)
If you can, try to change the décor of your everyday life. If you live in town, why not have a stroll or ride on the outskirts and see how people out there go about their everyday life; and while you are there contemplate the landscape around you. The more you do it the more you discover new things you had taken for granted. This little "tourism" is in fact part of a believer's practice of his/her faith. "Will they not regard the camels, how they are created? And the heaven, how it is railed? And the hills, how they are set up? And the earth, how it is spread?" (Al-Gashiya : 17-20) "Have they not observed what is before them and what is behind them of the sky and the earth?" (Saba : 9) As nobody will really feel what you personally feel, then nobody would speak to you in the way you would wish. Now that you are alone (far from eyes and ears) you could speak to yourself as some do in front of a mirror in the dressing-room. This sounds crazy, but you would find it as a breathing exercise! It would relieve your soul of its “poisons” as exercise would rid your body of its poisons. By asking yourself frank questions here you would end up admitting that, after all, there’s some kind of “progress” in your life despite the overall ordeal. Maybe you thought too much about what other people have and forgot about the most precious thing you have : your heart. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “if the hearts get tired they become blind." So get out of your home, leave the city, walk alone (if you're safe), away from people, in the middle of the greenery. Look around: at these beautiful flowers, these beautiful birds, this beautiful sky –who is interested in all this? Who will come here to see these flowers, who will come to see these birds, who will spend his time contemplating the sky above? Who gave these colours to this flower, to this little bird in front of you? Is it not He who gave you eyes to see them, feet to come here...? How could God, who has made this flower grow far from the eyes, forget you who has this heart so sensitive to this beauty? This (very little) beauty will make you shed tears, tears of repentance; It will make you say to God what you would not dare to say to humans. You will tell Him your regrets, your sufferings, your wishes ... You will wash your heart with the tears of your eyes. You will have marked a point against Satan, who never let go of you before you came here to give him a blow where it hurts him the most. No tablets, no vitamin Z. Just tears in the wild. While you are there, go see the nearest potato fields and poultry factory and sit on a rock to meditate on what I’ve been saying to you. Breathe clean air and enjoy God’s beauty and think about this: "Know that the life of this world is only play, and idle talk, and pageantry, and boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children; as the likeness of vegetation after rain, whereof the growth is pleasing to the husbandman, but afterward it drieth up and thou seest it turning yellow then it becometh straw. And in the Hereafter there is grievous punishment, and (also) forgiveness from Allah and His good pleasure, whereas the life of the world is but a matter of illusion. Race one with another for forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden whereof the breadth is as the breadth of the heavens and the earth, which is in store for those who believe in Allah and His messengers. Such is the bounty of Allah, which He bestoweth upon whom He will, and Allah is of infinite bounty. Naught of disaster befalleth in the earth or in yourselves but it is in a Book before We bring it into being. Lo! that is easy for Allah. That ye grieve not for the sake of that which hath escaped you, nor yet exult because of that which hath been given. Allah loveth not all prideful boasters." (Al-Hadid : 20-23) Instead of looking at the wealth of the owner of those potato fields or that poultry factory, look at the beauty of the land, look at God’s creation, and see how God is Great. Instead of envying anybody, ask God of His bounty. "And covet not the thing in which Allah hath made some of you excel others. Unto men a fortune from that which they have earned, and unto women a fortune from that which they have earned. (Envy not one another) but ask Allah of His bounty. Lo! Allah is ever Knower of all things." (An-Nisaa : 32)
God says: “And We have appointed some of you a test for others: Will ye be steadfast? And thy Lord is ever Seer.” (Al-Furqan : 20) Most people fall into two groups: those who are 'better' than you will look down upon you; those who are like you or 'worse' than you will envy you. Why should you care about what other people have if you are happy with what you’re doing? Life is not only money, marriage and children. A good life is one that you live everyday with a feeling that if you lost something in the past, you are gaining other things at present and may gain more in the future. Then remember that "Whoso desireth that (life) which hasteneth away, We hasten for him therein that We will for whom We please. And afterward We have appointed for him hell; he will endure the heat thereof, condemned, rejected. And whoso desireth the Hereafter and striveth for it with the effort necessary, being a believer; for such, their effort findeth favor (with their Lord). Each do We supply, both these and those, from the bounty of thy Lord. And the bounty of thy Lord can never be walled up. See how We prefer one above another, and verily the Hereafter will be greater in degrees and greater in preferment." (Al-Isra : 18-21) God provides both believers and nonbelievers. But true believers know, not only believe, that "the Hereafter will be greater in degrees and greater in preferment." (Al-Isra : 18-21)
Now just go a little further and you’ll find not only larger fields belonging to richer persons, but also dazzlingly beautiful homes. Each time you sigh (and say) “I wish I had such a beautiful dwelling!” you’ll see another one, more beautiful, then another one, much, much more beautiful. It’s like a man obsessed with beauty looking for a beautiful woman in a big city, each one makes you forget all about the others. Then go a little further and you’ll find an asphalt road. Stop for just a few moments and you’ll see not one, but many cars you’d desire to have for yourself. Who then would you be jealous of? That asphalt road will lead you, past large farm houses, to a poultry factory. Will you be jealous of the owner of this factory too? If you can, sit down on a rock near this factory and meditate. How many people work in this factory? How many families do they support? How many people, jobless people, would be happy to find work, even seasonal work, in this factory? Ask yourself: how many chickens and eggs does this factory produce every day? How many people will buy, transport… these chickens and eggs before they land on your dinner table? How many other people will eat that factory’s chickens and eggs? When you think about these things you may realize that you are, in fact, a king, yes a king! See how many people serve you! That “poor farmer” and the “poor” owner of that poultry factory and the people working for them……………are all servants of YOU! They serve YOU. You can’t count the people who are serving you every day! The clothes you are wearing, who made them for you? Did you sew them up yourself? The watch you’re wearing, your mobile, your laptop, your car, etc, etc, etc. Aren’t you a king? If you only think about one thing, one aspect of your life, you may see only the bad side. You may be quick to conclusions. "As for man, whenever his Lord trieth him by honoring him, and is gracious unto him, he saith: My Lord honoureth me. But whenever He trieth him by straitening his means of life, he saith: My Lord despiseth me." (Al Fajr : 15-16) Idem for other people. You may see only one aspect of their life. Who told you, for example, that the farmer is happy? Not every smiling person is happy. Even a happy-go-lucky comedian who makes millions of people “happy” with his gags may end up taking his own life, to everybody’s surprise.
A good self-coaching also requires a little intellectual work, and this takes time. If you can, do read a lot. Don’t just read the Quran. You can read poetry and fiction, as well. You can read a bit of philosophy. You can read biographies or any inspirational material. You can read all this and more in addition to the Quran. The more you know of the world the more you understand your sufferings and the more you know how to deal with them. In so doing, you would acquire wisdom, which is in itself a great gift from Allah. "He giveth wisdom unto whom He will, and he unto whom wisdom is given, he truly hath received abundant good. But none remember except men of understanding." (Al-Baqara : 269) I am not a great reader myself. But I have read History books, among other things. History teaches us that life is so beautiful for those who understand it. It teaches us that one can live happily with the bare minimum if one can define one’s essential needs from the needs imposed by society. It is up to us to know how to distance ourselves from our society in order to discern what is essential from what is not. That would be a giant step towards quietude that will make us less dependent on many things that we don’t have, on many people we consider indispensable, irreplaceable. The master word is therefore 'quietude'. God says in the Quran: “70.19. Lo! man was created anxious, 70.20. Fretful when evil befalleth him 70.21. And, when good befalleth him, grudging; 70.22. Save worshippers 70.23. Who are constant at their worship 70.24. And in whose wealth there is a right acknowledged 70.25. For the beggar and the destitute; 70.26. And those who believe in the Day of Judgment… ” Man is afraid of sickness, death, poverty, among other things. Man needs to feel reassured, protected, safe. It is only natural that one should seek this inner peace with someone. Instead of seeking this inner peace with others, God would like you and I to be rather the source of this peace for others, as those of whom the Qur'an says they “76.8. feed with food the needy wretch, the orphan and the prisoner, for love of Him, 76.9. (Saying) : We feed you, for the sake of Allah only. We wish for no reward nor thanks from you;” “59.9. Those who entered the city and the faith before them love these who flee unto them for refuge, and find in their breasts no need for that which hath been given them, but prefer (the fugitives) above themselves though poverty become their lot. And whoso is saved from his own avarice such are they who are successful.” “23.61. These race for the good things, and they shall win them in the race.” Reread these verses: “70.19. Lo! man was created anxious, 70.20. Fretful when evil befalleth him 70.21. And, when good befalleth him, grudging; 70.22. Save worshippers 70.23. Who are constant at their worship 70.24. And in whose wealth there is a right acknowledged 70.25. For the beggar and the destitute ; 70.26. And those who believe in the Day of Judgment… ” Don’t you see here an invitation to purification? You purify yourself from your avarice, from your selfishness by thinking of the beggar and the poor. If you can't help the beggar and the poor, you can purify yourself from your anguish by fulfilling the salat (the daily prayers) that connects you directly with God five times a day. You purify yourself from your quest for peace with others by entrusting yourself to God. “16.98. And when thou recitest the Quran, seek refuge in Allah from Satan the outcast. 16.99. Lo! he hath no power over those who believe and put trust in their Lord. 16.100. His power is only over those who make a friend of him, and those who ascribe partners unto Him (Allah).” “65.3. And whosoever putteth his trust in Allah, He will suffice him. Lo! Allah bringeth His command to pass. Allah hath set a measure for all things.” The Welfare State was created to give people this sense of security. Some are still nostalgic for the communist era when they could, at least, find with the state a safe haven: housing facilities, schooling for children, free medical care, etc. Neither the welfare state nor the communist state nor the best democratic state in the world can now reassure anybody any more. Globalization has surpassed everyone. Nobody knows anymore what the future will be like. Hence the fear of the unknown. Hence the need for this inner peace that we think we can find with people who are closest to us. It may seem at first sight that one only wants to be reassured in relation to the future. But, in fact, one confuses reassurance with love. When you say to someone or when someone says to you, "You have nothing to fear, all the future is before you.” , that’s not like saying "I love you". The Love of God is the only thing that is really indispensable, irreplaceable. God does not need our love, it is we who need His love, and it is He who gives us this love, it is He who makes us love one another. Did He not say, "30.21. And of His signs is this : He created for you helpmeets from yourselves that ye might find rest in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo, herein indeed are portents for folk who reflect." How to get the love of God? "3.31. Say, (O Muhammad, to mankind) : If ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." . God asks for no more than that. On the contrary, God loves the faithful infinitely more than they could ever love Him. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace and salvation be upon him) informs us that Allah says: "Is it easy to always have a healthy, respectful relationship with God, especially when you are unhappy? Is it possible that we get, at one time or another, angry at God? Yes, of course. Your "anger" at God is in fact a declaration of love. It is as if you say, I who love you, I who adore you, I who have deprived myself of so many things to please you, who have made so many sacrifices to have your pleasure, and despite all that you put me in this pitiful situation ... ? It is as if you are blackmailing God. You are in a state of distress, you say anything to avoid the implosion from within. But quickly, a few hours, a few days later you return back to order. You pray, you ask for forgiveness, you read the Qur'an, you regain hope - even if nothing has really changed since your moment of anger. It is a sign that you love God, and it is also a sign that you should do more to understand what is happening to you, why God did this to you. There certainly must be a reason. Earlier we talked about punishment. But there's not just that. God will submit you to trials even when you are on the right path. If you see in your trials only the suffering side, it means that you have not yet understood. Where does this suffering come from, whatever the reasons? From God, doesn’t it? True, He says "4.79. Whatever of good befalleth thee (O man) it is from Allah, and whatever of ill befalleth thee it is from thyself." But what’s important is that God is capable of the best and the worst. "3.129. Unto Allah belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. He forgiveth whom He will, and punisheth whom He will. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." "39.53. Say : My slaves who have been prodigal to their own hurt! Despair not of the mercy of Allah, Who forgiveth all sins. Lo! He is the Forgiving, the Merciful." "42.30. Whatever of misfortune striketh you, it is what your right hands have earned. And He forgiveth much 42.31. Ye cannot escape in the earth, for beside Allah ye have no protecting friend nor any helper." "10.107. If Allah aflicteth thee with some hurt, there is none who can remove it save Him; and if He desireth good for thee, there is none who can repel His bounty. He striketh with it whom He will of His bondmen. He is the Forgiving, the Merciful." "39.10. Say : O My bondmen who believe! Observe your duty to your Lord. For those who do good in this world there is good, and Allah's earth is spacious. Verily the steadfast will be paid their wages without stint." All this means one thing: that God alone can control your life. This is how self-confidence is born, that trust (in God and in yourself) that makes you do what you like to do without being afraid of what others can say about you or what you do or how you do it. If what you do is good for you, God will help you succeed in it (but in His own way). If what you do or want to do is not good for you, in the near future or in a future time, God will throw a spanner in the works to attract your attention. Even the worst punishment (the worst privation) that God could inflict on you for some fault or other, it will only do you good. But you’re human, you will only see the suffering side.
Now ask yourself these questions: do you want to succeed at all costs or to be happy? It's not the same thing. Many people who have been successful are anything but happy, and many people who are happy have not been so successful. What do you want? Be both happy and successful? Okay, but what comes first: success or happiness? "11.6. And there is not a beast in the earth but the sustenance thereof dependeth on Allah. He knoweth its habitation and its repository. All is in a clear record." "31.34. And no soul knoweth what it will earn tomorrow, and no soul knoweth in what land it will die. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware." You see, you cannot do anything without God knowing, "because everything is recorded in an explicit book!" "31.34. And no soul knoweth what it will earn tomorrow." and "0.107. If Allah aflicteth thee with some hurt, there is none who can remove it save Him; and if He desireth good for thee, there is none who can repel His bounty. He striketh with it whom He will of His bondmen. He is the Forgiving, the Merciful." So what else can we do but submit to God? What do we have in return if we willingly submit to God? Read the answer: "33.41. O ye who believe! Remember Allah with much remembrance. 33.42. And glorify Him early and late. 33.43. He it is who blesseth you, and His angels (bless you) , that He may bring you forth from darkness unto light; and He is Merciful to the believers." You want to succeed right away because you fear what others may think. God wants to bring you out of the darkness of the fear of others to make you a free person: free to choose your own belief, free to make your own choices, master of your destiny. Your life is already in the hands of God, and you want others to dictate what you have to do or be just to please them ? What if you had a mishap after a great success? You would then risk falling into the darkness of the depression, wouldn't you? "33.42. God is full of mildness for the believers." "33.43. He it is who blesseth you, and His angels (bless you), that He may bring you forth from darkness unto light; and He is Merciful to the believers." The light of hope, the light of happiness. Success will not come only through your own efforts, for there is success and success. There is the success which makes others jealous of you and makes them enemies for you, and there is the success prepared for you, in peace or in pain, by your Lord Who knows how long you are going to live, and how you will live all that time.
Men remain men, after all. They are human beings. So there's a limit to what they can stand, whatever the (high) level of their faith and (exceptional) degree of their sincerity. Even prophets experienced moments of weakness vis-à-vis society, because every man likes to be liked in society. No man would like others to speak ill of him.
Normally, in normal circumstances, you’d continue reading and listening to the Quran until you say from the bottom of your heart Yeah when you hear or read "Or shall man have what he coveteth? But unto Allah belongeth the after (life), and the former." (An-Najm : 24-25) You keep increasing your eemaan (faith) until you have no more doubt that "If Allah touch thee with affliction, there is none that can relieve therefrom save Him, and if He touch thee with good fortune (there is none that can impair it); for He is Able to do all things. He is the Omnipotent over His slaves, and He is the Wise, the Knower." (Al-An'am : 17-18) But there may come a time when you say my problem is not with God, it's with society. People keep asking me what I do; they want me to say I'm jobless. They lecture me on what I should do to get a (new) job –as if I were new to this world! They want to see weakness in my look, in my tone. They want me to feel small. They want me to feel ashamed of myself. That's my problem. Yes, that’s your problem because you are looking at people as “persons” rather than as “human beings”. Try to pay attention to what people have in common: greed, arrogance, impatience, envy, etc. When you read the Quran, or autobiographies or any kind of writings, try to meditate about “the psyche” of Man. The Quran whispers in your heart: “Lo! the guilty used to laugh at those who believed, And wink one to another when they passed them; And when they returned to their own folk, they returned jetting; And when they saw them they said: Lo! these have gone astray. Yet they were not sent as guardians over them. This day it is those who believe who have the laugh of disbelievers, On high couches, gazing. Are not the disbelievers paid for what they used to do?" (Al-Mutaffifoon :22-36)
You say yes I can understand that when it comes from disbelievers, but the problem is I'm hearing much wrong from my fellow Muslims! What can I do? How can I feel strong in front of them? How can I stand shoulder to shoulder with other men when I can't even find words to explain my situation without lying to them? How can I persevere? How can I be an ambitious man/woman when I see that people with less qualifications than me are by far better off? What's left for me to dream of at this age? That's my problem. My problem is not with the Scripture, it's with society.
Well, let's see what the Scripture says about it!
Here's Mary, a pious woman who has never been touched by a mortal. But now she's pregnant! How would society react when poor Mary comes out with a baby in her arms?
"And she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a place. And the pangs of childbirth drove her unto the trunk of the palm tree. She said: Oh, would that I had died ere this and had become a thing of naught, forgotten!"
Mary wasn't a disbeliever, though. She had always led a virtuous life. She believed she had done nothing wrong, and yet she feared people's talk. She knew that society wouldn't be merciful towards her. So what could she do now that she had the pangs of childbirth? It's a tragedy, isn't it? But "Then (one) cried unto her from below her, saying: Grieve not! Thy Lord hath placed a rivulet beneath thee, And shake the trunk of the palm tree toward thee, thou wilt cause ripe dates to fall upon thee. So eat and drink and be consoled. And if thou meetest any mortal, say: Lo! I have vowed a fast unto the Beneficent, and may not speak this day to any mortal." (Maryam : 22-26) Now Mary had the yaqeen (absolute faith) that she was on the right path and therefore had absolutely nothing to fear from society. "Then she brought him to her own folk, carrying him. They said: O Mary! Thou hast come with an amazing thing. Oh sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a wicked man nor was thy mother a harlot." That was an understatement that Mary was a 'harlot'! So what did she do? Did she burst into tears? No. She faced her people and "Then she pointed to him. They said How can we tale to one who is in the cradle, a young boy? He spake: Lo! I am the slave of Allah. He hath given me the Scripture and hath appointed me a Prophet, (...)" (Maryam : 27-30) So yaqeen saved Mary in this situation. But Mary was a woman. What about a man? Would it be easier for a man to face up to society? Not necessarily. Even a prophet could have difficulty facing up to society. The Quran relates this about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): "And when thou saidst unto him on whom Allah hath conferred favor and thou hast conferred favor: Keep thy wife to thyself, and fear Allah. And thou didst hide in thy mind that which Allah was to bring to light, and thou didst fear mankind whereas Allah had a better right that thou shouldst fear Him. So when Zeyd had performed the necessary formality (of divorce) from her, We gave her unto thee in marriage, so that (henceforth) there may be no sin for believers in respect of wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have performed the necessary formality (of release) from them. The commandment of Allah must be fulfilled. There is no reproach for the Prophet in that which Allah maketh his due. That was Allah's way with those who passed away of old and the commandment of Allah is certain destiny. Who delivered the messages of Allah and feared Him, and feared none save Allah. Allah keepeth good account." (Al-Ahzab : 36-39) God knew why the Prophet (pbuh) feared mankind and yet He let him go through that bitter experience (of fear and anxiety) –just as had happened with Mary, and, before her, with Abraham, who had seen himself in a dream cutting the throat of his only son). God knew what would happen to Lot. "And when Our messengers came unto Lot, he was distressed and knew not how to protect them. He said: This is a distressful day. And his people came unto him, running towards him and before then they used to commit abominations. He said: O my people! Here are my daughters! They are purer for you. Beware of Allah, and degrade me not in (the person of) my guests. Is there not among you any upright man? They said: Well thou knowest that we have no right to thy daughters, and well thou knowest what we want. He said: Would that I had strength to resist you or had some strong support (among you)!" (Hud : 77-88) God knew that Lot would be embarrassed. And Lot was embarrassed despite the fact that he was a prophet. But when his guests spoke to him about those people he quickly acquired yaqeen. "(The messengers) said: O Lot! Lo! we are messengers of thy Lord; they shall not reach thee. So travel with thy people in a part of the night, and let not one of you turn round (all) save thy wife. Lo! that which smiteth them will smite her (also). Lo! their tryst is (for) the morning. Is not the morning nigh?" (Hud : 81) So why did God let those good people experience those feelings of fear and panic? Did God want to torment his bondmen who had devoted their lives to worshipping Him Alone? Did God not know that these people believed in Him and feared Him and would do everything to please Him? Of course, God knew all that. But we too now know that all those stories had a happy ending. And we now learn from those stories. We learn that we should know about the truths that are not conspicuous at first sight. We learn that we have to develop yaqeen while we are alright and in good shape and not wait until we are stuck in an adversity. We learn that we should acquire yaqeen and know that we may need it as someone would like to have his savings in handy in the hour of adversity. But yaqeen is not a surah (chapter from the Quran) or invocations to be learnt by heart. Yaqeen is the fruit of both the knowledge we acquire by reading/listening/discussing, etc, and personal experience. Hence, the importance of reading and meditating about the stories in the Quran before, while and after going through a bad situation.
Now, what has this got to do with ambition? What has it got to do with losing one's job? Well, the link might not be evident, but it's there. Losing your job is one instance of hardship. If you lose your job you may need moral support until you find another job. Yaqeen will provide you with that moral support; it will give you (at least the strict minimum of) hope that you will find a new job. Your hardship is an occasion for you to strenghten your yaqeen and to think more about your life, about your goal in life: what do you live for? What do you want to achieve? Who is the role model you would like to emulate? Is your goal something special? Or is it something that anybody around you (or many people) can achieve (such as getting married, begetting children, becoming a doctor...)? Has your goal got anything to do with your faith (such as da'wa, for example)? If it has, then bear in mind that you will suffer –as all those who passed away before you suffered before they attained their hopes. Read this, if you like: "Or think ye that ye will enter Paradise while yet there hath not come unto you the like of (that which came to) those who passed away before you? Affliction and adversity befell them, they were shaken as with earthquake, till the messenger (of Allah) and those who believed along with him said: When cometh Allah's help? Now surely Allah's help is nigh." (Al-Baqara : 214)
When we read stories about what happened to prophets, saints and devout people, then we can understand why gloom enshrouds us the moment we hear that we'll be laid off, or the moment we leave our workplace for the last time. Then we can understand why we can't stand before people who are lucky to keep their jobs without feeling some kind of shame or guilt. These are always hard moments, be we believers or disbelievers.
This is a very serious problem indeed. It’s very serious because you don’t have all the tools to deal with it. Even very highly educated people who find very demanding, very challenging job adverts in prestigious magazines, such as The Economist and TIME, and reply to those ads and pass all interviews and are accepted and do start work with good salaries…., they don’t know what may happen to them in the future. Nobody knows what the future holds. All the education and skills you got, that’s the past. You may still have to worry about marriage, if you’re not married yet, or about your children, if they’re still young, or about your health… and all that is in the future.
You may have good insurance. That insurance will only solve the money side. Insurance will not replace a lost eye, a lost breast or a lost limb. Insurance will not solve the immaterial side (feelings, affection, mental strength…). And all that is in the future. The best economic minds of the world were unable to anticipate, let alone to avert, the 2008 Financial Crisis –are you sure your mind can anticipate (and avert) bad things for you? If your mind can’t, your heart may be of some help. Are you prepared to “save” at heart as you would save at a commercial bank?
This is one of several approaches, though. It may be not as easy as other approaches. You could leave it as the last resort. You could give it up in the middle of the process. But it all starts with a choice, with a decision. Normally, before you choose or decide anything you need to know about it in advance. That’s your legitimate right. The Quran, not me, explains to you your rights and obligations.
In the Quran’s eyes, the best and most precious part of you is your heart. In the Quran we read : "The day when wealth and sons avail not (any man). Save him who bringeth unto Allah a whole heart." (Ash-Shu'araa : 88-89) The Quran describes some disbelievers as "having hearts wherewith they understand not, and having eyes wherewith they see not, and having ears wherewith they hear not. These are as the cattle, nay, but they are worse! These are the neglectful." (Al-A'raf : 179) "Have they not travelled in the land, and have they hearts wherewith to feel and ears wherewith to hear? For indeed it is not the eyes that grow blind, but it is the hearts, which are within the bosoms, that grow blind." (Al-Hajj : 46)
So when God explains to you, through the Quran, what you have to do and what you can expect as a reward, you have to believe Him.
As the author of this article, I am only doing the work of a reporter. I am trying my best to explain things in simple words. To begin with, your choice is very important. Do you only want to improve your material situation so that people will say you are a successful person? What are the signs of success for you? A good job, a good spouse, a good house, good children, a good image of you….? What about your personal dream(s)? Do you have a specific objective, a personal ambition, that you would love to fulfill in your lifetime? How long can you wait to see your dream come true? What are the sacrifices you are prepared to make?
Such questions will help you make your choice. The biggest of all these questions is, do you want to work for both the life of the world and the life of the Hereafter at the same time?
To fight monotony and despondency, do assign yourself a long-term goal, mission or project –if you haven’t done it already. Do everything you can towards the fulfilment of this project and you’ll restore your feeling of self-importance when you realize that –at least– there’s something new happening in your life and that you’re not wasting away your time and life in this world. "And trust thou in the Living One Who dieth not" (Al-Furqan : 58)
The Quran asks you to do what you can. Study what you can. Invest what you can. Pray as much as you can. Give as much charity as you can. Do as much good as you can. Avoid evil as best you can. “Allah tasketh not a soul beyond its scope.” (Al-Baqara : 286) "Allah asketh naught of any soul save that which He hath given it. Allah will vouchsafe, after hardship, ease." (At-Talaq : 7) “So keep your duty to Allah as best ye can, and listen, and obey, and spend; that is better for your souls. And whoso is saved from his own greed, such are the successful.” (At-Tagabun : 16)
You can't have everything you want without anything in return. Look around you: if you are well off, others are poor and in need of your help, and so on and so forth. If you are poor yourself and need others to help you, ask yourself why but don't be quick to take offence. You may have one or two things that many others don't have. "And if ye would count the favor of Allah ye cannot reckon it. Lo! Allah is indeed Forgiving, Merciful." (An-Nahl : 18)
If you have the means, God would want you to be kind to mankind as He has been kind to you: "But seek the abode of the Hereafter in that which Allah hath given thee and neglect not thy portion of the world, and be thou kind even as Allah hath been kind to thee, and seek not corruption in the earth; lo! Allah loveth not corrupters" (Al-Qasas : 77)
Now let’s ask this question: How does one develop a strong psyche? Through self-analysis. If you are a liar, why do you complain about other people lying to or about you? If you are selfish, ungrateful, why do you expect others to be grateful to you? If you are dishonest, why do you want others to be honest with you? If you are a cheater, why shouldn't other people do the same? If you were unkind to somebody at one point in the remote past, do you think he/she will forget as you tried to forget and overlook all his/her past faults? Maybe he/she didn't go through the process (experience) that turned you into such a good, forgiving person.
There are people who have psychological problems that they may not be aware of or that they do not want to recognize. You deal with them in good faith, as if they are normal people, taking pains in enduring their arrogance, their lies, their fake love... You try to 'save' them, to help them in every possible way, assuming that they too can change for the better.... But in the sight of such people you are only a sucker, a naive person unable to see what's in their minds. Well, there's but rubbish in their minds, I tell you; there's but illness in their hearts. Run away from them lest they should kill you piecemeal!
As I said above, most people will either envy you if you are better off, or look down upon you if they are better off. You will rarely find people who will 'respect' you in all situations. If your superior/boss bullies or harasses you, that's because he believes he is 'better off', he believes that it's you who needs him and cannot do without him. He believes you are too weak to give up the job in such a time of crisis. Put yourself into that person's shoes and ask yourself whether you wouldn't do just the same! See if there's not something wrong with your own character (vis-à-vis other people). Cleanse your soul first, before complaining about others. Your soul is like your shoes. They may be clean before you leave home, but they may be less clean when you return home and you may have to clean (and shine) them again. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: "Every Son of Adam is a Sinner, and the Best of Sinners are those who Repent".
Now, if you are over-kind (be it natural, voluntary or compulsive), within or without the work sphere, most people will take that for a weakness or a sign of stupidity; you will lose a lot, suffer a lot; but with resolve, sincerity and a clear purpose in your life, you will certainly prevail. You have to have kind of moral superiority. Once a man came to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and said: "O Messenger of Allah, tell me something about Islam which I cannot ask anyone else besides you." He said: "Say you believe in God then be upright (be steadfast upon that)." The meaning is, do everything you probably can to be a good person, don’t harm anybody who didn’t harm you, and then don’t care about what others will say about you or how they will react to your kindness.
Injustice may sometimes come from somebody who was very kind to you in the past. This somebody is teasing you now because he/she gave you so much kindness/help in the past, when he/she thought you might become something in the future and he/she would therefore get some kind of reward for the good he/she did to you in the past... but now that he/she is seeing you, year after year, without any real improvement in your life, he/she is playing tricks on you, beguiling you with false promises, teasing you, saying bad things on you... and you are in a hell because of him/her. You don't want to break with him/her and thus end a longtime friendship, always bearing in mind the kindness he/she gave you in the past. You strive to be faithful and grateful... But he/she doesn't care two-pence about your 'friendship'... You too may have been harsh to him/her in the past, in the remote past, and he/she didn't react then and preferred patience and silence because he/she still feared you might become something/somebody important in the future.... Now that you are a 'failed' person in his/her sight, he/she is ‘punishing' you for all those small and big mistakes. If you go on dealing with such a vindictive person, you will only kill yourself.
Another source of your unhappiness may be your fear of other people’s opinion about you. People will always comment your looks, the clothes you put on, the house you live in, the things you eat, the place where you eat, the music you listen to, the kind of work you do… If you are jobless, that’s horror ! Especially if you are married and a parent. If you are unmarried, that’s hell. This will fill your heart with jealousy and a Satanic wish to harm those you are jealous of, those you believe are better or luckier than you, those who are bullying or harassing you. The jealousy may destroy your heart from within as a fire would destroy a home from within… What’s the solution, then? I’m not a psychic, but I am confident that the first step to do is: accept within yourself the fact that you are exactly what people are saying about you, then say: So what? I am jobless, that’s my problem. You’re not going to help me. I’m unmarried, that’s my problem. I didn’t ask you to find me a partner. I’m a failed person on all counts, BUT I AM FREE. I won’t do what you –society– want me to do. I will go downtown wearing rubber sandals, that’s none of your business. I will go to work on foot or by bus, that’s none of your business. This car of mine that is not good in your eyes, I will sell it off and buy a bicycle instead. It’s not you who pays gasoline for me. You don’t like the colour of my suit (of my bag, of my shirt…) because it’s not in line with the fashion of the moment? Well, I will not wear anything else until the end of the season! You are bullying/harassing me because you think I can’t find work elsewhere? Well, I’m not leaving now. I won’t give you the chance to revel in my misfortune. I’ll wait until I get a better job and I’ll leave without regret… That’s how you can start liberating yourself from all the shackles people want to put on you. You will continue for some length of time to feel the bitter feeling of injustice and the pain of ingratitude, but they won’t be as painful as before. Your moral superiority, your being true to yourself (as long as you stick to it) will impress those who until recently made you feel ashamed of yourself for the mere reason that you are not like the rest of the livestock. Your indifference to their opinion about you will kill their evil.
However, don’t think that ‘moral superiority’ necessarily means attaining sainthood. Be realistic. You can’t pretend you wouldn’t love to have a steady job for life. What more than a government could give lifetime jobs and financial security? The problem is, government employees are partly paid by money coming from brothels, casinos, alcohol, cigarettes, potentially dangerous cosmetics, banks that strangle destitute helpless people, companies in which working conditions push employees to suicide, depression or cancer; factories that pollute whole regions, farmers that ‘poison’ underground water, big companies that enslave people with pitiless marketing campains…
If you are a State employee yourself or one of your parents, what would you say to that poor girl who works in a sex shop in order to pay for her studies? What would you say to that person who spends most of his salary in casinos? What would you say to that depressed person who spends a quarter of his salary on alcohol and another quarter on healthcare? What would you say to that husband who kills himself, his wife and children with active and passive smoking? What would you say to that young woman who develops cancer because of cosmetics or unbearable working conditions? etc, etc, etc. Well, part of those unfortunate people’s money ends up in your pocket. And if you or any of your parents is not paid by the State, maybe you were educated in State schools which used that kind of money, or treated in a hospital which used that kind of money, etc, etc, etc.
Putting such questions to yourself, in the process of self-analysis, will not increase your feeling of guilt, though; but will only help you realize that nobody is entirely innocent. Allah says in the Quran : “And if Allah were to enlarge the provision for His slaves they would surely rebel in the earth, but He sendeth down by measure as He willeth. Lo! He is Informed, a Seer of His bondmen.” ( 42.27)
The English proverb goes: "People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones." The Moroccan proverb says: "A camel only sees his brother’s hump." Just as a camel doesn't see his own hump, we only see other people's defects, not ours.
If government morality is not as pure as the pre-Industrial Revolution Era rain, then expect that morality in business can’t be more pure than our era’s rivers. Then, why be more Catholic than the Pope? Part of our problem when we are wronged emotionally (I’m not talking here of rape, etc.) is we are quick to complain: all the evil is from somebody else. I am clean, I am pure, I am good. Tears. Sleepless nights. Psychics. Sex. Drugs. And you go closer and closer to the precipice.
You too can develop such a strong faith in yourself, a faith that makes you believe you can reach what is impossible in other people’s eyes. The first step, as I said, is to admit voluntarily and unregretfully that you are just as failed as people are saying about you. Then say: So what? You think I’m a failed person/writer/businessman/parent, SO BE IT! Get off my back, right?... Your self-analysis will help you take that first step. Regard admitting to failure as a strategy, not as a fait accompli... Remember that some people have gone from prison or hideouts into the top positions in their States, and vice-versa. Remember the has-beens: those former stars and megastars, those over-mediatized politicians, who suddenly fell into oblivion. Remember those talented people who didn’t benefit from their talents in their lifetime, people such as Edgar Alan Poe, Rudolph Diesel (whose name is in oil-stations all over the world)… Remember those people who were once living in their homes with their wives and children and are now helpless, homeless people, or refugees, waiting for others to help them.
You shouldn’t lament over the past. “Naught of disaster befalleth in the earth or in yourselves but it is in a Book before We bring it into being Lo! that is easy for Allah. That ye grieve not for the sake of that which hath escaped you, nor yet exult because of that which hath been given. Allah loveth not all prideful boasters." (Al-Hadid : 22-23)
Always have trust in God. “And whosoever putteth his trust in Allah, He will suffice him.” (At-Talaq : 3) “Such as are steadfast and put their trust in Allah.” (An-Nahl : 42) "Lo! Allah loveth those who put their trust (in Him).” (Al-i'Imran : 159)
Always bear in mind that you are after a double wage: “O My bondmen who believe! Observe your duty to your Lord. For those who do good in this world there is good, and Allah's earth is spacious. Verily the steadfast will be paid their wages without stint.” (Az-Zumar : 10)
Mohamed Ali LAGOUADER