By Wael Abdelgawad | WaelAbdelgawad.com
If a life comes down to what a man or woman has learned, then I’ll say this: you may feel discouragement, anxiety or despair, but you never know what’s coming tomorrow. Never give up on God, and never give up on yourself. God brings life and light from darkness. A closed room opens and becomes a road to the sunrise. Miracles happen every day, and I am a witness to that.
First, take nothing and no one for granted. Remember to be grateful for everything – for health, breath, the heart pumping in your chest, wholesome food on the table, rain falling unbidden from the sky, family, friends, guidance, truth, everything. Gratitude is the first order of the day. Gratitude is the path to loving God. Gratitude is the only argument one needs against despair. It is the cure for sadness and materialism as well, and is the motivation to do better tomorrow.
When I sit down to eat with my daughter Salma, we first say Bismillah (In the name of God), then each of us names three things for which we are grateful. It has the effect of connecting us to the blessings of the moment – such as the food on the table – and the greater blessings that we often take for granted, such as the presence of family and the gift of guidance.
I’m a huge believer in gratitude, which is why I focus on it in my writings, including in my novel, Pieces of a Dream.
Second, know that you have nothing but what the Creator has given you, and no protector but Him, so when you ask, ask from God. The book, “Don’t Be Sad” mentions a story:
A man went to a certain country as a refugee and implored the authorities to grant him citizenship. He was denied, and all avenues were closed to him. Despite his many efforts at importuning others, all of his contacts failed. One day he met a righteous scholar, and explained his predicament.
The scholar said, `Supplicate to your Lord, for He is the One who makes things easy.’ This advice is given clearly in the following narration of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):
On the authority of Abdullah bin Abbas (RA) who said:
One day I was behind the Prophet (peace and blessings of God be upon him) [riding on the same mount] and he said, “O young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice]: Be mindful of Allah and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, then ask Allah [alone]; and if you seek help, then seek help from Allah [alone]. And know that if the nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they would not benefit you except with what Allah had already prescribed for you. And if they were to gather together to harm you with anything, they would not harm you except with what Allah had already prescribed against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.”
– Related by At-Tirmidhi,who said it was good and sound.
The refugee later related,
“By God, I stopped going to people for help or intercession. Instead I began praying to God in the last third of the night just as the scholar told me to do. Just before the break of dawn, I would call to God and invoke Him for relief.
I submitted an application for citizenship without asking any person of influence to intercede for me. A few days passed until suddenly, to my astonishment, I was called to pick up my citizenship request papers. They were stamped with ‘Approved.’
Third, forgive yourself and do better tomorrow. Everyone loses control sometimes. Everyone sometimes hurts others and feels regret. Everyone has shameful experiences. Everyone.
Fourth, forgive others. Be gentle and assume the best when it comes to people’s intentions. Everyone is struggling in this world. Other people’s anger or criticism is almost always the product of their own fear.
Save one soul
Why does it seem sometimes that the modern world is so out of touch with gratitude? Among us Muslims, why does it seem that we are consumed with anger and frustration?
It’s understandable. We Muslims are a conquered people. Our lands were divided by colonialists, we are ruled by tyrants and kings, and we are under siege or occupation by non-Muslim powers in many places. We watch as some of our most ancient cultures are reduced to rubble. Extremist groups rise from the rubble and bring further conflict and misery to everyone.
At the same time, we’re dealing with major social issues like corruption, poverty, unemployment and inability to marry.
All of that generates feelings of anger, frustration and resentment. We see that reflected in the discontent of many Muslims.
Surely, however, we are not meant to live our lives in a constant state of frustration. After all, there has always been – and will always be – suffering in the world. So the question is, how do we acknowledge the suffering of the Ummah, and work for the betterment of all people, while still maintaining our own inner peace and sense of gratitude? How can we feel outrage while not allowing it to eat away like acid at our faith?
Going back to the narration of ibn Abbas mentioned above, we must remember that no one can help us or harm us with anything except that which is permitted by God. We must strive to do all we can for the sake of humanity, then leave the rest in the Almighty’s hands. If we are at least doing something, then we do not have to feel impotent.
It also helps to keep our focus small. No one can carry the suffering of the world on his or her shoulders. Try instead to help one person. There is value in saving one soul, or even assisting one person in a small way. When you have saved one soul, then save another, and another. In this way you become a part of a great movement of goodness and compassion that transforms the world.
All the while, be grateful. Focus on what you have, rather than what you do not have. Be aware of the visible blessings blossoming all around you, and imagine the many more invisible blessings showering down from Heaven.