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Let me start with an obvious point: we are and will be tested by Allah and His tests are manifested in so many different ways. We can’t think for a second that just because we are believers, Allah will give us an easy path to Jannah.
“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: ‘We believe,” and will not be tested?'” (Surah al-Ankabut: 2)
The verse quoted above encompasses our life in this world. This is not the place where we experience happily ever after like what is being taught to us in fairy tales. I think the reason why happily ever after is only talked about in fairy tales is because it doesn’t exist in this world.
Happily ever after is in the next-world – in Jannah.
Our Own Curriculum
I once attended a talk and in that talk, one of the speakers said something that resonates within me. She said, “Every one of us has a God-given curriculum specifically designed for us individually.” How true is that? Not only will we be tested, but we will be tested with different things.
Some are tested with poverty. Some are tested with wealth.
Some are tested with children. Some are tested with no children.
Some are tested with terminal illness. Some are tested with perfect health.
Some are tested with sadness. Some are tested with happiness.
I could go on and on.
So when we see someone being tested with something, be grateful that you are not tested by it. At the same time, don’t look down upon that person because you might be tested by something that he/she isn’t not tested by.
We Can Do It
When Allah gave us this curriculum, He gave it to us knowing that we have the potential to pass the tests. Allah knows that we have what it takes to face the tests and succeed.
“Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope…” (Surah al-Baqarah: 286)
Allah wouldn’t have given you or me that test if He didn’t think that we can handle it. He knows that we can. I don’t know about you, but knowing that Allah knows that I have the potential to succeed in any test that He gives me is pretty motivating.
It’s like Allah is saying to me directly, “Aiman, you can do it!”
However, there are times when the tests seem to be overwhelming. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have the potential to handle them. That might just mean that we need a little help, and there’s nothing wrong about admitting that we need help.
Ultimately, we ask Allah to help us. But we also ask other people to help us as well. The world is just too huge for us to live alone. Plus, we are social animals who need each other. The idea of living in a supportive community is at the heart of Islamic teaching. Learn about the community which the Prophet built during his time, and you’ll see my point.
Allah knows that we have what it takes. But if we need help, then we seek help. There is no shame in that.
But too often we don’t take the initiative to ask for help. Instead, we turn to a rather pseudo-satisfying coping mechanism: we make excuses.
“I can’t stop watching porn. I’m just too weak and there’s nothing I can do. Besides, it’s not like I’m doing zina right?”
“I can’t stop smoking. I can’t focus on my studies if I stop smoking. Besides, my dad does it too.”
“I can’t stop drinking. It’s the only way that I can get my mind off of my problems.”
“She’s just a friend.”
One of the hikma (wisdom) of Ramadan is that it made me realize how strong I really am, and that I have underestimated my own potential. I realized that changing a particular habit is much easier in Ramadan, and I’m pretty sure that you have observed the same thing too.
For example, there are people who can control themselves from smoking the entire day. I mean, if you can abstain yourself from smoking from Fajr to Maghrib, then what’s stopping you from abstaining from Maghrib to Fajr?
“Well, in Ramadan there’s no Shaytan. That’s why it’s so easy!”
Precisely. That’s right. But is that a reason or an excuse? Is Shaytan in control of us? Is Shaytan a puppet master and we are his helpless puppets? I don’t think so.
Shaytan has no power over us. The only thing that he can do to us is inviting us to do bad things.
Nouman Ali Khan did a detailed Tafseer of Surah an-Nas. In that Tafseer session, he quoted the fifth verse of the Surah that describe Shaytan as he “who whispers in the chests of people” (Surah an-Nas: 5). Nouman pointed out something profound about this one verse. The verse didn’t say that Shaytan whispers in the hearts of people. Shaytan only whispers in the chests of people.
Imagine the heart is our house and the chest is the fence surrounding our house. Shaytan only has access to our yard – the area between the fence and the house. But he has no access to the house at all. The only thing that he can do it to knock on the door, because he doesn’t have the power to kick the door open. That’s all that he can do. He can’t come in, unless someone let him.
The question is, who let him in?
“And Shaitan (Satan) will say when the matter has been decided: ‘Verily, Allah promised you a promise of truth. And I too promised you, but I betrayed you. I had no authority over you except that I called you, so you responded to me. So blame me not, but blame yourselves….'” (Surah Ibrahim: 22)
In reality, Shaytan is not as strong as we think he is. Allah knows that we have what it takes to defeat him. Now that we are in Ramadan, Shaytan is “on leave” and we should take this advantage to train ourselves for our next 11-month match with him.
Insha Allah, when Ramadan ends, we’ll be ready.