Let the improvement of yourself keep you so busy that you have no time to criticize others.
If you were born with
The weakness to fall
You were born with
The strength to rise
That’s a fact, expressed by Rupi Kaur in her book Milk and Honey.
Every failure and misfortune isn’t a knockout punch delivered by life. We have been given the strength to get back up on our feet. Surrender may seem to be the easier option. Rather than giving up and continuing on a downward spiral, we should be determined to prove that we are still here … standing tall and strong … not ready to quit.
Reclaim Your Heart by Yasmin Mogahed is one of my favourite books of all times. Her words have tremendous power. The book is very interesting, inspiring and motivating, right from the start all the way to the end. My words can’t do justice to describe how awesome and profound this book is, so I thought it might be a good idea to share some of my favourite passages from it. I hope you would like the book’s heartwarming message as much as I do.
Before sharing the passages, let me just confess that I don’t want to become the most followed celebrity. I don’t want to win the Grammy Award or the Nobel Prize. But I want my words to be impactful and full of wisdom, just like Yasmin’s writings and lectures have inspired millions of people.“ ”Nothing happens without a purpose. Nothing. Not even broken hearts. Not even pain. That broken heart and that pain are lessons and signs for us. They are warnings that something is wrong. They are warnings that we need to make a change. Just like the pain of being burned is what warns us to remove our hand from the fire, emotional pain warns us that we need to make an internal change. We need to detach. Pain is a form of forced detachment. Like the loved one who hurts you again and again and again, the more this material world hurts us, the more we inevitably detach from it. The more we inevitably stop loving it. “ ”Don’t let your source of fulfillment be anything other than your relationship with God. Don’t let your definition of success, failure or self-worth be anything other than your position with Him. And if you do this, you become unbreakable, because your handhold is unbreakable. You become unconquerable, because your supporter can never be conquered. And you will never become empty, because your source of fulfillment is unending and never diminishes. “ ”Allah gives us gifts, but then we come to love them as we should only love Him. We take those gifts and inject them into our hearts, until they take over. Soon we cannot live without them. Every waking moment is spent in contemplation of them, in submission and worship to them. The mind and the heart that was created by Allah, for Allah, becomes the property of someone or something else. And then the fear comes, the fear of loss begins to cripple us. The gift—that should have remained in our hands—takes over our heart, so the fear of losing it consumes us. Soon, what was once a gift becomes a weapon of torture and a prison of our own making. How can we be freed of this? At times, in His infinite mercy, Allah frees us…by taking it away. “ ”This dark place is not the end. Remember that the darkness of night precedes the dawn. And as long as your heart still beats, this is not the death of it. You don’t have to die here. Sometimes, the ocean floor is only a stop on the journey. And it is when you are at this lowest point, that you are faced with a choice. You can stay there at the bottom, until you drown. Or you can gather pearls and rise back up—stronger from the swim, and richer from the jewels. “ ”This world cannot break you—unless you give it permission. And it cannot own you unless you hand it the keys—unless you give it your heart. And so, if you have handed those keys to dunya for a while—take them back. This isn’t the End. You don’t have to die here. Reclaim your heart and place it with its rightful owner:
God.“ ”If being ‘in love’ means our lives are in pieces and we are completely broken, miserable, utterly consumed, hardly able to function, and willing to sacrifice everything, chances are it’s not love. Despite what we are taught in popular culture, true love is not supposed to make us like drug addicts. “ ”Could there ever be an easy way to let go of an attachment? Yes. There is.
Find something better.
They say you don’t get over someone until you find someone or something better. As humans, we don’t deal well with emptiness. Any empty space must be filled. Immediately. The pain of emptiness is too strong. It compels the victim to fill that place. A single moment with an empty spot causes excruciating pain. That’s why we run from distraction to distraction, and from attachment to attachment.
In the quest to free the heart, we speak a lot about breaking our false dependencies. But then there’s always the question of ‘how?’ Once a false attachment has been developed, how do we break free? Often it feels too hard. We get addicted to things, and can’t seem to let them go. Even when they hurt us. Even when they damage our lives and our bond with God. Even when they are so unhealthy for us. We just can’t let them go. We are too dependent on them. We love them too much and in the wrong way. They fill something inside of us that we think we need…that we think we can’t live without. And so, even when we struggle to give them up, we often abandon the struggle because it’s too hard.
Why does that happen? Why do we have so much trouble sacrificing what we love for what God loves? Why can’t we just let go of things? I think we struggle so much with letting go of what we love, because we haven’t found something we love more to replace it.“ ”Yesterday my 22 month old sought to exercise his independence. After climbing out of his car seat, he wanted to shut the car door like a big boy, so I stood there watching over him. Realizing that if I left him to shut the door, his little head would have gotten slammed in the process, I lifted him away, and shut the door myself. This devastated him, and he broke down in tears. How could I prevent him from doing what he so badly wanted to do?
Watching the incident, a strange thought crossed my mind. I was reminded of all the times this had happened to us in life—when we want something so badly, but Allah does not allow us to have it. I was reminded of all the times we, as adults felt this same frustration when things just wouldn’t work out the way we so desperately wanted them to. And then suddenly, it was so clear. I had only taken my son away from the door to protect him. But he had no idea. In the midst of his mourning, he had no idea that I had actually saved him. And just as my son wept in his naivety and innocence, so often we too bemoan events that have actually saved us.
When we miss a plane, lose a job, or find ourselves unable to marry the person we want, have we ever stopped to consider the possibility that it may have been for our own good?“ ”The words of Rumi explain beautifully: “When someone beats a rug with a stick, he is not beating the rug – his aim is to get rid of the dust. Your inward is full of dust from the veil of ‘I’-ness, and that dust will not leave all at once. With every cruelty and every blow, it departs little by little from the heart’s face, sometimes in sleep and sometimes in wakefulness.”
So often we experience things in life, and yet never see the connections between them. When we are given a hardship, or feel pain, we often fail to consider that that experience may be the direct cause or result of another action or experience. Sometimes we fail to recognize the direct connection between the pain in our lives and our relationship with Allah (swt).
That pain and adversity serves many purposes in life. Times of hardship can act as both an indication as well as a cure, for our broken relationship with our Creator.
The ego is the part of us that loves power. It is the part that loves to be seen, recognized, praised, and adored. Facebook provides a powerful platform for this. It provides a platform by which every word, picture, or thought I have can be seen, praised, and ‘liked’. As a result, I begin to seek this. But then it doesn’t just stay in the cyber world. I begin even to live my life with this visibility in mind. Suddenly, I live every experience, every photo, every thought, as if it’s being watched, because in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “I’ll put it on Facebook.” This creates a very interesting state of being, almost a constant sense that I am living my life on display. I become ever conscious of being watched, because everything can be put up on Facebook for others to see and comment on.
More importantly, it creates a false sense of self-importance, where every insignificant move I make is of international importance. Soon I become the focus, the one on display. The message is: I am so important. My life is so important. Every move I make is so important. The result becomes an even stronger me-focused world, where I am at the center.
As it turns out, this result is diametrically opposed to the Reality of existence. The goal of this life is to realize the Truth of God’s greatness and my own insignificance and need before Him. The goal is to take myself out of the center and put Him there instead. But Facebook perpetuates the illusion of the exact opposite. It strengthens my belief that because of my own importance, every inconsequential move or thought should be on display. Suddenly what I ate for breakfast or bought at the grocery store is news, important enough to publish. When I put up a picture, I wait for compliments; I wait for acknowledgement and recognition. With the number of likes or comments, physical beauty becomes something that can now be quantified. When I put up a post, I wait for it to be ‘liked’. And I am ever conscious of — and even compete in — the number of “friends” I have.
What the child did not realize was that there was someone taking care of him. There was a plan for him. And in place of everything that had been taken away, his Protector would provide something better. The nourishment he had once received only through blood would soon come through his mother’s milk. And the lifeless walls of the womb—once thought to be his only protection—would soon be replaced by the comfort of his family’s arms.
And yet, to the newborn child, it seemed he had lost everything.
Many of us find ourselves like this child. There are times when we feel we have lost everything, or things look broken and nothing like how we wished they would be. At times we even feel as though we’ve been abandoned and nothing is working out the way we planned.
But just like that newborn child, things are often not what they seem, and tawakkul (trusting and relying on Allah) is realizing that our Protector has a plan for us. Tawakkul is having complete trust that Allah’s plan is the best plan. Tawakkul is having full faith that Allah will take care of you—even when things look impossible.“ ”It’s hard to explain the freedom. It’s so deep and so real. Looking through the confusion, the empty boxes and hollow images, I saw you – Dunya. You place veil after veil over my eyes. Trying to win me, deceive me, enslave me to your lies.
When the truth is you couldn’t give me even a drop of water when I stood at your door begging. I was on my knees before you, desperate for you to fill me.
What I see now is a glimpse of clarity that only the stab of perpetual disappointment could carve. And I sit here surrounded by your henchmen, your army of liars sent to keep me in chains. But I won’t be your prisoner anymore. I will no longer be that little girl lying awake at night thinking of you. I am no longer that heartbroken child wasting her tears on you. My unrequited love can no longer break me. You won’t break me. I won’t bend to your glitter and false promises. I am no longer that faithful subject standing before your false throne. My tears are no longer yours to have. And my heart is no longer your sanctuary.
You can’t live here anymore.
I’ve traveled a long way to come here. Sometimes there were deserts where all I needed was a single drop of water that you couldn’t give. Sometimes storms, where all I needed was a flicker of light to guide my path. And I asked you again and again for what you could not give. For all you have is pomp, boasting and chattel of deception. And so I found myself again and again in deserts without water, in darkness without light. But I am no longer your slave, for there was a man who came to liberate me from this. A man who came to liberate me from this slavery to the slave, and bring me to the slavery of the Lord of the slave.
Life is a precious gift of God. But life isn’t always easy or fair. After some major setbacks or tragedies, one loses hope and let the life pass by. No matter how difficult your life is, take responsibility of your life and always strive to become a better person than you were yesterday. Love your life and live it purposefully. Never give up, never lose your self-worth, and never let circumstances or setbacks to dictate your life. When life gives you a second chance or if you’re determined to change your life for the better, you need to stop looking back to your past and start focusing all your energy on living your life to its fullest potential.
A few days ago, I watched a heartwarming and touching movie, “A Street Cat Named Bob”, based on a true story (James Bowen’s international best selling biography of the same name) of the friendship between a young man (homeless, drug addict, struggling busker) and a stray cat (friendly, intelligent, cute). This friendship turns around the life of the recovering addict and he gradually changes into a better person. Cats are considered self-centered and lazy but Bob the cat proved himself a caring and supportive friend.
Even if you aren’t that lucky, that someone like Bob comes into your life to keep you motivated, and help you find the right direction and your self-worth, even then you can learn a lot from the movie. Helping others in need would give you a new perspective on your own situation. Volunteering or doing something good for someone else would help you find happiness and a sense of purpose.
Let go of your past. Stop regretting what you can’t change. No amount of guilt would do any good, so stop hurting yourself. Don’t let your past or insecurities prevent you from living your life. Instead, become a positive example and start over with your life. Build a life you can be proud of.
There is still hope! As long as one is alive, one can change!