‘What was that?!’
That was the sound of a once sound heart, shattering into a million pieces. Imagine you are the person carrying that heart: covered in pain and soaked in tears. Maybe you don’t have to imagine, because maybe that is your heart.
We are the broken-hearted.
Betrayal, oppression, deception, whatever it may be that happened to us—the result is the same, a broken heart at the hand of a human. A broken heart that feels like it can never be fixed, and it was entirely someone else’s fault. It would be enough if they had just hurt us, and all we had to do is deal with the pain that came from their actions, but no. Rather, the hurt, the pain, the brokenness…it brought out the worst in us, allowing us to see our own faults, and painful ones at that. How do we go on? How do we move on with life and shift our focus back to the One who deserves it? How do we stop obsessing over the wrongs that occurred and start focusing on the only One who should be obsessed over? One word: Forgiveness.
When a person is soaked in sin and wants to return to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), they begin with repentance. The person whole-heartedly turns to Allah, asking Him to forgive utterly and completely, even though the asker may not be deserving. Likewise, the path back to Allah (swt) after a severely broken heart, at the hand of a human, is forgiveness.
When it comes to forgiveness, the key is shifting how we see forgiveness. As always, Allah (swt) has given us a beautiful tool to make this shift, and that is the story of Prophet Yusuf `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him).
Of the many fruitful parts of the story of Prophet Yusuf (as), is that of his being wronged by the wife of his master. She attempted to seduce our beloved Prophet Yusuf (as). Not only did she attempt to seduce him, but she landed him in jail by blaming him of the unthinkable instead of taking the blame! IMAGINE! This is a woman whom, as the wife of his master, he was supposed to be able to trust. This was a woman whom he served during the day. Yet when her desires took over, she wronged him many times over!
Despite all of this, Prophet Yusuf (as) did not act wrongfully, nor did he hold a grudge. Why? Prophet Yusuf (as) knew the reality of forgiveness. When all was exposed and the truth revealed, Yusuf (as) made a revolutionary statement. He said: “I do not free myself from all blame. Truly, the nafs (base self) is inclined to evil, except for those who my Lord grants His Mercy. Truly, my Lord is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
Allahu Akbar! (God is Greater!) A huge, humbling, life-changing lesson we can take from his statement is: You are not the oppressor in this situation only because Allah (swt) has blessed you with His Mercy. Every soul has the ability to wrong others, every soul has the ability to be the oppressor, and only Allah’s mercy prevents that.
The next time we begin to feel this immense and absolute anger towards the person who has harmed us—let’s make that shift, and forgive. Forgive the one who has wronged us not because that person deserves it; rather, forgive them as a sign of gratitude to Allah (swt). Forgive as a symbol of our thanking Him for blessing us to be of those who have never thought of hurting a person in the manner that we have had to endure. Forgive as a symbol of our thanking Him for making us the oppressed and not the oppressors. There is no sin in being the oppressed; rather, Allah tells us that He is with the one who has been wronged and is constantly answering their du`a’ (supplication). But what of the oppressor? They have the anger of Allah (swt) and the displeasure of Allah (swt). And realize that the one who has oppressed you has oppressed themselves more. For it is that person who will have to stand in front of Allah (swt) on the Day of Judgment and have their oppression accounted for, if they are not of those who have repented. So on that Day, they will be their own greatest victims.
Forgive as a statement that says, ‘Oh Allah I’m not forgiving them for their own sake, rather I am forgiving them as a sign of gratitude to You for steering me clear of those desires. I’m forgiving them out of my love for You. I’m forgiving them because I know You love it when a slave of Yours is merciful to others and I want to be of the ones that You love. My desires tell me to wish evil for them and to hold this grudge, but I put You over my own desire and I forgive them.’
Pray for those who hurt you. Pray for those who do not accept you. Love them for the sake of God. Pray that they realize their wrongs before they face their Lord. Pray that no one ever has to go through the same thing you did at the hands of this person. Love your oppressor for the sake of God, because love is the only emotion that is strong enough to penetrate a hardened heart, but know it will take time. Perhaps years, but you will be a better person because you chose to take the higher route: Forgiveness.
It had been an exceptionally hard day for me, about 3 years ago. Everything seemed to be out of place and one thing after another was going wrong. I headed over to the University Center to get a bite to eat—maybe food would calm my nerves. At the time, I had been wearing niqab (the face veil), but that was the least of my worries, or so I thought. As I stood in line to get my food, I glanced behind me and noticed a few Muslim brothers. I was about to extend my salaam (greetings of peace) to them when I caught wind of what they were saying. They were talking about ME! ‘Why does she think she can dress that way? Who does she think she is?!’ On normal days, their comments would have had no effect on me, but on that day, they went straight to my heart. Perhaps their comments were like the straw that broke the camel’s back, because instantly tears began to flow down my face, which of course no one could see. I left the food line, disheartened, and walked away hoping to find a place to be alone and be at peace at last.
I walked for a good 5 minutes, trying to compose myself before I got to my destination. I reached the building I was aiming for and began to walk up the stairs as I felt a tap on my shoulder and a whispered, “Wait!” I turned around and found a woman I didn’t know, panting, trying to catch her breath. I waited until she was able to speak and what she said next took me by complete surprise. She looked me in the eye and said, “I’ve been following you, trying to catch up to you for 5 minutes! I just wanted you to know that I admire your strength in wearing what you believe in. More power to you and may the God you believe in bless you.” And that was it. That’s all she said. She turned around and walked away, without telling me her name or wanting anything from me. Instantly my pain began to melt and I began to smile. It was her kind words that made my day so much brighter. It was her kind words that reminded me why I was doing what I was doing: God. The woman didn’t know how much I needed to hear some sort of uplifting words. She didn’t know that I was having a horrible day, but she saw an opportunity to say something good, and she seized it.
It was on that day that I realized the power of words. The power that our beloved Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) was talking about when he said: “Indeed a servant will speak a word pleasing to Allah that he thinks to be insignificant, but because of it Allah raises him by many degrees. And indeed a servant will speak a word displeasing to Allah that he thinks to be insignificant, but because of it, He will consign him to the Hellfire.” So many times we say things that we don’t think through. We don’t think about the effects of our words. Those brothers, whom I hold no grudge against alhamdulilah (praise be to God), probably forgot the conversation they had minutes after I left, not realizing the weight of their words. And that woman probably forgot the conversation we had, minutes after she left, not realizing the weight of her words. But as we can see, years later, I still have not forgotten.
It is through such an example that we can come to think that a word is never too small to be hurtful nor too small to be beneficial. We should consider any word that we speak, out of fear that this word may be the word that causes our ultimate destruction. We should rush to say any kind and helpful word that we can, out of hope that this word will be the cause of our rising in rank. May Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) cause us to be of those who are raised in rank by our words and never be condemned to hell-fire.
“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.” —Pearl Strachan
I came into class one morning, excited to take my young students to the computer lab. “It’s computer lab day!” I announced. Just as I had expected, the whole class was excited for change and ready to take the trip down the hall. Well, everyone except one student. He looked at me from behind his glasses with angry eyes, crossed his arms, and firmly said, “No.” I was shocked, and quite frankly, a little upset. I had gone to the trouble to make sure this class had their lab day; I had been excited for them, and now he was looking me in the eye and telling me that he didn’t care?
I took a deep breath, smiled, and asked him to meet me at the side of the room. I kneeled down so we could be at the same eye level and asked him, “What’s the problem? Don’t you want to go to the lab and hear the sheikh recite Qur’an so that you can be ready for your test? It’s always a lot of fun.” Again with full confidence he looked at me and said “No. I don’t want to go. No.”
I didn’t understand. I couldn’t comprehend why he would not want to go, and it wasn’t helping that he wasn’t explaining his case. Some may have thought that I should have just forced him and get it over with, but let me give you a little background on my classroom atmosphere: I teach Qur’an, a Book full of love and mercy from the Lord above. I’ve seen classrooms in which the Glorious Book is taught but it fills children with fear and they do not enjoy what they are doing, at all.
Years ago, I vowed that would never happen in my classroom. Just like the Holy Book is filled with love and mercy, so is my classroom. We have a welcoming and no-force atmosphere. And up until this day, it had been working quite well.
Again, I took a deep breath and leaned against the wall behind me, thinking of how we could work this out. All of his classmates were excited and ready to go. I couldn’t cancel lab day for him, but I couldn’t go against my ‘no force’ atmosphere either. I tried to ask him again, “I’m sorry that you don’t feel like going today, can you explain why? So I understand? Maybe we can work this out.” It was his turn to take a deep breath and explain his frustrations, “Sister we go there every week and we listen to that man. He recites the Qu’ran, and we listen. Just like you said, for each letter he recites he is getting Jannah points time and time again—and what about us? Why should I go and watch this man get points when I could be here in this classroom reciting it myself, and getting rewards for ME!”
My heart almost exploded with joy, hearing how concerned he was for his ‘Jannah Points’ (or Paradise Points, our term for hasanaat or good deeds). I explained to him the reality of the matter, that even by listening he was getting the points he wanted so he needn’t worry.
My student learned something new that day, but it is nowhere near the lesson that he taught me. Sometimes in life we get so lazy that we love to take the easy way out. To make ourselves feel better we cut corners and miss out on amazing ‘Jannah Point’ opportunities. This little boy reminded me that it’s not the most exciting and fun things that should be our priorities in life, rather it is those things that cause us to get closer to God that are the most important. And it’s okay to sacrifice an hour of fun, if in turn we are we working towards an eternity of bliss, by the Mercy of God.
She quietly slipped onto the train, and if our eyes hadn’t met, I wouldn’t have noticed the tears at all. They hung, in her eyes, waiting for any moment to pour forth. I glanced down at her feet and noticed they were bare, her slippers in her hands. In her arms was a baby, wrapped in a brilliant blue blanket; he didn’t make a sound. She began to come near the passengers whispering something, but her voice was drowned out by the tissue seller: ‘600 tissues for 2 pounds! 5 for ten!’ I had grown accustomed to that phrase, hearing it multiple times each day, and resting assured that if I ever needed tissues, they wouldn’t be too far away. The woman came close to my side of the train and shamefully looked at her used, worn out slippers and said, “Would anyone need this? Would anyone like to buy this from me?” Everyone nervously said no, not really understanding why they would buy used—old—slippers. A woman pulled out a few pounds and tried to give them to her out of charity. The woman refused to accept anything of the sort, even when it was placed in her sleeping baby’s arm. She gave it back, went to an empty place near the door and slouched, looking rather defeated.
The woman hung her head, as to not alert the other passengers of the tears that were beginning to pour down her face. A woman then approached her, kneeled down and whispered, “I’ll buy them from you.” The woman selling her slippers looked up hopefully. “Buy them right? You’ll buy them? Not charity, I’m not begging.” The other woman smiled and nodded, slipping a large bill into her hand, taking the slippers and walking away from the barefooted woman.
Immediately, a verse from the Qur’an began repeating over and over in my head, sparked by the scene I had just witnessed:
“[Charity is] for the poor who have been restricted for the cause of Allah, unable to move about in the land. An ignorant [person] would think them self-sufficient because of their ta`afuf (restraint), but you will know them by their [characteristic] sign. They do not ask people persistently [or at all]. And whatever you spend of good – indeed, Allah is Knowing of it.” [2:273]
I don’t know this woman’s story, what she needed the money for, or what she was going to do with it; but what I do know is that her eyes were filled with pain and her shoulders looked as if she had been carrying a heavy burden. I had read this verse many times before and listened to lectures about it but never did I feel the weight of this ayah (verse) until I saw it played out before my eyes.
Again, words began to repeat in my head, this time words from a hadeeth (record of the words of the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him):
Anas radi Allahu anhu (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that a person asked Rasul Allah (the Messenger of God) ﷺ, “Should I tie my camel and have tawakkul (trust in Allah for protection) or should I leave her untied and have tawakkul?” Rasul Allah ﷺ replied, “Tie her and have tawakkul.”
It would have been easy for this woman to just give up—to think that she had nothing to sell so there is no way she could make any money. But instead, she embodied this hadeeth. She took the very little she had, that was not worth much to the people on the train, placed her trust in God, and got more than she probably bargained for. As Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) says in the Qur’an:
“[...] And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him a way out and will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah is able to do all things.” [65:2-3]
A woman on the train, struggling to fix her own personal problem, left me with a handful of lessons, in the few minutes that I saw her. She had very little in her hands, but I could tell that her heart was more than full. It is from her that we can learn that Allah (swt) is the one that provides—in the amount that He wills, not the amount we expect. We can learn that even when we feel that we have very little to contribute to any situation—we should think again because Allah (swt) could cause this little amount to flourish beyond our expectations. And lastly, we can learn about ta`afuf in the ayah and the beauty that it brings fourth, for in this woman was an unexplainable beauty of the soul.
She stood alone on the rooftop looking up at the night sky with tears that refused to fall; they had already been falling for too long. She asked Him, ‘God, do you still love me?’—She listened for an answer and didn’t hear anything. There was no sign sent from above, there was no message in the clouds. She wanted a miracle. She wanted to see the answer to her question laid out before her. What she didn’t realize though, was that His answers were all around her, she just had to open her eyes to see them. Often times we call out to God, praying for a miracle, praying for something to change drastically and instantly—but we look around and see nothing. We go on living in a world without miracles, constantly passing through days without miracles. The truth is, it’s not that there are no more miracles; it’s that we refuse to see them for what they are.
Our Beloved Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) stood in front of the people one morning, telling them of a journey he made the night before. He told them of al-israa wal-miraaj in which he traveled across countries and rose to the heavens for a sacred meeting with his Lord. Those listening to the account split into two groups: those who accepted the miracle and welcomed it open heartedly and those who denied the possibility of any such journey taking place and denied the miracle all together. Those who accepted the miracle were instantly blessed with the magnificent feeling of awe and love for the One who made that miracle possible. Those who denied the miracle didn’t get any such feeling of awe and love, nor did they find themselves in a miraculous situation, one we all wish to find ourselves in one day. Every day, this same scenario occurs, on a smaller, but still miraculous, scale. And every day, we get to choose what group we will be a part of: those who accept the miracle and are instantly rewarded; or those who deny the miracle and reap nothing. What we don’t realize however, is that when we deny the miracles that occur before our very eyes every day, we deny their effect in our lives and are left scrambling for hope.
Whenever we find ourselves in a difficult situation, the first and most important thing we need to remember is that no matter what happens, nothing we do on our own will cause any beneficial change to occur. The only One in our lives that can make a change is God Himself—when He wills it and with His might, not ours. With this in mind we begin our struggle with spiritual action rather than physical action. Before even moving a muscle we turn our hearts and minds to Him and ask Him for a miracle. This, of course, doesn’t mean we should not put our own effort into fixing our situation; rather, it means that we recognize that our actions are simply a means. The means is not what changes the situation, the change lies in the miracle. With that in mind, no situation is beyond repair, no problem is too big, and no hope is too ambitious. On that same note, God has told us that He is as we think of Him. If we do not fully believe that God will change our situation, then He won’t. If we do not think that we will see miracles in our day-to-day lives, then we won’t. If we do not think that He can miraculously change our lives from pits of misery to a life of love and worshipping Him, then he won’t. When we full-heartedly believe in the miracles of our Lord, we will begin to see them each and every day.
Miracles don’t necessarily have to be a message in the clouds or a crystal clear dream. Rather, miracles can be seen in the smallest of things. It can be that moment when we feel like we are too weak to carry the burden that has been placed on our shoulders, and then He shows us an ant carrying a load many times its size to remind us that if He brought us to it, He’ll bring us through it. It can be seen in that excruciating fear we go through when we realize we forgot to turn off the electric stove and our house will surely burn down, and we return home to find the rain caused the electricity to go out, saving our house and our cooking reputation! It can be seen in that moment when we feel like our faith has hit an all-time low, and He blesses us with people to give us exactly the reminders we need, in the manner that we need it in. These are not all ‘coincidences’; rather they are miracles from the One above, bringing us closer to Him. But of course, it just depends on how we look at it.
Action Item: Try it for yourself. Over the next few days, keep your eyes wide open for His miracles, and feel free to ask for them. You’ll come to see they’re everywhere; we just have to wake up and pay attention.
“[...] We have been thrown over-ship
to the sharks.
But it was only at that moment we turned
with every face towards you
And experienced true Iman.
Before that our prayers were not to you solely
but to many scattered
Our long hopes
were the shirk of relying on other
forms whose only existence
was as emanations from
your Eminence. Creations
of Your Endlessness
The idol of eloquence
for self indulgences. I worshiped
[...]” – Baraka
”I have nothing except my destitution
To plead for me with You.
And in my poverty I put forward that destitution as my plea.
I have no power save to knock at Your door,
And if I be turned away, at what door shall I knock?
Or on whom shall I call, crying his name,
If Your generosity is refused to Your destitute one?
Far be it from Your generosity to drive the disobedient one to despair!
Generosity is more freehanded than that.
In lowly wretchedness I have come to Your door,
Knowing that degradation there finds help.
In full abandon I put my trust in You,
Stretching out my hands to You, a pleading beggar.” – Sh. Abdul Qadir
أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم حدثهم أن عبدا من عباد الله قال يا رب لك الحمد كما ينبغي لجلال وجهك ولعظيم سلطانك فعضلت بالملكين فلم يدريا كيف يكتبانها فصعدا إلى السماء فقالا يا ربنا إن عبدك قد قال مقالة لا ندري كيف نكتبها قال الله –وهو أعلم بما قاله عبده ماذا قال عبدي؟ قالا يا رب إنه قد قال يا رب لك الحمد كما ينبغي لجلال وجهك ولعظيم سلطانك فقال الله لهما اكتباها كما قال عبدي حتى يلقاني فأجزيه بها
A servant of Allah said: ‘ya rabbi laka al-hamdu kama yambaghi li jalali wajhika wa li azimi sulatanik’ (my Lord! All praise belongs to You as much as befits Your Glory and Sublime Majesty). This was too much for the two angels to record. They did not know how to record it. So they soared to heaven and said, ‘Our Lord! Your servant has said something which we don’t know how to record’ Allah asked them-and of course, He knew what the servant had said, ‘What did My servant say?’ They said, ‘He said ‘ya rabbi laka al-hamdu kama yambaghi li jalali wajhika wa li azimi sulatanik.” Allah said to them, ‘Write it down as if My servant has said it until he should meet Me and I reward him for it.” [Ibn Majah]
اللّهم إليك أشكو ضعف قوتي، وقلة حيلتي، وهواني على الناس، أنت رب المستضعفين وأنت ربي، اللّهم إلي من تكلني؟ إلى بعيد يتجهمني؟ أم إلى عدو ملكته أمري؟ إن لم يكن بك غضب علي فلا أبالي، غير أن عافيتك هي أوسع لي. أعوذ بنور وجهك الذي أشرقت له الظلمات، وصلح عليه أمر الدنيا والآخرة، أن ينزل بي سخطك، أو يحل علي غضبك، لك العتبي حتى ترضى
“O Allah! To you alone I complain my weakness, my scarcity of resources, and the humiliation I have been subjected to by people.