“I don’t want to struggle with kids. I don’t want to be on my own,” Maryam finally whispered out loud, as her sister watched the tears silently make way down her cheek.
“You won’t be on your own,” her sister reassured. “You have us and Allah will not place you in this situation and leave you to your own devices.”
“But this is not what I want. I don’t want this situation.”
“Nobody chooses their test. You didn’t ask to be abandoned with kids in tow. Nobody gets married knowing what the future will hold.”
Maryam hesitated. “But what if I am destined to be on my own? I can’t change what has already been decreed. That’s what’s so terrifying. What if I am destined to be on my own?” Maryam said with finality.
“If this is what Allah has decreed for you, then you have little choice but to go through it. Your situation is enfolding as we speak. If this is what Allah is testing you with, then you face it with complete trust in him.”
Maryam sighed, “Can I do it? Can I just completely put my trust in Allah and not wonder what will become of me?”
“You have to. You don’t have a choice, just the way Hajar, the wife of Ibrahim alayhisalam didn’t when she was left alone without clarity in her future.”
The month of sacrifice has come and gone— the days of Hajj, the days of historical rituals are over. We followed the footsteps of Hajar (RA) and Ibrahim (AS) to commemorate possibly the biggest challenge in their lives: accepting an unwanted situation for the sake of Allah (SWT). Who would want to be left alone in the desert with an infant son? Who would want to willingly sacrifice their only child, without even knowing why?
The unknown is scary. An uncertain future is a terrifying prospect to acknowledge, especially when you can’t see possible positive outcomes, nor even second guess what might happen. We take security and certainty for granted, routinely planning what is going to happen day to day. We think we have security but what happens when it is pulled out from beneath us?
Isn’t this exactly what happened to Hajar (RA)? The world was pulled from beneath her when she was lead out to the desert with her baby son Ismail (AS) and left there with no explanation.
“Abraham walked through cultivated land, desert, and mountains until he reached the desert of the Arabian Peninsula and came to an uncultivated valley having no fruit, no trees, no food, no water. The valley had no sign of life. After Abraham had helped his wife and child to dismount, he left them with a small amount of food and water which was hardly enough for two days. He turned around and walked away. His wife hurried after him asking: ‘Where are you going Abraham, leaving us in this barren valley?’
Abraham did not answer her, but continued walking. She repeated what she had said, but he remained silent. Finally she understood that he was not acting on his own initiative. She realized that Allah had commanded him to do this. She asked him: ‘Did Allah command you to do so?’ He replied: ‘Yes.’ Then his great wife said: ‘We are not going to be lost, since Allah Who has commanded you is with us.” (From Stories of the Prophets by Ibn Kathir)
Didn’t Hajar face the same panic and fear of the unknown? Didn’t Hajar (RA) have a right to question why? Of course she did! Hajar (RA) faced numerous possibilities. She had to accept that she may never see her husband again, accept that her son may die, accept that she may die first, and her baby son would be left alone. They were all terrifying situations to contemplate. But look at the response of Hajar (RA): “We are not going to be lost, since Allah Who has commanded you is with us.” It is such a simple and strong formula to abide by; we listen, we obey, and we do not doubt the help of Allah (SWT).
That is the formula we need to adapt in our lives. It is a belief we need to live by to give ourselves peace of mind and security. There are certain stations we cannot achieve with our faith and good deeds alone -to become a more beloved servant of Allah (SWT)- and so we are placed in situations that require great sacrifice.
It is not that we are expected to willingly give up our beloved children, nor are we are expected to be led out into the desert and left to fend for ourselves, but a sacrifice requires such a state of mind where we are ready to give something up, even when we no idea what the outcome will be. It doesn’t have to be huge sacrifices, it could be just a little of our time, or a little more of our heart or giving up something we love for the greater good.
Thus we are presented with such situations that require exactly what was required of Hajar (RA) and Ibrahim (AS): a leap of faith. This can be such daunting test in our life, where we have no choice but to take a deep breath and just leap into the unknown. This is tawakkul. Tawakkul is complete trust and sole reliance upon Allah (SWT). It is ingraining the words of the supplication we make every day in our salah:
“You alone we worship and you alone we ask for help.” (Al-Fatiha :4)
“And whoever places his trust in Allah, Sufficient is He for him, for Allah will surely accomplish His Purpose: For verily, Allah has appointed for all things a due proportion.” (At-Talaq :3)
“…and put your trust in Allâh if you are believers indeed.” (Al-Maidah :23)
The situation could be anything – divorce, death, illness, moving continents, or even getting married. It could be revealing truths, or concealing truths knowing that the consequences could be dire. It could be going away for the sake of Allah (SWT), leaving loved ones and dependants behind. Any situation requiring giving up something that is beloved to us is a type of sacrifice. Giving up peace of mind and security is a huge sacrifice, and all of the contexts above require trust in Allah’s (SWT) plan.
Worry and anxiety will be inevitable, as it is human nature, but we take whatever practical steps we can within our capacity and then place complete trust in Allah’s (SWT) plan. Tawakkul doesn’t, mean that we should be complacent in our actions and just say “It is the Will of Allah (SWT) and there’s nothing I can do.” There are always things we can do to make our lives easier.
We only have to consider how Hajar (RA) actively searched for food and water, even though it was very apparent that there was no sign of life. Hajar did not give hope and strove with the belief that there would indeed be a solution, it was just a matter of when and how. Sometimes we are simply waiting for change when we are faced with hardships, but we should not become complacent. Live by this Hadith:
“Tie your camel first, then put your trust in Allah.” (At-Tirmidhi, 2517)
If, like Maryam, you face hardship through separation, death or divorce, then accept Allah’s (SWT) decree, but do not allow the situation to overwhelm you. Take each day and moment as it comes. Enlist as much practical support as you can. If possible, move to a place where you will have a support network. Discuss your financial matters with trusted people and seek financial assistance where possible.
Even Ibrahim (AS), although acting upon orders, was still worried for his family that he was leaving behind, so he did whatever he could to try and ease the difficulty. He made the following supplication:
“O Our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley with no cultivation, by Your Sacred House (the Ka’ba at Mecca); in order, O our Lord, that they may offer prayers perfectly (Iqamat as salat) so fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and O Allah provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks. O our Lord! Certainly, You know what we conceal and what we reveal. Nothing on the earth or in the heavens is hidden from Allah.” (Ibrahim :37-38)
Likewise we can use the above supplication, amongst others, when we see an obscure bleak future. Supplicate with the best supplications and ask for comfort and all the blessings that Allah (SWT) can grant. Call upon Allah (SWT) with all his beautifully revealed names to ask from His bounties and to ease our hardship.
Do everything within your capacity to make life easier for yourself, including embracing Allah’s (SWT) will and seeing things from a positive angle. Ask yourself if this situation hadn’t arisen would you have been any happier? What do you think your life would have been like, five years on, had it remained the same? Would you have been a stronger or weaker Muslim? As ultimately, all of our problems have been placed to test our faith. It is a test of how accepting we are of what Allah (SWT) has decreed for us. On the flip side, our intellect/common sense and Tawakkulis a safety net for us. We are not weak, nor intellectually deficient, nor incapable – we would not have been placed in such a situation if we were any of those.
Always remember that Allah (SWT) does not burden a soul beyond his capacity and the promise of Allah when he says: “Verily, with every hardship there is ease.” (Ash-Sharh :5-6)
Miriam Islam lives in the UK with her husband and three children. An aspiring novelist and freelance health writer, she spends her time studying and writing for Discover and SISTERS Magazine.