Shakira was hardly ever happy because of the seemingly unfair world she saw around her. However, the 24 year-old struggling entrepreneur, who lives with an unconcerned father and stepmother, says that she had glimpses of inspiration. “I saw contentment in people with little in their pockets or suffering from grave illnesses or even in dire circumstances – all with a genuine smile on their lips and praise for Allah (SWT). I never understood it then but I really craved it.”
What is that elusive state of being that Shakira, and all of us, desire? What can be so ethereal, yet so powerful that it soothes the raw pains of our trials? What diminishes the blistering heat of our stress with its coolness? What lightens the burden of mammoth problems?
Sakeenah – Inner-peace
We know from the Qur’an that sakeenah is a gift that Allah (SWT) bestows on people who have iman, and this grant results in a further increase in faith.
“He it is Who sent down As-Sakeenah (calmness and tranquillity) into the hearts of the believers, that they may grow more in Faith along with their (present) Faith.” (Al-Fath: 4)
So how do we gain sakeenah? How can we make ourselves eligible for this bounty from Allah (SWT)? Are there ways to acquire it? Women from all walks of life share their experience and offer practical examples of achieving peace during trials.
Ways of seeking Sakeenah
1. Focus on the reward
Anisa, 32, went through what she calls a most unexpected and shocking divorce when, just two weeks into her marriage, her husband divorced her over the phone, citing his parents’ insistence on their union against his wishes. She feared that the subsequent emotional turmoil would drown her completely. In those desperate moments of sinking in the darkness, she supplicated for strength and sought her reward from Allah (SWT). “I kept reminding myself that if a prick of thorn adds to my hasanat, then a catastrophe of this magnitude will surely yield mountains.”
Indeed, Allah (SWT) has promised reward for any pain we suffer. ‘A’ishah (RA) is reported to have said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (SAW) say: “There is nothing that befalls a believer, not even a thorn that pricks him, but Allah will record a hasanah (good deed) for him thereby, or erase from him a sin.” (Muslim)
2. Recall a memory of past deliverance
Azmat, 37, a working, single mother of four, managed to finally settle a staggering debt left behind by her late husband. She says that during those dark years of trying to cope with a loss and grappling with ways to sustain her family, she would still feel the care of Allah (SWT) over her. “When I was drifting in the sea of turmoil, it helped me a lot to remember times in my past when Allah (SWT) had miraculously relieved me of my problems. It gave me hope and calm and also the yaqeen that He (SWT) will set us ashore.”
“Say (O Muhammad SAW): “Who rescues you from the darkness of the land and the sea, when you call upon Him in humility and in secret…” (Al-An’am:63)
Say (O Muhammad SAW): “Allah rescues you from it and from all (other) distresses, …” (Al-An’am:64)
3. Compare with others’ trials
Despite her financially tight situation, Batool, 35, a mother of six living in a modest two bedroom apartment, finds solace and gratitude when she looks at the conditions of others. She explains: “Yes, the money is very tight and it’s difficult, and at times, even if I don’t verbally express it, I do get frustrated at our lack of ‘extras’. But, at least my family is all together. My neighbour weeps for her only child who was taken away from her by her ex-husband and her present spouse neglects her. I wouldn’t want that for all the money in the world!”
The Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said: “Do not look to those above you. Look to those below you, as it will more likely remind you of Allah’s favours bestowed on you.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
4. Pray at night
Rahma, a 23 year-old university student, was inundated with peer pressure to conform to the campus lifestyle – changes she firmly believed went against her morals. With family and her support system in another town, she sought strength through another channel – Qiyam-ul-Layl – during periods of great personal stress. “I clearly noticed the difference in my moods, attitude and emotional strength on the days that followed Tahujjud prayers. The stress just wouldn’t get to me. It would be like I was inside a halo of peace. I call them my Sukoon al-Layal.”
The great virtues of praying in the middle of the night are well known in Islam. Prophet r advised his companion, saying: “You should pray qiyaam ul-layl, for it is the custom of the righteous who came before you and it brings you closer to your Lord, and expiates sins and prevents misdeeds.” (Al-Tirmidhi, Hasan)
5. Relieve another’s hardship
Allah (SWT) helps the one who helps another in need. Jawaria, a 32 year-old wife and mother, does just that – with absolute conviction. She says, “Every time we are in financial difficulty, my husband and I immediately search for a person in need of charity. If we didn’t do that, we would probably fret over our problems, but the minute we give to another, we feel light and full of optimism. And, alhamdullilah, Allah (SWT) always lightens our problems.”
The Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said, “Whoever is kind, Allah will be kind to him; therefore be kind to man on the earth. He who is in heaven will show mercy on you.” (Abu Daud & Tirmidhi)
6. Let go and embrace acceptance
Sometimes, when things are beyond our control, we just need to stop battling with our fate and accept what is destined for us. Manal, 34, spent years in turmoil and stress at her inability to conceive. Finally, she reached a point where she resigned herself to her fate. She says, “I learned in my class that ridha – being pleased with Allah’s decree – was a very high level of worship that our hearts can engage in. I decided to be raadhi (pleased) with what Allah had written for me. I felt so much lighter and began focusing on other neglected areas of life. My stress went away and subhanAllah, in six months I got pregnant naturally!”
True submission is about more that being patient with something that you don’t like. It’s about being happy that Allah’s plan for us is better for us than what we plan or want for ourselves. “It may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know. (Al-Baqarah:216)
7. Change your lens
How we view our goals, and the hurdles leading up to them, significantly impacts on our emotional response. Razeena, 31, had been stressing over her failure to find a husband for years. One day, she attended a life coaching seminar designed especially for women. Enlightened with the new-found knowledge, she vowed to change the lens through which she had been viewing her life for so long. “Suddenly, things were prioritised and landed in their right places. I realised that my life was not purposeless if I didn’t get married. That realisation took away my anxiety and brought me the peace I needed to work towards my ultimate goals – reaching Allah with good deeds. Alhamdullilah.”
“And We created not the heaven and the earth and all that is between them without purpose! That is the consideration of those who disbelieve!..” (Saad:27)
“And I created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me” (al-Dhariyat:56)
8. Engage in dhikrullah
Allah (SWT) reveals the secret behind the real contentment of the hearts: “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (Raad:28)
Mehveen, 22, had been moving from one family crisis to another – from the messy divorce of her parents to her brother’s death in a traffic accident to her wedding being called-off by her long-time fiancé. If it wasn’t for dhikr, she says, she would have broken down. “There are so many amazing Prophetic du’as and adhkaar. From time to time, I would get particularly attached to one and recite it constantly. I truly feel they keep me afloat,” she says.
It is reported about the Prophet (SAW) that,“If some matter worried him or distressed him, he would say, Yaa Hayyu yaa Qayyoom bi rahmatika astagheeth (O Ever-Living, O Sustainer, by Your mercy I seek Your help).” (Saheeh al-Jaami’ al-Sagheer)
9. Have faith in Divine wisdom
One of the attributes of Allah (SWT) is Al-Hakeem – The All-Wise. It helps to know and to really believe that the trial He I has placed before us is ultimately good for us, even if it seems impossible to fathom. Kawther, 28, had hit rock-bottom when her wedding was called off at the last minute, for no apparent reason. Then, she says, she found solace: “I called a friend to share my grief. All she did was ask me to read Surah-Kahf with the meanings and its tafseer. SubhanAllah, I found relief from the story of Musa and Khidhr (AS). Their tale shed light on what I was unable to perceive – that Allah knows what is hidden and I don’t know of, that He commands our lives based on that knowledge and wisdom for our own ultimate good. Allah must have saved me from some worse pain in the future had I gone ahead with that marriage.”
“It is Allah Who knows, and you know not. (Al-i-’Imran:66)
10. Break out of the ‘poor me’ syndrome
This is the attitude where we believe we are the victims of terrible situations created by others and expect them to pull us out. For two years, Maliha, 40, had this attitude after her abusive husband abandoned her and her kids. She sought sympathy from all she came across. She was miserable. Then a friend pushed her to seek help from a life-coach. Since then, she says she has never felt more content and empowered. “I’ve learned that it may not be my fault that I am where I am, but I will do everything in my power to overcome my circumstances. Nobody owes me anything, so I will take responsibility for my own life, and make it better for me and my children.”
“Truly, Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Raad:11)
Tests in this life are inevitable, but, like these women, our response towards them will make for a serene existence, insha Allah.
Huma Imam is enriching her lenses and widening her perspective by studying the Beautiful Names of Allah (SWT).