He is not far away. He is watching over you. Place your fingers on the side of your neck. Do you feel a pulse? Allah ﷻ says in the Quran that He is closer to you than that vein you felt pumping blood into your body (50:16). Can you imagine the magnitude of this bond?
How reassuring. To know that He breathed into each one of us something of His Spirit (32:9). We are in the vicinity of The Loving One. And yet we get sucked into this mad cyclone called life. We lose sight of what authentically matters. For us Muslims, this world is nothing but a transitional phase. It shouldn’t consume our souls or hearts.
We are obliged to contribute positively and effectively to the advancement of our communities, and the betterment of our moral characters. We must defend and stand-up for what is right, and condemn and change what is evil. But we must not allow fears, self-doubt, personal problems, or political turbulence shatter the ultimate truth; Allah ﷻ is always in control.
Then, how do we cope with and survive the calamities of our times? Alongside self-care and mental health preservation, we ought to investigate and reflect on the pearls of the Quran. “And each [story] We relate to you from the news of the messengers is that by which We make firm your heart. And there has come to you, in this, the truth and an instruction and a reminder for the believers” (11:120). Here are a few of the stories that ignite my soul and nourish my being in times of distress.
If the sea is in front and the enemy is behind, Allah ﷻ will pave the way.
Now let us take a moment to imagine this. The tyrannical ruler Pharaoh and his army were after Prophet Musa to persecute him. Prophet Musa, accompanied by his brother Harun and his followers, were stranded between this evil and the Red Sea. People started panicking, thinking the enemy would overtake them. Yet Prophet Musa’s faith in Almighty grounded him. “No! Indeed, with me is my Lord; He will guide me” (26:62). Allah ﷻ guided him. With a strike, the sea parted and allowed him and his followers to escape. Why would the Quran keep reminding us of this story in different verses? So that you wholeheartedly trust in Allah ﷻ and He will always pave the way.
If a whale swallows you, Allah ﷻ will rescue you.
A few years ago I used to scuba-dive. Allah’s perfection in creation took my breath away. I, however, remained terrified of sharks and dangerous undersea creatures. Mind you, I was observing them at a distance. Yet once, long time ago, a large, aquatic mammal swallowed Prophet Yunus. Fathom that. He was sucked in and stuck inside the belly of a whale in the deep dark ocean. Prophet Yunus then articulated one of the most humbling and memorable prayers mentioned in the Qur’an: “And he called out within the darkness, ‘There is no deity except You; exalted You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers’” (21:87). When life’s madness sucks you in, humble yourself to Allah ﷻ. He will rescue you.
If you are thrown in fire, Allah ﷻ will cool the flames and save you.
Fire is dangerous and fatal. It devours anything and anyone that stands in its way. Not Prophet Ibrahim though. After thoughtful deliberation on whether the sun or the moon were his Lord, his heart surrendered to the Creator of both. He used his wits then to challenge the idol worshipers. He broke all the idol gods keeping the biggest one untouched and put the axes on its shoulder. When the King questioned Prophet Ibrahim, he said, “Ask the chief of idols perhaps he could confess.” The King decided then that his punishment was to be burnt alive. That didn’t distress Prophet Ibrahim. Instead, Allah said to the fire, “O fire, be coolness and safety upon Abraham” (21:69). When people intend to harm you and you know you did the right thing that pleases Allah ﷻ, turn to Him and He will save you.
If people make false accusations against you, Allah ﷻ will protect you.
Maryam received Divine gifts of knowledge and understanding from Allah “in order to strengthen her heart and sharpen her intellect,” wrote Islamic feminist and Moroccan doctor Asma Lamrabet in her book Women of the Qur’an: An Emancipatory Reading. When she got pregnant with Prophet Isa, Maryam’s morality was questioned and she was ostracized. God Himself made a miracle happen just to shut down her haters, and now a chapter exists in the Qur’an in honor of her. Prophet Isa as a baby spoke to clear her name of all the allegations. She didn’t argue or defend herself. She remained silent in spite of false accusations and continued to practice her spiritual meditation the way she did growing up. This is a reminder that sometimes even in the face of the most unjust situations it is wise to refrain from arguments and take refuge in Allah ﷻ. He will protect you.
If events seem unfair and confusing, be patient. Allah ﷻ has something good in store for you that is not immediately visible.
I am always in awe of the richness and profound meanings in Surah al-Kahf. No wonder it is a recommended recitation on Fridays. The wisdom to be acquired from each story mentioned in it is enlightening. This article highlights that the Surah has four major themes: “Trial of faith: people of the cave; trial of wealth: the story of the rich and the poor; trial of knowledge: Moses and Al-Khidr; and trial of power: Dhul-Qurnayn with Yajuj and Majuj.” The story about Prophet Musa and al-Khidr is an eye-opener. Our knowledge of what we see and judge in the world might be deceiving. al-Khidr told Prophet Musa that he wouldn’t have enough patience to learn and al-Khidr was right. al-Khidr ruined the ship, killed the boy, and rebuilt the wall. Despite repeated reminders from al-Khidr, and reassurances from Prophet Musa that he would be patient, he forgot his promises and demanded explanations for actions that seemed to him unjust and inexplicable. This story serves as weekly reminder that tribulations are sometimes blessings in disguise. Practice patience and know that Allah ﷻ has got your back even during the darkest and most confusing times.
If you live with a brutal dictator, Allah ﷻ will rescue you and reward you immensely.
She was a queen in status and in character. Asiya, the wife of Egypt’s tyrant Pharaoh, embraced Prophet Musa’s call to believe in Allah ﷻ, but kept her faith a secret. Can you imagine the amount of fear she must have lived under being afraid of severe punishment from the Pharaoh? Eventually, he found out about her belief and tortured her. But that didn’t deter her from worshiping Allah ﷻ. In fact, she is mentioned in the Qur’an as an example for the believers when she said, “My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise and save me from Pharaoh and his deeds and save me from the wrongdoing people” (66:11). She gave up all the luxuries of Pharaoh’s kingdom to love and become closer to Allah ﷻ. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said that she is among the most perfect women (Sahih Bukhari Volume 5, Book 57, Number 113). What an honor. Such reward.
If you are abandoned in the middle of nowhere, Allah ﷻ will shelter and honor you.
Prophet Ibrahim left his wife Hagar and son Isma’il in the desert. She had a deep conviction that Allah ﷻ will not abandon her and her infant. When Isma’il began crying from hunger and thirst, Hagar didn’t know where to go in order to find help. With no sign of a living soul, she began walking and running several times between Mount Safa and Mount Marwa. After seven back and forth journeys between the two mountains, she noticed water coming from beneath her child. What Hagar did became an obligatory ritual for Muslims as part of performing hajj or umrah (pilgrimage). It is called Sa’i and performed seven times exactly the way she did to rescue her thirsty child. For fourteen centuries, Muslims walk and run every year in the footsteps of Hagar at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. She was abandoned. She had faith in Allah ﷻ. She was sheltered. She was honored. “Can we possibly imagine rendering a greater tribute to a human being than to celebrate their memory in this fashion?“