“I can’t do this anymore,” the woman told me. “All this praying and fasting and staying away from sex, hoping I’ll get married one day. What’s the point? I’m thirty years old, and I don’t even know how it feels to be touched. And right now, all I want is for a man to touch me. What if I never get married?” she said.
“All those things we’re taught about being patient and obeying Allah so we can have a good life aren’t true,” she vented. “I haven’t experienced any of it. But you know who has? All my friends who broke every rule. While I was praying, they were partying. While I was fasting, they were feasting. While I was lowering my gaze and being a ‘good Muslim girl,’ they were out sleeping around,” she said, frustration evident in her tone.
“But now they’re the ones with husbands and children and big houses and lots of money,” she complained. “Meanwhile I’m alone, broke, and with no marriage prospect in sight. So I don’t see the point in following the rules anymore. All it’s brought me is misery and loneliness.”
It broke my heart listening to my Muslim sister’s emotional pain. I wished I could take the pain away. I wished I could tell her that she’d have everything she dreamed of one day. But I couldn’t.
So I just told her the truth, the truth she should have been taught in her earliest lessons on Islam. “But we don’t obey Allah so that we can have a good life in this world,” I said. “We obey Him so we can have a good life in the Hereafter.”
“But can’t I have a good life in both worlds?” she asked, exasperated.
“Yes,” I said. “But it’s Allah who defines what that looks like for us.”
Putting Things Into Perspective
I remember reading a quote by Yasmin Mogahed that really resonated with me: “The secret to happiness is to not make it dependent on that which can be taken away.”
But unfortunately, so much of what we’re taught about our lives in this world, even from many spiritual teachers and imams, is that we’ll be granted worldly happiness and materialistic success if we’re “good Muslims.” Or that if we just have enough faith, all our wildest dreams will come true. I’ve even heard advice from fellow Muslim entrepreneurs that equated our income level with the spiritual state of our souls.
“If you think good of Allah, He’ll grant you all that you want in this world,” they say. “You just have to trust in Him.” While I certainly believe in both the power and necessity of thinking good of Allah and of our heart’s need to trust in Him, I grow very uncomfortable when these tools for spiritual nourishment and soul purification are taught for the purpose of promising very specific worldly outcomes.
It’s not that I believe that we shouldn’t strive for worldly success. Quite the opposite. In fact, I personally believe that we need to do a much better job at securing economic independence as Muslims, if for no other reason than we shouldn’t be relying so heavily on those outside our faith to sustain our families and communities.
Once during a keynote speech that I gave about increasing our wealth in this world, I shared this advice: Don’t use your belief in the Hereafter as an excuse to settle for failure and helplessness in this world.
When the Prophetand the Companions lived simply, it was because they were generous with their wealth and worldly success, not because they didn’t have any. And it certainly wasn’t because they shunned working for wealth and success in this world.
I then shared this ayah from Qur’an, which has been translated to mean:
“But seek, with that (wealth) which Allah has bestowed on you, the home of the Hereafter, and forget not your portion of legal enjoyment in this world. And do good as Allah has been good to you, and seek not mischief in the land. Verily, Allah likes not those who do mischief” (Al-Qasas, 28:77).
Thus, it is upon us as believers to strive our level best for the best in this world and the best in the Hereafter, while seeking from this materialistic world that which is blessed and halaal for us.
However, as we strive for worldly success, we need to approach this noble goal with a different mindset than we do for ultimate spiritual success in the Hereafter. If we do not, our spiritual lives will suffer tremendously, and we will continuously be confused when things don’t turn out the way we expected.
Why We Get So Confused
Here’s a reminder I wrote to myself in my personal journal, in hopes of protecting my heart from the unnecessary turmoil that would befall it if I didn’t keep this world in proper perspective:
You know why we get so confused? Because we think of success in this world how we should think of success in the Hereafter. Allah promises us very specific rewards in the Hereafter due to our soul work, and we promise ourselves very specific rewards in this world due to our dunya work.
Relationship advisors share tips that promise long-lasting, loving marriages—or that guarantee knowing when someone is right for you. Business gurus share tips that promise having plentiful wealth and a successful business—and that promise ways to be debt-free and relieved from financial struggle forever. Even some spiritual teachers go as far as to tell you that all of this worldly happiness and success is promised to you if you’re a “good Muslim.”
And to prove they’re right, they’ll point to the perceived “success” in their own lives or in someone else’s—thereby taking credit for God’s work by saying these blessings are due to their own efforts.
But the life of this world doesn’t work like that.
You cannot gift your qadar (God’s decree) to someone else, no matter how convinced you are that they should follow in your footsteps to have success, wealth, or a lasting marriage. The result didn’t come from you, so someone following your advice won’t grant them your life path.
Yes, we can benefit from each other’s journeys, experiences and advice, but we cannot duplicate other people’s successful results. And we shouldn’t even want to. Because we have no idea what trials await our souls and our families if we taste the result of someone else’s definition of “success.”
There are only two things that every soul is promised in this world: earthly trials and inevitable death. So if you want “foolproof” tips that promise success, then look to divine guidance on how to patiently endure worldly trials and how to gratefully appreciate worldly blessings.
And through this, bi’idhnillaah, you’ll learn how to attain the only success that really matters in the end: meeting your Rabb in a state of sincere submission and faith, and then finding that He is pleased with you.
—from What Did You Expect? Let’s Be Honest by Umm Zakiyyah
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Source: Muslim Matters