As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah
Sometimes, it is the case that Allah opens up a person’s heart and sparks it with zeal, motivation, determination and He gives it a burst of enthusiasm. He blesses his slaves with high aspirations and drives them towards good deeds until… Shaytan recognises this tremendous gift and he in turn rushes to stop such a well-driven believer. He launches his army against him, but then Allah `azza wa jall by His Mercy and Power protects His slave and helps him overcome the plots of Shaytan;
“Indeed My Slaves, you have no authority over them, except those who follow you of the deviators.” [al-Hijr: 42]
And so the slave of Allah is forever in a battle; between fighting the grip of Shaytan and between hastening onwards to achieve his goals and aspirations.
We have to learn to recognize this pattern that often occurs the moment we make an intention to do something good in our lives; something that’s worthwhile and rewarding, or has great weight in the Hereafter. For some, this battle begins the moment they enter into Islam, for others the battle kicks off when they make a firm resolve to achieve something (e.g. seeking knowledge, or learning Qur’an, or setting up community projects etc).
One of the crazy plots of Shaytan is that he often seeks to harm us through the people that surround us or people that are close to us. Subhan’Allah how often we hear of youth suffering at the hands of their (non-practising/non-Muslim) parents who restrict them from practicing their Islam, or a person who wishes to embark on some good but his friends are the first people to put him down or demotivate him, or laymen who are turned away at the doors of knowledge unfairly such that they’re made to feel rejected, or a worshipper who is rebuked harshly by another such that his drive in worshipping Allah is now broken. Yes, harms can often reach you from those around you; sometimes it’s people that you couldn’t care less about, sometimes it’s those above you in authority, and sometimes, just sometimes, it’s those that mean the world to you.
As part of a lifelong tarbiyyah, we have to recognize that this is not uncommon in the path of struggling towards Allah and His Pleasure. Many scholars have written books on it and classical texts such as Ibn Hibban’s ‘Rawdhat al-‘Uqala’ have numerous chapters dedicated to this. Yes, even though you will meet good companions in life who help you and offer you kind words of encouragement, there are times unfortunately when you will also face people (often at the peak of your enthusiasm) who intentionally or unintentionally bring you down, discourage you, or zap all your zeal and passion in one way or another. As a result, a person ends up either not fulfilling their potential, or they become weak in their pursuit of the good deed, or they abandon it altogether. We have to recognize that this is just another tool of Shaytan to prevent the slave of Allah from attaining the high ranks in Paradise.
How can a person best deal with this?
- Focus on Allah, your Creator. He is the One who wishes to see you succeed. He is the One who wants good for you, and His Help is with you so long as you are sincere and do your best.
- Focus on the Hereafter and make it your focal point throughout life. Fix your vision on attaining the high ranks; “Look at how We have favoured some of them over others, but the Hereafter is greater in degrees and greater in distinction.” [al-Isra: 21].
- Ask Allah for guidance in all your affairs. Seek His Mercy and Blessings. Ask Him to help you overcome the obstacles in life and help you deal with people in the best manner, and insha’Allah He will most certainly bring you out as a stronger, wiser person.
- Be patient. Be patient with people, with circumstances, with the era you live in. Be patient when things don’t go smoothly or even if they do go smoothly, be patient when they don’t turn out as you expect.
- Realise that sometimes people are just part of the test. They may not always intend you harm, but it’s the Decree of Allah that He may wish to test you with others. In the end, this will only increase your reliance upon Him and your heart will learn to be patient with everything and seek Him Alone.
- Remain humble. It’s all too easy to improperly react (or overreact!) when faced with difficult people. Be calm, be collected and stay humble. We ourselves are not safe from mistreating others which is likely to happen if we respond with anger or speak without thought.
- If you endure harm from one person, don’t let it cause you to abandon others. Be social but be wiser in your sociability. Remember the words of Ibn Hibban when he said, “Whoever seeks to please all people is seeking something impossible! Rather the intelligent one seeks the pleasure of those who he cannot do without… Many times there is little safety for a person when he is social, so what safety can there be for a person who is unsocial?” (In other words, when you’re social, at least there’ll be people who like you and you like them, but if you’re unsocial, then you won’t be liked by anyone).
- Remember your high aspirations. Remember that they are worth the struggle because you have intended them for Allah. Keep looking forwards, and don’t be sidetracked by the difficulties. As the great thinker and reformer once said:
“My brother, walk on, and do not look back,
Your path has been dyed with blood (i.e. struggles).
Do not look about, neither here nor there,
And do not look except to the sky…”
– Sayyid Qutb (rahimahullah)