SPECIAL GUEST BLOG POST - Keeping the Faith in Times of Trial by Muslimah According to Me
Today I have the great pleasure of introducing you to the FIRST Manifesting Muslimah guest blogger the totally awesome Ashley Bounoura founder of the most inspirational blog on the net Muslimah According To Me..
Ashley is a writer, revert, tea-drinker, cat-lover, and passionate life-liver. You can find her blog and sign up for her newsletter at www.muslimahaccordingtome.wordpress.com, where she writes to help Muslim women regain confidence in their own spiritual path, and take their Islam beyond a set of empty rituals to a lifestyle where every action is fueled by deep understanding and love for Allah (swt).I truly can not rave enough about my admiration for Ashley who converted in November, 2014. Ashley is a 23-year-old American Muslimah living in Algeria with her husband - talk about adventurous!
To learn more about Ashley I suggest you read this informative article at Muslimah Hub
AND NOW FOR ASHLEY'S WORDS OF WISDOM:
Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem
Firstly, I would like to start by thanking my lovely sister Zahra for having me here to guest post for her. I absolutely love the work she is doing, and the issues she is addressing for Muslim sisters are so important. It is an honor to be able to help out in any small way possible.
Today I want to share a little bit of my own experience with trials and difficult times, and how I keep the faith through the ups and downs. It can feel so difficult to keep our iman up, and we can begin to feel more and more distant and disconnected from Allah and our deen in those times of intense trials and adversity.
The very first thing, and perhaps the most important is to remember that your faith itself is what is supposed to support you and help you pull through the trial, and it should not feel like a burden. If your worship is feeling like an extra burden, it is time to re-evaluate. I know in my darkest times I have struggled to muster the energy for salah, and my fasting completely has slipped by the wayside. And while you have to keep up with the worship that is absolutely fard (like prayer), on those days when you are lacking the energy and concentration it is OK to take a step back. You don't have to force yourself to pray all of those sunnah prayers, you don't have to force yourself to do those sunnah fasts.
In times of darkness, when every bit of your energy is going towards making it through the day, do the things that feed your soul, not drain you. It is different for everybody, but for me it is dhikr. I love to sit down in the mornings and evenings and make dua, do tasbeeh, and dhikr of Allah. It centers me and gives me energy to get up and go about my day. For some it may be taking walks in nature and remembering the beauty of Allah, for others it could be prayers, even for others it could be simply taking care of their bodies as a gift that Allah gave them.
Another important thing to remember when we are going through difficult times is the difference between a test and a punishment. Sometimes when we are going through a test we can begin to feel like Allah has forsaken us, that He hates us, or that He is punishing us for our past sins.
I once heard a teacher of mine explained it this way: the difference between a test and punishment is your reaction. If you begin to draw closer to Allah and rely on Him, what you are experiencing is a test. If, however, you begin to draw away from Allah and feel the despair of Him, then that is when it becomes a punishment. It is important to remember that we will experience ups and downs in life, but how we react to them is what determines if we grow from them or not.
“By the morning brightness, and [by] the night when it covers with darkness, your Lord has not taken leave of you [O Muhammad], nor has He detested [you]. And the Hereafter is better for you than the first [life]. And your Lord is going to give you, and you will be satisfied.” Qur'an 93:1-5
With that in mind, I would like to share two very practical tips for how to stay connected to Allah and your faith in times when you feel engulfed by difficulties.
I myself am an American convert to Islam, and I am just emerging from a period of serious depression and what felt like trial after trial in almost every aspect of my life. These tips are things that have worked for me personally to help pull me out of that dark place and remind me of the beauty of the religion that I chose.
Remember the Depth of Allah's Love for Us
Allah has so many beautiful names that describe His perfect attributes, but my favorites are al-Rahman, the Most Merciful, and al-Wadud, the Most Loving. These names mean that not only is Allah the most merciful and loving of any being capable of mercy or love and that the scope of and manner in which He manifests these characteristics is impossible for us to grasp, but also that He is the source of mercy and love.
As the companions Prophet (saws) narrate:
“Some prisoners were brought to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and there was a woman among the prisoners who was searching (for her child). When she found her child she embraced him and put him to her breast. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to us, ‘Do you think that this woman would throw her child in the fire?’ We said, ‘No, by Allah, not if she is able not to.’ The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘Allah is more merciful to His slaves than this woman is to her child.’” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
There are so many more ahadith and ayat about Allah's infinite love and mercy towards His servants, and we know that Allah only ever decrees what is in the best interests of the believer. With that in mind, it is up to us to find the good that Allah is intending for us in any given situation.
You may have heard Shakespeare's statement, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so,” and I think it is very beneficial to apply that idea to the way we think about our trials and our faith.
Living here North Africa, for a very long time I was making my situation so, so negative and miserable in my mind. I don't have this, I can't do that, I am wasting my life here, I am so unhappy. Why me?
When I finally learned to turn those thoughts around, however, so much changed for me. Now I can look at a situation and think, what is Allah trying to teach me here? Many times I find that it is an opportunity to practice patience, or gratitude, or placing my full trust and reliance on Allah, and I can recognize that those are all very beneficial things to be learning. My time spent here has also had many worldly benefits too, when I choose to see them. The lack of employment was actually free time for me to explore my passions, the lack of resources taught me to practice minimalism and detachment.
Does it mean I now enjoy life in North Africa and want to live here forever? Of course not. The trials will still be difficult, and you still may even be feeling unhappy or depressed. And you will still actively search for a solution to whatever you are going through. However, being able to re-frame your situation in the more positive light of, “What is Allah trying to teach me right now? What could He be preparing me for with this? Which doors can I try to open now that He has closed this one?” all help to move through the trial without being engulfed in it, and still stay connected with your faith.
Focus on the Positive, and Ask Allah for More
Allah says, “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” [Qur'an 13:11]
Allah also reminds us, “And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, 'If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor].'” [Qur'an 14:7]
Once you are able to start shifting your mindset within the situation you are in, the possibilities for real change truly open up. As we start to shift our inner state from one of despair to one of reliance on and trust in Allah, He will naturally begin to rectify our situation. And when we are able to see through the pain and the trial to the lessons behind them, we can begin to show gratitude to Allah, and through that gratitude, Allah will increase us in good.
Which leads me to my last piece of advice: Never, ever leave your dua. Show gratitude for what you do have, and ask Allah to put barakah in it and increase you in good. Ask Him for all of those things that you desperately want and need, cry to Him to send His aid to you. Express your absolute dependence on Him, and recognize before Him that you aren't always a perfect Muslim.
When we are in the thick of adversity, we tend to forget that every single thing is easy for Allah. He is the one who created everything in this world, and all of the power rests with Him. All we have to do is ask, and continue to ask, and eventually, someday we will look back on these times and realize the beautiful things that the difficulty was actually paving the way for, in shaa Allah.
I hope these tips have been beneficial for you, and I pray that anyone who is in a difficult situation will find ease and comfort with Allah. Please know that if you are in a difficult time, you can always reach out here. Zahra provides coaching for sisters to help them manifest their most amazing selves, and though I do not offer formal coaching, I am always available to lend a non-judgemental ear if you need someone to talk to.
May Allah grant us all the good in this world, the good in the next, and save us from the torment of the fire. May He grant us so much abundance in our lives, in our relationships, our health, our time, our work, and our wealth, and give us the strength to rely on Him when we do not feel so abundant, Ameen