Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, we have seen many people face difficulties and experience emotional turmoil. But what does the Quran tell us about how we should deal with problems and difficulties in our life? What practical solutions does the Quran have to offer in such situations? Here are 5 profound Quranic ideas for dealing with such hardships:
1. It shall pass - just as the sun & moon constantly interchange, the light of good times and the dark of hardships will always come and go in life
2. There is meaning to it all - in one way or another all hardships facilitate for us the achievement of our greater life purpose & goal
3. You're not alone - everything we go through has been experienced by others before. This brings comfort and gives us a blueprint to succeed
4. Keep gratitude alive - this is our most valuable asset and guarantees us the extraordinary help of Allah
5. Small progress is still progress - we should never overlook the smallest of deeds as they help and because nothing is overlooked by Allah
[The following is the full transcript of this episode of The QuranLifestyle Show by Halimah Kurghali]
Today let's talk about how to deal with problems and hard times in life?
Right now you may feel like you are living through dark days or frustrating times. Where things really aren’t going your way and you’re wondering how you are going to cope and deal with the struggles you face- whether those are challenges in your relationships, your work, your health, your finances, your spirituality or whatnot. Or maybe some tragic event has interrupted your life like a loved one falling ill or passing away for example and it really knocked you down hard and you don't know how you are going to carry on, how you are going to recover.
Having gone through my own fair share of pain and difficulty In the past I thought I would share with you 5 beautifully profound Quranic ideas, 5 key things Allah shares with us in the Quran for us to keep in perspective, that have immensely helped me during my life tests which I’m sure could help benefit some of you too inshallah.
Now some of these things you might have heard of before, but as one of my mentors always says: common sense isn’t always common practice. So just because you know some of these points doesn’t necessarily mean you actually implement them in your life and so benefit from them.
So The first Quranic idea I have for you when dealing with problems and hard times in your life, for you to keep in perspective is to remember that
1. Everything shall pass
Nothing in life is permanent including your hardships. Now I know it can sometimes be frustrating to hear someone tell you that your problems are going to get better in one way or the other over time or that the way you feel will eventually hurt less. Because for you right now things are very real and intense and you want things to end now rather than later.
For you right now the minutes might feel like hours, and the days feel like weeks and months. Maybe you have been going through a hardship for some time and in your eyes maybe there doesn’t seem to be much positive development happening and there still might not seem like any way out.
But you know it is a reality that Allah swt wants you and I to always remember and with good reason. And the way that Allah swt presents this reminder for us in the Quran as I said is just so profoundly beautiful that it certainly helps gift us with more peace of mind and heart during our difficulties Alhamdullah.
As you know Allah swt advises us in multiple places in the Quran to do frequent tasbih of him, to be in constant remembrance of Him right? And interestingly if you look at many of those ayaht you'll find Allah advising us to engage in thikr at specific times of the day- which is just before the sun rises and just before the sun sets- so he says for example 'bukraten wa asilah'/ 'hiina tumsoon wa hinaa tusbihun' / 'qubla tuluil shams wa qublel gurur’.
But why is our attention drawn to these specific times to engage in the thikr of Allah?
Well you know dawn and dusk are the times were the two greatest things in the sky- sun and the moon they enter and exit right? They are the physical manifestation of the change in day and night. By focusing on these times we are reminded of the sun and moons temporary nature, how they are constantly over taking one another. And with the sun and moon, Allah is calling on the imagery of light and darkness. And as we know in all civilisations and cultures lightness and darkness are metaphorically associated with certain things right? So lightness is generally associated with things like hope, happiness, clarity, blessings for example while the opposite- darkness is typically associated with things like despair, sadness, fear, and confusion etc. And so through these verses, we are also reminded of the transient nature of all things good and bad in life as well, that all our joyful experiences, as well as our hardships and tough times, are temporary. That they come and go just like the sun and moon with its light and darkness do.
And you know at the heart of tasbih is saying subhanAllah right? declaring the perfection of Allah. And interestingly the word subhanAllah comes from the word Sabaha which means something that floats, it stays in the same place permanently- it doesn’t go down but stays where it's meant to be perfect. So in saying subhanAllah, in confessing to Allah's perfection and permanence as part of our tasbih were reminded that despite all of life’s changes- whether that's in night or day, whether that's in good times or tough times which are constantly coming and going, we have Allah who is the only constant and perfect source of comfort, of help, of guidance, and peace for us.
These verses are a comfort for those of us going through tough times right? It reminds us that just like we have certainty that we're going to witness and experience the light and darkness of the day and night during our lives, Allah swt will surely make us experience moments of light as well as darkness in our personal lives too and neither will last forever- this is sunatul hayah. And we should also have certainty that just like Allah makes it the case that there isn’t a dark place that isn’t lit in the presence of the sun when it comes, that there is no problem, no hardship, no difficulty, no challenge in your life that is beyond the help and deliverance of Allah swt.
If Allah can light every corner of the earth He can light any area of our hearts or lives. And remember that in declaring subhanAllah, Allah’s perfection and permanence- you are declaring that His presence in your life, His love for you, His assistance and help towards you, His blessings He gives you- they never left you- they were and are always there just the same, regardless of whether you are going through periods of light or darkness in your life right now.
Now in order to really internalize this belief and make it a consistent reminder in your daily life in a practical sense- because as we said common knowledge isn’t always common practice, I would personally suggest you start building a habit of physically looking out of your window every morning and evening, spending that 5-10 mins watching the sunrise and sunset witnesses for yourself with your own eyes the interchange of light and darkness- and in those few moments engage in the tasbeeh of Allah- say subhanAllah as Allah advises us in the Quran in order to remind you of all the lessons we metaphorically deduce from that wonder. And I promise you the way you look at sunrises and sunsets and the way you engage with this thikr of Allah won’t be the same again.
Now many people may believe in this reality of our troubles only being temporary and they may try to remind themselves of it as much as possible- but they might still wonder why it has to be this way? Why they have to endure such hardships throughout their lives in the first place - and this is where I want to talk about the second Quranic idea in helping you deal with the problems and hard times in your life, and that is to remember that:
2. There is meaning in it all
A lot of people's frustrations and pain during their struggles come from feeling like they don’t know or understand why difficulties and calamities happen to them. Is it because I’m a bad person? Is it because Allah hates me and wants to now punish me? How can this happen to me when I’m trying my best to be as good a person as I can?! I thought Allah was loving- how can He do this to me?
You know in Surah ankabut Allah swt says “alif lam meem, Did people imagine that they are just going to be left alone and just say they have faith and they are not going to be put to a burning test? We absolutely gave burning tests to those who came along time before them. Allah will absolutely expose those who are truthful (when say have faith in Allah) and those who are liars (iman)” You know as Muslims we know we have been given life for a purpose, that there are a goal and destination we are seeking right? And essentially that purpose is to form a relationship with our creator, to submit ourselves as true slaves of his and what we want to work towards is His company in the hereafter, in a place of eternal happiness- Jannah. And in order to achieve that, in order to prove ourselves somewhat worthy of that priceless gift we need to remind ourselves that the sincerity of our faith and our desire for that goal, will naturally be tested.
So as believers its necessary to remember that your tests are not without meaning, without purpose or benefit to you. whether your tests are a means of purification for you or earning you more reward to add to your scale of deeds in the hereafter in order to enter Jannah, or to make you stronger in your desire for him and Jannah or any other reason in the wisdom of Allah- know for a fact that In one way or another- as a believer they are facilitating for us the achievement of that higher life goal and purpose. So we need to stop assuming Allah hates us or is punishing us etc- realize we are always benefiting Alhamdullah.
And that is an important realization because of a lot of people when they go through hardships and are told to stay steadfast in their prayers or duas. For example, they say waathubillah 'why should I, what did Allah do for me? when the truth is Allah doesn't need us nor does he benefit from anything we do- whether we respond in a positive or negative way to our tests it doesn't affect Allah- Allah is beyond the need of us and so everything he does or decrees for us is for our own benefit.
As for the question of why different tests are chosen for different individuals to go through and why they befallen us at the times they do in our lives, I think it's beautiful that Allah swt actually started Surah Ankabut, before talking about our tests, with Alif Lam Meem -which as you know no human being knows the true meaning of. Because it's as if this tells us that we may never truly have all the answers to such questions as Allah swt He alone is the possessor of all knowledge and He does things for reasons we often cannot fathom. But despite that our hearts can find rest in remembering the following:
You know a common word for calamity or difficulty used in the Quran is the word musibah, which comes from the word asabah that can mean to hit a target correctly. That word is strategically used in Quran to suggest to you and me that whatever strikes us; it struck on target and on time as intended- it could have only happened to you and could have only have happened at the time it did. And as hard or as impossible as our tests can sometimes feel, we should remember that Allah only selected your tests and their timings knowing that you were fully capable of shouldering them- because Allah swt says in surahtul Baqarah that He swt does not burden a person with more than they are able to carry SubhanAllah.
Ok, so how can we practically go about remembering these things better when we are going through hardship- because the truth is we can become so wrapped up in our problems and absorbed in experiencing intense negative emotions that we aren’t always focused on these important realities that can actually help us during those times right? Well Although I said we won’t know all the wisdom’s and benefits behind the hardships we face and why they occur at certain times in our lives, by asking ourselves certain strategic questions in a journal that we can physically write answers to during tough times, it can help us redirect our focus away from just wallowing in our problems and complaining about them to reinforcing the belief that our problems have benefit and are purposeful, that we have the ability to navigate through them.
And of course, as a result of changing our perspective and mindset, it's also going to naturally begin helping us to feel more positive and become more proactive too inshallah. Ok, so you can ask yourself questions like ‘What can I learn from this problem that I’m facing at the moment?’, ‘How can this difficulty help me grow & develop as a person and in my life- be that emotionally, mentally, spiritually, in your character or in your timekeeping or your relationships or what no. Ask yourself questions like ‘what internal and external resources do I currently possess or have access to that can help me better manage or resolve the difficulties I’m facing right now? Questions are powerful - whatever you ask your brain it will provide answers for you so it's important we keep them constructive and positive.
Ok now the third Quranic idea for dealing with the problems and hard times in your life is to remember that:
3. You are not alone!
A lot of times when we experience hardships or go through a tragedy the easiest thing to do is to hide away in our bed under the blankets and avoid talking to anyone. Because I know the idea of reaching out and sharing your burdens with others can feel like your only going to bring up all those intense feelings of pain frustration or stress that you’d rather bury, or it can feel like it just requires a lot of energy to connect and share that you simply don’t have, especially since people probably won’t understand what your going through and how you feel anyway, right?
But you know the truth is that people have been through the things we have and felt the ways we have before. As harsh as it might sound we have to realize that nothing we are actually going through and feeling right now is really that unique to you.
Humans have been around for hundreds of thousands of years, there are billions of us on the planet right now- so the odds are that every possible problem or tragedy we go through people have gone through the exact same thing or at least something v similar to it before. With access to information that we have today and with the extraordinary facilities we have to connect with people all over the world these days, we don’t actually go through things in humanity alone anymore.
And that's not a bad thing, there’s actually a lot of comfort and benefit to be found in that. Because as science shows one of the best ways of coping with our difficulties - of helping us feel better, of better solving our issues and helping us recover in healthier ways- is through getting social support.
Ok, so where can we get the social support we need? Well, I would suggest combining two sources. The first is from the people around us. So depending on your circumstances and what you feel most comfortable with right now- that might be a family member, a friend, a coach or a counselor, or it might be reaching out and connecting with some type of online or offline support group. As difficult or as daunting as that might seem right now just realize that you are never going to find those people and experience the benefits of that social support until you start sharing your experiences and talking about your thoughts and feelings.
So why not make a list right now of just 1-3 people you think you could reach out to today to start that process and actually schedule in a specific time of your day today to do that- whether that's after work in person, on the phone during your class lunch break, or on a forum when the kids are asleep for example.
And the second amazing source of social support we have, which many Muslims unfortunately overlook is the role models mentioned for us in the Quran. I’m sure you’ve heard me say this before- Almost half of the entire Quran just consists of stories of people in the past, primarily about the Anbiya of Allah, the prophets and righteous souls. And of the stories Allah shares with us of their lives it primarily consists of the problems and hardships that they faced.
In those stories not only are we told details of the huge spectrum of difficulties that they all faced but we are given priceless insights and lessons on how they overcome came them in terms of what beliefs they held, what thoughts they used to possess, Allah shares their very words with us and the actions they took too. And all of this is documented within the Quran for us to draw connection and relevance to, for us to learn from and emulate in order to grow, benefit and succeed ourselves.
Allah says of the Quran within the Quran that “ It explains all things’. And that is something that should never be underestimated. Regardless of what type of hardship you are going through, there is someone you can connect to in the Quran, there are some lessons within it that can effectively guide you through those difficulties. And without going off on a tangent I want to give you just a few quick glimpses into just how vast the Quran's ability is to connect to anyone, just how relevant it is to each and every one of us no matter how different our challenges are. Let's say for example that you are currently struggling in family matters, let's say specifically in your marriage. If its abuse you're dealing with (whether that's mental, emotional or physical abuse) then you have the likes of Asiya and Firown mentioned in the Quran to connect with and draw relevant guidance from.
If you are dealing with a disbelieving spouse then there are the likes of Lut and Nuh to connect to. If you have lost a spouse you have the likes of Muhammed (pbuh) to connect to. If you are struggling with the difficulties of being physically separated from your spouse- so you are struggling with a kind of long-distance relationship, then you have the likes of Ibrahim (AS) to connect to. If you have never got married then you have the likes Isa and his Mother in fact who never married. Do you see where I’m going with this?…
Let's quickly take a second example- if your family struggles lie with your children then you should know that there are prophets mentioned in the Quran who never had children, some who had them late in life in old age, some who witnessed the death of their children, some who dealt with having disobedient or disbelieving children even, there were prophets who had to deal with separation from their children both over short and long periods of time, there are those who had to deal with some serious issues of child rivalry and jealousy, etc. These are just some very simple examples relating to some problems you might be facing with your spouse or children out of many more mentioned in the Quran for you to get the support you need.
There are of course other problems and solutions related to other relationships within the family dynamics as well as an ocean of problems and solutions presented to us for other issues outside of family-like dealing with various emotional conditions, like challenges in health, challenges in wealth, you name it. And as believers, we should never underestimate the power of what has been preserved for us of these stories in the Quran because Allah himself called those stories ‘ahsanal qusas’- the best of stories’. This is because they deal with the best of creation and because they are the most powerful and beneficial in helping us with our practical everyday life struggles.
In order to practically utilize this divine source of social support, I highly recommend you specifically block some time, even just one hour a week for example to study the lives of the prophets and righteous souls mentioned within the Quran. You will find that it has a profoundly positive impact on your life, especially when going through hard times.
The fifth Quranic idea for dealing with problems and hard times in your life- is to:
4. Keep Gratitude Alive!
I know you’ve probably heard this before but I’m going to say it anyway- no matter how many hardships you're experiencing right now, no matter how heavy the difficulties and burdens you bear at this moment in time there are so many more blessings in your life to appreciate and be grateful for.
Most of you are familiar with surahtul Rahman and you're aware of the recurring question Allah poses in that Surah right? Allah says 'fabiayi alai rubika ma tukathiban?' People typically translate that ayah as 'which of the favours of your lord will you deny?’ But in Arabic favor is ‘ni’amm' or ‘fathaill' not ‘alaaa' so its not really an accurate translation. ‘Ala' is actually something that gets your attention- so Allah swt is repeatedly telling us in this surah that he has placed so many amazing things around us that are begging our attention, that are screaming for us to look at what Allah swt did for us that we are not paying attention to. It basically highlights how we are so far away from acknowledging just how actively involved Allah swt is in our lives at all times- good or bad.
And this is an important reminder because when we are going through a difficulty in life we immediately think Allah has abandoned us, or that He has taken away our blessings right? so we ask questions like where is Allah when I need him? Why isn’t He helping me right now? When we are reminded to be grateful we think: what for? …when the reality is that Allah is always there and is constantly giving us regardless of whether we acknowledge and appreciate it or not. You know Allah says in the same Surah that everything in the Sky and earth are asking of Him- and in Arabic there are two kinds of asking- there is consciously asking and there is a need. And Allah tells us that everything in the skies and earth are in constant need of him so He is always giving, including to those of us who are ungrateful, including the disbelievers even. When we are questioning where Allah is and why He isn’t helping, questioning what there is to be grateful for? we have to realize that the very lungs that He gifted us with needs His permission to fill with the air He provides in order for us to utter those questions. And despite knowing that we were going to use the blessing of those lungs and that air in ingratitude to Him, He swt still granted us that favour. Allahu Akbar. Allah owes us nothing, he benefits nothing from giving us, yet gives. And that's because like the very name of the Surah reminds us- he is Al-Rahman. So there is always so much to be grateful for even when we go through our hardships.
ok, so how can we practically go about starting to become more actively grateful then?-especially during our times of struggle, because it can be a struggle when you are in the eye of the storm so to speak and all your thoughts, emotions and efforts are focused on and absorbed by your hardships? Well let me share something profound with you from the life of Prophet Musa (as) You know when he left Egypt with Bani Israel and Allah miraculously saved them from Firown by splitting the Red Sea for them to escape and drowned Firown and his men in the Red Sea, you find that Bani Israel then faced a new hardship. They found themselves in the middle of a desert with no food, water or shelter, and Musa had to address his large population on how to handle this new crisis they faced. What's amazing is that he didn’t give them a khutba on patience but he said ‘Make mention of Allah's favor on you now that He has rescued you from Firown and his entire legacy.’ Allah then goes on to tell us how He saved them from humiliation, the massacre of their sons while allowing their women to live etc. So he tells his people to be grateful for Allah's favors. But we wouldn’t exactly classify humiliation, massacre etc as favors to be grateful for right? We think of positive things like food shelter clothing etc. What he is actually telling them is not to overlook how Allah rescued them from all of these previous hardships. From that, we learn that the first step towards gratitude isn’t to necessarily think straight away of the good things Allah is doing in your life right now, because like we said that can be difficult during a hardship, but the first step towards being grateful to Allah is to remember the terrible things that have already happened that Allah already saved you from. Musa is telling them that if Allah could save them from the clutches of the strongest dynasty in the world without even a physical army then surely he would help them overcome what they are going through at that moment. So when we are going through hardship and are overwhelmed by the stress and pain of it all, we can start developing our levels of gratitude by recalling past hardships that Allah has helped us get through- we can physically make a list of them in our journals. Keep one page in your journal just dedicated to this. This is going to help you retain perspective on the temporary nature of our hardships which we said was important and it will help us maintain hope and confidence in Allah swt too.
Now Some people might think ok well I know it's good to be grateful for what Allah's has helped us with in the past, and focusing on the good He does right now for me is also important I see that, but how is that going to help me with my current problem exactly? Well Musa (as) when addressing Bani Israel in the desert he goes onto say ‘Remember the moment your master declared that if you were to be grateful (and the Arabic here actually suggests that if you can show even the least bit of gratitude subhanAllah) then I will absolutely increase you and increase you and increase you’. Increase you in what exactly? Allah doesn’t actually specify, he doesn’t limit it because He recognizes that when you are in a crisis you are going to need all sort of things to be increased- whether that's your strength, blessings, protection- you name it! So He promises to increase you In all the good things without limit subhanAllah! For practically going about building a habitual attitude of gratitude that you can easily carry through your hardships when they come and go in life I would suggest that every morning you ask yourself 'what 3 things am I most grateful for in my life today?’ To help you develop into a habit you can set triggers up in your life- so maybe this question is written on a post in note that you stick up on your fridge or mirror which you physically see every day, or you could write this and set it as your background image on your phone or laptop. You could even try to set this up as a habit to engage in regularly throughout the day- so every time you get into your car before turning on the engine you ask yourself that question so that becomes your trigger, or if you live in an apartment building then every time you get in the lift you ask yourself that question. Or you could set the question as an alarm on your phone for example.
You know to develop our levels of gratitude and to make it a habit through daily triggers is so important because Shaytain's promise which is recorded for us in the Quran was that you will find most of them to be what?.. ungrateful. And His goal is to make us ungrateful how? By making us forget- and this is the only power shaytan has over us. وَمَا أَنسَانِيهُ إِلَّا الشَّيْطَانُ أَنْ أَذْكُرَهُ
Shaytan knows how powerful it is to consistently remember to be grateful and so this is a battle we must consciously engage in every day inshallah. And shukhr/ gratitude, by the way, isn’t just an external exercise on the tongue but an internal exercise of our heart and soul where our tongues feel compelled to say Alhamdullah from within. This is something only you and Allah know if you are genuine about.
The last thing to keep in our mind as we’re going through difficulties & hardship is that:
5. Small progress is still progress
When we are going through tough times we naturally want a way outright? we want something to change, but when it doesn’t we feel stuck in our sadness and depression, in our stress and frustration or our trauma. We feel powerless. And that feeling of being stuck is a source of pain in and of itself because we have a natural disposition: our fitra is inclined towards this desire to grow and develop. But we need to realize that even though we may be in a difficulty beyond our control we can overcome the painful feeling of being stuck inshallah by simply asking ourselves each and every day what 3 simple things we can set ourselves and get done that day to help us move forward. In setting 3 small goals and moving towards them you are going to feel far more connected with yourself again, it's going to help you restart your engine to get you moving forward again in life.
This exercise of taking small consistent action its going to give you that sense of progression you need, it's going to help you feel some sense of achievement every day which will lead to you gaining momentum to find your feet again. As you implement this 3 goal a day habit your naturally going to gain more perspective in life, you're going to feel more engaged and alive inshallah.
Now for you those 3 daily goals might be as simple as just getting washed & dressed in the morning, or reading a few pages of a book or taking a walk, or even just smiling at the next person you come across that day. And that's ok, it will help you inshallah as small progress is still progress. And You know you taking care of the body you have been entrusted with by washing it and nourishing it with good food isn’t without rewarded from Allah swt. You feeding the mind you have been gifted with by reading its not without reward. That's the beauty of Islam isn’t it? How it's not about all the fancy big things- it isn’t about quantity but quality. The fact you chose to smile at someone when your own heart inside is breaking you think that is not without reward?
In continuing to maintain faith and do good deeds we benefit ourselves in terms of earning reward with Allah too: You know Allah swt says in the Quran in Surah ankatut: "And those who have faith and do good deeds (meaning even during their hardships) we will bury away their sins and compensate them with the best of what they used to do” so basically if during your difficulties in life you maintain your faith and keep doing good not only will Allah erase all your sins, but He will take the very best deed you did in your entire life which might only be 1 thing that perhaps you were not even aware of and He will reward your entire life according to it (so for example you did one amazing prayer in your life and the rest were not great- He will reward you as though all your prayers in your entire life were prayed like one amazing salah SubhanAllah) So don’t stop doing good- starting with yourself and then with others- because they say you can’t serve from an empty cup. 3 simple daily things inshallah
Ok so whenever you're going through problems and hard times in your life, always remember that they will pass, there's meaning to it all, You are not alone, remember to keep gratitude alive and that small progress is still progress inshallah! If you benefited from this video please do share it with those you think might benefit from it too iA, and don’t forget to subscribe to the Quran Rehab channel and hit the bell icon to be notified every time I release more free training videos like this. I hope this video always reminds you that when you truly transform your personal relationship with the Quran, you can truly transform yourself and your life for the best- that you can start living what I can a Quran lifestyle inshAllah. Until next time inshAllah take care, Walaykum Asalam.