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Finding Meaning and Optimism Through Hardship

We are only halfway through 2020, yet many people are already so mentally exhausted that they can’t wait for the year to be over. It really has been a tough year for many people around the world.

Here in America, people have been dealing with illness, death, job loss, loneliness, and now protests for justice and basic human rights.

As an ummah, we also struggled spiritually through umrah and travel being banned, masjids being shut down, and Ramadan and Eid in quarantine. We are now also facing the possibility of hajj being cancelled.

All of these struggles can make it difficult to have a positive attitude or any semblance of optimism. It just doesn’t seem fair. The stress of dealing with crisis after crisis can be draining. And it raises the question, what’s the best way to cope at a time like this?

Human Resilience

Before anything else, we have to pull ourselves out of despair by remembering that the people who lived before us faced all of this and worse, and they made it through those tough times.

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Human beings have dealt with illness, war, poverty, and oppression for millennia, yet we have survived as a species. Allah made us resilient like that. So I know that if they could get through it, so can we.

Even the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the prophets and messengers before him faced countless hardships. Nobody is immune to the tests of this dunya (worldly life).

For me personally, that’s one of the biggest things that keeps me working hard at my deen (religion). I desire so strongly to be in a place where there is peace. This world will never be that place, no matter how hard we try to make it so.

Allah said in the Quran:

Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested? And We indeed tested those who were before them… (29:2-3)

Justice Will Come

These tests can be both “good” and “bad” things. We might see the rich, famous, and powerful at a time like this and think that they have it easy, that they aren’t having to deal with everything the same way that other people are.

But even having money, fame, and power is a huge test in and of itself. Those who have these things will have to answer for how they used them on the Day of Judgment. And their assets will not be able to help or defend them against the justice of Allah.

For the rest of us, as I mentioned before, the stories of the people before us prove that we are not alone in this. In the Qur’an, Allah says:

Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such [trial] has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until [even their] messenger and those who believed with him said,”When is the help of Allah coming?” Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near. (2:214)

Focusing on the Positives

I really believe that. I believe my Lord when He tells me that His help is near. And while I wait for things to be resolved, I look for the ease in this time of hardship.

It is so important to try to look at everything we have, and everything that’s going right, in a time of chaos. Whether that’s the big stuff like good health and a strong support system, or small things like the sun being out today or enjoying a favorite dessert. Every one of us has something we can be grateful for, no matter how tough things are.

I also see hardships as a means of strengthening one’s faith. They tend to make me reflect on life and my relationship with Allah more. They also make me pray/supplicate more, since I know that Allah is the one who is ultimately in control.

We may not know or understand why things happen the way they do, but we do know who we can turn to for help. And that’s huge.

As I curiously wait to see how things continue to change in the remaining half of 2020, I will be trying to focus on the positives. I will try to look at how these challenges are bringing out the best in humanity, not the worst, and how they are uniting us in the most unlikely of ways.

May Allah heal the ill and bring justice to the oppressed, all over the world.

May He bring us peace in both this life and the next.

May He make the rest of this year much better than what has passed already.