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Stay Afloat in the Ocean of Life

If you think about the two emotions in this life which torture people most; fear and sadness, depression and anxiety, some form of it. Allah again and again in the Qur’an explains that there’s none of those two emotions in Jannah, those two specifically; fear and sadness.

A third aspect of dunya (this worldly life) – to understand dunya in order to master it – is to know that this life is a test. You cannot succeed if you don’t know it’s a test.

Your professor might give you a piece of paper, and if you think that you are just supposed to doodle on there, that’s one thing, right? But if he tells you this is your test, in fact this is your final exam, you are going to perform a lot differently than if it is just a scrap piece of paper.

Life is a Test

If people go through this life and think it’s just a scrap piece of paper, they don’t do very well. They think that everything has no purpose, nobody is watching them, you just do whatever you want; you just doodle on that paper. So then they don’t perform very well.

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But if you know that this life is a test, you will handle that final exam and your professor is going to grade it, you are going to do a lot differently. You are going to act a lot differently. You are going to do a little better.

So if Allah has told us that {He (Who) created death and life that He may try you – which of you is best in deeds.} (Al-Mulk 67: 2), then we will have to act differently.

So if you thought there was any other reason why He created life and death; there’s not! This is the reason, this is the reason why we are on this earth, the reason God created life and death is to test us which of us are best in deeds. So if we know that, we are going to respond much differently, as we know we are being watched. You know you are being judged.

You are in a competition really. Allah says: {And vie one with another for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who ward off (evil)} (Al-Imran 3: 133)

So here, Allah asks us to compete, to race so we are in a competition. And there is a Judge, and that Judge is always watching. Allah is always watching. judging how we respond, how we react to everything coming our way as everything is a test. Everything that happens is a test and everything that doesn’t happen is a test. The whole thing is a test.

Lastly and the fourth thing for understanding dunya is knowing how to succeed in this life; how to stay afloat in the ocean of dunya.

Now if you think about dunya as an ocean, if you go to that ocean with a boat, what happens if the boat lets the water in? You start to sink, right?

Now if you think about this life as an ocean, and think about the boat as your heart: as long as that boat stays on top of the water, on top of the ocean (the dunya) and doesn’t let the water in, it’s fine. It stays floating and it is ok. But as soon as that boat allows water into it, that’s when it sinks.

And this is the same way with dunya; as soon as we let dunya into our hearts and we start to become attached to it, we start to love it. When dunya no longer is a means, and instead you make it your end, you will sink.

It is just like a person who says ‘the ocean is my end’. What’s going to happen to you then when asked ‘where are you going?’ and you say: ‘the ocean. That’s where I’m going. That’s my goal.’?

If that’s your end you’re going to sink.

But if you use the ocean as a means you are just passing through: ‘I’m just passing through the ocean in order that I get to the next continent, we will manage to get to the next place.’ This is how dunya is.

Live Up to It

Number four in our recipe or plan for success in this life and the next is to plan for tomorrow.

So, as students, you guys think a lot about your future. It’s natural. You think about what I’m going to do next year, what I’m going to do after I graduate, what I’m going to do with my career. These are all things that you think about. Allah tells us in the Qur’an:  

{O you who believe! Fear Allah, and let every soul look to what (provision) He has sent forth for tomorrow. Yea, fear Allah: for Allah is well-acquainted with (all) that you do.} (Al-Hashr 59: 18)

Here Allah begins the ayah by telling us to have fear of Him. So, Allah here is addressing those who believe. Allah addresses different people in the Qur’an and in this case, He addresses the believers: have taqwa (fear) of Allah. This was the first advice. The second advice is: let every human being, every soul, know what it has set forth for Tomorrow.

Tomorrow here is capital T. We spend so much time planning for tomorrow as Tuesday, Wednesday, next year, after I graduate etc. But Allah here is telling us and reminding us plan for the other tomorrow; the tomorrow after this life, and see what you’re putting forth.

As in the example of the furniture we talked about: when you know you are going to this house, you know you are going to this house and nobody can deny this, so furnish it. You know you are going to live there. So send provision so that when you get there you are not starving.

Then you’ll want to furnish that place, stock up the fridge because you know you will go there. You know it’s a certainty. Nobody can deny it. We all are going to die. We all are going to go there. So set it up so that when you get there you have something to live with

So here Allah is saying, out of His mercy, reminding us to look at what we have put forth for tomorrow. And again in the end of the ayah Allah is advising us to have taqwa of Him. This is how Allah begins the ayah (with taqwa), ends it (with taqwa) and in the middle He talks about what we are putting forth for tomorrow.

Keep It Up

The fifth thing in this recipe is to remember Allah. Here is what happens with human beings: we come to a lecture, we go to a khutbah (sermon), we go to a retreat and feel that spiritual height – an Iman rush – as we hope. But what happens a week later, two weeks later or a month later?

We back down.

This is the nature of human beings; our Iman goes up and down.

And here is the problem. If you come and tell me that you want to get in shape, you want to have a healthy body, a nice-looking body. Then would I come and advice you just go workout for a good three hours and then you’ll look good for the year? Are you going to get in shape that way? If you workout once a month even or once every two or six months is this going to do anything for you?

It will not do anything for your body.

Similarly, if you remember Allah once in a while, once a month, once a week or whatever, it’s not consistent, it’s not going to do anything for your heart. The same rule that applies to the physical body also applies to the spiritual self.

Another example is this: if I were to ask you: ‘did you eat today?’ Nobody will come and tell me ‘no, I didn’t eat today because I ate last week. I’m good’. We don’t say this because we know our body needs food on a regular basis. Are you guys feeling what I’m saying here? If our body isn’t fed regularly, it dies. If the heart isn’t fed regularly, it dies. And what is the food for the heart? It is the remembrance of Allah. So it needs to be consistent in the same way that you consistently have to feed your body.

To take the remembrance away from the self is like taking a fish out of water. That fish will suffocate and then die. The heart will suffocate and die without the remembrance of Allah.

And what I really want to emphasize is it has to be consistent. It cannot be one lecture and then you don’t remember Allah for another three or four weeks until going to another lecture. It doesn’t work like that. You don’t eat once and don’t eat for two weeks, and still expect you are going to be ok.

So you have to find a way to make it consistent. This is the reason why we pray five times a day. We don’t pray once a day. We don’t pray once a week on Friday. We pray five times a day because Allah knows that this is our food. We need to remember Him regularly, and if we are not praying five times a day, on time, know for sure that our heart is dying or is dead.  It’s for sure just the same way I can tell you for sure if you only eat once a week you’re dead. I can say that without any hesitation.

Similarly if we are not praying and praying on time, our heart is dead or is dying. It’s our food.

About Yasmin Mogahed
Yasmin Mogahed received her B.S. Degree in Psychology and her Masters in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After completing her graduate work, she taught Islamic Studies and served as a youth coordinator. She also worked as a writing instructor at Cardinal Stritch University and a staff columnist for the Islam section of InFocus News. Currently she’s an instructor for  AlMaghrib Institute, a writer for the Huffington Post, an international speaker, and author, where she focuses most of her work on spiritual and personal development. Yasmin recently released her new book, Reclaim Your Heart, which is now available worldwide. Visit her website, , where you can find a collection of her articles, poetry, and lectures.