Personal Development Relationships

A Soul's Burden

Trials and tribulations are a part of life. We do not like them; we do not like to go through them; but eventually we accept them. Even if we pray, fast, pay our zakat and do all different forms of ibadat we still get tested. Sadness sometimes fills our hearts. We could be the best of practicing Muslims, yet poor and unable to put food on our table. We could be rich yet lonely, or young yet unhealthy. It is in these instances that shaytan starts toying with our head. We look at what others have, especially the non-Muslims, and our core gets rattled. The shaytan ignites a fire that gets our blood boiling, hopelessness and frustration set in, and we ask “Oh Allah, why me?! Why am I being punished?”

3945231064_bc0a965d97_bPsychologists tell us that human beings go through five stages of emotion when struck with a calamity. Understanding the different stages of grief minimizes the first four stages (which are denial, anger, bargaining and depression) and gets us to the final stage – which is acceptance. I went through these stages on many different occasions, as I am sure you have.

I am not a psychologist nor am I trying to refute the works of psychology, but I would nonetheless like to offer a different view, a Qur’anic view, on how to deal with life’s trials.

Though we do not have a say in when we are born nor in when we die, life has a clear beginning and a clear end. What is sometimes unclear is the journey between the two points. For Muslims, however, the journey could not be any clearer. Allah says in Surat Adh-Dhariyat:

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ

“And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone)” (Qur’an, 51:56).

Now think back to the first paragraph of this article. You might think to yourself, “I pray five times a day, I fast during Ramadan and pay my zakat, yet I have an ill child, or still can’t find a job, or this stressor or that.”  You begin to wonder why you are going through this and why you are being “punished.” Before you know it, shaytan takes the helm and you are on a slippery slope of anger and denial.

Before falling down that slope, one must take a deep breath and ponder the following question: is it punishment or is it a manifestation of what Allah has told us in Surat Al-Ankabut:

أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَنْ يُتْرَكُوا أَنْ يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ

“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested?” (Qur’an, 29:2)

Allah tells us that through this journey we call life we will be tested. In Surat Al-Baqarah, He says:

وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ بِشَيْءٍ مِنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنْفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ

“And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits…” (Qur’an, 2:155)

Tribulations are a part of life but that doesn’t make them easy. We still grieve — but how could we not? We are, after all, a very emotional creation. So how does one cope with adversity? There are many ayat in the Qur’an that talk about different mechanisms of coping such as patience, faith, prayer and acceptance. But what I find the most profound and the most comforting is what Allah says in Surat Al-Baqarah:

لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا

“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear…” (Qur’an, 2:286).

If you stand back and take a look at the whole picture, you will realize that what you have when faced by a tragedy is a choice. Will you go through the stages of grief, denying Allah’s destiny and the wisdom of His plan for you? Or will you realize that what you are going through is something you know you can handle? Whatever trial comes your way is something that Allah has planned and which He has guaranteed you can handle. This ayah is comforting because I, as a faithful mu’min who believes in Allah and His wisdom, know deep in my heart that although the sadness is cumbersome it will not be overwhelming; that although the times might be tough, I am tougher; and that whatever comes my way will go away; and that eventually I will face my Lord whom, I hope, will be pleased with me as I am pleased with Him.

So when you go through a difficult situation, be it the inevitable death of a loved one or the loss of a job or just a flat tire on the side of the highway, take a deep breath and say:

قُلْ لَنْ يُصِيبَنَا إِلَّا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَنَا

“Say: ‘Nothing shall ever happen to us except what Allâh has ordained for us…’” (9:51).

About the author

A. Elasmar

A. Elasmar

A. Elasmar is of Palestinian decent and was raised in Qatar. He earned a Doctor of Pharmacy Degree and is currently an Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice. A. Elasmar is active in his local masjid, helps organize a halaqa, and gives Friday Khutbahs. He is also active in da`wah and is a guest lecturer for a World Religions class. His former pseudonym for this website was Nomad78.

34 Comments

  • Subhan Allah, I was just thinking about this today. Leaving my place today I had an appointment and I missed my bus it passed right in front of me but I was too far away from the stop. It was freezing and I was so upset I had missed it. If I had only just left a few minutes before.

    But, Subhan Allah the bus I did catch (20 minutes later) got me there right at the same time the sister I was meeting did, and I thought to myself that Allah (swt) teaches us, and He always knows best. And you bet I felt horrible for agonizing over that missed bus.

    Now I just have to internalize that, and not think about it in retrospect.

    JAK for sharing.

  • Salam alaikum,
    I just want to say a huge thank you for sharing with us such a beautiful article. I really needed it. Alhamdulillah through your article, Allah swt has made it easy for me my situation. Jazakallahu khairan.
    Wassalam. 🙂

  • Jazak Allahu kheir brother for the beautiful reflection. insha Allah we are all able to internalize these (and all) words of the Qur’an in good times and in bad times.

    JUST ONE THING: There is a mistake in the tashkeel in the first Ayat it is supposed to be “al-jinna” not “al-jinni.” SubhanAllah wa Allahu a’lam.

    Jazak Allahu kheir

    • Sumayah & Abd Alazeez,
      The Kasra is clearly for the Jeem. Any tashkeel for Shadda always comes JOINING the shadda where it is, weather kasra,fatha or thamma…just as it shows in the aya above.
      Salams

  • Assalamu alaykum

    Subhanallah, awesome article. One thing we also need to be reminded of is the fact that even the Prophets were tested. Take the Prophet (S) for example. This man went through a year of sorrow. A year! Can you imagine that? This is the Prophet of Allah, the one who is the leader of mankind, the one who is granted the highest jannah, and even he was depressed.

    We have to remember that trials and tribulations are merely tests from Allah (SWT), and the fact that we are being tested means that Allah (SWT) is watching us, not to say that he hasn’t been before, but now he watching a little more carefully than usual because he wants to see how you will react in the situation you are given. And if you think about it, this is an honor. Allah (SWT) could have placed this burden on anyone else, but instead, he decided to put it on you. He chose you. And he wants to know how you will do. He is giving you a chance to please him.

    May Allah give us the patience to deal with the many trials and tribulations we face on a day to day life. Ameen

    asa
    ali

  • Beautiful article mashAllah, we need to empathise with as many muslims as possible to help draw us all closer to Allah swt.

  • subhanAllah may Allah reward you Imam Suhaib for posting this, indeed a great reflection for the believers.

  • As-salaamu-alaykum.
    Wa-alaykum-as-salaamh (Replying to those who presented a salaam here).

    Jazaak-Allah for writing this article. May Allah reward all involved. It has helped me much.

    A thing I would like to tell everyone is that when we quote the Holy Quran in a language other than the original, we should always indicate it with (Translation) or better (Interpretation of the text).

  • Asalaamo Alaykum, may Allah set reward you for this thoughtful article. However I think you have the same over simplified view of the ayah that many people have.

    The ayah taken literally is quoted by many when comforting people in trouble.

    The suggestion in doing this is that every problem a person confronts has a solution that is in the gift of the troubled person. Clearly evidence all around us indicates that failure is common and that it may be wrong to suggest that taking this ayah to heart will guarantee successful outcome. The only certainly in any tribulation is that it will end, but that end may be success or failure or even death. For example people who are starving from famine and see children dying from hunger have little hope of coming through this. The most likely end is death.

    I think the key thing is to ask ourselves what exactly the burden is. It may not be the problem or the events leading to the conclusion, but it may be the result itself. Perhaps you have problems at work or with neighbors, and enduring these may be hard, you may decide to take legal action, and you may fail. What is the burden in this case?

    People quote the ayah as if the meaning is that the person with the tribulations has all the compitencies to deal with the problem and come to a successful outcome. Could it actually be that the burden is the result. That even if you fail in your task and you will be sad that you will survive.

    For some people who suffer from a lack of confidence in their own abilities and suffer from critical self esteem even this ayah can be difficult to draw strength from.

    For people in difficulties, their anguish is two fold, first how to solve the problems and second what is the best outcome. Weaker people like us suffer because we lack the ability to think through a problem and execute the plan. People may offer advice on what to do and say, but it isn’t easy for meek people to say strong things, and trying to do so will often result in ridivule.

    It pains me to say this but I do not think many Muslim scholars are truly able to explain to suffering people how to be at peace. For people who have self doubt low self esteem and low confidence it is very very hard to seek comfort in dua.

    The story above about catching the bus etc is nice but everyone has stories about such small matters. What is more difficult to find are stories of true hardship and what the state of mind of the person was and how they came through.

    Maybe if in ha Allah I come through my difficulties with success I will write a book as it may help others.

    In the meantime if there is anyone out there who found themselves in a situation where they felt overwhelmed and unhelped and feared for their health, family, livelihood and happiness and felt really down and depressed, but came through in failure or success and how dua helped them especially if they suffered depression then please tell us.

    • Nice article mash’Allah .I agree with sis Reem that not all can be strong enough to find peace in dua’a ‘specially those who are facing really more of what they can handle. Not all problems can be solved whether we are strong or weak. The point is how to be patient enough to get the reward in the life after. So we ask for patience to keep our hearts firm enough to bear with this life.

    • Salaams,

      i have come from a background where there was a lot of disruption and calamity. My father abandoned us when i was newly born. leaving my mother with 6 children to raise by herself and with no education or chance of getting a job she fell into severe depression. alhumdulilah my brothers and sisters stepped up and took the roles of responsible adults even though they themselves were children.

      however, as much as they tried to be there for us and me, and tried to make me feel loved, i always had and always have remained emotionally lost, confused and unwanted. My family become very lost in their own emotions over the loss of our father, that they never turned to each other. there was no such things as hugs and kisses in my home. neither was there any communication on an emotional level.

      because of this i grew up in an environment where although there were people around me, i was completely isolated both physically and emotionally. I started suffering from severe anxiety from a very young age of about 10 years and have continued to live with this 18 years later.

      i started turning to and learning about islam in this difficult time and alhumdulilah although it has brought me tremendous amounts of comfort. My low self esteem, low self confidence and loss of faith in humanity still remains. I have tried to search for a way out of this but still struggle to find a solution.

      I have had people tell me that my Imaan is not strong enough, hence why i continue to feel this way, which deeply saddens me as I do love Islam and Allah… Allah is the only thing that is keeping me going and the only one that i find comfort in.

      I pray that Allah (swt) helps all those that struggle with their emotions, with their difficulties and with their hardships (ameen).

      I ask you all to remember me in your dua’s and pray that I one day find some answers or a form of relief from the on going torture that I live within myself. Jazakallah

      • I reply to both Saeed and Kauser. I want to say I understand your pain and I feel for you. I don’t put down those who go through the minor everyday faults and are thus blessed in that way, kept away from many calamities, but I give a particular attention to those who suffer more. Because after all, we need to stop the hand of the oppressor from hurting the oppressed.

        After reading your post, Kauser, I realized that people have it worse off than me. I’m prudent about sharing my personal story because I know that I shouldn’t complain to anyone other than Allah, but I guess this wouldn’t be complaining, would it? Anyway, my story is that I also am going through a difficult time, a lot of emotional and psychological problems, but not from myself, but from friction with my family, but I realize there are other people out there who feel it too. It makes me happy that I’m not alone. 🙂 Alhamdullilah my father never abandoned me, I didn’t suffer severe anxiety from a young age, and I don’t have as severe as problematic situations as you, but all of them are very similar. I, too, find peace with Islam. It’s what’s keeps me going. Unquestionably, Allah is my Patron and He keeps me going.

        Did you know that the believer will be put to test over and over until he meets Allah on the Day of Ressurection SINLESS?? So all the pain you or I might suffer is meant for a greater purpose. You have IMAN. You have the DEEN. You have GUIDANCE. And that’s what keeps me going. That’s what fortifies my faith that I truly am on the right path.

        So to Saeed I say yes, I’ve been able to go forward despite difficulties. Difficulties in school, friends, family, being attacked for my religousity, being diagnosed with psychological problems, trials left and right. It seems like there’s no stop. But I remember reading a hadith where the companions of Prophet Muhammad (SWS) asked for him to make dua that they are relieved of oppression. And you know what he said..?? He said the believers before him had been sawed in half and their flesh would be TORN off their BONES because they believed in Allah! They only said La Illaha IllAllah and thus they were brutally tortured!!! The Prophet Muhammad (SWS) turned back to his companions and said “Rather, you are impatient.” SubhanAllah!

        E-mail me if you like, I could go into detail about my 99 problems but I don’t like showing my weaknesses…I rarely do because I don’t like to be looked down upon.

        I leave you with this:
        “Say, ‘O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah . Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.’” (Qu’ran 39:53)

  • Great article MashaAllah. It is easy to read, but we must implement into our life… it is so easy to get carried away with the challenges in life and remember to say al7amdulillah.

  • This article helped me be more postive about all the struggles I am facing at the present & In’Shaa’Allah i will learn from it and change my ways

  • JazakALLAH khaiyran!!
    A great lesson for every mankind.
    May ALLAH reward you with happiness and success for the effective article.

  • JazakAllah ! Nice article. Made my spirits very high. Take care and keep up the Good Work !
    May blessing of Allah be upon you .

  • […] Allāh does not burden someone with more than they can handle. He creates people with tendencies since He knows each and every person capabilities (though there is an argument that the environment plays a great role in shaping the psyche). Whatever the individual situation, a person has the ability to stay on top of it. This can only occur by making some effort to seek Allāh’s assistance and taking the necessary worldly means to overcome these desires. […]

  • Alhamdulillah for this article, very motivating & crucially important. A potential Iman saver! (by the Grace of Allaah)

    • salam i am suffering from mu own daughter being abusive to me verbally and physically.is this a test from allah swt for me

      • can you think of a reason, why you get a test that your daughter is abusive, while someone else get some other test , but at the end of the day every one of you will be judged upon same parameters. that you did go for prayers etc or not…
        then why are you given an extra test .

  • How about those, whom Allah subhanahu give ‘burden” that they can bear, but get heart attacks, paralysis and brain hemorrhage,,,,
    For now I am keeping those who commit suicide out of discussion coz you would say they chose to do so,,,
    although who gave enough power and wisdom and courage and showed them direction to go for a suicide.
    but for now, kindly only answer about heart attacks etc,where no human has got control.

  • This is what I used to believe in when I was a muslim. Yo clearly have never been damaged beyond repair. I grew up mentally sick, no one knew nor did I. I had post traumatic stress disorder, borderline, depression, panic attacks bullying and abusive home. When I was at a reasonable age and realized I was sick I was met with social stigma. I never even had the confidence to tell anyone I was sick. I left home now I have been in a mental hospital for 3 years.. I feel like dying.

  • I don’t want to question or doubt the almighty Allah’s words, but I just don’t understand how the Qur’an verse 2:286 declares that “Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear” when my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of wanting death. The only reason I haven’t committed suicide is because I fear the consequence of punishment from God. But otherwise I can no longer bear the burden of pain and suffering I have been inflicted with everyday for so many years.

    I resent the fact that the author here has reffered to these burdens as being a “choice” and I find it naive that the author presumes that the burden will pass in time. I never “chose” to be abused by bad parents. I never chose to be a homosexual or the feelings of shame and discrimination imposed on me by society. I did however choose a life of celibacy and to forever be single as a result of being gay. I never chose to have an accident that left me disabled and in physical pain everyday. I didn’t choose to end up with a disability that would strip me away from my independence, cause me to lose my job, friends and throw me into a life of loneliness and isolation. I never chose to suffer everyday locked away in my bedroom feeling like I’m missing out on life. I never chose to be cursed with a life filled with bad luck, clamity and suffering everyday. So when I feel like I am being crushed by the weight of my unbearable heavy burden, it just makes me feel confused, discouraged and even more hurt to hear verse 2:286 which completely contradicts my circumstances.

    While the author claims to find “comfort” in that verse, to me it sounds more like a taunt than a comfort, especially when the level of pain I’m experiencing doesn’t measure up to the promised verse. Whenever I feel as though my soul is bleeding in pain and I’m being suffocated by these burdens, the only thing I always keep wishing for is to be dead and free of my suffering. So the question is: “If I am supposed to be able to handle these burdens, then why is it all just so unbearably heavy that I can’t handle it???”

    • This life is temporary. Nothing in this world matters. Even if you are the most richest or the most happiest person in the world, the odds are you will still be dead before you hit 90s. Ask any 90 years old, he or she will tell you that this life was very very short. We know in cosmic terms this life span is shorter than a tiny flash on time scale. Compare this life with the eternal life in the gardens of Heaven where your every wish will be fulfilled, or, an eternal life in the depths of Hell, where you will ask for death to escape the torment, but it will NOT come.

  • I am 24 and a student of lectureship in Germany. I have been raised with competitiveness. The society is also highly competitive here.

    At age 19 I became ill and I had to starve for the next three years because I had become sensitive to everything.

    My social life quickly became inexistant. At home I was subject to criticism for having what I had i.e. illness.
    Because my illness made me vulnerable both physically and emotionally I was angry. Hunger and lack of social interaction was killing me. My speech became slow and my tong would slip just like my legs.
    Speaking became difficult. I covered up to people. Couldn’t explain because I had no diagnosis for it.

    I turned inwards and searched for religious answers. I tried for a very long time under terrible emotional abuse at home. I prayed to find relief and quit being dependent on money and food.
    It didn’t happen.

    2 years ago I started getting forgetful to the point I couldn’t think or remember. Hence I have been embarrassed multiple times at the small jobs I had besides my studies.

    I was dying. But telling me that Allah would put an end to my misery I calmed down.
    Last year when I failed my tests at university I realized that Allah is not ok with me. After years of studying and years of physical ache and bodily disfunctions he’d also end my career and sentence me to death.

    My father who was bullying me day in and out has never been satisfied with me. He didn’t accept my personality or thoughts, differences in opinion was a reason of hatred for him towards me.

    His bullying was secular back then after turning to religion he startef to use religion against me.

    Religion turned into a means of oppression in my view.

    I tried implementing the real religion which was free of such unfair behavior.

    I was alone and without physical mental financial means to be taken seriously.

    Five months ago I became severely depressed due to university failed tests and quit praying out of hopelessnessof not getting heard. Was I fooling myself to find relief?then I quit everything because I had no energy left.

    I told Allah if he doesn’t help me right know with my destructive isolation from my peers and a healthy life I would prefer to die. No answer. Daily struggles in and out.

    I started looking at things objectively then. Quit talking to my father. And stated doing what I had to. Take care of myself and put myself first.

    Allah’s rules were often times impractical and impossible to implement in my life. Yet he could punish me. And if he didn’t my family would criticize and bully me for not doing my religious duties.

    See this is how a once healthy male of vigor and vitality lookd like when he’s done mentally and physically. Completely at the mercy of carnivores who have no humanity left.

    I felt that Allah does his own thing and doesn’t care.

    So I left religion.

    Right now I find myself in a better state. I don’t feel overwhelmed by a god that burdens me with some rules nor do I feel punished for having what i have. I find my struggles and tears deserve me a relief and I don’t deserve my youth getting torn apart due to Allah’s will that crushes anything in it’s way unless I don’t expose myself to such mindset i.e. religion

    What Allah didn’t give I took myself.

    Righg now my situation is improving but even if it stops I will simply deal with it like a challenge not like an expiation of my alleged sins or higher benefit.

    Id have never think it’ll come this bad especially because I had always thought that Allah shows a way out. I had planned to fond a job get married and be a good muslim but no he did not want it.

    No one in my vicinity relatives and long lost friends understands the pain I have. No one can bear it I realized. No one wanted to put up with my difficultieswhich I trief to solve with Allah’s help.

    I feel betrayed and I will never forgive those who caused me a terrible life span.

    Feel free to respond however you like. Im ok to read it because I have no one to speak anyway.

    It must feel incredibly easy to comment and repeat religious instructions when sitting on a candy coated seat in comparison.

    • Asalaamualaikum warehmatullahi wabarakatuhu….Whoever you are and whereever you are…realise that Allah subhana wa taala cares about you….wether you are muslim or not…you were created by Him (swt) so He(swt) still cares about you….Because He is Ar Rehmaan.As long as you are alive there is aways hope remember that always….what you are struggling with is not a new thing…But realize this brother or sister whoever you are “ISLAM IS NOT ALL OR NONE IT IS SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING AND THAT SOMETHING SHOULD BE TO THE BEST OF OUR ABILITY”…..Simply putting it this way imagine a person is very very ill and tommorrow is his exam nd he cant skip the exam he has to attempt it as he will not get graduated otherwise…so inspite of of fever he prepares and makes an attempt at exam….when the examiner is evaluating him…he will not know about his illness…he is totally unaware about the magnitude of effort the person has put in…examiner will evaluate only on the basis of end result….and he may even fail the student….But its totally oppositte with ALLAH subhana wataala…..He knows and is all aware of our struggles….He will judge us on the basis of effort and not end result…..He knows your capacity and He will not burden you more than that….Thats His promise…(surah baqarah Quran 2-286)…You do whatever you can in the religion to the best of your ability and you leave rest to Allah(swt)…Remember no muslim will get paradise in the exchange for his deeds but it will be granted to him by Allah (swt) out of His mercy…Because no matter how many good deeds we do we are only human and we will slip….Dear person….it is shaitaan who has burdened religion so much on you so that you can leave it…But realize you can defeat him again….you can repent and turn back to islam …and realise that in practicing religion dont think that peoples opinion of you is samething as Allah’s opinion of you…You try your best and in this process you compare yourself with your ownself from yesterday …Please go through this link…..http://islamandpsychology.blogspot.in/2011/08/islamic-solution-for-ocd-waswaas.html…..remember trails in this life were faced by even beloved prophets of Allah…..so we will also face them….because its only a test …as this life is worth nothing as compared to Akhirah…we will all die and our trails will also vanish eventually…its all temporary….May Allah bless you and guide you…..May Allah guide me also….Aameen

  • I read and found your article to be enlightening to someone like myself who has been challenged by tribulations alone since the beginning of 2016 until the present without any hope in sight. However, by feeling betrayed from all sources leading to my complete helplessness, it is difficult to remain patient and accepting of Allah’s plan because he is the only one that knows when my dilemma will be over without me having a clue from anyone else. Thus, I will never be able to know which is making me unbearably anxious and doubtful about his willingness to rescue me immediately because no one else will whom he is still allowing to manipulate me constantly despite my ongoing frustrations and stress related health effects. If he won’t burden me more than I can bear, then why is he still giving the opportunity of countless opponents to continuously harass me? The only way I can find out when my issue will be resolved in order alleviate my ongoing anxiety is by him giving me revelations similar to his messenger because there is absolutely no else who will come forward. It only takes one second for him to say “be” which has already taken him ages since everyone whom knew about the solution to my dilemmas are still silent, and I hope he will never forgive them by inflicting them with the severest torments in the lowest depths of hell fire eternally because I will never forgive them either. I am not sure how to cope anymore by daydreaming every single day and begging Allah for nothing.

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