While we were growing up, my mom always promised my brother and I something that she fully intended to practice – she told us that if we ever grew too proud, too arrogant, or started going in the wrong direction, she would break us. Our mother – the one who carried us in her womb for months, spent her days and nights taking care of us and worrying about us, the one who would do anything and everything to protect us and make us happy – promised to break us. This did not mean break in the physical sense; she meant to crush our false fantasies in order to help us grow in a way that was better and more beneficial to our own well-being. She wasn’t concerned about what we wanted or what made us feel good; she wanted what was best for us. Often times this is exactly what Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (Exalted is He) wants for us; and to Him are the highest of examples.
We often go out seeking guidance and get ahead of ourselves—perhaps by turning to the wrong people or by giving ourselves too much credit. We may gather knowledge to simply acquire it. We may skip the basics because we ‘already know all about it’ and busy ourselves with superogatory acts while the fard acts, that we must fulfill, fall short. We may live life seeking the ‘high’ that we feel when we are proud of ourselves for worshipping Him or working in His cause, rather than worshiping Allah (swt) for His sake. We build our lives on a faulty foundation—a foundation that is bound to crack and send all that was built on top of it crashing down. It is at times like these that Allah (swt) allows us to be broken. He allows us to loose grip with everything we ever felt we knew, so that we can turn to Him in the correct manner. And once we turn to Him, He then grants us the opportunity to build a foundation that is stronger than anything we ever had; and on that strong base, we then proceed to build our faith in Him and fulfill our life’s calling. Even though the position we find ourselves in after the break may not seem as high and as great as it was before, in reality it is firmly rooted and perhaps even more genuine than we could have imagined.
While the break for different individuals can and is quite different, one thing is consistent: darkness. It is during this struggle of regaining ground after being broken that things become quite dark and hard to comprehend. It may feel that each step we take towards Him doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere—that between us and the light is a tall brick wall and we are left banging our head on it out of despair—reaping nothing but loud noise and a bruises to prove our weakness. It’s at times like these that we are at the lowest point. As Shaytan (satan) sees this, he will not hesitate to begin his whispers and his tricks on us. It is at this time that we should try to be conscious of where our thoughts and feelings are coming from, and flee to Him for refuge from them. Remember that Shaytan is our enemy. If we let him take over our life, we have let him win. His weapon is to make us despair, but we have been equipped with an even stronger weapon: du`a (prayer).
Whilst seeking advice, I was once gifted a gem that sums up the plight of Shaytan and the method of combat which should be employed when dealing with him:
The word ‘Iblis’ has its [origin] in ‘balasa’ which is to despair. He is the one who makes you despair, and he himself is in despair, because he knows his own time is short. When you overcome your despair, you have overcome Shaytan and dealt him a serious blow – this is the best way to war with Shaytan. To have hope. Allah (swt) is hope. Shaytan is despair.
We should never allow ourselves to submit to our oppressor if we can fight back; and with the aid of Allah (swt) we can always fight back against Shaytan and attain success. Remember that Allah’s rahma has superseded His wrath and that He is more merciful to His servant than a mother is to her child. It was said that Prophet Dawud (ra) asked Allah (swt), “Where can I find You?” Allah (swt) responded, “You will find me at those whose hearts are broken and humbled for me.” We should take joy in this. Take joy in the fact that despite our wrong doings, our wrong judgments, and our broken hearts, Allah (swt) is with us and constantly watching over us. The poet, Rumi, has a beautiful line of poetry which reflects the benefits of the break. He says:
“Don’t turn your head. Keep looking at the bandaged wound. That’s where the light enters you. And don’t believe for a moment that you’re healing yourself. ”
Turn to Him. Raise your hands and ask Him. And when the tears begin to fall, don’t stop them. Let them fall for His sake and know for a fact that He would never do except that which is best for you, and He is the All-Knowing. Know that out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls and that the most massive characters are seared with scars.
“Be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart, and learn to love the questions themselves.” – Rainer Maria Rilke