Personal Development Relationships

Closed Doors and the Illusions That Blind Us


Yesterday my 22 month old sought to exercise his independence. After climbing out of his car seat, he wanted to shut the car door like a big boy, so I stood there watching over him. Realizing that if I left him to shut the door, his little head would have gotten slammed in the process, I lifted him away, and shut the door myself. This devastated him, and he broke down in tears. How could I prevent him from doing what he so badly wanted to do?

Watching the incident, a strange thought crossed my mind. I was reminded of all the times this had happens to us in life—when we want something so badly, but Allah does not allow us to have it. I was reminded of all the times we as adults felt this same frustration when things just wouldn’t work out the way we so desperately wanted them to. And then suddenly, it was so clear. I had only taken my son away from the door to protect him. But he had no idea. In the midst of his mourning, he had no idea that I had actually saved him. And just as my son wept in his naivety and innocence, so often we too bemoan events that have actually saved us.

When we miss a plane, lose a job, or find ourselves unable to marry the person we want, have we ever stopped to consider the possibility that it may have been for our own good? Allah tells us in the Quran: “…But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” (2:216)

Yet it is so difficult to look beyond the surface of things. It takes great strength to see beyond the illusions, to a deeper truth—which we may or may not understand. Just as my son could not understand how my depriving him of what he most wanted at that moment was in fact my looking out for him, we are often just as blind.

As a result, we end up staring indefinitely at the closed doors of our lives, and forget to notice the ones that have opened. When we can’t marry the person we had in mind, our inability to look beyond may even blind sight us from someone who is in fact better for us. When we don’t get hired, or we lose something dear to us, it’s hard to take a step back and notice the bigger picture. Often Allah takes things away from us, only to replace them with something greater.

Even tragedy may happen in this way. One can imagine few calamities more painful than the loss of a child. And yet, even this loss could happen to save us and give us something greater. The Prophet said:

If the child of a servant (of Allah) dies, Allah says to His Angels: ‘Have you taken the child of My servant?’

The Angels reply: ‘Yes.’

Allah says to them: ‘Have you taken the fruit of his heart?’

They reply: ‘Yes.’

Then Allah says to them: ‘What did my servant say?’

The Angels reply: ‘He praised Allah and said: ‘To Allah do we return.’

Allah tells them: ‘Build a home for my servant in Paradise and call it Baytul Hamd (the House of Praise).’ [Tirmidhi]

When Allah takes something as beloved from us as a child, it may be that He has taken it in order to give us something greater. It may be because of that loss, that we are admitted into paradise—an eternal life with our child. And unlike our life here, it is an everlasting life where our child will have no pain, fear, or sickness.

But in this life, even our own sicknesses may not be what they seem. Through them Allah may be in fact purifying us of our sins. When the Prophet was suffering from a high fever, he said: “No Muslim is afflicted with any harm, even if it were the prick of a thorn, but that Allah expiates his sins because of that, as a tree sheds its leaves.” [Bukhari]

In another hadith the Prophet explains that this applies even to sadness and worry. He says: “Whenever a Muslim is afflicted with a hardship, sickness, sadness, worry, harm, or depression – even a thorn’s prick, Allah expiates his sins because of it.” [Bukhari]

Or consider the example of poverty. Most people without wealth would never consider that a possible blessing. But for the people around Qarun, it was. Qarun was a man who lived at the time of Prophet Musa who Allah had endowed with such great wealth, that even the keys to his wealth was itself wealth. The Qur’an says: “So he came out before his people in his adornment. Those who desired the worldly life said, ‘Oh, would that we had like what was given to Qarun. Indeed, he is one of great fortune.'” (28:79)

But Qarun’s wealth had made him arrogant, ungrateful, and rebellious against Allah. Allah says: “And We caused the earth to swallow him and his home. And there was for him no company to aid him other than Allah, nor was he of those who [could] defend themselves. And those who had wished for his position the previous day began to say, ‘Oh, how Allah extends provision to whom He wills of His servants and restricts it! If not that Allah had conferred favor on us, He would have caused it to swallow us. Oh, how the disbelievers do not succeed!'” (Qur’an, 28:81-82) After seeing the fate of Qarun, the same people became grateful that they had been saved from his wealth.

But perhaps there is no better example of this lesson, than in the story of Musa and Al-Khidr that were are told about in Surat Al-Kahf. When Prophet Musa was traveling with Al-Khidr (who commentators say was an angel in the form of a man), he learned that things are often not what they seem, and that the wisdom of Allah cannot always be understood from the surface. Al-Khidr and Prophet Musa came upon a town whereupon Al-Khidr began to damage the boats of the people.

On the surface, this action would seem to have been harmful to the poor owners of the boats. However, Al-Khidr later explains that he was in fact protecting the people, and saving the boats for them. Allah tells us in the Qur’an: “[Al-Khidhr] said, ‘This is parting between me and you. I will inform you of the interpretation of that about which you could not have patience. As for the ship, it belonged to poor people working at sea. So I intended to cause defect in it as there was after them a king who seized every [good] ship by force.’” (18:78-79)

In damaging the boats, Al-Khidr was actually protecting the people by making the boats undesirable to the king who had been seizing them by force. And sometimes in life, that’s exactly what happens. In order to save us, something is taken away from us, or given to us in a way we don’t want. And yet to us—as it did to a 22 month old boy—it looks only like a closed door.

About the author

Yasmin Mogahed

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 the Sisters’ Youth Director for the Islamic Society of Milwaukee. She also worked as a writing instructor for Cardinal Stritch University, and a staff columnist for the Islam section of InFocus News. Currently she’s an independent media consultant and a writer for the Huffington Post, where she focuses most of her work on spiritual and personal development. Her written works, including a book chapter on the portrayal of Islam post-911, have appeared in print and online publications worldwide.

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  • SubhanAllah- this is so true. Once I had applied to job that I really wanted but they weren’t hiring at the time. So i worked in a commercial firm even though that really wasn’t my field- but when they did start hiring, the first person they approached was me simply due to the fact that I had worked at that commercial firm.

    وما منعك الا ليعطيك
    He has not denied you [something] except to give you [something better]

  • JazakamAllah khayran for posting! Sr Yasmin please set-up a blog or website where we can read all your amazing articles inshalah! 🙂

  • jazakul khair.. i have been wallowing pity because I’m unemployed these days.. Allah knows alone what benefit this is. I wish I could unemployed with a lot of money but only Allah knows what benefit that is.. Allah is all knowing… may Allah grant us peace of heart.

  • As humans we all fall short and this is often due to the word..I ME, and MINE..which them leaves us to believe that we are in charge forgetting that we are to be submissive and depend only upon the will of Allah..All things take place via the will of Allah and we are only the vessels used to see them thru

  • Jazakillah kul khair for this wonderful reminder.

    If I may, I would like to add to what was so elequently put.

    The Prophet lost the two most beloved individuals to him in one year, Khadijah and Abu Talib (a.k.a the Year of sadness). The scholars have extracted many lessons from this year, but the one that is relevant to this topic is that Allah(swt) does not like to share our hearts with others. So to affirm that the prophet does not depend on anyone other than Allah(swt), he took away the two most beloved individuals to him. Thus, it is key that our hearts are solely attached and dependant upon “The Most Gracious The Most Merciful”.

  • Very true and relevant in today’s time. How interesting that I logged onto this site and happen to read this article. I recently lost my job, which I really loved and was in close proximity to my school, the local masjid, and close to my brother’s job also. But as you said in the article, there is some benefit or lesson that is learned through these trials and tribulations. What happen next is that ALLAH allowed me to go to hajj, which I was planning on doing next year, but ALLAH wanted me to go now. I was happy and said subhanaallah, now I see the reason behind me losing my job.

    Thank you.

  • Reminds me of how I cried so much–when they locked me up and took away my million-dollar toys–that they put me on suicide watch. The end result, mashaAllah, is my disability check, my government grants to finish school, and the Deen of Allah (swt) itself. Where would I be were it not for what Allah (swt) taketh away?

  • I felt like I am getting answers to many of my questions which were boggling in my mind. Alhemdulah that I got clarity and will start to look beyond the surface of things. Inshallah.

  • asalamailum

    Thank you so much for the article I really enjoyed it you have proven a really good point brother that many of us forget that in life we don’t always get what we want but we don’t know that sometimes allah(SWT) is doing us a favour by not granting us that which we wish for or desire we just have to keep in mind mind allah(SWT) knows best

    Jazzak allah

  • Very meaningful, educational article, appreciate sharing it with us; God rewards you with the best.
    Many thanks,
    Reza Jou

  • This brought tears to my eyes…so beautiful mashaAllah. Jazaakillah khair for the amazing and well needed reminder!

  • Mashsllah Yasmin!!! My children raise my thinking just so daily!!! That’s probably why marriage is half your deen … As your kids might complete the other half lol!!
    The author of Pinochio did some deep thinking when he made geppetto the creator and Pinochio the rebellious being ( the created).

    Only if you ask for Allahs guidance, will these little lessons become obvious to you. There are many parents that just don’t SEE these lessons even as they happen. If you seek the guidance Allah lifts the veil off your eyes. That you can understand.

    May Allah guide us all!!

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