Overcoming Hardships With the Divine

Layers of Darkness

http://www.flickr.com/photos/malia111/4482794917/in/photostream/A second grade class sat in front of their little cups of dirt, thinking about what was going on underneath the soil. Only a few days prior they had placed a seed deep underneath, hoping that it would one day sprout. They were only in the second grade so they couldn’t really understand the concept that they had to put it underneath the soil. They didn’t see the point of why the seed had to work so hard to push its sprout all the way to the top of the soil. Why couldn’t we just make things easier for the poor seed and keep it on top of the surface in the sunlight? Why couldn’t we just help it by opening it up and pulling the sprout out of the seed ourselves? Why did the seed have to take time and effort to become what it needed to be? But the seed knew. The seed knew that in order to grow, it needed to be buried under the dirt, smothered in darkness and it had to work hard to reach the light. And so it did.

This simple example of the perspective of second graders on the sprouting of a seed and growing of a plant retells itself time and time again throughout our lives, but on a different level. As adults, we may smile at the innocence of these children, knowing that one day they will realize that there are certain processes that may seem hard and useless but are actually essential, just like in this plant. But often times we fail to take that same example and place it in our lives. There are times in life we need to grow, need to become better and stronger people. It is during those times that we find ourselves smothered in darkness, feeling hurt and disconnected. We may feel like we are covered in layers upon layers of dirt, not knowing how to take a breath, and we just want to reach the surface and break through to the light. But we know that in order to do that, we are going to work really hard, and at times it may hurt beyond belief. It is at these times that we often get frustrated and confused with what God is putting us through. We may begin to question why God would even allow this to happen or why He isn’t helping us in the way that we are asking. And no matter how hard we think, we just cannot see the wisdom in being locked in layers of darkness, struggling to reach the top. It is at this moment that we need to stop, take a step back and learn from nature. Stop and imagine what would happen to the seed if it simply stopped trying because it was too tired to push through and struggle to the top. Imagine what would happen to a butterfly if, after being wrapped in its cocoon for so long, it decided to stop pushing its way out and spread its wings. Imagine what would happen to a baby chick if it stopped pecking its way through the egg to make it to the world where chicks become chickens.

Things may seem to be tougher than necessary, for longer than necessary, in places where we don’t want them to be. But know, nothing is without reason and nothing is without cause. God sent us examples in His creation to constantly give us motivational boosts to get us throughout our days. Open your eyes to the signs of God and embrace your inspiration to move forward. As Richard Carlson says, “If you watch how nature deals with adversity, continually renewing itself, you can’t help but learn.”


About the author

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref grew up in a small Texas city and was unexpectedly uprooted to Cairo, Egypt. The shift of countries precipitated a shift in her outlook on life; this, with her enriching experience in community activism—specifically social service, youth work, and Qur’anic Studies—provides for a rather enlightened perspective. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. Thankfully, her main outlet and therapeutic tool is to write, write, write! She keeps her own blog, contributes regularly to various publications, and – most importantly – you’ll find her entries on this site.


  • Dear Sister Reehab,

    I have no words to express how I feel after reading your article except to say, “ALLAHU AKBAR KABEERA” – He loves us more than 70 mothers put together & out of 100 parts of His mercy, He sent on earth only 1 & that suffices for all that the earth has lived thru & will live thru till this world ends & He still has 99 parts with HIM.
    I love you dear sister for the sake of Allah(swt)- Jazak Allah khair for this thought provoking message

  • Jazakillah khair for the beautiful reminder. It reminded me of a quote by Emerson — “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”

  • JazakAllah khair for the awesome article, a topic that’s close to my heart.

    There have been times when I’ve been covered in layers of darkness and I’ve felt that everything inside me had died but what did I learn from nature? “in the depths of winter I realized there lay inside me an invisible summer.”

  • Indeed there is always light at the end of a tunnel…And great things are always achieved after a hard struggle, never do they come easy..!

    Jazak Allah for this beautiful post!

  • Subhanallah it’s so true. There is no shortage of signs and examples around us through which Allah tells us exactly what to do, yet we fail to stop for a moment and ponder. And by doing so, we deprive ourselves of the very answers we are striving for to end the miseries we experience in our lives.

  • I certainly have the faults of being discouraged and tempted to give up in adversity. But this article mentions examples of how it is true that all of Allah’s creation is in a state of Islam. The seed or the butterfly or anything else, when He decrees that they must grow via darkness, patience and hardship, never rebel. The ants and insects, the larvae and other prey animals, when decreed that many of their young will be eaten by others or simply exterminated as pests, do not object or wail at how unfair Allah is to them, even if it really is unfair. They all really do obey His limits, and leave it to Allah to provide them what is just.

    We humans are the only ones who complain against God, even though so many other creatures endure the same or more hardships. How often are people seduced from faith, just because a busload of children died in an accident, or wars, or children oppressed and harmed, complaining that if God were just, He ‘wouldn’t allow that to happen’? As though we alone of all creation should not die and suffer, or at least not our children, or at least not unless the death is the most painless kind. And we think this even as we drive other creatures homeless with habitat destruction, kill them without a thought, and poison them en masse, by our consumerism and love of petty things.

    So even as I succumb sometimes to feelings of hopelessness, I cannot with a straight face complain to Him of His injustice, while my hands are not innocent of it to creatures in this world. We humans – especially in this age – are never in a condition where we do not need to constantly ask forgiveness. And we ourselves built such a world where we almost cannot avoid being so unjust to others.

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