Sometimes we find ourselves at the bottom of mountains: a mountain of sins that need to be corrected; a mountain of things that need to be achieved; or even a mountain of self-refinement that needs to occur. At first, we may attempt to jump over the mega-mountains of life, but this only causes us to fall back to where we started, with nothing more than skinned knees and hurt palms. This leaves us at the bottom of the mountain, staring upward through tear-blurred eyes, trying to figure out how we are going to make it to the out-of-sight peak. The keys to this reoccurring dilemma are submission and patience.
A giant of our past, Imam Al-Ghazali (rahimahullah, may God be pleased with him), faced mountains just as we all do. It is narrated that he found himself in a major life crisis, being pulled at by the dunya (this world) and doubting his own intentions. This scholar was afflicted with some kind of impediment that prevented him from speaking in his classes. He desired strongly to please his students, and attempted to continue teaching, but his mouth became numb and he was forced into silence. This was not an easy thing on Imam Al-Ghazali (ra). He found himself in a violent state of despair, unable to even swallow a morsel of bread or drink a single drop of water. He became physically weak and was sent to doctors in hopes of a diagnosis that could be treated and bring him back to his normal state. The doctors, however, despaired of saving him and said, “The mischief is in the heart, and has communicated itself to the whole organism; there is no hope unless the cause of grievous sadness be arrested.”
It was at this point that Imam Al-Ghazali (ra) admitted his weakness. He became conscious of the weakness of his soul and turned completely to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He). Describing his state he says, “I took refuge in God as a man at the end of himself and without resources.” It was only then that he was cured, and all his affairs were made easy on him. From his experience we can take away a very valuable lesson: internal peace will not be reached until we submit, utterly and completely, and admit that we are powerless and Allah (swt) is the All-Powerful.
Once we submit, utterly and completely, we must be sure to have patience—not only with the affairs that are occurring around us—but also with ourselves. Such is a lesson that we can learn from the creation of the fetus in the mother’s womb. Allah (swt) has described to us the steps that one goes through in development. In the mother’s womb each one of us begins as nutfah (a drop of fluid) then proceeds to become `alaqah (a clinging clot of blood) and finally becomes a mudghah (a lump that looks as if it has been chewed). All of these stages occur even before the rooh, or spirit, is blown into the creation. Al-Qaari sheds light upon a lesson that can be derived from these stages. He says that Allah (swt), without a doubt, has the ability to create anything in one moment but this was not the path that He, subhanahu wa ta`ala, chose. Instead, as a mercy upon the mother and as a sign for those who ponder, He caused us to be created step-by-step and made us aware of this. We should try and understand the wisdom behind this and realize that to accomplish things correctly and properly they must be done in the proper manner, with the proper stages. Just as Kert Lewin, a German-American psychologist, said, “A successful individual typically sets his next goal somewhat but not too much above his last achievement. In this way he steadily raises his level of aspiration.”
It is through these two techniques that we can begin to climb the mountains of life. If one of these two elements is missing, the mountains before us will only grow larger, and our state more lowly. Without full submission to Allah (swt), nothing is successfully possible. Any results we achieve will be temporary and fleeting. Without patience, we’ll continuously end up back at the beginning, staring upward, soaking heavily in our own despair. Take things a step at a time, constantly turning to Him along the way, and remember: “If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick up one of those pieces and begin again.”