Overcoming Hardships Spiritual Purification

The Break

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

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.

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  • This is an unbelievably strong article, I started reading with my eyes but soon my heart was reading. Subhan Allah…

  • Masha Allah. Sis. Reehab you always speak right to my life in your articles. May Allah increase you.

    With much love for His sake,

  • It’s like Allah guided me to this article, it is exacly what I need; have hope in Allah!
    What else should one do? I’ve went from a person to prayed tahajjud during the night and crying for Allahs forgiveness to a person that is having doubts about everything I’ve ever believed in. What is wrong with me`?
    Please make dua, im desperate

    jazakallahy khair

  • Jazaki Allah Khair my sister. This has shone a light in to my heart and given me a great joy.
    To ‘sister in need’ I will pray for you. Through this difficult time, just lean back in to Allah’s care… acknowledge to HIM that you don’t know what is going on and to help you find the way to put things right. Stay in dhikr, even repeating ‘ar-Rahman’ helps to keep one’s hope high that iman will re-establish in the heart. I think it is certainly there or you would not have written what you have. It’s only that you are measuring your iman now against the high standard of tahajjud at night, and that is making you despair. Measure your iman now against the standard of those without iman (if you had lost it, you certainly won’t be on this site) and then you’ll see you have a lot to acknowledge and be grateful for. Once you’ve given yourself that break, humility will enter your heart and with it the door to better faith inshaAllah. My du’a for you.

  • Beautiful piece.

    As a matter of fact, I have been “broken” more times than Lindsay Lohan had been hauled to court.

    Alhamdulillah, the experiences have taught me great humility.

  • Mash Allah, what a beautiful article. We all need to be reminded of the dangers of despair. Thank you for your sharing your knowledge, your experience and your love, inthe nameof alah.

  • Asalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatu

    Truth inspires hope. This is Truth.

    Oh Allah, protect us from Falsehood.

  • Like many others I feel like this described a significant part of me, and it is exactly why I don’t regret any darkness since it brought me closer to Allah (swt).

    May we all be guided and hold onto the firmest handhold, and never let go. It is only Allah that truly gives us strength. Alhamdulillah. Jazakallah for a poignant and reflective article. May Allah preserve you.

  • Thank you, Reehab. I like to feel recognized by you, since you seem to know the break. I have been saved by God several times, yet I let it slide by being amongst nonbelievers. Now I’m married to a wonderful man who practices his belief, and I feel as a flower, opening and finally finding food in the ground I grow from. May God bless you more for sharing this.

  • This article is absolutely beautiful, masha’Allah. Thank you for the effort of writing this sister Rehab, as it brings so much hope to the hearts. Jazaki Allahu Khairan.

    For the sake of quotation, can you sight the source for the statement of Dawud, alahis salam. It’s so amazing, I’ve never heard it before, masha’Allah.

  • A very beautiful and inspiring article – Mash’Allah! I have been going through a lot of these dark gloomy moments. I’ve learned to embrace them because despite all the pain they give me the amazing opportunity for introspection, reassessment and growth. I pray for us all to be able to weave our way back to Allah A’zawajeul ever so strongly and with ever more awe at His infinite love and mercies. Jazakillah khayr.

  • Salam alaykum, beautiful message mashallah! This is exactly what sh. Muhammad Alshareef mentioned in his Niche Hero class (next one is in the UK in Feb 2012 inshallah) when he was counselling us about success. As long as our deen is good, the projects we engage in for the sake of Allah (business, dawah, or raising a family etc) will be easy and success will be automatic, but the moment something becomes tough, even something in the category of a bad day, it means we have neglected something in our deen. Allah breaks us to realise our arrogance or over looking something. We can be drawn into dispair about it and fall further or we can return to arRahma and look for what is missing, make tauba and take steps to repair. Now with this article I have completed my understanding about why we dispair! So I will now think: repair is better than dispair!

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