Overcoming Hardships Reflections

The Only Shelter in the Storm

It’s never easy to stand when the storm hits. As soon as it starts raining, lightning shortly follows. Dark clouds replace the sun and all you can see are the waves of an ocean, once calm, surrounding you. No longer able to find your way, you reach out for help.

You begin by calling the coast guard. No reply. You try again to redirect the boat. No use. You look for the lifeboat. It’s gone. You reach for a life jacket. Torn. Finally after you’ve exhausted every means, you turn your face upward.

And ask God.

But there’s something completely unique about this moment. At this instant, you experience something you otherwise could only theorize about: true tawheed. Oneness. See, on shore, you may have called on God. But you called on Him along with so many others. You may have depended on God. But you depended on Him along with so many other handholds. But for this singular moment, everything else is closed. Everything. There is nothing left to call on. Nothing left to depend on. But Him.

And that’s the point.

Do you ever wonder why when you’re most in need, every door you seek of the creation remains closed? You knock on one, but it’s slammed shut. So you go to another. It’s also shut. You go from door to door, knocking, pounding on each one, but nothing opens. And even those doors you had once depended on, suddenly shut. Why? Why does that happen?

See, we humans have certain qualities which God knows well. We are constantly in a state of need. We are weak. But, we are also hasty and impatient. When we are in trouble, we will be pushed to seek assistance. And that’s the design. Why would we seek shelter if it’s sunny and the weather is nice? When does one seek refuge? It is when the storm hits. So Allah subahanahu wa ta`ala (exlated is He) sends the storm; He makes the need through a created situation, so that we will be driven to seek shelter.

But when we do seek assistance, because of our impatience, we seek it in what is near and what seems easy. We seek it in what we can see and hear and touch. We look for shortcuts. We seek help in the creation, including our own selves. We look for help in what seems closest. And isn’t that exactly what dunya (wordly life) is? What seems near. The word ‘dunya’ itself means ‘that which is lower’. Dunya is what seems closest. But, this is only an illusion.

There is something closer.

Think for a moment about what’s nearest to us. If asked this question, many would say it is the heart and the self that are nearest. But, Allah (swt) says:


“It was We Who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his nafs (self) makes to him: for We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein,” (Qur’an 50:16).

In this verse, Allah (swt) begins by showing us that He knows our struggles. There is comfort in knowing that someone sees our struggles. He knows what our own self calls us to. But He is closer. He is closer than our own self and what it calls for.  He is closer than our jugular vein. And why the jugular? What is striking about this part of us? The jugular vein is the most important vein that brings blood to the heart. If severed, we die almost immediately. It is literally our lifeline. But Allah (swt) is closer. Allah (swt) is closer than our own life, than our own Self, than our own nafs. And He is closer than the most important pathway to our heart.

In another verse, Allah (swt) says:


“O ye who believe! give your response to Allah and His Messenger, when He calleth you to that which will give you life; and know that Allah cometh in between a man and his heart, and that it is He to Whom ye shall (all) be gathered,” (Qur’an 8:24).

Allah (swt) knows we have a nafs. Allah knows we have a heart. Allah knows that these things drive us. But Allah tells us that He is closer to us than even these. So when we reach for other than Him, we are not only reaching for what is weaker, we are also reaching past what is closer, for what is further and more distant. Subhan Allah (Glory be to God).

So since this is our nature, as Allah (swt) knows best, He protects and redirects us by keeping all other doors of refuge closed during the storm. He knows that behind each false door is a drop. And if we enter it, we will fall. In His mercy, He keeps those false doors closed.

In His mercy, He sent the storm itself to make us seek Him. And then knowing that we’re likely to get the wrong answer, He gives us a multiple choice exam with only one option to choose from: the correct answer.  The hardship itself is ease.  By taking away all other handholds, all other multiple choice options, He has made the test simple.

It’s never easy to stand when the storm hits. And that’s exactly the point. By sending the wind, He brings us to our knees: the perfect position to pray.


About the author

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! Jazakallah khair for this sister. Could you pls elaborate a little more.. I couldn’t really get the ending. So when we look for help only and only from Allah, can we be absolutely sure of recieving it from him? Does this also play a major role in our duas being accepted? Cos many times we are faced with situations with no answer to. I am currently facing one and need all the help i can recieve from the Almighty

    • When you ask help from Allah he will either:1) Give what you asked for immediately, 2) Give what you asked for later on, 3) Don’t give it at all.
      The first is either because that is what is best for you or He wants to challenge your faith in Him with it. The second one is because He knows if we get what we ask for immediately, some calamity will be upon us or He wants to test our patience,whether we give up faith in Him, or not. The third one is because He knows that thing is bad for you, or He wants to test your faith.
      Allah is the All-Knowing and He always want the best for us. Allah is what you think of him to be. If you think he is cruel, then He will be cruel to you. If you think that He is merciful, then He will show you mercy.
      Keep faith and hope in Allah’s mercy and abide his orders, distance from what he forbids and most importantly, be patient.
      Allah is always with us, watching, listening and guiding!

  • MashAllah…alot of insight gained from this wonderful article. It would be great if you could elaborate on the ending as “Misbah” had also requested as I find I’m in a similar situation as she described. Wa jazakom Allahu khairan.

  • aoa i read ths article right on tym as today i actually needed it ….jAZAK ALLAH … bt me too want to knw d answer of same question misbha n rayan has poitnd out cz m also facng d same stuaton….

  • A good post mashaAllah.
    But as is almost always the case when I read about struggle-related posts and how we should seek Allah’s help. I’m always confused between where to draw the line between keep trying and giving up.
    All matters return to Allah for decision. And we seek help from Allah always. At the same time, we do try means and ways, while seeking Allah’s help. That is what is suggested as well, that we do what is in our hand. Sometimes, a struggle is long.. stretching over years. Neither do you get through with your trial, neither does anything else happen. So when do you.. give up on your effort? How do you give up on your effort when the result still may go either ways because it has already not gone any one way. Confused.

  • Jzk for the post

    Sister Zarmeena,

    The son of Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal, Abdullah, asked his father one day: “Abi when will we ever relax?” His father, looked him in the eye and said: “With the first step we take into Jannah.”

    As Muslims we can not look at the discussion from a viewpoint based on the end result. We simply continue to exert effort until out final breath. The more difficult a test is or the longer it continues for will in turn be a greater opportunity for reward inshallah. Pray to Allah swt for guidance throughout and simply measure the path/journey linked directly to your accountability for every action on the akirah

    Hope that helped inshallah.
    Fi amanillah

  • i dont understand properly, is it that we should only ask for Allah’s help in difficulties and not something from this world which will make us feel better? but the thing that we do not have is the reason we have been brought to our knees, its hard not to ask for something from Allah, i think it takes a very strong and deep person to be able to realize this purely.

  • @Zarmeena
    Yeah I see what you mean, especially when you struggle for say maybe a degree or applying for a certain university etc but keep failing and its like “well this isnt working for the last while maybe should I try another goal?” When do we know if we have reached that point? I suppose that is what istikhara is for maybe.

    • Interesting observation Bilal,

      Actually, this is only half of the original article. It started getting too long and in depth, so I broke it into two parts. The second part will be published soon insha Allah.

  • SUBHANALLAH sister this article has brought to my eyes seriously and deeply touched my heart – jazakulhair theres no better way to write this topic ,and it makes absolute sense in every part – MAY ALLAH (SWT) REWARD U GREATLY FOR THIS INSALLAH AMMEN ! AMEEN ! .HONESTLY THIS HAD MADE ME THINK OF ALL THE THINGS I WENT THROUGH AND THE REACTIONS I GAVE TO THOSE SITUATIONS – verily allah is all great ,merciful and knowing subhanallah !
    – could i please use this and send it to my friends in hope that allah (swt) may guide them to the straight path insallah
    once again thank u

  • wow subhannallah this article is actually amazing.
    may allah swtbless you sister and all of us with paradise ,insha-allah.
    my favourite was
    allah swt is closer to us than our own jugular vein and nafs subhannallah
    verily allah is all great ,merciful and knowing subhanallah !

  • Simply Beautiful!!! May Allah (SWT) reward you for this fascinating article. May Allah (SWT) grant us all this kind of trust in him during the easy and hard times and may he grant us all Jannat Firdaws, Ameen!

  • Asalam o Alikum
    well i like the article very much but i just have one question in my mind may be u will not understand my question so i will give u an example to make to understand what i want to ask
    for example in this story the man try every worldly thing like guards boat life jakets etc but in the end he came back to ALLAH .the question is that does this mean we should not take the help of worldly thing and we should only ask to ALLAH for help AND IF UR ANSWER IS YES THEN plzz tell me that if i get hurt and blood is coming out of my hand insted of going to doctor i should ask ALLAH to stop the blood . can any one tell me what should i do in that condition should i take the help from worldly thing (((doctor))) or should i sit in home and pray to ALLAH to stop the blood ……does any one have answer for my question,,,,,,,,??? should we try to help our self or we shold leave every thing to ALLAH…………….????

    • Our beloved Prophet (pbuh) answers this question when he sees a man who leaves his camel untied. When asked why he did so, the man said, “I put my trust in Allah.” The Prophet (pbuh) advised him to tie his camel AND put his trust in Allah. We need to take the means, knowing all along that the results do NOT come from the means, but from Allah. So while our body strive and takes means (going to doctor, etc) our heart is in a state of tawakkul (trust in Allah). The point of this article has to do with focus and dependency. It is about where we are turning with our *hearts*. Not what we are doing with our *limbs*. And Allah knows best.

  • “It’s never easy to stand when the storm hits. And that’s exactly the point. By sending the wind, He brings us to our knees: the perfect position to pray.” That singular statement is so utterly profound. You have a gift for the written word mashallah and I thank you sincerely for sharing it with us

  • The simple message of this article is : in whatever situation you are in, whether a storm or a calm, in health or in sickness, happy or sad, Always have Allah swt in your hearts!

  • In the mid 1990’s diving on my way to work in the Carson-valley of Nevada I noted how easy we take life for granted; we always call on God when there is troubles but when things are going good, forgetfulness seems to accompany ease of times. I was startled to recognize this and felt compelled to search every day for ten reasons to be grateful to God for. This over time thought me how separated the world I live and function in is from God. I started truly question my reason for being here and alive, if all I do is appease beastliness and lend myself to this depraved inertia of being civilized at the cost of destroying His earth. I was veiled and He unveiled me, I was lost and He guided me, I was selfish and He humbled me. God took my loneliness, isolation and pain and gave me of His truth and love and now I remember Him, for I see Him in all things. LA ilaha illal-lah!

  • subhnallah..i teared when i read dis n it really hit me instantly and its the fact. Jazakallah khair sister. God bless

  • Salaam brothers and sisters.
    This summer was one of the most painful summers for me and my family
    As well .my father was had cancer in his bladder and the doctorss told him to have surgery to remove his bladder ASAP but I didnt ageree with his Drs at all .cuz the cancer was in his bladder for 4 years or even more .the cancer didnt got any big or sprd to the rest of his bladder .but the day we got the news we all pary for Allah swt to help my father fight this like he has been for long time.The day ofhis biyopsu I really ask Allah swt to father fight with this cancer .Allah did answer my paryers and my father biyopisy came negative .his dr. cant beleive it .but I did ciz Allah swt d answer my paryers,right a way .If we all pary from the deepst part of our herays he will reward us for sure .

  • Shukran for this very relevant script, i didn’t finish reading the whole story because i was reading all the comments and discussions on the comment area. i was fascinated at how our dear readers including I my self was caught up in the discussion. it’s just a proof that every single person on this site was had all the same situations, and its seeking the immediate results of their du’a or prayers because they needed it or we need it…in my humble opinion and experience, i was once in the same situations, but i just keep my faith and du’a continuously for a long time and keep waiting also for a long time, and i see some results are coming and happening. the merry thoughts is that, lets not lose hope for him (Allah) for he will give it to us in the right time, right place and right way. We maybe sometimes feel the rush that sometimes it leads us to go to some shortcuts just to fix the problem or what we need, but in time, Allah has the best in store for us in the future and that is what exactly happened to me…while we are in the process of waiting for the result, it couldn’t be denied that along the way, we will encounter some difficulties coming our way, but its just a part of the test, a test which is making us more strong person, making our faith more tight and closer to him (Allah) because Allah (swt)will never give such trials on mankind and his creatures which he knows that we cannot handle, he will give us such terrible and very painful trials, test and more suffering, but we must not also forget that in every trials there is a triumphant along the way even though it will take a long time before we can have its results… Ameen…ameen..ameen to all our du’as and prayers that may we have it all in Allah’s graceful time…

  • This is insightful. A number of times in my life, the most heavy being at the moment, I have been troubled in such a way as I could not find anyone or anything to help me directly about it, because somehow they seem to be problems difficult enough to explain that no one available to me could even understand, and no one can offer any help or useful suggestions. And I wonder, why is this, and how come everyone else has problems they can look up in books, or learn solutions from each other – many of whom I have helped myself. It always seemed to me to be “intentional”, and I became bitter and resentful because no one can help me when I’m troubled, yet I can help others. It seemed unfair. Fortunately I did not lose faith because I reasoned that even if He likes me less, He’s God; it’s not like a little human like me can object to it.

    But in the end, each time, because there was nowhere left, I spoke to God. I admit that had my problems entirely been like those experienced by the people I know and have heard of, I would have relied on myself to solve them. Sr. Yasmin’s article has made me consider that perhaps it has *always* been intentional, and the end result *is* the purpose and it’s not because God or “fate” just likes me less.

    I am also directly witnessing exactly the same thing on someone else – the first time I’m experiencing it from the outside rather than being the subject. But he is even more prideful and stubborn than I am (or “was”, hopefully), which makes me afraid for his sake and sad. But in a way it gives me hope for now, because it means God is still bothering to call him.

  • Thank you for this piece, i liked ur reference to the jugular vein, its a fear i had as a child to slewp and soneone wud come at night, anyway i think you shud right another piece on this topic, can you explain ways to be patient during this storm, or ways to get over the saddneas of the storm

  • I am reading this right now. At the moment I am under severe stress. (Due to husband leaving suddenly and filing for divorce. As I am aware I have no problems in my marriage and we were happy togther. This article is really helping me.
    I have a humble requst-if you all could make dua for me that he see’s sense and returns back home with the help of Allah.

    • Salaam. I am sorry to hear what you are going through. I make dua Allah swt do what is best for you. You may not realise but sometimes losing people can be a positive, Allah swt will never let you down and will always replace the bad with good. Have faith in He who created you and your desires, you deserve more than a guy who doesn’t want to be with you. Especially if he does not have the courage to speak to you about it.
      May Allah swt bless you with peace and happiness.

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