A myriad of matters put weight on your mind. It heaves under the sheer pressure of it. Thoughts, actions, endless precipitant emotions all occupy this undefined space and define your outlook on life. It could be anything and everything: doubts, missed prayers, a glance, a stolen conversation, an act of pride, that shopping spree in which you redefined the word ‘shopaholic’ – the list is near infinite.
We travel through each day lugging all this emotional and mental baggage, and our life is spent in a perpetual state of “What if I had done it differently?”
It’s not meant to be like this.
What’s done is done. It is time to move on.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not propagating a carefree existence in which we shovel obliviousness into every recess of our mistakes, effectively burying them under a bed of thorn-less roses and skipping off into an ideal sunset.
What I mean is what the Messenger of Allah ﷺ (peace be upon him) taught us:
“Seek help from Allah, the Most High, and do not lose heart, and if anything (in the form of trouble) comes to you, don’t say: If I had not done that, it would not have happened so and so, but say:
Allah did that what He had ordained to do and you saying “if” opens the (gate) for the Shaytaan.” (Muslim, Book 33: Destiny, Number: 6441)
By moving on, what I mean is that don’t waste your life away in grim contemplation and exhaustion of a million different outcomes of what could have happened.
I understand you. I really do. I am only writing this because I can relate to it. And I am in no way free from the shackles of “what if” any more than you are.
This “what if” – two measly little words – can sow the seeds of doubt, give root to misery and blossom into something that Shaytaan would be proud of displaying in his prize plot of Muslim-downers. First it’s the “what if?”, then it’s the feelings of doubtful evaluation, then the grief, then you feel like slapping yourself and it goes on and on. You find yourself stuck in quicksand and you don’t know how to get out.
It is time for us to sever the root to this problem.
So, what should we do?
Firstly, keep in mind that nothing comes to pass except by the Decree of Allah, the Most Kind. If it happened, then it happened. Nothing could have averted it, nothing could have changed it, and that “anything other” never had a chance to begin with. It came to pass and happen it did. Accept it.
Secondly, know that Allah loves you. More than what the mind can comprehend and what the heart can ponder upon. I mean: this is my Lord and your Lord who has promised us that He will reward us for even the prick of a thorn! Do you think that Allah will not reward you if you persevere in patience?
It happened because He, out of His infinite Wisdom, wanted it to happen. He, the Best of Planners, wanted us to learn something from it – even if we didn’t gain something material at the end of it.
Experience is the best teacher and emotional upheaval is the best landmark to warn us of an impending danger. There is no harm in remembering what you did as long as you now see it as a light to guide you away from the previous mistakes, and not a grim mist to cloud your thoughts and sink you into depression. If your cause of regret is about a sin that you committed then repent and be happy on account of your regret because regret is a form of repentance itself and remember what `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
“The believer sees his sins as if he is sitting at the foot of a mountain fearing that it might fall on him, while the sinner sees his sins as a fly that lands on his nose – he just waves it away.” (Bukhari)
So learn a lesson from what you did because Allah, the Most Kind, is teaching you something.
Thirdly, make sure that you do not repeat what caused your grief. This may seem obvious but Shaytaan has known mankind for millions of years and he knows a billion different ways to make you follow the same plot again. So seek help in Allah, be patient and Allah will turn your grief into happiness.
Whenever you feel down, always remember that Allah says:
“And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him – He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. For Allah will surely accomplish his purpose: verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion.” (Qur’an, 65:2-3)
“…Allah does not wish to impose hardship upon you. Rather, He wishes to purify you; and to complete His blessings upon you; and in order that you may be thankful.” (Qur’an, 5:6)
Thank Allah for giving you the ability to realise you did something wrong. Thank Him for still preserving your faith. Ask Him to help you and guide you. Step on your grief and use it as a launch-pad to propel you to a threshold of servitude towards Allah. And keep strong by reminding yourself of what our beloved Messenger ﷺ taught us from what Allah had taught him:
“No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.” (Bukhari Vol 7, Book 70, Number: 545)