Overcoming Hardships Spiritual Purification With the Divine

Take Back Your Heart

Ocean of DunyaPart I | Part II

No one likes to fall. And few people would ever choose to drown. But in struggling through the ocean of this life, sometimes it’s so hard not to let the world in. Sometimes the ocean does enter us. The dunya does seep into our hearts.

And like the water that breaks the boat, when dunya enters, it shatters our heart.  It shatters the boat. Recently, I was reminded of what a broken boat looks like, of what happens when you let everything in. I was reminded because I saw someone, just like me, fall in love too much with this life and seek to be filled by the creation. So the ocean of dunya shattered her boat, as it had shattered mine, and she fell out into the water.  But she stayed down too long, and didn’t know how to come back up or what to hold on to.

So she drowned.

If you allow dunya to own your heart, like the ocean that owns the boat, it will take over. You will sink down to the depths of the sea. You will touch the ocean floor. And you will feel as though you were at your lowest point. Entrapped by your sins and the love of this life, you will feel broken. Surrounded by darkness. That’s the amazing thing about the floor of the ocean. No light reaches it.

But, this dark place is not the end. Remember that the darkness of night precedes the dawn. And as long as your heart still beats, this is not the death of it. You don’t have to die here. Sometimes, the ocean floor is only a stop on the journey. And it is when you are at this lowest point, that you are faced with a choice. You can stay there at the bottom, until you drown. Or you can gather pearls and rise back up—stronger from the swim, and richer from the jewels.

If you seek Him, God can raise you up, and replace the darkness of the ocean, with the light of His sun. He can transform what was once your greatest weakness into your greatest strength, and a means of growth, purification and redemption. Know that transformation sometimes begins with a fall. So never curse the fall. The ground is where humility lives. Take it. Learn it. Breathe it in. And then come back stronger, humbler and more aware of your need for Him. Come back having seen your own nothingness and His greatness. Know that if you have seen that Reality, you have seen much. For the one who is truly deceived is the one who sees his own self—but not Him.  Deprived is the one who has never witnessed his own desperate need for God.  Reliant on his own means, he forgets that the means, his own soul, and everything else in existence are His creation.

Seek God to bring you back up, for when He does, He will rebuild your ship. The heart that you thought was forever damaged will be mended. What was shattered will be whole again. Know that only He can do this. Seek Him.

And when He saves you, beg forgiveness for the fall, feel remorse over it—but not despair.  As Ibn ul Qayyim (ra) has said: “Satan rejoiced when Adam (peace be upon him) came out of Paradise, but he did not know that when a diver sinks into the sea, he collects pearls and then rises again.”

There is a powerful and amazing thing about tawbah (repentance) and turning back to Allah (swt). We are told that it is a polish for the heart. What’s amazing about a polish is that it doesn’t just clean. It makes the object that is polished even shinier than it was before it got dirty. If you come back to God, seek His forgiveness, and refocus your life and heart on Him, you have the potential to be even richer than if you’d never fallen at all. Sometimes falling and coming back up gives you wisdom and humility that you may never otherwise have had. Ibn ul Qayyim (ra) writes:

“One of the Salaf (Pious Predecessors) said: “Indeed a servant commits a sin by which he enters Paradise; and another does a good deed by which he enters the Fire.” It was asked: How is that? So he replied: “The one who committed the sin, constantly thinks about it; which causes him to fear it, regret it, weep over it and feel ashamed in front of his Lord—the Most High—due to it. He stands before Allah, broken-hearted and with his head lowered in humility. So this sin is more beneficial to him than doing many acts of obedience, since it caused him to have humility and humbleness—which leads to the servant’s happiness and success—to the extent that this sin becomes the cause for him entering Paradise. As for the doer of good, then he does not consider this good a favor from his Lord upon him. Rather, he becomes arrogant and amazed with himself, saying: I have achieved such and such, and such and such. So this further increases him in self-adulation, pride and arrogance—such that this becomes the cause for his destruction.”

Allah (swt) reminds us in the Qur’an to never lose hope. He says: “Say, ‘O My servants who have transgressed against their souls [by sinning], despair not of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful,’” (39:53).

And so, this is a call to all those who have become enslaved by the tyranny of the self, imprisoned in the dungeon of the nafs (self) and desires.  It is a call to all those who have entered the ocean of dunya, who have sunk into its depths, and become trapped by its crushing waves. Rise up. Rise up to the air, to the Real world above the prison of the ocean. Rise up to your freedom. Rise up and come back to life. Leave the death of your soul behind you. Your heart can still live and be stronger and purer than it ever was. Does not the polish of tawbah remake the heart even more beautiful than it was? Remove the veil you have sewn with your sins. Remove the veil between you and Life, between you and Freedom, between you and Light—between you and God.  Remove the veil and rise up. Come back to yourself. Come back to where you began. Come back Home. Know that when all the other doors have shut in your face, there is One that is always open. Always. Seek it. Seek Him and He will guide you through the waves of the cruel ocean, into the mercy of the sun.

This world cannot break you—unless you give it permission. And it cannot own you unless you hand it the keys – unless you give it your heart.  And so, if you have handed those keys to dunya for a while—take them back. This isn’t the End. You don’t have to die here. Reclaim your heart and place it with its rightful owner:



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.


  • assalamalilkum dear sister Yasmin

    I have discovered your work a few weeks ago and ever since it has had a profound affect in my life and way of thinking..keep up this excellent work.

    JazakiAllah khairan for all the wonderful thought proving articles you have written.

  • MashaAllah, what a great message spoken so eloquently. We all know this truth, but the format of this reminder is truly uplifting. It’s as if a comforting and motivational talk was happening in my hear as I read it. Thank you very much sister Yasmin, I found this article exactly when I needed it. May Allah give you a great blessing for your work and make it means for your arrival in Jannah.

  • wow! Subhannallah; speechless… may Allah grant us the strength and hidayat(guidance) to reclaim our hearts and focus on His deen. Amin


  • Subhan Allah, I felt like my heart was polished just reading this. Jzk for another awesome reminder!

  • MashaAllah Sr Yasmin, this is beautiful. I met you this past Friday in Columbus and just wanted to say that your lesson and this article mean a lot. I converted to Islam a year ago and have been struggling so hard ever since. Al-hamdulilah, Allah (swt) chose me for this deen, and gave me the strength I needed to rise up from my lowest moments.

  • Masha’Allah. May Allah continue to use you as light for His servants everywhere. May Allah allow you to be the one that benefits most from these works. May Allah safeguard and protect you and your family. Aameena aameen.

    • As Salaamu Alaikum, So inspirational and factual, al-Haqq. I volunteer in a Correctional Facilities and share concept during Jumu’ah. I tell them I got it from sister Yasmin Mogahed.
      Continued blessings to you and your family.

  • If there was a “love it” button I would click it for this article. Something that helped me a couple years back was reading that despair is actually a trick of shaytan (the devil) that he loves to use upon humanity. He uses it to cause us to focus on our sins and our past and to give up hope and to give up on trying and even to the point where one can start to think that Allah won’t forgive them. Shaytan wants hopelessness & despair to build till it consumes man. If these thoughts EVER cross your mind. Know exactly where the source is, the devil. Remember God and know that it is He that is Most Forgiving and Most Merciful. Forgiving yourself is not a requirement for forgiveness from God, because He is more forgiving than our own mothers. We only need to turn to Him and never lose hope. 

    There’s a Hadith in Sahih Muslim that says basically if there were a group of people who were did not sin Allah would replace them with people who sin. Why be here unless we can improve. If at the bottom there’s nowhere to go but up. 

    Another good article using different hadiths:

  • assalamalaikum sister yasmin,these beautiful words reminded me of sura qadar.Subhan Allah and jazakAllah khair.

  • Jzk khairan!!!!!!!! Amazing way of calling!!! May Allah guide us always and give us the strength to follow the right path! Aameen

  • amazing how, through His creation, He guides us. just what i needed at this moment. mashaAllah waalhamdulillah wa astaghfirullah.

  • Asalamualikum…
    Wonderfull article.I don’t have words to pen down how i feel after reading the article.I See my self reading this article.. and i can feel the power of the words in the article….
    Alhamdulillah may allah reward you for your work and may allah bless you … ameen..
    Jazakallhu khair
    Abdul Haseeb

  • You are such a talented and gifted writer mashAllah and your articles are consistently so inspiring and heartfelt. May Allah (swt) reward you for your sincerity and continue to give you taufeeq in all that you do for His sake. Ameen!

  • Just from reading the 2 articles the author eloquently talks about the importance of keeping the heart clean and how to cleanse it but what is the actual process protecting/filtering the spiritual organ from the world? A detail of strategies one can use to keep the world ‘at arms length’ (i.e. the attached/detached person) whilst operating within it would be useful. Otherwise its very easy for everyone to become a recluse 🙁

    • there is a book by ustaz Khurram Murad called In the Early Hours that explain step by step on the topic of purifying one’s heart. Imam Suhaib Webb also has recorded a series of lectures on it on youtube. It is a very2 good book. It gives you clear instructions of what to do (and think).

    • You should really check out a book called The Purification of the Soul, compiled from the works of Ibn al Hanbali, Ibn al Qayyim, and al Ghazali. Beautiful, beautiful book subhanAllah.

  • Assalamu alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu,
    Jazakumullah ta’ala ahsanal jaza wa khairan katheeran katheeran katheera fiddarain. This is exactly what I needed right now, I cannot even express how I feel at the moment after reading this, its like I have no words, and I dont think I can ever thank you enough, you really have shown a new light to me, I was just thinking like an hour ago about myself, and I was feeling so down, had totally lost any hope, I and now I feel as if this post is written for me, its so perfect, it has the answer to every thought I had. Really really sis, may ALLAH ta’ala shower his rehmah, barakat, maghfirah, blessings, and happeniess on you, in the dunya and akhirah both, may you never have to see any sorrow in your life, May he accept you and your a3maal and always be happy with you. aameen thumma aameen. This is the most I can do in return, pray for you from the depth of my heart.
    Im sure theres a lot I can benefit from your sacred knowledge, mashaALLAH ta’ala.

  • B.t.w sorry, i forgot to add, I really really want to repost this article in my personal blog (www.theroad2jannah.blogspot.com), and I will follow all the guidelines inshaALLAH ta’ala. If there is any problem, please do let me know, I will immediately delete the post.

  • May you be blessed with the light of Allah’s face by which every matter is set right in the heavens and the earth and in this life and the next.. Ameen.
    I will Reclaim my heart and place it with its rightful owner:!!!!
    Thank you for the reminder.

    • Wow. You know, that is literally my favorite line of my favorite duaa in the whole world (Prophet’s duaa of Ta’if). SubhannAllah. Duaa is a priceless gift. Esp. the duaa of a one for another. Thank you. May you be blessed with the same.


      • Assalamu Alaikum sister.
        Is it ok if use your materials for short bayans or something?In other languages.

        Jazakillah khair!

        P.S you resemble my fav cousin. Love her and also you sis.

  • It is Allah mercy favoured on me to always remember my sin to be insh’Allah always in return to Him (swa). Really it is not always that when the oceen of Dunya catchs me, there is no salvation. Repentance is really the polish that clean my Heart to be more brighter than ever. We seek always Allah repentance and be always in dire need of Him till we meet Him (swa).

  • This article captured my attention. I love the analogy to the ocean and dunya. Thank you for writing and sharing. May Allah bless you.

  • great article. my only question is this: the article sort of pre-supposes that a miserable or messed up heart stems from love of dunya.

    islamically speaking, is this ALWAYS the case?

  • Al-Hummdiallah! Beautiful article Imam. It has inspired me. Thank Allah and thank you Imam.

  • As Salamu Alaikum wa Rehmatulahi wa Barakatuhu

    A humble request, please use the word “Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala”, it would enhance the beauty of your article.


  • MashAllah! Very true! Eyes,ears n hearts r all Allah’s gifts. We shld cherish them n b thankful but nevr giv them away!

  • subhannallah make me cry theres tears on my laptop that i’m using llool just made me think i was one of those who let dunya overtake me
    mashalah sister Yasmin
    love the heart and soul articles

  • Salaamu alikum,I find this article really interresting and everyone must rememmber himself to not be very proud from himself and for what he achieved as you said “such that this becomes the cause for his destruction”.the arrogance of the self help shaytan to go inside the man and move him away from ALLAH.baraka ALLAH feeki my sister.We shouldn’t love dunya as we will stay forever and we shouldn’t isolate from dunya and neglect the importance of ourself.

  • This is so beautiful masha’Allah. There was a reason I stumbled across this today, the significance and impact it will have on my life will be huge. For some that might be deemed an exaggeration or a little melodramatic, but for so long I’ve been trapped by the ‘darkness of the dunya’ as you put it, and I’ve neglected what is important – my faith in the Almighty.

    I had my heartbroken by someone I loved and for almost 3 years I could not see past that pain to the point where I didn’t want life to go on. I lost that connection with Allah because I was angry and hurt, but insh’Allah I can change that.

    Thank you again sister.

  • I just read something amazing about attachments:

    “Do not invest your happiness in the outside world, which is constantly changing and can never bring you real peace. Why not place your happiness in God, the unchanging, Who will never let you down? Though we may not be physically paralyzed, we paralyze ourselves with mad ideas of experiences, people, and objects that we believe we need to keep us happy, and then we ‘lean out’ on them in a false dependence that only keeps us sedated into believing that we are less than we are

    All life has in it the potential to bring suffering; when we give up craving, or attachment, then and only then does the pain stop. We must be brutally honest with ourselves in assessing what brings happiness and what brings sadness in our lives. We must clearly discern between fleeting happiness and real happiness. People, objects, and experiences can make us “high,” but the high is not whole, because we believe that it is the thing that has given it to us. We would give God’s power to a thing. If we believe that someone or something can give us God from outside, we have denied that He is already inside.” [Cohen, The Dragon Doesn’t Live Here Anymore]

  • wow subhaannahah
    this helped me so much because i was feeling so so upset
    today because of school and dunya-like and material things and i didnt realise what deprived really meant
    and this is so healling mashallah

  • Salaam

    As a regular reader of your articles, I am very sure that you can write a book based on the spiritual aspects of Islam, and Insha-Allah that book will bring a great spiritual awakening in the hearts and minds of many Muslims, because your writings are very inspiring.

    Keep up the good work..

    May Allah Bless you with peace in this life and in the hereafter..

  • Masha’ Allah Tabarak Allah..
    Sister Yasmeen, jazaki Allah khair. and all of those who are involved in putting up this amazing article.. may Allah guide us to rise back to the Truth which is so high, from our whims and desires which are so low…

  • This is indeed one of the most beautiful article that gives me motivation and and a good reminder.
    Thank you.

  • Lovely, beautiful…your text is perfectly written and really makes people get thoughtful. Unfortunately most of the today’s people let the ocean enter their hearts and to be honest the water made the ship even sink if we consider our current society. It is secularity what I fear most. Because secularity causes distance between human beings. May Allah lead all the people the right way…

    wa sallam

  • Yasmin sister , you have wriiten just awesome artical , have changed my thinking of living really . Alhumdullilah . Ya Allah help me to bring to the right path of ur greatest servant 🙂

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