Sometimes it feels like it’s just too much – these fluctuations in our iman, the repeated sinning, the feeling that “I just don’t deserve Allah’s mercy.” The tests always feel like punishments. There is a constant worry about the future: my marriage, my money, my career, my ummah (community)… And some difficulties just feel like they are too great to overcome. We know we’re not supposed to ask this, but the question at the back of our minds is, “Why me?”
We have all heard that we should never despair of Allah’s Mercy. And on the surface, we try not to, but Shaytaan (the Devil) has a trick. We tend to despair of ourselves and our incapacity to change things, especially the inner turmoil that we feel. And the effect of this is basically the same as despairing of Allah’s mercy. We do not always accept that Allah can take us out of the situation we are in and we don’t need to ‘deserve’ the trouble; Allah isn’t punishing us and we don’t need to be perfect.
This doesn’t mean, however, that we shouldn’t strive, or take ourselves to account when we do mess up. The key is to develop our relationship with Allah during that trouble. If we know Allah, no situation is too hopeless. No sadness is ever permanent. We perceive trials as they are meant to be perceived – as tests of our trust in Allah, forcing us to put our knowledge into practice and bringing us closer to Him. These trials could potentially be a punishment too, that is if we let it affect us negatively by completely turning away from Him because of our sadness. But our awareness of our own state and our understanding of Allah’s Mercy allows us to turn the punishment into something positive that is manifested through repentance to Allah, alongside increasing in hasanat (good deeds) in order to erase the bad deeds.
The first exercise is for us to consciously realize that Allah knows. Whatever grief we go through, whatever hardship we endure, we must understand that we are never alone. Even if we feel abandoned by the world and those closest to us, Allah is there. He reminds us in the Qur’an,
“Fear not. Indeed, I am with you [both]; I hear and I see.” (20:46)
As long as we begin by recognizing that Allah is with us and He is close to us, there remains a solution to our inner worries. There are things we need to know in order to develop our relationship with Allah. Then there are things we need to do in order to maintain that closeness to Allah. And finally, there are things we need to aspire for to achieve the ideal relationship with our Lord. We pray that by the end of the series, we will all have developed a stronger relationship with Allah.
Note: some of us suffer from clinical depression or similar medical conditions, and this needs to be dealt with by a professional. Working on our relationship with Allah no doubt helps, but sometimes more than a spiritual fix may be needed.