Wednesday, 8 June 2016

My Confession (Sink or Swim)

Source: Jez Arnold (Flickr)
You may have wondered why I don’t write very often. Every once in a while I get asked by someone and I tell them “My posts are not just some spontaneous outburst of expression.” The idea behind each article is usually incubated in my head for weeks, months or even years as it grows with new knowledge and experiences. Then I have to make sense of its shape, dress it in attractive clothing and articulate it in a way that’s comprehensible to a mind other than my own. This excuse I give is true, very true. At the same time, I don’t think that’s what prevents me from writing so often.

You see the thing is, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. It’s a blessing and a curse, really. It’s what makes me especially proud of the quality of this blog and, at the same time, so lousy at updating it. I’m such a perfectionist it paralyses me. Until I have the awesomest idea that I can clearly articulate from start to finish and the prettiest frock to dress it in, my fingertips rarely touch the keyboard. Only the best for my baby and sometimes, that means nothing at all.

I think many of us suffer from this in one way or another. Our unrealistically high standards may stop us from taking a new challenging job, embracing a more righteous lifestyle or giving up something we know we’re better off without. It’s all or nothing.

Unproductive perfectionism often comes down to being fixated on this idea that we control the outcome. We don’t attempt a task because we’re scared we can’t produce something that meets our standards. If we are brave enough to start, we are quick to dismiss the result as not being good enough. Don’t get me wrong, we obviously have a role to play in our own success, but it’s our efforts that get us there, not our innate abilities or even achieving our goal. Let me break this down into three parts…

First, let’s look at this from a purely secular level. Research shows that if someone believes that they’re smart and that’s why they get good grades or they’re good at sports and that’s why they get medals, it can actually hold them back. They believe abilities are fixed so, when they struggle on a task, they’re much more likely to think they’re not cut out for it and quit. If they come across something new or difficult, they’re much less likely to try it at all. Is this inaction sounding familiar? Compare that to someone who believes they got their good grades because they focussed in class and their medals because they trained hard. These people work harder and are more persistent when faced with difficulty. Focussing on our efforts rather than innate talents can make us more productive. We’re more likely to keep going and grow in our abilities over time.

Secondly, a point the secular world might struggle to see, is that it’s not our efforts that bring about the outcome we’re looking for. As perfectionists we think we’re the ones that have to reach this high standard and we can become disappointed in ourselves for not reaching our goal. At these times we have to remember what our Creator shows us about where results actually come from.

Let’s delve into the story of the Prophet Nūḥ (AS) in the Qur’ān. During the flood when Nūḥ was in the ark he saw his son and told him to board. His son refused saying he would head for safety on a mountain instead. Nūḥ had tried to remind him that only Allāh could save him that day but a wave came between them and his son drowned.

When Nūḥ’s son saw the flood, he saw it from a purely materialistic viewpoint and that was his failing. This simple ship made of nothing more than wood and nails would most likely be destroyed in the stormy water. He wasn’t going to take a risk on that. At the same time, it seemed unlikely the flood would reach the top of a mountain. Who has ever seen a flood that severe? So he made a decision. He believed that the means he took is what would save him. However he missed an important understanding his father had tried to warn him of. It’s not your abilities or the means you take that cause a certain result, it is Allāh. Doing x may usually lead to y, but it’s not because x causes y, it’s because Allāh does. He can flip that expected result around whenever He wants to. He saved those on a flimsy wooden ark and yet destroyed those climbing the tallest mountains around for safety.

So why tell Nūḥ to build the ship if he had no control over the outcome anyway? Allāh wants humans to put in the effort. Our actions are what display our obedience to Him and our efforts are where the reward is. At the end of the day though, it is He who will decide what the outcome will be. So when we try to do something awesome, we need to learn to let go. The outcome is not in our hands, the pressure is off. Our trust is in the perfection of Allāh and not in our imperfect selves.

What would it look like if Nūḥ had our unhealthy perfectionist mind-set? Well he probably wouldn’t have started building the ark at all. How’s an ark going to help in a flood that is going to kill every single person in the community? “It’s not going to be good enough!” And if his perfectionism didn’t totally paralyse him and he did build it, he’d have looked at the finished product and thought, “There’s no way this will save us. I’m heading for the mountain!” Either way, something Allāh put success in would have been abandoned. Makes me wonder, how many missed opportunities have I had?

But what if we do try, trust in Allāh and it doesn’t work? What if our flimsy boat doesn’t survive the storm? I don’t know about you but that’s this perfectionist’s worst nightmare. That’s the fear that turns me into a deer stuck in headlights and reigns in a lot of my aspirations. And here comes point number three, something I know with my head but struggle daily to internalise... If we try sincerely for Allāh, no matter what happens, there’s no such thing as failure.

I’ll tell you someone who succeeded in spite of not getting the outcome they wanted; our friend Nūḥ (AS). He was sent to his people to guide them back to worshipping one God alone. What happened? Even after 950 years his people disbelieved. The only way of cleaning up the whole situation to prevent misguidance taking over was for Allāh to intervene. The outcome? A nation was destroyed including his own wife and son. Does that make him a bad prophet, a bad husband, a bad father? Outwardly, it looks like an epic fail and yet this man is honoured like a hero by Allāh in the Qur’ān. His story is mentioned over and over and he’s one of the most honoured messengers. Why? Because success isn’t in the outcome at all. Nūḥ was unbelievably dedicated. He wasn’t getting results and yet he just kept going with a level of patience that we couldn’t manage in just one difficult interaction with an Islamophobe. Likewise, when we don’t get the result we were hoping for, it’s not an indication of our worth or our ultimate success. We may think we’re continuously losing but, in the sight of Allāh, could have won every time.

So, what can we learn from all this- what can I learn from this? That we are imperfect beings that can’t produce perfection. Our smartness, our talents, our religiosity will get us nowhere without us trying. It’s our determination that’s worth celebrating. It’s about the number of drafts, not the polished pieces, it’s the hours worked and not the tasks ticked off the list, it’s the attempts to focus a wandering mind in prayer and not the sweetness felt. We cannot fail if we just persevere.

The effort comes from us and the result is from Allāh. He knows where best to put the blessing. Recognising this, the whole process of trying to achieve something great is transformed. It becomes one of surrendering our fears to Him, complaining to Him and asking for His help along the way. That relationship we build with Allāh will make it worth ‘flunking’ over and over and over again.

I’ll try to remember that next time tumbleweed rolls through this place…


Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Sight for Sore Eyes (Outta this World)

Source: Matteo Paclotti
Knowing man’s tendency to fixate on the bad, I try to avoid the news. I try, but stories of war, corruption, greed and immorality often outsmart my sloppy evading techniques. No matter what I do, the depressing headlines find me. They tell me that people are constantly dying of starvation, that hate speech is ‘telling it like it is’ and that religiosity, the only thing I know to be beautiful and good, is a filthy illness of backward people. They tell it over and over and over until I can see little else but gloom. It’s no wonder people are losing their faith. I get it. Life has little meaning if this mess is all there is.

But that’s the very thing we lose sight of at times when we need it the most. Is this all there is? We experience this world around us with our eyes and ears and it all just seems so sharp and real. So real we often forget; this isn’t all there is at all.

There is another life and it is longer and more potent than anything we go through now. A tiny taste of the Hellfire will make all life’s pleasures disappear and just a touch of Paradise will make someone forget anything unpleasant they ever experienced.

When we look around us, we think we know what we’re seeing. This person is winning, this person is losing. This person is suffering, this person is having fun. This person is loved by everyone and this person is a loser. That’s the vision of someone whose knowledge is limited to their own senses and intellect. But when we look with knowledge from the Creator of the life to come, what will we begin to see?

The Prophet (SAW) asks his companions one day, “Who do you think is the childless among you?” The companions give the most obvious answer, “Those who don’t have any children.” How could it be anything else? And yet the Messenger (SAW) tells them, “No. The childless are those who haven’t sent any of their children ahead.” The companions had answered according to the reality they could see in front of them but the Prophet (SAW) told them to look forward, to look to the next life. You may see someone in sadness, devastated because they’ve lost their beautiful child. And then you see another playing with their little one happily. It’s upsetting. Your senses are telling you that the first is worse off than the second. Use the sight Allāh gave you through knowledge and look again. One’s future is uncertain, their child has yet to grow and make decisions that will lead them to a life of bliss or torment. The other? They have an innocent child waiting for them, absolutely free of sin and ready to take hold of their clothing and lead them into Paradise. Isn’t that a different picture of hardship?

Source: Kentama
Another time the Messenger of Allāh (SAW) asks his companions, “Do you know who the bankrupt one is?” They answer, “The one who doesn’t have any wealth or property.” Again the Prophet (SAW) gets them to take a step back and look at things differently. He tells them the bankrupt one is someone who had the kind of wealth that mattered (prayer, fasting, charity) but he had no respect for the rights of other people. He insulted them, slandered them, took their money and hurt them and so he lost everything. On the Day of Judgement, all his good deeds got given out to those he abused until he had nothing left. Then they got to unload all of their sins onto him and he was thrown into the Fire. We see tyrants, abusers and bullies all the time. They get their power, respect and wealth all at the expense of others and it just seems so unfair. With your new sight look at them again. Look as everything they thought they earned in good deeds gets distributed out and, instead of raising their ranks, raises the people that they hurt instead. Look as this person has everyone’s junk thrown on them until they fall. Who’s got status now?

The world around us bombards us with a YOLO (You Only Live Once) perspective where sin is blissful freedom and religion is unnecessarily difficult or foolish. When we look to society, morality is what brings people pleasure. As long as you can’t see the harm you’re doing to others, it’s OK. Those who act upon the guidance of God seem boring, old fashioned and unpopular. Look again with the perspective of the next life. Who’s enjoying themselves? Who’s free to do whatever they want? Who does everyone want to be associated with? People may be mocking us now but Allāh tells us the believers will be the ones having the last laugh.

Every bit of difficulty we go through to please Allāh will be a source of reward for us. One time the Messenger (SAW) slaughtered a sheep and distributed the majority of it. He asked his wife what was left and she answered, “Nothing except the shoulder.” He replied with his vision on the life to come, “All of it is left except the shoulder.” Anything we sacrifice here for the sake of Allāh is an investment into our eternal life.  It may seem like an initial loss in effort, money, time, comfort, pleasure… but it’s ultimately a whopping big gain. Certainly more so than what we cling on to and we’ll miss out if we can’t look ahead and see that.

This life is just a passing moment in our existence. What’s any number of years compared to an eternity? Looking at this world alone, it hurts. Things seem bleak, unfair and confusing. But as Muslims we can learn to see more than what is in front of us. Our unbelievable steadfastness in staying optimistic and doing good comes from our belief in a merciful Creator, comes from our knowledge that there is another life to come. Justice will be served and efforts will be rewarded. We just need to put on the right glasses to see it.

Source: Helen Cassidy

Recommended Reading & Viewing
Surah Al-Mutaffifeen
Children of Jannah (Support for those who have lost a child)
Doubts About Islam - Sh. Yasir Qadhi (Talk on losing imān in challenging times)

Monday, 13 July 2015

The Warrior's Wedding (Call Me Clingy)

Source: Cupegraf Wallpapers
An interesting news story came up on my Facebook feed the other day, 'Terminally Ill Teen Married His Girlfriend Days Before Passing Away'. It told the story of a 16 year old Muslim boy who fought cancer only for it to return a few months later. On being told he had less than a week to live, he proposed to his girlfriend. They had an Islamic wedding ceremony in hospital and he died just three days later. He told his mother, "If God asks me, I will say this is my wife." This story struck a chord with me. As I reflected, I realised it wasn't just his actions to make things right before God that impressed me but how he conquered the battle he must have been fighting internally before he proposed. .

As human beings we don't like being hypocritical. Ironically, we also don't always do what we believe to be right ether. This puts us in a bind. When our actions go against the attitudes we hold it sends our insides in a twist and we're not too fond of that feeling. So what do we do? Find any way to reduce it. Rather than putting in the effort to change our behaviour, we often take the easy route and change our attitudes instead. Psychologists call it dissonance reduction, "making your view of the world fit with how you feel or what you've done." Sometimes, in a fight to reduce our own discomfort, we'll go to the extent of totally ignoring clear evidence to the contrary of what we want to believe is true.

A classic example is of a smoker who struggles to quit even though they know they're hurting themselves. With the same factual knowledge about the dangers of smoking, they're still more likely to rationalise it using distorted logic than a non or ex-smoker. We've all heard, "My friend's 90 year old grandma smoked all her life and she's fit as anything."

As Muslims, our world view is based on the all-encompassing knowledge of the One who created the world, our laws are based on the rulings of the One who will judge us when we stand before Him, subḥānah (He is far from imperfection). We know the Qur'ān couldn't have been written by anyone other than God and that Muḥammad (SAW) could have been nothing other than a messenger of God. So we committed to practice islām (submission), putting aside our own limited views and adopting those of Allāh.

But we're human beings and we are going to make mistakes (because that's just how we roll). Perhaps we can't understand the wisdom in an instruction or fail in disciplining ourselves to act upon it. This causes a huge uneasiness inside of us. We know this action is one we want to practice but are wishing or acting like it isn't. Over time, that feeling of being a bad dishonest person begins to fester. So what do we do? We subconsciously look for ways out.

The easiest and most drastic way to let go of the anxiety is to leave Islam altogether. 'I'm not acting like a Muslim so I guess I don't believe in Islam.' I don't think I need to point out how illogical it would be to forfeit salvation in what you know to be true based on your own fallible behaviour. May Allāh protect us from judging the validity of His message by our own actions.

For most of us, our religion is an undeniable truth that can't be put to the side. So when we find ourselves continuously acting against or disliking an Islamic ruling, our instinct to reduce our guilt is directed instead upon questioning the ruling itself. Instead of acknowledging we're finding something difficult, we can fall into the trap of justifying our actions with supposedly religious rationalisations. We all know our own vices. It could be lessening the importance of an obligation we find too difficult to carry out, convincing ourselves it's just recommended. We might dismiss a sin, explaining it away as irrelevant to our situation. We 'Fatwa Shop' to find an opinion that's more in line with our own comfort or we just avoid researching it at all in hopes the truth will just disappear. We look for loopholes, claim exceptional circumstances and adopt alternative interpretations that quieten that voice inside that's telling us 'You're a bad person for not doing what God wants you to.'
"When you feel anxiety over your actions, you will seek to lower the anxiety by creating a fantasy world in which your anxiety can’t exist, and then you come to believe the fantasy is reality." - David McRaney
We need to be truly honest with ourselves (and we know we all like to see ourselves as honest). There are issues in Islam in which Allāh, in His wisdom, left room for differences of opinion and these are often minor (e.g. what constitutes ḥalāl meat in a Christian-majority country). When we take a fiqhi opinion that is more lenient than others within Islam, we really need to be sure it's based on evidence and not ease. There are other issues, however, which Allāh made clear as day. Ṣalāh, Zakāh and obedience to parents are obligations that are punishable if not carried out. Backbiting, slander, interest, fornication and homosexuality are explicitly forbidden by Allāh, no matter how common they may be or how much the society around us may see them as acceptable. We do not have the authority to change that. To deny the code of ethics that has been given to us by our Creator is questioning His unfathomable wisdom and our very own claim to be muslims, submitters to Him. Going against explicit ayāt is a very risky game to play.
"It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allāh and His Messenger have decided something that they have any choice about it. And whoever disobeys Allāh and His Messenger is clearly misguided." (Aḥzab, 33:36)
A Mu'min (Believer) doesn't pick and choose from the rulings of Allāh, even when they fail to practice them (and sometimes they do). When a Believer feels anxiety over their actions, they know they can't reduce it by changing divine law. So what do they do? Like the 16 year old groom, they take the hard way out and channel their emotional state into a sincere resolve to change. They take precautions against returning to the sin, however hard it is. A Believer uses that feeling of unease to get closer to the One they disobeyed. They humble themselves, turn back to Allāh and plead desperately for forgiveness.

But breaking habits can seem like an insurmountable task. What if we struggle to muster up that determination to change? We do have another way of dealing with our cognitive dissonance. It may not be as honourable but certainly has it's own virtue. That is to cling on to it for dear life.

Forcing ourselves to be fixed in our views of morality while our behaviour doesn't conform is going to irritate like an itch we just need to scratch. Making ourselves focus when we hear verses and narrations that go against what we personally want is difficult. But that's the internal fight we have to commit to until we're strong enough to move forward, that's the fight we have to take on to call ourselves muslims. To sin and excuse it is challenging our Master. To keep sinning and hate it in our heart is a sign that at least there is some God consciousness remaining. That's worth holding on to.

Source: Cupegraf Wallpapers
All that anxiety and uneasiness we keep feeling until we have made a change has a meaningful place; gushing out in humility as we hold out our hands to Allāh like ragged beggars whispering, 'I'm finding it so hard, Allāh. I want you to be happy with me. Please please please help me.' That vulnerability with Allāh will transform our relationship with Him. That humility and sincerity will open doors to changes we never thought we'd be able to make. Bit by bit, step by teeny weeny step, it will get easier and that battle we didn't give up on will reap the most beautiful spoils.

I often wondered why Allāh loves repentance so much. Perhaps that's in part because He knows of the hidden battle raging within. He knows the strength it takes to crush our ego, admit that we're wrong and change our behaviour instead of our minds. Perhaps it's because Allāh knows that we used our guilt, and the instinctive need to reduce it, for its true purpose.

"O Allah! You are my Master! None has the right to be worshipped but You. You created me and I am Your slave, and I am faithful to my covenant and my promise as much as I can. I seek refuge with You from all the evil I have done. I acknowledge before You all the blessings You have bestowed upon me, and I confess to You all my sins. So I entreat You to forgive my sins, for nobody can forgive sins except You."
[Virtues, Arabic and transliteration of this du'ā in Bukhāri]

Monday, 26 January 2015

Zebra Crossing (Ain't Nothin' Lasts)

Source: Photos Public Domain
It's amazing how quickly things can change. Two weeks ago my life was very different; the people around me, the sounds I was used to hearing, what I spend my day doing, how I was perceived. Two weeks ago I left the familiar comfort of England with its homes small and close enough to give you a hug, to the wide, open, (mostly) sunny California. Other than the weekend of rain that welcomed me on arrival, I feel like I'm seeing practically every part of daily life through some kind of warped glass, like everything has its own American flavour reminding me I'm not in familiar territory anymore. Even something as simple as crossing the road is a task I have to re-learn. ('Wait, I could get fined for walking across the road?!') I'd say it was like a baby having to learn bit by bit how the world works, but it isn't. I already have a pretty detailed map laid out of how that goes; it just doesn't match up with what I'm experiencing. I thought I'd be moving myself and a few suitcases of possessions but instead I'm having to shift a lot of my thoughts, ideas and expectations around too. Needless to say, it's all a little destabilising.

And in all the hauling and pushing and pulling around of brain thoughts it's inevitable that some old dusty ones are going to find their way out into the sunlight again. For me its been an interesting reflection that couldn't be more relevant to the confusion I'm experiencing on a daily basis. It fascinates me that, as fragile humans with limited mental capacity, we just can't get a grip on the fact that change is going to come; it's going to come and big fat keep coming and there's just no way you can hide from it.

There's a story in Sūrat Al-Kahf of a man who had two luscious gardens. They consistently produced fruit, he had a good work force and pretty much all this world has to offer. In modern day terms he's a successful business man and his income has been safe, steady and abundant. Not surprisingly, he gets used to his state and becomes a little boastful of it as if it was all his doing and that God must be loving him. What interests me here though is what he says when he enters his garden. One day he goes in and declares 'I don't think this will ever perish.' It's funny because from the outside, it really seems delusional. Even with no knowledge of agriculture, how many ways do we know of that plants can be totally destroyed? Too much rain, too little rain, an infestation of something, someone sabotaging it, an animal getting in... Not to mention the most obvious thing of all, ain't nothin' lasts forever. And yet this man believed it so strongly, he said it out loud. As absurd as this is, we do it and feel it all the time.

We all get used to the blessings in our lives: our family members, our jobs, our eyesight, our mental health. We get used to it and think ourselves awfully 'good' when we recognise the benefits and are grateful for them. But when they go, when our health deteriorates rapidly, when a loved one passes, , even when we lose a measly phone, we go into a state of denial and disbelief. 'This can't really be happening. I just had it a second ago and now it's gone.' Sometimes we just totally blank, as if we can't quite process what is happening. Sadness is understandable but why the confusion? It's as if a part of us thought we would always have it, a part of us believed things would never change. 'I didn't think this would ever perish!' our hearts are crying out, so when things do change, we don't quite know what is happening.

One of the times I have to remind myself of this the most is whenever I'm facing some kind of difficulty. Distressful situations too can change. In the moment, we don't think so, we think the relationship can never be mended, we think we can never change a trait we hate in ourselves, we think the obstacle in our path is far too insurmountable. We convince ourselves we're stuck in a rut and things can only go downhill from here: we will always feel frustrated at this person, we will never find that opportunity we're waiting for, we will always fall in the same way. To make matters worse, our memories in those moments just confirms that. Our recall is affected by our current mood so when we're sad, we more easily remember times in our lives when we were upset or depressed (true story, studies said so,). It becomes much more difficult to picture the times that contradict whatever we're feeling. It seems even when looking back in our lives, we don't much like processing that things actually changed. But they did. They change and they will just keep changing. The challenges you're facing now are going to pass, you're going to find some way to get through them, just like you did last time and the time before. The pain you feel due to your hardship is going to lose it's potency over time, you're going to find a way to cope, you are going to have happier moments again. And if you don't believe that, if you believe your situation is fixed or that you don't have the capacity to deal, then you're forgetting the Change card you can play at any time; du'ā. Don't tell me you don't think Allāh can't make a way for you. He made everything from nothing. I think a few adjustments in one tiny human's life is within His capacity, subḥānah.
"And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion?" (Ḥadīd, 57:20)
Allāh didn't promise us 'forever' in this world, only in the next. No, this world is transient, fleeting, even deceptive. It comes and it goes, it has highs and it has lows. We can be mistaken in what we see, think or hear and sometimes change has happened before we even know it. Allāh gives us the example of vegetation that flourishes in the rain and then, over time, withers and becomes yellow. Everything in this world will turn yellow too. It's not made to stay with us.

The blessings we have are temporary, no matter how long we've had them. They're not ours to keep forever so we need to try and appreciate them as if they might go at any moment. When we lose them, we have to remind ourselves that it's inevitable things would change and use it to connect us back to the only constant who does not. Lastly, we should find comfort in knowing that pain will pass. It's just a matter of time before that situation turns yellow and is replaced by another. That's the nature of life. Perhaps over time I can even get used to zebra crossings where the cars don't actually stop*. It's amazing how quickly things can change.

Source: Scot Duke

* Out of respect to my new North American neighbours, I thought it only right to translate this term and explain my statement which may be somewhat baffling to foreign ears (eyes?). A zebra crossing is a marked crosswalk. This may be shocking to hear but, in the UK, cars actually stop when they see a pedestrian at the side of one waiting to cross. It is very rare to see a car drive over it while you are on the crossing itself. That would just be rude. They never have buttons to press, the markings on the road (and sometimes lights on each side) are enough to inform the drivers that this is a pedestrian zone and the walker has the rights here.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

A Sign to Fill My Sky (Summer Rain)

"Among His signs is that He shows you lightening, a source of fear and eager hope..." (Room, 30:24)
Source: Kelin Gray (Over the Co-op Building, Manchester)
It was the 21st Ramaḍān, in the last third of the night. Manchester's close and sticky heat wave finally broke and the sky roared with thunder. Every few seconds it got louder, almost making sure you don't mistake it for a man made racket. I closed the light and went to my bedroom window to look out, my thoughts instantly with the people of Gaza and any other war afflicted country where roars like these meant panic, fear and death. It seems to have been a collective reflection as, while I stood, statuses were filling my Facebook feed echoing the same thoughts.
"Thunder and all I can think of is F16 over Palestines and the sounds that of bombs"
"Alhumdulillah for shelter. The mothers in Gaza are mourning and it's not thunder that's blasting in the sky!"
I felt like the timing was just too precise, the thunder just too loud, that this was a reminder from Allāh for us to step out of our shoes and see our situation for what it really is.  I was comfortable and safe in the shelter of my home. I was safe - can you ever put a price on that?
"Among His signs is that He shows you lightening, a source of fear and eager hope and sends down water from the sky..." (Room, 30:24)
The clouds burst and rain began gushing down, an instant prompt to make du'ā while they are mustajab (guaranteed to be answered). All night I had been making du'ā for myself, for my loved ones. My du'ās spread to include those who weren't rejuvenated and inspired by the thunder they were hearing. In that moment of darkness in the still depth of the night, I felt Allāh's presence more intensely. I knew He was listening.

Fajr time came and before I settled myself into bed, I opened my curtains to watch the spectacle of Allāh outside my bedroom. I could now see the flashes of lightening without the constant roars of thunder. I lay in bed watching in awe as I drifted to sleep.

I have always loved watching storms from the security of my own home. The grandness, the power and our total lack of control leave me in wonder and with a sweet sense of comfort. Allāh is in absolute, ultimate control. He calls the shots here and all we can do is trust in Him and let go. It makes you feel kind of free.

And that's essentially what Tawakkul (trust in Allāh) is, isn't it? Knowing that Allāh orchestrates all of this with exact precision and wisdom. It's easier to see in the sky which is all big and out of human hands, but it applies to everything else as well. Whether it's a people being squished by oppressors corrupted by power or not getting that dream job we thought we were perfect for. We are tiny creatures who weep and throw our arms about in frustration, limited by our vision. We are not able to look at the situation from above the stormy sky, outside of the boundaries of space and time.
"Among His signs is that He shows you lightening, a source of fear and eager hope and sends down water from the sky, bringing the dead earth back to life by it. There are certainly signs in that for people who use their intellect." (Room, 30:24)

Source: Tom Nokes (Royton, Oldham)
Allāh can bring the dead earth back to life. No matter how hopeless a situation seems, Allāh can transform it in a way our human minds can't even comprehend. We need to trust in the One who can fill the sky with light and bring down rain that keeps the whole earth in balance.

Allāh fills the world with signs for us to remind us He is here and He has a plan that will bring everything right. So keep holding on to hope.