Whoever quoted that the only things certain in life are taxes and death forgot to add one more thing.

Challenges. Or as we Muslims like to call them, tests.

The Quran has many verses to the effect of "Allah tests those he loves"; "Allah does not burden a soul with more than they can handle"; and "Allah loves to hear the prayers of those who are being tested". Life is not a cake walk for anyone, regardless of religion, and with Muslims, we believe that our time on earth will be spent navigating through many life tests.

I personally find great solace in the fact that these tests are for a reason. I don't know what I'd do without my faith and I'm thankful everyday that I have Islam (Allah more specifically!) to lean on.

But I'm also human and there are times when I need to be with the emotions I'm feeling. I need to be OK with feeling down, or lonely, or momentarily hopeless about a situation. Deep down, I know that there are reasons for why I feel this way, and while praying and being spiritual does help, so too does the release of emotion.

It's been an interesting year for me, and the journey only seems to become more interesting. Just when I think I've got enough tests to match the threshold of what I can handle, I seem to be handed another. Please don't confuse what I'm saying for ungratefulness towards what I've been blessed with. I'm well aware of what I have in my life and I very thankful and humbled. Being thankful and overwhelmed from life's challenges are not mutually exclusive. They can take up the same space and time, as they do for many individuals.

I'm blessed to have an amazing support system around me. I lean on them a lot and they've always been there in response. There are times however, when a support system can't stop a sudden flow of tears, or blanking out and staring into space, wondering what you were about to do but can't remember. The brain is an amazingly complicated organ, and I've learned that you need to feel what you need to feel before you can move on with your day. Problems arise when feelings are repressed or when they completely take over being functional in any aspect of your life. Neither are healthy, so a balance is required to navigate emotional times.

We're all going through "something" at one point or another in our lives. Some of us are great at having a stoic public face, but then we may crumble a little in private. Others cannot put on that good of a poker face. In either case, there are things we can do and watch our for others:

  • If you haven't heard from a friend in a while, check in with them. More often than not, they're busy. But there may be something else going on. If they don't feel comfortable sharing or want to, the fact that you reached out to say "hello" will mean a lot.
  • We are all busy. It seems that as time goes on, we get busier, and the days go by faster. Make an effort to reach out and connect with people. Whether it's your own friends or family, or doing a random act of kindness for someone, do something. You never know when one act of kindness will brighten up someone's day.
  • Unless you know a person well enough to use religion as a means to support them, please don't. Listen before you respond. We sometimes need to be listened to without being responded to. If you don't know what to say in response, then that's ok, just empathize with the person and how tough their situation is. And ask them if you can do anything to help, like chat again or hang out. Keep it simple. They're not looking for a psychologist in you, just an ear :)
  • Learn and understand the term "sabr" or patience. Sabr does mean sitting and doing nothing until the answer comes to you or enduring hardship that is physically or emotionally harmful because you feel that will be rewarded. No. Allah gave us hearts to pray with and brains to use. Sabr is an active sort of patience, where you turn to Allah for guidance and continue to move forward in the best manner you think possible
  • Don't mistake displays of emotions for ungratefulness. Muslims are quite horrible for jumping the gun and calling someone "ungrateful". We tend to see situations as black and white when they are far from it. For example, I can't thank Allah enough for all the blessings I have and then thirty minutes later, I may be shedding tears over something incredibly challenging that I'm dealing with. This is ok! Sadness and ungratefulness are two different emotions, and they can therefore be felt simultaneously. 

    To all of you who are reading this and struggling with challenges/tests, I hope that you are soon blessed with ease and the answers/direction/calmness that you're seeking :)


    1. Salam,
      You don't know me but just wanted to say that the first bit of your post was something I really needed to hear. Thank you.

      1. Salaam Stacey, I'm glad you found some comfort in my words! May Allah make things easy for you :)


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