By Muznah Madeeha
6 July 2018
When I am in pain, I complain. I complain
to God, my select group of loving confidants, and my trusted journal and I
consider myself blessed to have this 3-tier support to fall back on with a head
full of worries. I complain because that is me speaking my truth, and asking
for the help I need. By acknowledging and expressing with honesty what my body
and heart are experiencing, I find the energy to move on and look for solutions
to my problems.
But I was not always like this. I used to
be the one who was quick to equate complaints and dissatisfaction with
ingratitude, and I defined having patience as being content in hardship. I have
spent years feeling guilty over my inability to be all-accepting in hard times.
I would often interpret that as ‘self-obsession’, and seek His forgiveness,
while brutally chastising myself.
Then I got pregnant with my second child. A
pregnancy that I wasn’t ready for and came with health complications. I was
shocked, overwhelmed, and even angry. That afternoon I fell to my knees and I
just couldn’t lie to God anymore – lie that I was willing to bear this; lie
that I am grateful for what was happening… this time, I told Him I was deeply
unhappy, that I wasn’t prepared, and that it all felt so unfair.
And He listened. He just listened to it
all. It was surreal… I felt enchanted; like I was walking into a bright, vast,
solacing embrace. Slowly and gently, I felt relieved and comforted. I was still
sad and knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but my anguish felt validated. I
felt understood; I felt honest. My heart was not heavy anymore with the of
feeling what it did. I didn’t need to apologize to God, or anyone, for being
overwhelmed. I felt instead that God was already ready to hold me tighter
because He knew I will be needing that. I felt Him and I were coming to some
sort of understanding: that this was going to be difficult, but that He will be
there for me. I was experiencing gratitude in a way which I had never felt
before. My honest Shikwaa to God made me feel closer to Him, and more
hopeful of His Help.
Since that day, I look at complaints,
struggles, patience, gratitude, and blessings in a different way. I have strung
them together into prayer beads. They stick close together to enhance my
remembrance of Allah.
No Shame in Pain
I am not ashamed anymore of expressing pain
to God, or to anyone. I don’t feel guilty when in doubt, nor when I am
struggling to cope. Instead, I know pain, doubt, and struggles are a part of my
humanity. A part of my vulnerable reality which makes me seek God’s Help and
Closeness. After all, Allah knows what is in our hearts, much more than we do.
Then who are we hiding the pain from? The real thoughts and feelings from? The
real doubts from? Certainty comes from facing our doubts. We purify the heart
when the tongue brings forth its true contents. Our worries need to gently find
a way out through our tongues, and that frees up space for conviction and
gratitude to enter the heart.
God Acknowledges Honest Shikwaa
Having patience or gratitude does not mean
we should not speak the truth about our sufferings or any abuse we have to
bear. We see in the Quran that Allah’s chosen ones did honestly share with Him
what they were experiencing, and they were not reprimanded when they did so.
Take the story of Maryam (as) for instance. When she cried out that she would
rather be dead, Allah did not chastise her in the verses He revealed to us
about her story. Nor did Allah remind her immediately of the constant blessings
of food and protection she had always been given. Instead, she is told not to
despair and is offered practical advice to manage her situation. Allah says,
So she conceived him, and she retired with
him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a
palm-tree: She cried (in her anguish):
“Ah! would that I had died before this! would
that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!”
(a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree):
for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee; “And shake towards thyself
the trunk of the palm-tree: It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee. (26)
“So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye. And if thou dost see any man, say, ‘I
have vowed a fast to (Allah) Most Gracious, and this day will I enter not into
talk with any human being.” (Surah Maryam, 22-26)
Or take Surah Yusuf where God in His
revelation describes to us in detail the agony of Yacob (pbuh) over losing his
son. He becomes blind. His family questions him if he will ever cease from
remembering his son, but Yocab replies back to them that He will continue
lamenting to Allah. Yacob even tells his children that he knows they are not
speaking the truth, showing that he is open about his grief, and honest about
the wrong that was done to him.
“Nay, but ye
have yourselves contrived a story (good enough) for you. So patience is most
fitting (for me). Maybe Allah will bring them (back) all to me (in the end).
For He is indeed full of knowledge and wisdom.”
And he turned away from them, and said:
“How great is my grief for Joseph!” And his
eyes became white with sorrow, and he fell into silent melancholy.
“By Allah. (never) wilt thou cease to remember
Joseph until thou reach the last extremity of illness, or until thou die!”
“I only complain of my distraction and anguish
to Allah, and I know from Allah that which ye know not. (Surah Yusuf, 83-87)
Even Ayyub (pbuh) who has been referred to
as the patient one, has taught us a beautiful Dua, in which he is honest about
adversity has touched me, and you are the Most Merciful of the merciful.
Surah Al Anbiyah – 83
Patience Is In Steadfastness
From the Quranic stories above I learn that
Allah acknowledges that sometimes His Will for us will lead to suffering. He is
not expecting us to be happy with the pain, but with His Will. These are two
different things. His Will, we accept it; as for the pain, we endure it.
Patience then is not contentment with hardship; rather, it is steadfastness in
hardship. The pain we experience is as real as the test of faith we are
undergoing. It requires perseverance, and the strength to persevere comes from
knowing that Allah acknowledges our pain and that He understands and cares. It
is true that Allah does not burden us more than we can bear, but He does burden
us nevertheless. When Allah Himself does not deny that we undergo difficulties,
then who are we to deny the distress we, or anyone else, is going through.
As for contentment, it is trust in Allah’s
divine plan for us. Contentment is feeling sure that this will work out for the
better, that despite the difficulties right now, our affairs are still being
taken care of.
We will test you with a certain amount of
fear and hunger and loss of wealth and life and fruits of your toil. But give
good news to the steadfast: Those who, when disaster strikes them, say,
“We belong to
Allah and to Him we will return”.
Those are the people who will have blessings
and mercy from their Lord; they are the ones who are guided.
Surah Al Baqarah, 155-157
Blessings should fill us with love, not
Allah reminds us:
patient over what befalls you.
Surah Luqman, 17
We are reminded to be patient, because
despite the many blessings He continually bestows upon us, sometimes what
befalls us is difficult to bear. Unfortunately though, often times when someone
expresses sorrow, we tend to barrage the complainant with ‘this that blessing
of God’. In doing so, we are turning God’s blessings into toxic ‘enemies’ of
the believer. God’s Bounty becomes the very substance that suffocates us., the
very reason why we cannot speak our truth and are expected to silently live
with pain and/or abuse. I believe that God’s blessings should not make us feel
guilty, but loved. They are a sign that He cares, that He Provides, and that He
will show us the way out. The good things that happen around us shouldn’t
negate or deny the ‘bad’ things. Instead, good things should give us the
strength to manage the ‘bad’ things.
The Way Forward…
So don’t be afraid. Go ahead and lodge that
official complaint with God. Don’t ask others why God is doing this to you.
Take the courage to fully focus, and ask Him – and take the time and words you
need for emotional honesty. This will help open up your heart for incoming
guidance. Your concerns and heartaches will be taken with love and
understanding. Remember though, that often times the way out requires sincere
courage. At that point, strengthen yourself with a compassionate reminder of
His Blessings. Look around you and within you. His countless favours are not to
shame your vulnerability, but to remind you that He can give abundantly. Be
assured, that when He has given so much, He can surely give you more.
Finally, I must emphasize how necessary it
is to have a complain-friendly clique. It can do wonders for you. A small group
of close family or friends who won’t judge your Iman by the volumes of tears
you shed, but instead will lovingly pay attention to every detail of your
complaint, and offer practical solutions while validating your struggles, and
reminding you that Allah will reward you for your perseverance. Those who know
how to uplift you when they remind you that:
Allah is with those who are patient” (Surah Al Anfal – 46)