• I need you... But not just your words - Dealing with Difficulties

    There are times in your life which are beyond words. Moments which tear you apart. Times when the whole world around you could be filled with sunshine but all you see is darkness. Times when you feel like you've plunged to the deepest depths of the ocean with no hope of ever getting out. You are stuck in a moment.. drowning in sorrow. You scream. You shout. You cry. But nothing helps.

    These are times when your Emaan is really tested. This is also when you are at your most vulnerable. These moments either MAKE you or BREAK you.

    The death of somebody close, the loss of wealth, divorce, not attaining something you've always wanted, your family splitting up, being afflicted with loss of health or seeing somebody dear going through a trial, are just some of the most extreme difficulties we could face in our lives. And we all will most likely face some form of a difficulty during our lifetime, as Allah (swt) says:

    "And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits..." 2:155

    I've been meaning to write this for a while but was motivated recently by a number of messages I received. Let me just qualify this post by stating clearly that what you're about to read below is based upon my personal experiences, thoughts and ideas. This is in no way based upon any scientific research or Islamic scholarly advice. I am neither an author, a scholar or even a student of knowledge, as much as I wish I was (make dua for me), but, I pen things if I feel they may be of benefit to others. So, take the good from this and discard the rest.

    I would say that during my lifetime so far, I have only really faced about 4 or 5 major difficulties. But, it is the difficulties that others have shared with me which inspired me to write this. Every so often I receive a message from someone going through a hardship and asking me for advice. Below, I thought I would share some tips for the one going through a difficulty and the ones advising/helping someone. Let me begin with the latter:

    When helping someone get through a difficulty

    Let me be absolutely blunt: you will NEVER truly appreciate what somebody is going through unless you yourself have been through the same/similar difficulty. You can claim to understand all you like but you don't. Honestly, you don't. So never ever belittle something you cannot relate to. Be sensitive. Be human. Do not repeat the standard lines like a robot. This does not help one bit.

    I think we'll all agree that losing someone beloved is one of the toughest things for anyone to go through in life. Be it your parents, your spouse, your children, your best friend or anyone else. The loss of life is one of the biggest tests anyone will ever experience.

    Those of you who have been following the blog will know that 2 years a go, I lost one of the dearest people on earth to me: Tehseen Khan. Tehseen, who you can read about here and here, was more than a friend to me. He was like my elder brother and an inspiration. At the time of his death, many many people contacted me, advised me and genuinely felt my pain and tried to ease it.

    In your life, there will be 2 categories of people. People extremely dear and close to you, be it your family, your relatives, your teachers or very dear friends. And then, there's everybody else.

    At the time of loss, you tend to rely on the dear ones for support. You expect them to help you pull through the difficulty. You expect their words and their actions to offer you comfort. Sadly, in rare cases, some of those dear to us, fail to understand our pain and only succeed in compounding it.

    From everyone else, you'd expect and appreciate words such as: "Be patient", "Everything's going to be OK", "Stay strong". From those dear to you, you don't just need their words, you need more than that. You definitely don't need to hear things such as: "Come on, stop crying now". Some of us can be extremely insensitive sometimes. I've seen and have known of times when people actively discourage others from even dropping a tear at the time of somebody's death. They even go as far as saying that by crying, you are sinning. For those people, let me remind you of this:

    The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) wept for the son of one of his daughters. Sa’d ibn ‘Ubaadah said: “What is this, O Messenger of Allaah?” He said, “This is compassion which Allaah puts in the hearts of His slaves. Allaah shows mercy to those of His slaves who are merciful.”

    If you are one of those people, you really should read this ( http://islamqa.info/en/33866 )

    My dearest brother or sister reading this, if you are fortunate enough to be put in a position to help ease a dear one's pain of loss, my advice to you is the following:

    - Choose your words carefully: Understand my dear brother or sister that you are dealing with somebody who is at that moment in a very fragile state of mind. Your words will either strengthen them or shatter them. So be very careful about what comes out of your mouth. Be understanding. Most of all, be human. Do not use the generic lines. Be personal and be supportive.

    - Give your time: In these moments, the person has a thousand and one thoughts running through their head. Sometimes, they just need a shoulder to cry on. They just need somebody to talk to. Do not be stingy with how much time you offer them. Let them know you are there and you will be there for as long as they need you.

    - Break the silence: It is very easy for us to join a gathering of mourning and after the initial salaams etc. for things to fall silent. During the silence, many negative thoughts run through this person's mind. They only add to the trauma. Break the silence every so often. You don't have to tell a story, just something simple such as: "Can I get you some water?", "Would you like something to eat?", "I was thinking of ways we can benefit the deceased, maybe we should build a well, what do you think?"

    - Give them a hug. Do it often. Let them take as long as they need. One hug can do wonders. Seriously. Do not underestimate it. As mentioned above, sometimes, we just need a shoulder to cry on.

    - Be there for them and their family beyond just words. The family, as you can imagine, is going through immense difficulty at this time and the last thing they need is to worry about mundane daily tasks such as preparing food, arranging transport, dropping children off to school, etc. Try to take all of this off their minds. Assure them, even if they're adamant that they can take care of things, that they don't need to worry about any of this.

    - Show that you care. It's as simple as that. Sometimes, knowing that others share our pain is in itself comforting.

    Above are just a few examples of steps we can take to ease somebody's pain at a time of loss. I'm sure you can think of many more that I've missed. Please do share them.

    What about other difficulties? I think some of the points above will apply to other difficulties as well. However, one thing I wanna emphasise again, is not to belittle a difficulty or to respond with generic responses if the person going through the difficulty considers you as someone dear. What do I mean by generic responses? Anytime somebody informs us of a hardship, we have the tendency to reply with:

    "Maybe what you wanted was bad for you" and then proceed to quote the famous Quranic ayaah without empathising with the person or showing that we care one bit. Ya akhi or ya ukhti, do you really believe the person going through the pain doesn't already know this? What you said is completely true, but, be sensitive. There's a time and place for everything. Right now, is your turn to show empathy and comfort the person by showing that you understand the pain they're going through. Again, even if you don't.

    Another generic response: "Allah has something better lined up for you". Yes. No doubt. But, at the moment a calamity strikes, only a person with strong emaan will know, understand and take comfort from this. Everyone else will think that they've just lost the best thing ever and there's nothing that could ever replace what they've lost. Please please be human.

    I guess I can conclude this section by simply asking you to put yourself in the other person's shoes and ask whether you'd be happy with your own advice.

    Advice for dealing with difficulties

    Let's now move on to how you, as a person going through an extreme difficulty, can take certain steps to ease the pain and overcome doubts/whispers of the shaytaan. I begin this section by once again reminding you that what's written below is based upon personal experience and in such situations, no one advice is universal. Some of the below may work with you and some of it may never resonate with you. So, take of that which is beneficial and ignore the rest.

    So let's begin! Below are a list of steps I believe all of us can take to get us through a difficulty:

    1. The advice of Allah. Think of each and every single time you've gone through a difficulty and ask yourself the first thing you uttered? So often, when faced with a difficulty some of the first words to come out of our mouths are: "Why?!", "No! No! No!", "It can't be" etc. Sadly for some of us, it's usually filled with expletives too.

    Even those of us who claim to be practicing, forget the advice of Allah (swt) at such times.  So what is this advice?  Allah (swt) says:

    وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ
    And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sabirin (the patient ones, etc.).

    الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ
    Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: "Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return."

    Allah (swt) has already informed us that He will test us.  But, He does not stop there, He also gives glad-tidings to the patient ones and also informs us of the characteristics of the patient ones.  Namely: “Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: 'Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.’”  And Allah (swt) does not stop there, the very next Ayaah is:

    أُولَٰئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ
    They are those on whom are the Salawat (i.e. blessings, etc.) (i.e. who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided-ones.

    Amazing isn’t it?  Just by being patient and saying: 'Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.’, not only do we become those upon whom are the blessings of Allah, but, we also receive His Mercy and on top of that, we are also called the guided-ones!  Why do you think Allah (swt) rewards the patient person with so much?  He (swt) KNOWS how difficult it is for you to be patient at the time of a calamity, hence the ginormous rewards for such a noble action at the time of extreme pain.

    2. The advice of His Messenger (pbuh).  Our beloved Prophet (pbuh) re-emphasised the point above when he (pbuh) said:

    “ما من عبد يصاب بمصيبة فيقول: إنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون، اللهم آجرني في مصيبتي وأخلف لي خيرا منها، إلا آجره الله في مصيبته وأخلف له خيرا منها”

    The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "There is no person who is afflicted with a calamity and says, "Verily to Allah we belong and unto Him is our return. O Allah, reward me for my affliction and compensate me with something better" - but Allah will reward him for his affliction and compensate him with something better."

    Ask yourself my dear brother or sister when was the last time you applied the above advice when faced with a difficulty, any difficulty, not just an extreme difficulty?  If you say never or a long time a go, make a promise to change and make this a habit.

    3. Cry. Yes, seriously, cry. Do not hold back your tears. I am not telling you to wail or whine or complain etc. When the pain becomes too much for you, let the tears flow.  The more you hold them back the worse it gets.  Be happy my dear brother or sister because crying doesn't mean you're weak, it shows that you have a heart.  It’s pretty rare to find people with a heart nowadays.

    4. Complain to the One who can help you.  There’s only one: Allah.  Honestly, I found the biggest comfort in waking up in the middle of the night, praying tahajjud and pouring my heart out to Allah.  Make it a habit and notice how your pain eases day after day and is replaced by an indescribable sense of sakeenah.  You’ve lost something, somebody has wronged you, whatever it may be, complain to the One who has the power to help you and you’ll find that He WILL help you.

    Establishing tahajjud at times of difficulties is also a brilliant way of fighting back against the shaytaan’s evil whispers.  As the more he sees you worshipping Allah due to this calamity, the more he’d want you to go back to the ‘normal’ state.  So if his whispers are having the opposite effect, he’ll either stop or cutdown on that which is causing you distress.

    5. Share your problems.  Sometimes it’s very tempting to hold things inside you believing that you are strong.  This is very deceptive as the more you hold it inside you, the more doubts begin to creep in and the more the shaytaan begins to take advantage.

    There’s an old saying:  “a problem shared is a problem halved” and from personal experience, it seriously is.  When you’re going through tough time, your mind and judgement are clouded.  You can’t think straight and all you see is darkness around you.  It is at this point that you need somebody else to take you out from this endless maze.  Which brings us nicely on to our next point:

    6. Seek advice.  Now here’s the problem with seeking advice: sometimes you can seek advice from the wrong people and it only compounds the problem instead of alleviating it.  I have a list of people who I instantly turn to when I face a hardship, however, I recognise the angle each person will bring when giving advice.  For example, some of the scholars I turn to, will bring me the Islamic angle at looking at the difficulty, but, may offer very little general practical advice on dealing with it.

    This is where it gets dangerous. We can sometimes assume that scholars know everything and EXPECT them to get us through a difficulty.  Know and understand that they too are humans.  They have limits.  Be realistic my brother or sister.

    I’d like to add 2 things here: firstly, the importance of seeking advice from the right people.  You could so easily lose respect for somebody due to bad advice or what you may perceive as bad/lacking advice.  I always say that some of the best people to seek advice from are those who have been through a similar difficulty to you.  These people KNOW how it feels.  They are not assuming.  Usually, not always, their advice tends to come from the heart and that’s why it reaches the heart.

    Secondly, do not limit seeking advice to certain people or certain types of people.  What I mean by that is that sometimes we only take advice from scholars or those we perceive to be religiously practicing.  Yes, seek advice from such people, but, do NOT limit yourself only to them.  As you’ll find that some scholars or practicing people will give you advice which consists solely of quoting a few verses or ahadeeth without showing you how to practically apply these verses to your life to overcome the difficulty you’re facing.  If such is the case then not only will you lose respect for that person but it could also have a negative impact on your emaan.

    Know that there is nothing wrong in seeking advice from those who are not scholars provided their advice is not filled with ideas which go against Islam or Islamic principles.  Sometimes such people give us advice which makes us look at things from a different perspective.  A perspective some scholars may not be able to offer.

    7.  Think of the blessings this calamity has brought you.  Seriously, take out a few moments to think about the blessings this calamity has brought with it.  Maybe prior to this you weren’t praying and this made you turn to Allah.  Maybe you weren’t close to your family and this brought you all closer.  Maybe there was a certain sin you used to commit which you gave up due to this.  Maybe you suddenly started to feel khushu in your salaah.  Maybe you learnt patience.  And on and on.  There’s a famous quote of Ibn Taymiyyah (RH) which sums this point up pretty well:

    "A calamity that brings you closer to Allah is better than a blessing which turns you away from Allah.”

    8.  Get out of your environment.  When going through a difficulty, you’ll find yourself staying in a certain place.  Be it your home, your living room or your bedroom.  Get out of there.  Seriously, go out.  Take a long walk.  Go to the park.  Explore your neighbourhood, your city or your country.  Go join the gym.  Do something new.  Force yourself to do something new.  Honestly, try it.  One of the things I fell in love with due to a difficulty was travelling.  And I’m absolutely glad I did.

    9.  Go do some charity work.  Try to help those going through a far greater difficulty than you.  Look how content they are.  This will shame you. This will also soften your heart and take your mind off your difficulty.

    10.  Stay around good company.  I can’t emphasise this enough.  These are times where real friends shine.  They feel your pain and do everything to make you smile.  These are your true friends.  Cherish them.  They are rare.

    11.  Remove the things that remind you of it.  Now this only applies to certain type of difficulties.  What I’m speaking about here does not concern loss of life.  There are certain difficulties which keep cropping up due to things or people which keep reminding you of them.  Remove these things, be it pictures, emails, messages, etc. from your life.  Delete them.  Also, if certain people were the reason behind the difficulty then get rid of their number, remove them from your social media etc.  It may be difficult in the short-term, but, definitely the right thing in the long-term.

    12.  Remember the promise of Allah:

    فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا
    For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.
    إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا
    Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.

    Wallahi I can’t think of a single difficulty/hardship that I’ve been through in my life and this promise hasn’t been true.  I’ve always been able to recognise the eases of Allah after a difficulty.  Know that Allah’s promise is true.  Be firm in this belief.

    13.  Think about your previous difficulties.  Remember how Allah (swt) helped you get through them?  He will do so again.

    14.  Hang in there.  Seriously, it may be cliched but just hang in there.  Things will insha'Allah get better.  They always do.  You are going to go through some tough days and long nights, but, you will come out stronger.  Be patient.

    15.  Watch the following videos.  Below are some videos I’ve found and recommend for various types of difficulties you may be facing, watch them and save them:

    Difficultis and Depression - Sheikh Tawfique Chowdhury - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoqhNz7wD3I
    The Goodly Life - Sheikh Shinqitee - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fugf1DcNyc
    When those we love pass away - Sheikh Bilal Ismail - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8h935t2seUo
    Positivity in the Eyes of Negativity - Sheikh Tawfique Chowdhury - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Auaew5qjapM
    You WILL be tested - Sheikh Sajid Umar - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdswLF8dOmI
    Difficulties getting married - Sheikh Shinqitee - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfV3wEmCyyA

    With that, I must close.  I know this is long but I’ve been meaning to write this for a while.  I hope there is some benefit in this.  I would love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave your comments below.  I wanna close by saying that in the end, will you ever FULLY recover from a difficulty? No, probably not, but, you will learn to cope with it and move on. You must believe that.

    May Allah grant patience to all going through a difficulty and reward them with something far greater.

    Note: Honestly there was so much more I wanted to write but had to condense the information due to the length.  This is by no means a definitive guide and maybe I'll return to the topic sometime in the future insha'Allah.
  • You might also like


    1. Absolutely beautiful, the most down to Earth; really understanding advises on dealing with difficulties I have read in a while, covering important angles.

      It's true sometimes you can not fully recover from somelthing, I myself a year later I can not comprehend till this day a tragedy, it's true you will learn to cope with your trials especially when there's no other choice & that in itself will mould you into a stronger being & give you great life lessons.

      This was very beneficial. JazakAllah khayr May Allah place ease in all your affairs & reward you abundantly, increase you in benefiting others & give you the ability to thrive through all life's trials, Ameen.

    2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKhyx3ZBpXg

      1. That's a good reminder but I fail to see its relevance to this article..

    3. Thank you so much for this post. It's my third time reading when I'm feeling my lowest. I'm feeling better alhamdulillah. Storms won't last forever.

    4. You've been raised by a Queen!

      1. It takes one to know one. So must you have been.