It is easy to count your fears. They can add up quickly. From my own personal perspective, I can think of a billion things for me to worry about as a new mother, bringing a newborn muslim into this world. Thoughts, worries, fears cross my mind every day, from everything from finances to family issues. I come up with these elaborate, detailed scenes of the future, my unborn child as a teenager – conflicting with me about issues of our religion versus average American teenager lifestyles. These are things that won’t take place for another 13-14 years, and yet I imagine them as though they are taking place tomorrow. Before my baby can walk, before it can talk, before it can read or write – I am stressing over what time they are going to come home and where they are going to go when they leave the house. A little overprotective? That’s the least of it…
But it is too easy to let your mind slip into these downhill slopes that only lead farther down the hole. Whenever I start to get overwhelmed with the stresses of the day, I am reminded of a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, sallalahu alayhi wa salaam: “When you see a person who has been given more than you in money and beauty, look to those who have been given less” (Muslim). This reminds me that no matter how many things in my day I have to worry about, it can always be worse. This saying reminds me to stop counting and calculating all of my fears and start counting all of my blessings.
There are a million self-help books out there that all generally preach the same type of philosophy. It is the power of the mind, think positive thoughts, if you imagine good things, good things will come to you. Some are faith-based, some focus on success stories, some look to the science of the mind through psychology and the environment. All of it is centered around positive thinking, changing the way your mind focuses on the negative, and instead focusing on the positive.
Islam teaches us this philosophy also. It is not about what you don’t have, you need to appreciate what you do have, for these are the things Allah has given us to help make our lives on this earth easier. But Islam goes beyond the basics of positive thinking and takes it one step furthur. For as muslims, we also look to the negative things, and we appreciate these things, also. For if we did not experience difficulties, if we did not suffer through hard times in our lives, we would not be true muslims. A true Muslim is constantly being tested: “Did ye think that ye would enter Heaven without Allah testing those of you who fought hard (In His Cause) and remained steadfast?” (Surah 3, ayat 142)
“Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere, Who say, when afflicted with calamity: “To Allah We belong, and to Him is our return” – They are those on whom (Descend) blessings from Allah, and Mercy, and they are the ones that receive guidance.” (Surah 2, ayat 155-7)
It has been said that Allah tests those he loves most. So our tests and trials are also a blessing – as they provide us with an opportunity to display our faith to Allah, and if we can endure the difficulties, the tests and trials, then these will be turned into good deeds which we will take with us in the end, and which will serve as shelter for us on Judgment Day.
It has been said that not a single affliction affects a believing Muslim except that which he is rewarded for. The Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wa salaam) said: “No fatigue, illness, anxiety, sorrow, harm, or sadness afflicts any Muslim, even to the extent of a thorn pricking him, without Allah wiping out his sins by it” (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim). If we can endure our difficulties, whether they be a pin prick on our finger, or a loss of wealth, or a loss of child, or any other loss or affliction, if we can endure it with patience and acceptance, then we will be rewarded at the end. On the day of Judgment, our good deeds will be the ONLY thing that we have to protect us.
So while it is important to “think positive” and not let our minds wander into negative thoughts, it is better for us to be in a continuous state of gratitude to Allah for everything that happens to us whether it be “bad” in our eyes or “good.” We should never say that we wish more than what we have, because the less we have in this life, the more we shall have in the afterlife – IF we live by Allah’s guidance – if we say our prayers and live our lives in the example of the Prophet Muhammad sallalahu alayhi wa salaam as all believing Muslims should strive to do.