“What Did I Do to Deserve This?” Conquering the Assumptions that Hold You Back
For more on this topic, see Trauma: Your Lord Has Not Forsaken You
Sometimes when you're in a dark place you think you've been buried, but you've actually been planted.1
What is happening to me?
Abū Hurayrah narrates that a companion came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and asked: “We have thoughts which we cannot dare talk about and we do not like that we have them.” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “Do you really experience this? Yes, they replied. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “They [those concerns] are clear signs of faith.”2
Understanding your thoughts and emotions
Jumping to conclusions
The impact of anger when we’re going through hard times
The angry brain
(Fortune-telling and Mind-reading)
Changing your thoughts
Changing your thoughts: Choose the conclusion you want
When the two groups came face to face, the companions of Moses cried out, “We are overtaken for sure.” Moses reassured [them], “Absolutely not! My Lord is certainly with me—He will guide me.” So We inspired Moses: “Strike the sea with your staff,” and the sea was split, each part was like a huge mountain.9
Jumping to conclusions: Misconception #1
Why is my life so hard? It wasn’t supposed to be this way
Jumping to conclusions: Misconception #2
I must have done something to deserve this pain
And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, “My Lord has honored me.” But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, “My Lord has humiliated me.”12
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Allah, the Exalted, says: ‘I have no reward except Jannah for a believing slave of Mine who shows patience and anticipates My reward when I take away his favorite one from the inhabitants of the world.’”13
The supplications of three persons are never turned away: a fasting person until he breaks his fast, a just ruler, and the supplication of the oppressed which is raised by Allah above the clouds, the gates of heaven are opened for it, and the Lord says: “By my might, I will help you in due time.”14
The Prophet ﷺ said, “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.”15
Jumping to conclusions: Misconception #3
Allah is capable of anything so He should have protected me from this
And with Him are the keys of the unseen; none knows them except Him. And He knows what is on the land and in the sea. Not a leaf falls but that He knows it. And no grain is there within the darknesses of the earth and no moist or dry [thing] but that it is [written] in a clear record.17
Evil, as an independent phenomenon whereby no dimension of good is involved, has no existence in this world. There is nothing in our existence that can be called pure evil, because every evil in this world is good from one angle or another. For instance, sickness harms the body from one angle, while from other angles tests patience, evokes resilience, and may even strengthen immunity. Most disliked things are usually this way; never void of some benefit or another for the human being.18
Jumping to conclusions: Misconception #4
Allah doesn’t care if I suffer
Allah says: “I am just as My slave thinks I am, (i.e., I am able to do for him what he thinks I can do for him) and I am with him if He remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I too, remember him in Myself; and if he remembers Me in a group of people, I remember him in a group that is better; and if he comes one span nearer to Me, I go one cubit nearer to him; and if he comes one cubit nearer to Me, I go a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.”20
When the slave commits an ugly prohibited act, what he did is certainly evil and sinful, and the Lord is the One who enabled him to be the ‘doer’ of that [deed]. This enablement from God is justice, mercy, and correctness, for Him making someone capable of acting [freely] is good, while its manifestation [in this case] was evil and ugly. By enabling, God has placed things where they belong, for that [granting free will] contains profound wisdom for which He should be praised. Therefore, this is actually good and wise and beneficial, even if what the slave does is a flaw, a defect, and evil.21
It was narrated that ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “Some prisoners were brought to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and there was a woman among the prisoners who was searching (for her child). When she found her child she embraced him and put him to her breast. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to us, ‘Do you think that this woman would throw her child in the fire?’ We said, ‘No, by Allah, not if she is able not to.’ The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘Allah is more merciful to His slaves than this woman is to her child.’”22
Winning the mental fight against “jumping to conclusions”
- Pay Attention to Your Self-Talk: Remember, just because you think something doesn’t make it true. Ask yourself: What is going through my mind right now? When you feel yourself getting angry, what thoughts are going through your mind at that moment?
- Focus on the Facts: Search for observable and tangible facts and events. These anchor us to reality and help us to be more objective. Once we look at the facts, we can determine if reality matches our negative perception, which it often doesn’t.
- Consider Other Possibilities: Part of focusing on the facts includes ensuring that you check all the facts. Some of the facts you consider will increase the likelihood of a positive outcome; however, we typically choose to focus on evidence that supports the belief that we already hold. In this step, also remind yourself of past positive outcomes. This serves as a reminder that good is possible since you have already experienced positive outcomes in the past. It can also cause you to question your “negative mind” because the more proofs you find of how your mind was wrong in the past when you anticipated a negative outcome, the more flexible you can be in concluding that things can turn out just fine even when you assume the worst.
- Accept Uncertainty and Focus on the Present Moment: We may never know for certain what people are thinking or what will happen in the future so worrying about something that is impossible to ascertain can be never-ending. In order to resist unnecessary predictions about others’ thoughts or the future, focus on what is certain—the present moment. Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullah) said, “Your attention must be directed to your life in the present —the time between two times. If you waste it, then you have wasted the opportunity to be of the fortunate and saved ones. If you look after it… then you will be successful and achieve rest, delight, and ever-lasting bliss.”23 Focusing on the present moment can ground us and alleviate the anxiety we may be feeling about the future and shift our focus away from what others are thinking.
Inspirational ayaat & hadiths for reflection
And He has granted you all that you asked Him for. If you tried to count Allah’s blessings, you would never be able to enumerate them…24
Satan threatens you with poverty and orders you to immorality, while Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and bounty. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.25
And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah—then He is sufficient for him.26
The Prophet ﷺ advised his daughter, Fatima radi Allahu `anha, to say in the morning and in the evening: “O Allah, I have hope in Your Mercy, so do not leave me in charge of my affairs even for a blink of an eye, and rectify for me all of my affairs. None has the right to be worshipped except You.”27
ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿUmar reported: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ would supplicate saying, “O Allah, I seek refuge in you from a decline in your blessings, the transformation of the wellness You have provided, Your sudden retribution, and all things displeasing to you.”28