Overcoming Pessimism with Faith
Published: April 11, 2017 • Updated: October 12, 2020
Author: Roohi Tahir
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
For more on this topic, see Faith in the Time of COVID-19
If you had the ability to choose a single psychological trait that you could improve in yourself, I might recommend optimism because it is correlated with so many other good measures…Optimists tend to have longevity, be very healthy, have great life satisfaction and be successful. And this is holding fixed for economic, religious and socio-status measures.
Many people think that ‘the grass is greener’ for happy people. Research, however, shows that happy and unhappy people generally have the same number of adverse events in their lives. The difference is in their interpretation of unfortunate life events. Optimistic people are willing and able to make positive life action plans to counteract negative events in their lives, while pessimists are more likely to do nothing, then find themselves sinking into negativism, lethargy, perhaps even depression.4
Back to basics
O mankind, there has to come to you instruction from your Lord and healing for what is in the breast[s] and guidance and mercy for the believers. Say, “In the bounty of Allah and in His mercy – in that let them rejoice; it is better than what they accumulate.”
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And, [O Muhammad], you are not [engaged] in any matter or recite any of the Qur’an and you [people] do not do any deed except that We are witness over you when you are involved in it. And not absent from your Lord is any [part] of an atom’s weight within the earth or within the heaven or [anything] smaller than that or greater but that it is in a clear register.
Unquestionably, [for] the allies of Allah there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve. Those who believed and were fearing Allah. For them are good tidings [good news] in the worldly life and in the Hereafter. No change is there in the words of Allah; that is what is the great attainment. And let not their speech grieve you. Indeed, honor [due to power] belongs to Allah entirely. He is the Hearing, the Knowing.12
Productive fear —The only thing to fear is not fear itself
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.
The people will soon summon one another to attack you as people when eating invite others to share their dish. Someone asked: Will that be because of our small numbers at that time? He replied: No, you will be numerous at that time: but you will be scum and rubbish like that carried down by a torrent, and Allah will take fear of you from the breasts of your enemy and cast wahn into your hearts. Someone asked: What is wahn, Messenger of Allahﷺ: He replied: Love of the world and dislike of death.
Call upon Allah while being certain of being answered, and know that Allah does not respond to a supplication from the heart of one heedless and occupied by play.
By the morning brightness
And [by] the night when it covers with darkness,
Your Lord has not taken leave of you [O Muhammad] nor has He detested [you].
And the Hereafter is better for you than the first [life].
And your Lord is going to give you, and you will be satisfied.
Did He not find you an orphan and give [you] refuge?
And He found you lost and guided [you],
And He found you poor and made [you] self-sufficient.
So as for the orphan, do not oppress [him].
And as for the petitioner, do not repel [him].
But as for the favor of your Lord, report [it].
For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.
Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.
So when you have finished [your duties], then stand up [for worship].
And to your Lord direct [your] longing.
Mercy like no other
It is He who confers blessing upon you, and His angels [ask Him to do so] that He may bring you out from darkness into the light. And ever is He, to the believers, Merciful.
Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness].
And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.” Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided.
I entered upon the Prophet ﷺ when he was suffering from a fever. I placed my hand on him and felt heat with my hand from above the blanket. I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, how hard it is for you!’ He said: ‘We (Prophets) are like that. The trial is multiplied for us and so is the reward.’ I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, which people are most severely tested?’ He said: ‘The Prophets.’ I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, then who?’ He said: ‘Then the righteous, some of whom were tested with poverty until they could not find anything except a cloak to put around themselves. One of them will rejoice at calamity as one of you would rejoice at ease.
According to Asma Afsaruddin, professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University Bloomington, there has been heightened interest in Islam in the last 15 years precisely because of the publicity surrounding it. ‘Despite Islamophobia, thoughtful Americans who are curious about the real nature of Islam might go out of their way to discover the teachings of the religion from reliable sources,’ she says.
Strange are the ways of a believer for there is good in every affair of his and this is not the case with anyone else except in the case of a believer for if he has an occasion to feel delight, he thanks (God), thus there is a good for him in it, and if he gets into trouble and shows resignation (and endures it patiently), there is a good for him in it.
Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.
Whoever’s greatest concern is this world, Allah will scatter his affairs and place poverty between his eyes, and nothing of this world will come to him except what was already written for him. But, whoever has the next world as his intention, Allah will gather his affairs and place his richness in his heart and the world will come to him submissively.
Had Allah lifted the veil off the reality of His delicate dealings, [unnoticed] kindness, and how He plans for him in ways he realizes and ways he doesn’t realize – his heart would melt out of love for Allah and longing for Him, and would fall in gratitude to Him. However, the heart has been veiled from witnessing this due to its attachment to the world of lusts and its focus on material factors. By that, it has been barred from its complete bliss, and [even] that is preordained by the Mighty, the All-Knowing.
No Room for Despair – The Way Forward
Those to whom hypocrites said, “Indeed, the people have gathered against you, so fear them.” But it [merely] increased them in faith, and they said, “Sufficient for us is Allah, and [He is] the best Disposer of affairs.” So they returned with favor from Allah and bounty, no harm having touched them. And they pursued the pleasure of Allah, and Allah is the possessor of great bounty. That is only Satan who frightens [you] of his supporters. So fear them not, but fear Me, if you are [indeed] believers.
And when the two groups saw one another, the companions of Moses said, “Indeed, we are to be overtaken!” [Moses] said, “No! Indeed, with me is my Lord; He will guide me.” Then We inspired to Moses, “Strike with your staff the sea,” and it parted, and each portion was like a great towering mountain.
The difference between it [hope] and merely wishful thinking is that mere wishful thinking involves laziness wherein the person neither exerts himself, nor strives [to achieve what he wishes for]. Hope, however, entails striving, exertion and beautiful reliance. The first is like the one who wishes that the earth would plant and sow its own seeds for him. The second is like the one who [actually] tills the soil, plants the seed and then hopes that crops will grow. This is why the Gnostics (‘arifun) are agreed that hope is not correct, except if accompanied by action.
Stay Focused – The Daily Dose
And when you have completed the prayer, remember Allah standing, sitting, or [lying] on your sides…
Know that if the entire creation were to gather together to do something to benefit you – you would never get any benefit except that Allah had written (it) for you. And if they were to gather to do something to harm you – you would never be harmed except that Allah had written (it) for you. The pens are lifted and the pages are dried.
So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.…And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.'
The supplication of every one of you will be granted if he does not get impatient and say (for example): ‘I supplicated my Rabb [Lord] but my prayer has not been granted’.
Is He [not best] who responds to the desperate one when he calls upon Him and removes evil and makes you inheritors of the earth? Is there a deity with Allah? Little do you remember.
I heard Allah’s Messenger ﷺ say three days before his death: None of you should die but hoping only good from Allah, the Exalted and Glorious.
1 Berezow, Alex. “Only 6% of Americans Think the World is Getting Better.” American Council on Science and Health. July 3, 2016. Accessed February 15, 2017. http://acsh.org/news/2016/07/03/only-6-of-americans-think-world-is-getting-better
3 Gates, Carrie. “Notre Dame and Cornell awarded $3.8 million to study hope and optimism.” Notre Dame News//University of Notre Dame. April 23, 2014. Accessed February 15, 2017. http://news.nd.edu/news/notre-dame-and-cornell-awarded-3-8-million-to-study-hope-and-optimism/
5 Mary Bowerman. “Survey reveals what Americans fear the most.” USA Today. October 12, 2016. Accessed February 15, 2017. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/10/12/survey-top-10-things-americans-fear-most/91934874/
10 Quran Tafsir Ibn Kathir – None can make Anything Lawful or Unlawful except Allah or Those Whom Allah has allowed to do so. http://www.qtafsir.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2613&Itemid=65
13 Albrecht, Karl, Ph.D. “The (Only) 5 Fears We All Share.” Psychology Today. March 22, 2012. Accessed February 15, 2017. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brainsnacks/201203/the-only-5-fears-we-all-share
20 Mubārakpūrī, Ṣafī Al-Raḥmān. The sealed nectar = Ar-Raheequl-Makhtum: biography of the noble prophet. Riyadh: Darussalam, 2002. Pgs. 163-165 and 522-524
26 Philips, Abu Ameenah Bilal. Tafseer Soorah Yaa Seen – A commentary on the 36th Chapter of the Qur'an. Islamic Online University. Pg. 55
29 Sunan Ibn Majah – Book of Tribulations Hadith 4024 In-book reference: Book 36, Hadith 99
31 Habib, Samra. “Islamophobia is on the rise in the US. But so is Islam.” Public Radio International. September 9, 2016. Accessed February 15, 2017. https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-09-09/muslims-america-are-keeping-and-growing-faith-even-though-haters-tell-them-not.
32 And when waves come over them like canopies, they supplicate Allah, sincere to Him in religion. But when He delivers them to the land, there are [some] of them who are moderate [in faith]. And none rejects Our signs except everyone treacherous and ungrateful. (31:32) Sahih International http://legacy.quran.com/31
37 Al-Jawziyyah, Ibn Al Qayyim. Tareeq al-Hijratayn. Pg.180.
41 Madarij al-Salikeen, 2/27-28 – The Exquisite Pearl Al-Sa’di, ‘Abd Al-Rahman. London, UK: The Jawziyyah Press, 2002. Pg. 8
43 Jami’ at-Tirmidhi – Chapters on the description of the Day of Judgment, ar-Riqaq and al-Wara’- English reference: Vol. 4, Book 11, Hadith 2516 Arabic reference: Book 37, Hadith 2706 https://sunnah.com/urn/678220
49 Sahih Muslim – The Book of Paradise, its Description, its Bounties and its Inhabitants Hadith 2877In-book reference: Book 53, Hadith 100 USC-MSA web (English) reference : Book 40, Hadith 6877 https://sunnah.com/muslim/53/100