HAVE YOU EVER had worries that kept you awake at night? Or fears that gave you bad dreams? Do you ever feel limited by your weaknesses? Then consider the following:
Most of us spend most of our time worrying. Worrying takes time. Then we get into a negative state, so we procrastinate, because we can’t be bothered to do anything. On top of that, most people are stuck in their limitations, in their perceptions of reality. They don’t dare think outside of the box. Do you know about the elephant? Baby elephants are tied to a small peg in the ground. They try to move further than the length of the rope that’s tied to that peg, but they’re not strong enough. They learn (decide) that they can’t move when the peg is there. They grow up and they’re trained to carry trees. But when their master pegs them to the ground, they resign to the decision they made years ago. A three-ton elephant thinks that this little peg will stop [his freedom of movement]! And that’s how we live our lives.[i]
We all have our pegs tying us to the ground. Things that constrain us and things that compel us. Things that make us unfree. And freedom in its true meaning is one of the greatest gifts Allah has given us, so it would be very unwise to allow it to be taken from us through Shayṭân’s tricks.
The beginning of empowerment is taking refuge in Allah from our fears and weaknesses, seeking a solution. We should remember that we don’t have to let emotions, situations and people control us, but at the same time we have to realize that we are not in control, either. It is ultimately in Allah’s Hands and we must put our trust in Him.
It has been narrated from Abû Saᶜîd al-Khudri that the Messenger of Allah entered into the masjid. He saw a man from the Anṣâr called Abû Umâmah. The Prophet asked:
‘What is the matter? Why are you sitting in the mosque when it is not the time for prayer?’ Abû Umâmah replied: ‘Never-ending worries and debts, O Messenger of Allah.’ The Messenger of Allah then asked: “Shall I not teach you words by which, when you say them, Allah will remove your worries, and settle your debts?’ He replied: ‘Yes of course, O Messenger of Allah’. He said: ‘Say in the morning or evening:
أللّهمّ إنِّي أعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ الهَمِّ وَالحُزْن وَالعَجْز والكَسَل وَالبُخْل وَالجُبْن وَغَلَبَة الدَيْن وَقَهْر الرِجَال
O Allah, I take refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts and from being over powered by men.’
Abû Umâmah said: ‘When I did that, Allah removed my worries and settled my debts. (Abû Dâwûd)
The first time I read this duᶜa’ I knew this is exactly what I needed, and taking a closer look at all the difficulties mentioned in the supplication, I could see just how threatening they are.
It is so easy to start worrying: fear about the future and what it could bring, thinking ‘what if?’ Anxiety comes to us when we feel insecure or out of control over a situation. But are we really ever able to control anything except our own attitude? Only Allah knows what the future holds and we should put our trust in Him.
And if Allah should touch you with adversity, there is no remover of it except Him; and if He intends for you good, then there is no repeller of His bounty. He causes it to reach whom He wills of His servants. And He is the Forgiving, the Merciful. [Sûrat Yûnus, 10:107]
Whatever we have in the dunya is just a temporary blessing: our families, our wealth and possessions, our health and our talents. Yet sometimes we attach ourselves too strongly to what we possess and become possessed by that thing instead. And when it’s taken away from us, we are heartbroken. It is this kind of grief that we should seek refuge from and we should trust that whatever good has been taken from us in this world, it is actually for our benefit, so that we might be reminded and return to our Lord.
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. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:155]
Our inability to do something may be real –like when we know that we can’t actually do something, e.g. we can’t swim– but so often weakness is only perceived. We believe that we are weak and this stops us from doing things, it becomes our excuse not to try harder. Often it is the world around us that makes us feel inferior or weak. We compare ourselves to others and feel incapable of seemingly great things that others do. But the real strength comes from our heart and if we feel humiliated by others it is only because we allow ourselves to feel this way. Allah tells us:
So do not weaken and do not grieve, and you will be superior if you are true believers. [Sûrat Âl ᶜImrân, 3:139]
Laziness is closely connected to feeling weak, because both deter us from doing stuff. We feel lazy when some task seems too difficult or not exciting enough and then we procrastinate doing it. The key to overcoming laziness is setting your priorities right and asking Allah to make us strong and steadfast. If we truly feel that waking up at dawn for prayer is better for us than sleeping, we will be able to overcome laziness and just do it. If we are really convinced that mastering Arabic could bring us closer to Allah, we will go for it, even though it’s difficult for us. Pure heart and sincere intention is the key.
And what prevents their expenditures from being accepted from them but that they have disbelieved in Allah and in His Messenger and that they come not to prayer except while they are lazy and that they do not spend except while they are unwilling. [Sûrat Al-Tawbah, 9:54]
We all know that being generous is important and beneficial to us as well as for the society and we all admire other’s generosity. But when it comes to our own spending and giving, it just becomes difficult: We see obstacles or promise ourselves to give and then we forget. Shayṭân threatens us with poverty and we give in to our nafs (self), hoarding the wealth and fretting over it. But whatever good we have, it’s from Allah alone; and whatever we spend for the sake of Allah –paying for family expenses, giving charity, paying zakat or spending on Islamic education– is really the best investment. This life is temporary and whatever we earn here is just temporary. But Âkhira is eternal and whatever we get in the next life will be ours forever.
Say: Indeed, my Lord extends provision for whom He wills of His servants and restricts it for him. But whatever thing you spend in His cause – He will compensate it; and He is the best of providers. [Sûrat Saba’, 34:39]
Fear is probably one of Shayṭân’s most powerful tools. Fear discourages us and hinders our progress: we fear poverty so we become misers; we fear lack of approval so we act as society wants us to act, regardless of our beliefs; we fear for our security and this stops us from doing what is right. We need courage. Overcoming our fears is not easy, but putting our trust in Allah and asking Him to remove our fears are powerful weapons against the deception of Shayṭân. And a strong believer fears nothing and no one but Allah.
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. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:268]
Burden of Debts
Debt is an obligation to be fulfilled and we are advised to avoid it as much as possible. What is most dangerous about debt is the way it enslaves us. The Prophet constantly asked Allah to protect him from debt and it was related by ᶜÂishah, may Allah honor and be pleased with her, that when someone asked him about it he responded:
When a man gets into debt, he speaks and tells lies, and he makes a promise and breaks it. (Bukhâri)
We should always spend wisely and be satisfied with what we have so as to stay clear of financial difficulties that might lead us to take loans.
And do not make your hand [as] chained to your neck or extend it completely and [thereby] become blamed and insolvent. [Sûrat Al-Isrâ’, 17:29]
Overpowerment by Men
Allah is our only Lord and we must seek to please Him always and obey Him and fear no one and nothing but Him. Islam means subjecting our every action and our lives to Allah, and to be able to do so we have to be free – free from subjection to anyone and anything else, especially from the tricks of Shayṭân. And the greatest freedom is to be a servant of Mâlik Al-Mulk– the Supreme Ruler, the Sovereign.
So exalted is Allah, the Sovereign, the Truth; there is no deity except Him, Lord of the Noble Throne. [Sûrat Al-Mu’minûn, 23:116]
May Allah set us free from confining perceptions that make us slaves to our worries, and let us, instead, be His slaves. Ameen.
- AbdelRahman Mussa, ‘Whims-I-Kill’ tazkiyah course at: https://ipersonalenrichment.com/1a/. Also see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-steven-carr-reuben-phd/what-baby-elephants-can-teach-us-about-human-freedom_b_2452099.html