A few years ago, I heard an amazing lecture on marriage and relationships, which had a profound and lasting effect on me. Something the Alima emphasized in that class stayed with me, leaving me incredibly grateful for every relationship in my life, even the difficult ones. When speaking of challenging relationships, the Alima eloquently explained that Allah swt places each person in our path for a specific purpose. HE brings them to us as a means of attaining something better. Some people, like our parents, are in our life to offer unconditional love, while others merely to teach us a lesson. Some are there to help us practice our patience while others to help us increase our remembrance of Allah swt and gain HIS pleasure.
Once I took the time to reflect and internalize this concept, I began to see every person i’ve known in a completely different light. The rude and insulting attending in my hospital was no longer impossible to deal with but merely there to help me become more resilient. The jealous friend became someone who, herself, was suffering and in need of my love. I began to see even my mother-in-law as a woman who has struggled her entire life, allowing me to send waves of Duas and compassion her way.
On especially difficult days, when i’m upset and confused, I ask myself, why has Allah sent this person to me? Why are they in my life??? Are they here to teach me patience? Does Allah want me to offer them support or just learn a new lesson? How can I use this relationship to please my Lord? How can I increase my status in the Akhirah during this difficult time? After a few moments of quiet reflection and sincere dua (prayer), the confusion usually dissipates and my heart becomes at ease.
Training ourselves to think in this manner can oftentimes help us to stop internalizing the negativity around us and instead find a way to increase our remembrance of Allah, even if we’re feeling overwhelmed and alone. It can also help transform the dynamic of relationships, even if it’s just for a few moments, while we try to put our anger, annoyance, and impatience on hold and use that short pause to better understand the difficult person across from us. Who knows, you may even find yourself feeling compassion for their struggle. Don’t underestimate the power of compassion. It has a funny way of prolonging the half-life of our patience.
As Muslims, we’ve been taught that God never places us in any situation we’re not capable of handling with sabr (patience) and grace. Remember that not all battles are meant to be fought. All storms eventually pass. We have to decide if we want to drown in them or just ride the waves while learning to balance. Maybe 10 years from now, you’ll be surprised to discover something you perceived to be a hardship was actually a blessing in disguise. So have faith in your Lord. The Prophet PBUH said, “Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affairs are good and this is for no one except the believer. If something of good befalls him, he is grateful and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him, he is patient and that is good for him.”