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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Finding Strength Through Words of Wisdom

by in Identity on 17th September, 2021

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was a master of eloquent speech. With a few short statements, he would deliver so much wisdom that are still remembered over 1400 hundred years later. Since the time of our beloved Prophet ﷺ, there have been many Muslim scholars and theologians who have also shared their words of wisdom and their personal experiences on patience, hardships and understanding themselves. Their poetic words have been captured in quotes and many of us can relate to them in some form or another. I’ve picked out some quotes by Muslim scholars on three different topics that have resonated with me, and shared my personal reflections on their writing in the hopes that their words of wisdom inspire you just as much as they have inspired me.


1. Patience through Difficulties

In the intricate paths of life when difficulties and hardships confront a man, and the darkness of difficulty and suffering becomes long, it is patience only that acts like a light for a Muslim, that keeps him safe from wandering here and there, and saves him from the muddy marsh of disappointment, desperation and frustration.

Al-Ghazali

Sometimes, I dislike the word ‘patience’. Why? Because there are some areas in life where patience does not come easy and the effort to stay patient in difficult circumstances is uncomfortable and painful.

Patience comes in different forms. Patience is required when you are in a rush and the cyclist in front is travelling at a snail’s pace or patience when a manager is asking for a deadline to be met but you are only halfway through the task. Other times patience is needed when a relative or in-laws make an impolite comment about your weight or your dress sense. Then there is patience at the time of loss, illness, divorce or a desire for life to move in a different direction but the door in front is closed and a way out seems impossible.
Difficulties challenge us and shake us from the inside. They bring to the surface the frustrations, hurt, fears and anxieties we may have been suppressing. When there are days and moments darkness has enveloped me, sometimes my trust in Allah Subhana wa ta’ala begins to wane. These are the moments I know patience is needed to see in the dark. I remind myself that my Lord is putting me through this difficulty not to break me but to make me.

There is no joy for the one who does not bear sadness, there is no sweetness for the one who does not have patience, there is no delight for the one who does not suffer, and there is no relaxation for the one who does not endure fatigue.

Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya

Allah mentions patience in the Qur’an around 90 times therefore, there must be some great wisdom in this. As Ibn Qayyim says the sweetness of life is reaped through bearing life’s tests patiently. Patience does not mean sitting waiting for life to happen nor does it mean giving up. It is profound acceptance of the present circumstances no matter how difficult it may seem. Accepting the discomfort without losing hope. I think back to moments where patience refrained me from saying and doing things I would later regret.
Patience is also a form of self-compassion. Sometimes, I tend to judge myself. I feel guilty when I’m not fully present in my relationships. I get annoyed with myself when I ‘should’ have tried harder to achieve my goals. When I am patient, I remind myself I am doing my best and making mistakes is part of being human. When I embrace my imperfections and remove judgement then I am being patient with myself. Practising patience is a daily practice and a conscious effort.

2. Being Mindful of The Ego

Listen to your heart and not your ego. Your ego prompts you to boast of vain assertions to obtain the glory of this world. Turn away from vanity and seek Him in the recesses of your heart and soul

Abdul-Qadir Gilani

There is a concept in Islam called Muraqabah which means being in a state of mindfulness with your thoughts, feelings and actions as well as being mindful of your relationship with Allah Subhana wa ta’ala. It begins with self-awareness and being in a present state of mind in whatever you are undertaking and experiencing. Focussing on the moment, the task or the person in front of you.

Recently, I have become more mindful of my ego. In terms of an Islamic definition the ego revolves around the Qur’anic term ‘Nafs’. It is the ‘Me, myself and I’ part of the soul who’s only concern is self-preservation.

The ego compares, judges, takes things personally and becomes defensive. It holds our past trauma, rejection and thoughts of unworthiness. Because the ego wants to protect us from pain and the unknown is uncomfortable it assigns meaning around life events which can be witnessed by the way we react to certain circumstances. Every human has an ego and if left unchecked and maintained it can be destructive.

My dear heart, never think you are better than others. Listen to their sorrows with compassion. If you want peace, don’t harbour bad thoughts, do not gossip and don’t teach what you do not know.

Rumi

The ego is not bad, and we cannot kill it because it lives within us. However, we can recognise, re-direct and subdue the ego so it stays Allah’s humble servant.
I have a three-step process for re-directing my ego:

My first step is self-awareness. When I begin to compare my life with others I remind myself this is ego. When I’m in a state of despair and feel like giving up I remind myself this is the scared part of my ego and if I listen to my intuition the anxious thoughts are not truths. When I’m criticising others or gossiping, that’s my ego trying to find self-importance. When I take things personally and react defensively, I am reacting with my ego.

The second step after recognising the ego is questioning my thoughts. Are they true? What evidence am I basing this on? Do I feel at peace after passing judgement on others and their lives? Has Allah Subhana wa ta’ala told me in the Qur’an I’m unworthy? Are there any unhealed childhood wounds I need to address? Journaling helps me to write down and separate fact from fiction.

The third step is changing perspective and reframe thinking. I ask myself whether I can view this from a different perspective and what lessons I can derive from what I am experiencing. Is there a reminder from the Qur’an and Sunnah I can apply? Once I have challenged my existing beliefs, I keep practising the new thoughts until my new way of thinking becomes a habit.

The more I practice, the easier I can get through challenges with strength and grace and change the way I think and relate to others. My ego will always be around, and my fears and anxieties will continue. However, I am learning not to allow them to overrun me anymore. I react, feel the emotion and then calm myself before the thoughts overtake my state. I remind myself I am not my ego nor the stories it creates but instead I can use the ego to expand and enrich my soul.

3. The Sweetness of Finding Love

A life without love is a waste. ‘Should I look for spiritual love, or material, or physical love?’, don’t ask yourself this question. Discrimination leads to discrimination. Love doesn’t need any name, category or definition. Love is a world itself. Either you are in, at the centre… either you are out, yearning.

Shams Tabrizi

Growing up, my vision of love looked like it was either material or physical. I was encouraged at an early age to have wealth, material possessions, a home, a spouse and children. Bollywood movies and love songs romanticised finding true love with the opposite sex. Parents and cultural expectations also pushed this notion that love and happiness could only be found in a spouse and via material gains.

However, in my journey of discovering love I realised these external factors could not fill the void I had. I still felt something was missing so I began to look at love from a different perspective and discovered love is everywhere and can be found in every living moment. Love is Allah’s Mercy through rainfall. Love is listening to your parents complain. Love is embracing your friend after a long separation. Love is talking to Allah at Tahajjud. Love is the companionship between The Prophet ﷺ and Abu Bakar as Siddique. Love is looking past someone’s colour, background and external appearance and seeing the person for who they are internally. Love is accepting your spouse and his flaws. Once I looked at things from an alternative lens, I soon found out there are no limitations in seeking love.

And God said, Love your enemy, and I obeyed Him and loved myself.

Khalil Gibran

Self-love has meant accepting my insecurities, my flaws and my weaknesses. Loving myself enough to say ‘I’m going to overcome the beliefs of feeling unloved and feeling unworthy of love’ despite my situation. Reminding myself that love doesn’t stop even if the external circumstances and people are not there anymore. Building self-confidence by being proud of my ability to get through challenges and using this as a marker to get through the next set of challenges. To keep growing and nourishing my soul so I can have a softer heart and become a more compassionate human being. It’s a constant struggle to keep my lower self in check but I love myself enough to embrace the struggle.

Your hope in my heart is the rarest treasure
Your Name on my tongue is the sweetest word
My choicest hours
Are the hours I spend with You –
O God, I can’t live in this world
Without remembering You

Rabia Basri

The highest form of love is the remembrance of Allah Al-Wudud (The Loving). It is the love we experience for Allah Subhana wa ta’ala which gives our hearts rest. I once listened to a scholar who said that in order for you to remember Allah He has to be remembering you first. So, if you call Allah’s name and remember Him it is because He is remembering you due to His love for you.

I’ve always worshipped Allah through various means of practising Islam however, when I am fully present calling His names repeatedly throughout my day I feel at peace and my heart opens. It’s like my soul remembers Him and we’ve been reacquainted – such is the power of remembering Allah Al-Majeed (The Majestic).

The scholars of the past were the noblest of humans and were blessed with much insight and wisdom. Their words are like precious jewels which shine a light on our hearts so we can understand ourselves and others and connect with Allah Subhana wa ta’ala. I pray we yearn to learn and implement more of their words of wisdom and pass them onto our future generations.

Aaisha Mukhtar

Aaisha Mukhtar

I am a senior quantity surveying working in the construction industry and in my spare time I make my own chocolate for making raw chocolate filled medjool dates and other refined sugar free snacks. Instagram handle attached. IG: @majesticmedjewels