“Keep God in mind and you will find Him in front of you. Get acquainted with God in times of ease and He will know you in days of distress. Know that what missed you could not have hit you, and what hit you could not have missed you. Know that victory comes with patience, relief follows distress, ease follows hardship.”
Anxiety and worry are two constants in my life. I’ve always found myself worrying about one thing or another. Whether it’s cosmological destruction or the very minute and personal fear of losing the people closest to you, it’s something that has always followed me. As I grew up I had outlets to manage my anxiety, like writing and video games. Escaping into a fictional world—or coming up with my own—even for just an hour or so was enough to pull my mind away from my anxious thoughts.
My Mom always told me not to worry about the future, because whatever will be, will be. After becoming a Muslim, I realized that what Mom always taught me was, in fact, part of Islam. The above quote is a saying of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), known as a hadith or prophetic tradition. He spoke it to a young man named Ibn Abbas. The hadith is both proactive and reactive in how it approaches the concept of qadr—divine destiny. At the start, it’s a reminder that, no matter what situation you’re in, always remember God. Remember God when times are good, and so when times are hard, you’ll find Him with you. You can do this by fulfilling your prayers, doing good deeds, turning to God for forgiveness, and so on. The real challenge comes when times are good. It’s easy to turn to God when you’re facing a difficulty, but remembering Him when times are good and when life is normal is when it counts. This doesn’t just mean thinking of God regularly, but also of living your life the way He wants you to.
Inevitably, though, things will happen in your life that are distressing. They may break you down and wear away at your soul, to the point where you’re paralyzed or numb from the fear and pain. You may wonder if you’ll ever be normal again. But believe me, as someone who has gone through all of that, you will.
What this hadith teaches us is that knowing God is what is key to overcoming these hardships, or at least having the patience to get through them. In the Qur’an, God says, “And whoever is conscious of God, He will make for him a way out, And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon God – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, God will accomplish His purpose. God has already set for everything a [decreed] extent” (Quran 65:2-3). God consciousness—a concept known as taqwa in Islam—is a trait that Muslims are encouraged to develop in themselves. Taqwa is the notion that no matter where you are and what you do, God is with you. He not only sees your deeds, but He knows what you’re going through, and He knows what’s best for you.
This hadith also sums up qadr (destiny) by stating that whatever hit us could not have missed us, and whatever missed us could not have hit us. The beautiful thing about qadr is that it’s not meant to encourage a fatalistic attitude towards life. Instead, it’s meant to give us comfort and remind us that whatever happens is meant to happen, and it couldn’t have happened otherwise.
With hardship there is ease
The hadith ends on an encouraging note. We are reminded that no matter how bad things get, things will get better. This echoes what God tells us in the Quran: “Verily, with hardship, there is ease; verily, with hardship there is ease” (Quran 94:6). The patience you have when faced with hardship is the deciding factor on how you will perceive that hardship—and how you will be rewarded. Patience is a great virtue in Islam, but it isn’t just sitting around and waiting for things to get better. Patience—or more specifically, sabr—is an active patience wherein you take all means necessary to bring about a positive end. At the very least, you can make dua, or supplication, and ask God to help you through your trial and to reward you for it. And afterwards, be patient in receiving God’s answer, because supplicating to God isn’t like placing a One-day shipping order on Amazon. God answers when it’s the right time.
Life rarely goes as we expect it to. While we can’t control what happens to us, we can control our attitude towards them. Keeping God in mind, first and foremost, is a powerful way to aid you through life’s difficulties. Rather than asking “Why me?”, instead ask, “What now?” and act on it.