You wake up to two text messages. The first says, “My beloved father has passed away”, and the second says, “We’ve had a beautiful baby girl!”
Sadness, tears, send condolences. That’s then followed by joy, smiles, send congratulations. Close the phone.
You go to the Masjid. The Imam asks everyone to make du’a for a number of ill people, and then tells you the good news of those folks back in your congregation from travelling abroad.
Concern, make du’a. That’s then followed by relief, giving salams all round. Go back home.
You put on the news. The first item shows hundreds of thousands of your brothers and sisters running for their lives seeking refuge, and the second item shows thousands of happy pilgrims preparing for their Hajj.
Sadness, helplessness, anger, donate, du’as, help in anyway. That’s then followed by happiness, memories, pride, make du’a for them. Close the TV.
You check your email. A school has been destroyed by Israel, another by Western drones in their “war on terror”, another by Muslim terrorists who are scared of education. Then you read of a new fully funded Islamic school being opened in a significant victory for local Muslims in a Western country, as well as a small independent Islamic college successfully achieving its funding target through crowd funding.
Anger, despair. That’s then followed by delight, hope. Close your inbox.
You check your timeline. You see a photo of someone starving eating bark, you see a photo of someone eating delicious cuts of meat in a gourmet restaurant.
Thankful for what we have, grief, guilt. That’s then followed by envy, happiness, satisfaction. Close all social feeds.
This is not a unique day, and this doesn’t happen uniquely happen to me either. This is every day for us, happening to every single one of us. Just another day of conflicting emotions, not knowing when to be sad, when to grieve, when to be happy, being guilty about showing that happiness, wanting to criticise someone for getting it “wrong”, praise others for getting it “right”. And on. And on.
My brothers and sisters, we all live in really difficult times. The global age means we don’t miss any single event or news, and we get to hear about all of them at the very same instant, throwing our hearts and minds into a frenzy.
This can drive people to utter grief leaving them clinically depressed in life. Or it can make people deliriously happy and leave them blind to true reality. Or it can make people extremely angry and it burns and consumes them so that they end up harming themselves and others. Or it can cause such a shock to the heart that it cannot be revived again, apathy setting in, ‘ibadah being seen as pointless and an onset of paralysis which leads to the Dunya and the Akhirah being thrown away.
Absolutely worst of all, it can lead to such a state of confusion that it makes people question God. Their inability to process the onslaught on their senses and feelings, the mixed messages, the opera of opposites, the show of contradictions, the contortions of the mouth smiling upwards and frowning downwards, is just too much. Why? What does it mean? Where is the logic in this narrative? Why the variance?
We have seen people abandon their Deen as some short-term fix to this experience of contradictions. The irony is not lost on us that actually it is only our faith that makes it worth putting up with life as we see and experience it, and only our Deen that brings understanding as to how to balance our delight and our grief, how to realise that things are not as straight forward as they seem and how justice is for the Hereafter and only very rarely for this life we live in.
It is only when you are unbalanced, unstable, not worshiping Allah as He should be, not prioritising your Deen as it should be, that you get thrown off kilter so much so that you actually don’t just fall over, but fall out of your faith.
My message to you: don’t let your emotions get too extreme. Life is both too short, and definitely not worth it. So, don’t cry too much, don’t laugh too much, don’t deprive yourself, don’t drown yourself in indulgence, don’t hate too much, don’t love too much, don’t detest anyone to a huge level, don’t idolise anyone to a huge level, don’t get too sad, and don’t get too happy.
One of the most profound statements in this matter is that of Sayyidina ‘Ali (radhyAllahu ‘anhu) who advised us, “Don’t love your beloved too much, perhaps he will become someone you hate one day. And don’t hate the one you detest too much, perhaps he will become your beloved one day.” (al-Baihaqi, 6596)
Meaning, never let yourself fall into extremes with anyone, or indeed anything you witness or what presents itself on your doorstep. You are usually too emotionally weak to take it all in, and you are certainly intellectually ignorant of understanding the secrets of life and the decision of Allah and His wisdom when it comes to His creation, what it deserves and how it will be rewarded for what it goes through.
Keep balanced. Let things come and go. Let your heart be not too soft, or too hard: keep it solid and yet empathising, like that glass heart Ibn Taymiyyah spoke about.
Do this and you won’t break down every time you get those messages and watch the news and witness extraordinary events. You have still yet to see some real horror in your life, and perhaps experience more of it first hand too. And you are still to really taste some delights in this world, and you have yet to feel more happiness that makes you want to just drift away.
Remember it’s just temporary, just a test, don’t get carried away. As long as you don’t cheat yourself, then just do whatever you can each time according to your ability to help or to celebrate. Don’t let your personal circumstances change what others deserve. If we allow this to become an excuse for inaction, then no-one will ever do anything ever again for anyone, because all of us are in this constantly shifting good day/bad day paradigm. Our excellence to others is never dependent on the news or your mood. It’s dependent on the fact that its independent from all of the above, because it is your responsibility.
Focus on getting through to the End with your mind, heart and emotions balanced and intact, and then get to enjoy “the Hereafter which is better, and more lasting.”
O Allah, make our hearts steadfast upon your Deen.