Scholar EnglishNouman Ali Khan

Struggling with Fear and Sadness

So, the idea that human beings are created, and were placed in a situation where they’re going to struggle. They’re going to have to deal with very difficult circumstances. Very difficult situations and even people. They’re going to have to deal with that, is part of life. And that has nothing to do with “If you had more Iman, you wouldn’t have these problems”. It doesn’t work that way.

As a matter of fact, people assume the higher your Iman, the problems are going to go away. No, the higher your Iman, something else. And that something else is what I hope to explain to you today. To put it as an image, Allah created us and he put us inside of a storm. Imagine a storm in the ocean, you are in the storm.
And the waves are turbulent, and you’ve got your little boat, and you’re constantly worried about sinking, and you’re worried about those who are sinking next to you. But with Allah Azzawajal, what does the faith do?

It gives you the strength, and it gives you the ability to go through the storm. To navigate the storm.
It doesn’t mean you don’t get wet. It doesn’t mean sometimes the boat almost doesn’t tip over. But you now have the ability to go through it, and survive the storm.

You see, that’s the purpose of our faith. Is not to get rid of the problem, but to actually strengthen us, so we can go through the problem. One of the most powerful examples of that, and actually, before I get into that example, because really at the heart of all of this خطبة today, is one phrase from one Ayah from Surat Fussilat, and I’ll get to that at the end. But for now, I want to give you an example. Two of the hardest burdens that human beings live with, are fear and sadness. Fear and grief.

Those are the two heaviest burdens that human beings live with in this life. As a matter of fact, when Allah sent Adam عليه السلام to the earth, he told him that when he gives his guidance,

فَمَنْ تَبِعَ هُدَايَ فَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ

Whoever follows my guidance, they are going to be able to combat fear and sadness essentially.
In other words, Allah knew that in the story of humanity from Adam عليه السلام, to the last human being that’s going to walk on this earth, Every one of them is going to have to struggle with fear, and they are going to have to struggle with sadness. Now what are these two things?
Fear is about what’s going to happen in the future.
Fear is about “Am I going to lose my job?
What’s going to happen to mom?
What’s going to happen to my family?
What are they going to say?
What’s going to happen tomorrow?
What’s going to happen with my exam?
What’s going to happen with my immigration?
What’s going to happen with this and what’s going to happen with that?”

These fears about what’s going to happen in the next few hours, or in the next few days, or in the year from now, or in the future.
These fears are small and big and they are a part of us. You wake up afraid. You are afraid you’re going to be late to work. You’re afraid that you forgot about some task that you had to do. Or the time running out. Small fears, big fears. But fear is a constant part of life. It’s always there.

And what you are afraid of, let’s say a student is afraid of failing an exam. Up until the moments of the exam, there is fear, fear, the heart is pounding. And they take the exam, and then unfortunately they get the result that they failed. And when they fail, there is no more fear, there is now sadness. I mean there is fear of what your dad’s going to do to you, But there is sadness mostly. Now there is sadness about what happened already.

So, fear is about the future, and sadness is about the past. What already took place in the past. and just because it’s in the past, you don’t get to tell someone “Well it’s in the past get over it. It’s done now. You should move on with your life”.
No, you and I are not in any position to tell anyone that they no longer have the right to feel sad anymore.

Our messenger ﷺ continued to feel the sadness of the absence of Khadija رضي الله عنها for years. Feeling sad is not a sign that you don’t have enough faith. I mean he has the greatest faith of all and yet he carries sadness.
Yaccoub عليه السلام Lost his son Yusuf عليه السلام, and he carries a great amount of sadness. So much so that he cries so much (ابيضت عيناه) his eyes turn white. His eyes turn white of sadness. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have faith in Allah. He doesn’t actually have that. As a matter of fact, he would only cry of his fear and cry of his grief and his sadness to Allah.

{إِنَّمَا أَشْكُو بَثِّي وَحُزْنِي إِلَى اللَّهِ} I’ve given خطبة to you about that before. But today I want to talk to you about an extreme case of fear and sadness first. And that’s the mother of Musa عليه السلام. I can’t think of a more extreme case, of a woman who had to do something so incredibly unthinkable.
She knows that any minute from now, soldiers are going to break her door, and they’re going to kill her baby in front of her own eyes. For a mother to imagine the murder of her own newborn baby. Unthinkable. And the only idea she had that Allah put in her, is you need to put your child in a basket, and put that basket,
{فَأَلْقِيهِ فِي الْيَمِّ} throw it into the river.

It’s not even nicely gently put it into the river, إلقاء is to throw. Now when you throw something in a river, the river is moving water. When you throw something in a river, it can flip. It’s also the case that a basket may not necessarily float. It may get water inside. It may hit a rock.
There are animals inside the water. There are all kinds of things. As a matter of fact, when I used to teach the story a long time ago, I used to give the example when you see a child go even two feet near a swimming pool, not even the deep end, the shallow end. A mother will go crazy. She’ll drop everything, and push people out of the way and grab her baby.

There are women that give their babies a bath in the tub, and they put the water this little. And the baby is like “Come on.” “No no no too dangerous. This much is too dangerous you’ll drown”. “I can’t even fit my head”. “No not going to let you”. There’s a fear.

And this mother has to take her newborn, he can’t even crawl yet. He can’t even do that yet. And she has to throw this thing into the water. Can you imagine the kind of fear this woman has in her heart when she does that? And when she does that, she can’t even look at it. And can’t even cry and scream “My baby, my baby”.
She can’t do that. Because if she does that, the soldiers will know one survived. And they’ll go after him and kill him. Even if she looks, she has to look from the side. And then this water is not standing still, it’s moving.

So this basket is slipping away from her sight. To the point where she doesn’t even know what happened to it. She has no idea what’s happened to it. And now she is living with this incredible overwhelming sadness.
“What have I just done?”
“What’s going to happen to my baby?” You know?
And in those moments, Allah عز وجل told her:

لا تخافي و لا تحزني
“Don’t be afraid. Don’t feel sadness”.

And even though she still felt afraid, and she still felt sadness, what we’re learning in these Ayat is Allah will help you overcome not being drowned by fear, and not being drowned by sadness. He can let you navigate those two feelings. Those two feelings are very powerful. They are enough to drive someone mad.

They are enough to drive someone to the point where they don’t want to live anymore. It can be that powerful. And yet Allah can give you the strength to overcome, what you and I don’t have the strength to overcome. This mother like no other mother, could stand doing that and survive. So Allah says

وَأَصْبَحَ فُؤَادُ أُمِّ مُوسَىٰ فَارِغًا

Musa’s mother’s heart was, you can think of the imagery as it was bleeding out. It was emptying out. It’s like her heart was exploding. {…نْ كَادَتْ لَتُبْدِي بِهِ} [28:10].
She was on the verge of just screaming out that’s my baby! I want my baby back. She was on the very verge of it. She couldn’t hold it in. {…لَوْلَا أَنْ رَبَطْنَا عَلَىٰ قَلْبِهَا} Had we not tied her heart up. Like literally something’s about to shatter and leak, and Allah says, He like a rope, tied it up and held it in place. What are we learning?

We’re actually learning that you and I are not capable of controlling our emotions, until Allah gives us the strength to do so.
The situation didn’t change. The baby didn’t start flying instead of floating in the water. The reality didn’t change, but her heart changed. Her heart was strengthened by divine intervention from Allah Himself. {لَوْلَا أَنْ رَبَطْنَا عَلَىٰ قَلْبِهَا}. And she is not a prophet.

What we’re learning in these Ayat, is that Allah will give you and me, a strength to our hearts, that we’ll be able to overcome the most powerful fear, and the most powerful sadness. The deepest kind of sadness.
He’ll make us strong enough, not that those things will go away, but you’ll be strong enough to go through it. You won’t collapse. Your heart won’t fall apart. And he says all of this {لِتَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ} So, she may be from those who truly believe. She could truly hold on to faith. She won’t ever accept that my baby drowned.
She won’t accept that. She’ll hold on to her faith, she’ll hold on to hope. As a matter of fact in this Ayah for her to be a believer actually is the same as for her to be hopeful.

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