With developments of events over the last week, it is becoming apparent that the world that we are in and the world that we face as individuals is very stressed, and very stretched. If I think of most of the people in our circle and the relationships that I have with people in the circle, then what has become apparent is that everybody is going through a very difficult time, a very challenging time. And the challenges are principally on the basis of expectations in relationships and also in terms of struggling with material things. Struggling with making things work, struggling with just day-to-day life.
Both of these elements – the struggle with relationships and the struggle with the difficulties of the mundane and the day-to-day – have the effect of keeping our attention and our energy quite low. It is like when you are trying to work out why your cheque bounced, it is very difficult to remember that there is a benign Creator that sits behind all the events, that actually life works and that our job is to see how magnificent it is and to see how wonderfully it works. So it is very difficult for one to be in a state of dhikr, to be in a state of worshipfulness while you have these little issues. One could almost liken them to small dogs yapping at your ankles.
..opportunities for nobility do not arise by denying that you are struggling.
The effect that dealing with mundane trivia and dealing with ill-feeling in relationships have on us is that they make us feel – in a sense – tarnished. They make us feel demeaned. It is almost as if that fiddling with the bric-a-brac and the day-to-day and dealing with ill-feeling in relationships is the opposite of being noble. I would suggest that it is in these times where in fact the opportunities for nobility arise, that the opportunities for nobility do not arise by denying that you are struggling. It does not help when you are in the middle of a dispute where somebody is accusing you of being a rat and a charlatan, it doesn’t help when you are in the middle of this to act as if none of this was touching you and you are above all of this. Because insofar as there is a piece of you that registers injury, you are being dishonest.
Our nobility arises in acting as if we are above all of the trivia and above all the mediocrity that is implicit in ill-feeling in relationships. Our nobility arises by being patient in it. That you recognize the thing that is there and that you do not have an answer for it; all that you can do is take the next step forward. So what that means when you are dealing with difficult practical problems is that in whatever the situation you are in you ask – “What are the one or two things I can do now?” Then you just do those things, knowing that it might be futile, knowing that whatever you are going to do may still fail. But at least you have done what was within your power. Once you have done what was in your power, then leave it to Allah.
The fatal thing to do when you are dealing with these little things is to say, “O I’m not feeling impinged, O I’m not feeling pressed upon by this thing, it’s beneath my dignity to feel pressed upon“.
Recognize that you feel pressed upon. Recognize that you feel powerless in the situation. Then find the one or two things that you can do and do those. And once you have done those, it is almost like it becomes a dua because the dua is, “Ya Allah! I now recognize that I am at my limit. I hand the affair over to You.” You see, if you are not at your limit you cannot hand over the affair. The person who is self-sufficient, what does their dua mean? The person who is in charge, who is in control, what does his dua mean? The person whose life works, their dua means nothing because they have this illusion that they are in charge. We discover that we are in need of His succour and His help when we are at our limit.
The world that we are in is going nuts.
So the issue is not to behave like you are above all of this stuff that is happening to you. The issue is to recognize that it has happened, that it has placed you at your limit, and that you do not know how to deal with this. This quality of recognizing that I am at my limit, I do not know how to deal with it and I therefore do what I can and leave the rest to Allah, is that quality that makes you most useful both to yourself and to other people. This is because a person who looks like they are completely composed and completely in charge of their life cannot be helpful to others. Because that person is putting themselves up like some saintly paragon of virtue! These saintly paragons of virtue might have been useful and interesting in historical times but they are not useful in the world we are going into. The world that we are going into will be inherited by those who recognize, who realize they are beyond their depth in trouble and in challenge and completely hold up their arms and hands to their Rabb, saying, “Ya Allah! Help me! Help me! I’m out of my depth. Ya Allah! Give me succour, give me protection!”
So we are at a time where the cracks are beginning to show in most of our lives and it is necessary for those cracks to show. It is inevitable that the cracks will show because people are in such challenging times at the moment. The world that we are in is going nuts. Things are collapsing. Every day one hears more predictions of doom and economic catastrophe. So this cannot but put pressure on every element of people’s lives. Allah is going to put us all collectively through a period where all of our lives are going to be out-of-control, where our lives are going to be beyond what we can control. They will be beyond what we can control. You cannot survive the time that is coming if you still seek to be in control.
Surely the only ones who can survive in the time that we are going into are those who hand the affair over to the Only One Who can rectify the affair, to the Only True Manager of the affair, which is our Rabb.
This discourse was given by Shaykh Ebrahim after a dhikr session on 13th March 2009.