HAVE YOU EVER been in a situation when something that you planned for goes pear-shaped, and you end up with what seems like the exact opposite of what you sought? Maybe you spent weeks revising for that one exam – you had the ideal timetable, all your notes were in order and you were working hard every day…only for the exam to be a disaster.
Maybe you desperately wanted to work for a particular company: it was your dream job throughout your studies, and all your efforts were geared towards it…but when the time came you just kept facing rejections.
Maybe years back you imagined you would achieve a list of milestones – but now you’re here, things have not turned out as you expected.
At such times, four negative things can happen:
1. You become so despondent that you stop aiming for your original goals altogether.
2. You increasingly compare yourself to others who, in your perception, seem to be moving forward, gaining success, while you are not.
3. You start to feel resentful, even angry, at what seems like an unfair situation.
4. You forget about the blessings in your life and those things that have gone right for you.
If you ever find yourself feeling this way, remember the story of Prophet Yusuf, peace be upon him.
He was the son of a prophet, the grandson of a prophet, and the great grandson of none other than the beloved friend of Allah, Prophet Ibrahim (as). When he was young, he saw a dream that the moon, the sun and 11 stars were bowing down to him. So there were plenty of signs that this young boy was destined to be great – no doubt many people had very high expectations for Yusuf. So much so that his elder brothers became jealous of him.
And yet, for all the dreams and expectations, look at the turn of events that blighted his life. The ‘downward spiral’ began when his brothers plotted against Yusuf and threw him down a well.
Things did not get better from there – they only got worse and worse. He was then taken by some merchants and sold as a slave – this young boy, from one of the most illustrious families known to humanity, was brought down to the lowest, rock bottom, level of society. And if that was not painful enough, he then had to work and grow up in the house of the Aziz whose wife did everything she could to tempt him to commit zina. The gravest physical, financial, psychological and moral trials were heaped on this young man – for anyone who did not know what Allah had in store for Yusuf, this must have seemed incredibly unfair, the young man had done nothing to ‘deserve’ any of this.
The tests came to a head when Yusuf, who had guarded his honour so resolutely, was then accused by the wife of the Aziz and rumours were being spread about him. The fitnah of that household sickened Yusuf so much that he made a desperate plea for Allah to take him out of there.
Allah answered the du’a….but how? By putting Yusuf in prison. SubhanAllah! On the face of it, one might think that Yusuf’s situation had only become worse, and that his perseverance had come to nothing.
But in fact, what seemed like a disaster was in fact saving Yusuf from a worse situation, and was in fact the means through which Yusuf would eventually gain his liberty.
Indeed he gained more than that – the test of being imprisoned allowed Yusuf to prove his innocence, it affirmed his dignity, it allowed him to then serve in one of the highest positions in the kingdom, through which he was able to help other people, and finally it paved the way for him to be reunited with his family. And the deep disease that existed within his family, that of envy, was also cured.
Allah is Al-Lateef, His plans are ingenious and subtle. It took a long time for Allah’s plan to become fully apparent, which required a lot of patience and trust from his prophet Yusuf. But because of that patience, and because of that unwavering faith, the blessings and rewards bestowed upon Yusuf were far greater than anything he or anyone else could have ever imagined.
Remember, Allah does not place a burden on any soul greater than they can bear – so when Allah tests you, it is because He has confidence in you; he knows you can pass the test, and wants to give you something much greater than the thing that you are seeking.
“And it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” (Al Baqarah, 2: 216)
So keep trying, and keep nurturing your faith in the meantime. When doors are closed and you’re in a rut, know this may in fact be a blessing in disguise. If you face road-blocks and detours, know that they are necessary parts of the journey, to get you to a higher level than you ever hoped for inshaAllah.