Book Events, Muslim Shelf Space, Reflections

Meeting Yasmin Mogahed

Recently I attended a class by Yasmin Mogahed. She has come to the UK and has been teaching classes on various topics.

For those that don’t know who she is, she is an Islamic teacher and author, she has a degree in psychology and a masters in journalism. And she has been one of the most influential role models in my life for the past 10 years.

Her book is one that helped me through some really difficult times in my life and I try to attend her classes whenever she comes to the UK.

And for those who want to read her books, her first book is called Reclaim Your Heart and her more recent one is called Love and Happiness and I highly recommend them both!

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So I wanted to share what she spoke about in her class, and I know this isn’t like my usual posts but it’s an important part of my life and I want to share it with you all.

The topic was about dealing with hardships and difficulties in our life and the Islamic perspective of getting through them and healing and recovering from them. It’s a topic that we can all relate to so I was looking forward to listening.

This will be an extremely condensed version of her class because there is no way to actually write everything here, it would far too long!

Her class was based on this verse from the Quran:

“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient” Quran (2:155)

She spoke about how Allah tells us he will test us. He will test in different things. The types of challenges we will be tested with are anxiety/fear, hunger and loss.

All of this is not to say that we should hate this world but that we should not be completely attached to it.

This world is not supposed to be perfect and if you expect perfection then you will inevitably be disappointed. That if we expect perfection from the creation, we will continue to suffer until we realise that perfection is only in Allah. One of the easiest ways to understand this is to think about the happiest moments of our life and even then, you can see that not everything was perfect.

She spoke about how we put such high standards on ourselves and those around us that we don’t allow ourselves to be human. To be human, is to be imperfect.

This can lead us to despair and hopelessness and this what the shaytan uses to get to us. But the design of Allah is to keep going even when we make mistakes.

In times of difficulty we should be patient but that doesn’t mean we bottle up all our feelings. We can feel sad that we are going through a difficult time. It’s a human emotion and even the prophet’s felt sadness. Like Prophet Yaqub (as) when he thought he lost his son forever and Prophet Muhammad (saw) when his wife, Khadijah (ra), passed away.

In today’s society we use the word sabr to tell people to be patient but what we are really saying, is be numb, do not show your emotions, act like everything is fine. But this means the person is unable to heal and move on with their life. They will continue to suffer.

She spoke about how we need to be real and honest with ourselves and address the wounds. So that we don’t despair in the mercy of Allah. That we need to acknowledge it, address it, treat it and we have to have hope in the mercy of Allah.

Grief needs to be processed and that does not mean we are not patient. Sabr isn’t to supress your emotions. Emotions don’t just disappear and if we supress it, then it can become bigger. Not only that but our whole body is connected so emotional distress, when not properly addressed, can manifest into physical illnesses.

She spoke about how we can’t always control what happens in our lives but we can control our response. We need to think about whether we view the events that occur as something that has happened to us or for us.

She reminded us of this hadith:

The Prophet (saw) said: “Strange is the affair of the Mu’min (the believer), verily all his affairs are good for him. If something pleasing befalls him he thanks (Allah) and it becomes better for him. And if something harmful befalls him he is patient (Sabr) and it becomes better for him. And this is only for the Mu’min.” [Muslim]

She reminded us how any difficulty we go through in life is never forgotten by Allah. He rewards us for our patience and our sins are forgiven for every moment we are in difficulty. That whatever comes our way. We a stronger and wiser from it.

Sometimes Allah gives us something painful in life to force us to change, we don’t like change and often, the only time we will change will be when the pain forces us to.

She told us how what we focus on grows and if we focus on the problem we will see problems everywhere.

“For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.” Quran (94:5)

This means that no matter what difficult situation you are in, there will be good in your life too.

Being patient, or having sabr, doesn’t mean you are passive. It’s an active word, it means we need to take action and change a bad situation, to persevere.

The last thing she told us was a “prescription” for the heart. Things that are so important for us to do so that we will be able to face any difficulty in life and not despair. So this is what she told us:

1 Salah – This is like oxygen, if we don’t get any oxygen we will die. Just like our prayers keep our heart alive.

2 Adhkar – Reading the supplications for the morning and evenings and any others we can incorporate into our routine. They are a protection and will help us be stronger spiritually.

3 Quran – Make it a daily part of your life. Be consistent with it, so even if it is 10 minutes a day that is better than once a month.

So this is in a nutshell what she taught us in this class. I highly recommend listening to her lectures on youtube and reading her books. They are amazing!

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