In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we embarked on our journey into Surat Al-A’raf in search for productivity lessons to apply in our lives, thus strengthening our relationship with Allah and His book. In Part 3, we reviewed the often-told story of Adam and Iblees for the same purpose. Here, in Part 4, we’ll further explore the incident to learn more important lessons for our lives, in sha Allah.
What do you do when somebody says “no” to your face? Your child, spouse, relative, employee or friend?
I know what I do, but I regret it.
Why? Because I learned an immense lesson from how Allah responded when Iblees said “no” to Him.
10. Make an effort to understand
What did Allah do? He asked “why”.
“[Allah] said, “What prevented you from prostrating…” [Qur’an. Chapter 7, Verse 12]
Allah is the All-Knowing, yet He asked Iblees for the reason behind his disobedience.
Looking back at my life, I regret not taking a “pause” to understand the “why” behind the refusal to my requests and the way people acted toward them. Had I done that, the outcome would have been so much better.
When we take that “pause” we can:
1. Put a lid on the feelings of hurt, anger and frustration that bubble up.
2. See the rest of the iceberg instead of just the tip (refusal).
3. Respond in a way that is more tactful and sensible, thereby increasing our chances of getting what we want done in a better manner.
For example, if I asked my daughter to put away her school bag and she refuses, I need to know “why”. Is it because she is very hungry and in the middle of eating, or is it because she is reading her book and is at the climax scene, or is it because she is simply being lazy?
If she is eating or at the climax scene, I will let her continue and leave the task for her until she is done (which should not take longer than 2 minutes) or do it myself. But I will also tell her very firmly that it shouldn’t happen again. However, if it’s simply for the reason that she is being lazy, then she is responsible for the deduction of some reward points! That will surely make her scramble up to put it away.
By taking that “pause”, I saved myself from wasting energy due to feeling frustrated and yelling, which I did a lot, and actually understood what made her do it.
4. Accept the refusal without feeling bad
For instance, once I asked my husband for something really important to me and he said he couldn’t do it. How did I feel? Well, hurt, angry and upset to say the least. And how did I react? Not very well. “How could you say no?” “You don’t care about me!”
However, since then, I have learned my lesson; even though it is not easy to hold back the dramatic “arrow piercing my heart” scene, I tried. As a result, I had a more empathetic, contented and successful relationship than before.
This is an immensely important lesson which I learned after many embarrassing moments in my life. I intend to always keep this gem from Surat Al-A’raf close to me when dealing with people in my life.
Do you intend to do that too?
11. Focus on Allah
This is a different type of focus than the focus we referred to in Part 1.
Living in this world according to the commands of Allah seems tough. Why? Because of the distractions that keep popping up in our lives in the form of glamour. Sometimes, I wish I could literally wear blinders like a horse, so that I am unable to see!
Isn’t it hard to forgive the wrong that has been done to you and be nice to people, just as Allah commanded? And what about letting go of the opportunity to take revenge when you are in the perfect position to do so? And what about wearing hijab or praying salah wherever you are? It’s all quite tough!
Allah said, “What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?” [Qur’an: Chapter 7, Verse 12]
This summer, my husband and I took our kids to a museum and had to walk on a bridge that had a revolving drum around it. It was an optical illusion to make you feel as if the bridge was swaying. At the end of the tunnel was a painting. The illusion was so strong, that even though we knew for sure that the bridge was not moving, we still felt dizzy and scared! Since my daughter wanted to do it many times, I focused on the painting ahead of me to quell the nauseousness.
And I did it!
Oh, how I wish it was that easy in the real world! After looking at the various incidents in the lives of the prophets and our pious predecessors, I actually think it’s not as difficult as we think it to be! They did it.
What made it easy for them? Did they wear some kind of “blinders”? Yes.
They did. They wore “blinders” that made them only focus on one thing: Allah and His word, the Qur’an.
Perhaps one of the best examples of this can be found in the story of Yusuf . The way Allah made Yusuf fulfill his dream of seeing the sun, moon and the stars bowing to him, despite being thrown in the well then sold as a slave and eventually thrown in prison. All Yusuf did was focus on Allah .
If Allah said it, then that’s it. All the seeming hardship of the tasks that I mentioned above or those that I face collapse in comparison to Allah commands.
That’s what Allah says to Iblees in other words: “Where were you looking, at ME or Adam?”
To answer Allah question, “What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?”
Iblees said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.” [Qur’an: Chapter 7: Verse 12]
“This is the ‘essence of the problem’ with Iblees,” said my teacher. “He could not accept the superiority of anyone over him.”
He was not focusing on Allah and this created a seed in his heart to grow roots that took over his heart and sprouted many other evil acts.
Moving on, Iblees in his arrogance and ignorance, rejected the superiority of Adam because Adam was made from clay and that same clay is what made Adam superior to Iblees!
There is a very important lesson for us to learn from the fact that we are made from clay.
12. Clay is tough and so are you
It is not easy to change habits and attitudes that we’ve had for years. It takes effort, and sometime we fail and lose confidence. We wonder if we are strong enough to change.
The answer to this question is “YES”. You and I are strong enough to do this, because Allah created us to be strong and handle difficulties.
A friend of mine finds it very difficult to continue doing good things for people who clearly want to “take her for a ride.” She struggles with her feelings of “calling them out” or having a “face-off” with them, because she tries to focus on Allah and do as He says.
Allah says, “And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.” [Qur’an: Chapter 41: Verse 34]
It is very hard for her since “patiently enduring” has never been her strongest trait. She continues to fail and whine about how hard this is, yet she picks herself up after a good cry, squares her shoulders, repeats these above verses like a mantra to herself and moves on; this time, being more patient and repelling more evil with good.
How is she able to do this? Does she have something different in her than what you and I have? No! Just like you and me, she inherited the qualities of adapting and changing oneself from our father Adam . He was created by Allah in His infinite wisdom from clay, a very strong yet malleable material. No matter what circumstances befell him, he only continued to grow and change himself to be a better person.
Whatever age or stage of life we are at, it is neither too late nor impossible to change ourselves, because Allah made us malleable. All we need is the will to change.
I struggle in my way to Allah . I have my weaknesses, immense weaknesses. I get distracted, lose focus and look elsewhere.
And yet, I know that every time I look back at my focal point, Allah , I find Him there, with His immense Love and Mercy for me.
And so, I know it is not easy to make an effort to understand when the emotions are whirling in our hearts, or to take a pause when the pain is excruciating from the blow we just faced. Gather all your strength and ask yourself: Who am I looking at, Allah or this world?
For as long as our focus is correct, we are safe. And with that, I take your leave until we meet again, in sha Allah, to continue our journey into Surat Al-A’raf. There is something I have for you, which is what the Messenger left for us:
“O Allah, I ask You for the delight of gazing at Your Countenance and the eagerness of meeting You.” [An Nasai]
Which productivity lesson was your favorite or stood out to you in this part? We’d love to hear your thoughts.