I used to hear the saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” many times. I always thought it was a very positive way to look at life but I never really applied it to myself..until I was forced to.
For quite a while, those lemons were not making anything but lemon juice. I thought that making lemon juice would be much easier than making lemonade. I thought, ‘how do I add sugar when all I have are lemons?’
This went on for quite some time. Over and over, I would allow myself to fall into self pity and despair. Though nobody really knows exactly what my hardships are (except for the occasional few who know me personally), there have been just many things that have caused me complete exhaustion. Many doors keep closing and I honestly feel like just laying on that hard, cold pavement again and and again, giving up on this race to the finish line altogether.
Then, I started reflecting.
A source of guidance entered into my life and I found extreme benefit and light in this source of guidance. It is not really anything or anyone in particular, but it was just something Allah sent to me and it allowed me to learn and understand the deeper value of hardship. My heart opened up to that spiritual side that was always within me. I began to become introspective again and instead of focusing on my problems, I tried to find solutions.
My external circumstances are definitely exhausting but isn’t this life meant to be? I guess hardships help us build endurance so we can make it to the finish line to the akhirah and hopefully insha’Allah cross over to al-Firdaus al a’la.
When I first moved back to Toronto, there was no doubt that I had geared my focus on the wrong things. My perspective was distorted and my vision was unclear. I went through serious growing pains that tested me in a way I never thought possible.
Yeah, my external environment and situation was/is not favourable but I will be honest, it is tolerable. The most severe struggle I went through was dealing with my Self.
I am still trying to make lemonade but it really is not easy. Most of the time, I find myself adding too much sour instead of more sweet. Trying to find the sweetness in my life is more difficult than I imagined.
I keep searching.
In order to make successful lemonade, you must have a balance of enough sweet and enough sour. If one is greater than the other, it will not be enjoyable.
It there is too much sweet then we will never learn and we will remain complacent; we will never have to struggle to achieve greater things. That being said, we should not think that in order to live through this life and in order to get to Jannah, we HAVE to suffer and put ourselves through hardships only. No, this is not the purpose of life. Being a Muslim and practicing Islam does not mean that it is a requirement that we must live in hardship and sufferings for the entire duration of our lives. Yes, many prophets (may peace and blessings be upon them all) did endure hardships and they did struggle and suffer but they were always rewarded for their ease in the dunya (and of course the akhirah.) There was also much wisdom through their sufferings in which we can learn a lot from. They never inflicted hardship and sufferings upon themselves and their hardships were always for something that would bring about the benefit to the deen and to the Muslims!
I found this beautiful reminder which I just had to share! I will end the post here, I hope this will serve as a reminder to myself and to my readers that Islam is not meant to make us suffer and go through hardships our entire lives just because that is where a lot of reward lies:
“And it should be known that Allah’s Pleasure and Love are not dependent on you torturing yourself and going through hardship, such that something is better simply on account of how hard it is. It is assumed by many ignorant people that the reward is obtained in accordance with hardship in everything. No! Rather, the reward is in accordance with the benefit of the act and how much it manifests obedience to Allah and His Messenger. So, the more beneficial an act and the more obedient its doer, the more virtuous it is. Actions aren’t virtuous due to their quantity. Rather, they are virtuous due to the effect they have on the heart.
This is why when the sister of ‘Uqbah bin ‘Amir made a vow to perform Hajj walking barefoot, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: “Indeed, Allah is not in need of your sister torturing herself. Have her continue while riding.” It was narrated that he had her slaughter an animal, and it was also narrated that he had her fast. The same applies to the hadith of Juwayriyah when she was performing tasbih using pebbles before noon, and he came back at night and found her sitting in the same position. So, he said to her: “I said four words three times that would outweigh all that you have said today.”
The point of all this is to know that Allah didn’t command us to do except what is beneficial for us, and He didn’t forbid us except from what is harmful to us. This is why Allah praises righteous acts and encourages righteousness and benefit, and discourages corruption and harm. Allah forbade us from filthy things due to the harm and corruption they bring about, and He commanded us with righteous acts due to the benefit they bring about.
It might be the case that such actions cannot be performed except with some hardship, such as enjoining the good, preventing the evil, seeking knowledge, etc. So, all of this is obtained through hardship, and one is rewarded for them due to the benefit that they result in. This is like when the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said to ‘A’ishah when she performed ‘Umrah from at-Tan’im in the year of the Farewell Hajj: “Your reward is in accordance with your effort.”
However, if the benefit of the act does not outweigh the hardship it involves, this is a form of ruin and corruption, and Allah does not love corruption. An example of this is in worldly benefits. Enduring hardship to make a great gain or repel a great enemy is praiseworthy. As for one who endures great effort and hardship in order to make an insignificant amount of money or to repel a very minor harm, he is just like a person who pays a thousand dirhams in exchange for a hundred, or one who walks for an entire day to get a meal while he could’ve gotten a better meal in the very town he lives in.
So, the legislated and recommended course of action is all about justice, balance, and moderation – which are the best and loftiest of affairs – just as the Firdaws is both the highest part of Paradise and the middle (i.e. best) part of it. So, whoever is like this will have this as his destination, by Allah’s Permission”
Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah)
(Majmu’ al-Fataawa’ ibn Taymiyah; 25/126-127)