Read this if you are struggling
I used to have a job that required three hours of commuting everyday. I would wake up in the morning, have my morning coffee, shower, get dressed, pray Subh and immediately go out. This often meant leaving while it was still dark out for one and a half hours of waiting for buses, transferring to the train, and then taking another bus to my workplace just to be able to make it to work in time. It didn’t help that the trains were often packed by the time I got in, resulting in 45 minutes of standing every morning, and another 45 minutes of standing in the evening.
And just in case you’re wondering, I did not enjoy the job very much. The work seemed like it would be interesting at first, but fatigue set in pretty quickly and I did not like the level of micro-management and bureaucracy involved with even the most menial of tasks.
My wife and I had our son while I was working there. He was of course a bundle of joy, but the long hours of working and commuting took its toll. My son fell sick pretty often during his first year, and my wife and I had to alternate taking time off work to take care of him when he was ill. And it really didn’t help to hear my boss, who did not have children, say that this was a mother’s job and suggest I not take so much time off to watch my sick baby.
Given all that, obviously there was some relief when I left that job.
And yet, looking back, not everything was bad.
The long commute was a boon in a lot of ways, allowing me to perform my daily wird, and read, and listen to educational podcasts. I started reciting a regular litany during my time there, and it was the hours I spent travelling every day that gave me the space to be able to do so.
Even now that I have a dedicated prayer area at work, I miss taking my wudhu in the disabled washrooms and searching the stairwells for a quiet spot to pray.
Once in a while I got to take the time to visit the graves of my beloved grandparents, as well as those of the awliyah buried there.
With my weekends and evenings mostly free (especially before having a child) I was able to start seriously attending classes of ilm, and I managed to make some advances in my religious knowledge during that time. I’m not saying that I know very much now, but I knew even less before.
And I realise that a lot of what allowed me to grow spiritually was the struggle. Having the right intentions and constantly struggling against the worst inclinations of the self and the situations I was in to try to move in whatever little way towards Allah.
Now that I have another job that I enjoy, I find that the struggle hasn’t gotten easier, it’s just changed.
Erratic working hours make it challenging to balance my responsibilities, as a husband and a father, a son, an employee, and ultimately as a slave of God.
I struggle to find the time to go to work, and then come home and do the chores, and take care of my son, and spend time with my wife, all while staying true to my obligations to my Lord.
It’s exhausting; physically, mentally and spiritually, and most times I feel like I fail these tests I’m facing, falling flat on my face before heedlessness and sin.
But then, I try to find the solace in the struggle. I try to beat back the dunya, to swim against the tide of exhaustion and distractions. I try to find meaning and intention even in the profane, to find worship in work, and paradise in cleaning the kitchen and mopping the floor and changing my son’s diapers.
And I know these are #firstworldproblems. Others struggle with their faith amidst war and strife, and while on the receiving end of abuse and Islamophobia.
It’s not easy but it isn’t meant to be easy. This life is meant to be a struggle, to see the challenges of this life as a mercy from Allah to allow us to elevate our stations as we persevere in our good deeds in spite of the perils and distractions of this worldly life.
Allah says in the Qur’an in Surah Ash-Sharh, verse 6, “Indeed, with hardship comes ease“.
As believers we need to have faith that Allah’s promise is true. If not in this life, then in the next.
“God is with the broken-hearted. When your heart breaks, it’s a good thing – the breaking of the heart is what opens it up to the light of Allah. The dunya is designed to break your heart, so crush it.”
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
Abu Adam is a regular contributor to Muzlimbuzz.