Something profound happened to me the other day and I don’t think I’ll ever see or experience the feeling of fear the same way ever again.
You see, for the most part of my life I lived in fear.
The fear of moving to another country at a young and impressionable age.
The fear of losing one of my loved ones.
The fear of failure.
The fear of the unknown.
The fear of observing incorrect hijab.
The fear of arrogance and showing off.
The fear of success.
The fear of pain and heartbreak.
The fear of something I currently have going good not lasting long.
The fear of making wrong and irreversible life decisions.
The fear of my nafs and unlawful desires.
The fear of rejection.
The fear of affluence, prestige and influence.
The fear of Allah and incurring His anger, wrath and punishment.
The fear of death and the punishment of the grave.
The fear of driving and accidentally running someone over and committing manslaughter.
The fear of being among the sore losers on the day of judgement.
The fear of financial insecurity and any form of unhealthy dependency.
The fear of wronging someone without even knowing.
The fear of all my good deeds amounting to nothing on the day of judgement.
The fear of not living up to my potential and maximising the use of my God given abilities.
The list my dear is non exhaustive. The fears I experienced were not fleeting worries or occasional anxieties I would get from time to time. I’m talking about the heart palpitation, temperature rising, hand trembling, hyperventilation type of fears; the kind of fear that kept you up at night and would almost incapacitate you. It was exhausting being in a constant state of fear and for the longest time I resented myself for being unable to easily disperse my fears and to focus my energy on other healthy and positive emotions. We’ve all heard some people including motivational speakers say our fears are the figment of our imagination and that 90% of the time the things we fear don’t even end up happening. Trust me I know all of this…as a matter of fact, I occasionally preach and tell people this myself but the knowledge I had did very little to alleviate and stop me from experiencing the full brunt of the emotion, which ultimately affected the quality of my life.
If you are someone like me that lived with so much fear that your mind would conjure up very vivid visions and frightening situations, what happens is that you find yourself smiling and laughing a lot less and you slowly start to lose the beautiful spark in your eyes. An inch of you dies everyday while your fears grow stronger and occupy more space in your body. Your body’s cortisol level skyrockets because 90% of the time you are experiencing some type of fear that saps your energy and joy. I found that I could hardly fully immerse myself and enjoy any given moment because my mind is always relieving some type of fear.
That vicious cycle of fear continued for me until one fateful day.
I was driving one evening and my nostalgic self started to reminisce about my past…the world around me blurred and my memories transported me to the year 2012. I was a young student studying my foundation course in Dubai. I could vividly see my 15 year old self crying on the gym floor at the female hostel’s gym late at night.
2012 was one of my darkest years; I was miserable and severely depressed but ironically it was also the year I re-discovered Islam, fell in love with Allah, my deen and the Prophet (saw). My Iman subhanallah climbed to a peak it had never attained in the past. The only thing that made sense at that period of my life was my relationship with God, and I held on tight to Him like a tight rope because He always made me feel better. For the lack of better words it was like a drug…I needed more and more of His comfort and so I kept running back to Him…even at odd places like the gym. As I relieved that specific memory of my 15 year old self positioned in sujood and wailing to Allah at the gym, I remembered one of the supplications I made to Allah at that very moment. I begged Allah to make me one of His most beloved servants and I begged Allah to send tests my way because He tested all of those He loved the most.
I was young and quite ignorant at the time and understood very little the concept of love and what sincere faith entailed. The ignorant person believes our faith is only tested during times of hardship. We often forget that our faith can also be tested during times of ease, pleasure and abundant blessings. After growing and acquiring a little more knowledge and wisdom, I know better than to repeat that innocent dua I made when I was 15.
I divert, let’s return to the gist…
At that very moment in the car, after recalling the dua I made 10 years ago at the age of 15, one of the verses of the Quran started to replay very loudly in my head…it was a verse that I frequently cited to others and one I would remind myself from time to time. It felt almost like some divine intervention was taking place and Allah was sending a message to me at that very moment and responding to that specific dua my 15 year old self made. Can you guess what verse in the Quran I’m talking about? It’s none other than the one in Suratul Baqarah:
“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”.Surah Al Baqarah (2:155)
Something about that verse hit me differently….it was almost like I was coming across the verse for the very first time and interpreting it for the first time. I focused on a part of the verse that I never in my life deeply pondered on before. The part I’m referring to is the part where Allah (swt) said ‘and We will surely test you with something of fear“.
All my life I brushed passed that verse as though the part that spoke about fear was trivial and I would mainly focus on the test of hunger, the test of the loss of wealth, the test of the loss of lives and fruits. Never did I ever focus on the test of fear. The truth is majority of our scholars don’t talk about this type of test and I find it so profound because it is actually the very first test Allah mentioned in the verse before He listed the other things He mentioned He would test us with. Subhanallah.
In the car, my head snapped out of my reverie and my jaw dropped. I can’t express the feeling I felt at that moment but the best I can say is that I felt a wash of relief I’ve never felt in my life. At that moment every fear I carried inside my nerves dissipated away. I’m a very self-aware individual but you see, the intensity and frequency of the fear I would often experience was something I never really understood about myself, it was something I even resented myself for but finally it started to make sense after I read that verse with new eyes. All the pieces started to come together for me.
Altiné all the fears you’ve been experiencing intensely for the most part of your life have been nothing but tests and little did you know or perceive it. The fears I re-lived almost became an identity of mine; I almost accepted it as who I was and something that I couldn’t escape or change…but that’s not true. Each time you experience the feeling of fear or anxiety, remember and acknowledge that Allah is testing you at that very moment. You are NOT your fears. Neither are you a fearful or anxious person.
For the past year (after I gave birth to Ayman), I found myself falling ill a lot more frequently than usual and it took a toll on me including my mental health…and it was something I wasn’t ready to acknowledge at the time. I was experiencing all sorts of pain and I saw all types of doctors and consultants but they would always try to alleviate my fears and say the results all came back negative and I was healthy and fine.
It didn’t make sense to me because how can you feel pain and other things that are clearly wrong or not normal but the Doctors say they can’t find or explain why I’m feeling a certain way. It got so bad I no longer trusted my doctors and I decided to get a full health screening done. I got every inch of my body examined. From getting MRI Scans to cervical and breast cancer screening to knowing what my bone density is, my heart, my eyes, my ears, all the blood works, all my internal organs, my hormones…EVERYTHING. I traveled to one of the best hospitals to get the health screening done and had to wait over 3 weeks for the results to come back.
The medical test I was most terrified of getting done was the MRI brain scan because for many years I experience very terrible headaches and my hands used to tremble a lot even during non-stressful situations. I can never forget the day I was at my sisters house and I was in her kitchen holding a cutlery and she kept staring at me with wide eyes. My brows furrowed and I tried to follow her gaze. I averted my eyes back at her and asked her why she was staring at me like that?
She responded ‘Altine…why is your hand shaking like that?’ her voice was alarmed.
I didn’t even notice or feel it was shaking at the moment. I laughed it off nervously and responded “oh it’s nothing, it happens from time to time. It mostly happens when I’m deeply stressed but I don’t know what’s happening now. I’m sure its nothing.” I tried to wave off her fears.
She shook her head roughly and her face grew with worry. She spat out a firm “NO. Noooo. That’s not normal. Ha! I hope you don’t have Parkinson’s Disease!? You know it’s what killed Muhammed Ali!”.
Parkinson’s Disease? Ladies and gentlemen my sister…the alarmist, and WebMD’s best friend.
I rolled my eyes at her diagnoses. Before that day I never worried about having Parkinson’s Disease but after my encounter with my sister I started to worry more deeply about the cause of my frequent hand trembles. Do I have a tumor that’s affecting one of the nerves in my brain that controls my arm movement? I was more determined but scared to get the MRI scan done.
Before I decided to get the test done, I could feel my old self creeping back. I started feeling fearful…what if I have a terminal disease and will die and have to leave behind my toddler? Who will be able to raise him and love him unconditionally like me? I spoke to a good friend and ex colleague of mine and she was truly God sent. She reminded me God was in control, nothing was going to happen to me and I would overcome this fearful stage of my life. Once again, I remembered that moment in the car when Allah caused me to remember the verse in the Quran that spoke about the test of fear. I immediately recognised what was happening and the old cycle I was about to embark on and I immediately brushed the fear off and placed my complete trust in Allah. I reminded myself the fear I was feeling was just a test, it’s not a confirmation or guarantee I have any terminal illness. And if by any chance I do have an undiagnosed terminal disease, I trust Allah that in the end I will be good and my son will also be good…with or without me. I was ready to face my fears.
Three weeks after I conducted the tests, I got the call back from the hospital informing me that my results were ready and I needed to come over to the hospital and meet with their head consultant who will go over each test result with me. I requested for a zoom call with the doctor to go over the test but they insisted I had to come over in person and meet the doctor to find out the result. Old me would have started to assume things and jump to bad conclusions…is this a sign that its terrible news and they have to break the news to me in person? Come on we are living ‘post-covid’; everyone had to adjust to having meetings virtually…why can’t they just tell me over zoom? But I didn’t worry or think much about all this. My body was beginning to reject and accommodate any unwarranted fear.
On the day I received my test results, I walked into the Doctor’s office with my mother next to me and my heart started pounding faster but I didn’t feel the heavy weight or excruciating burden of fear. I’m human and my body reacted the most natural way in that given circumstance. Mentally I was more in problem-solving mode. If they had diagnosed something irregular or life threatening…I wanted to know what my options where? What can we do? I wasn’t going to allow myself to be buried and overwhelmed by some useless emotion. I was determined to conquer my fear/test.
Alhamdulilah the results came out clean. From the thorough tests they conducted, they were also able to explain why I experienced certain things in the past. I was glad because I got closure for the things that worried me. There was also something interesting that the doctor mentioned to me in passing that made me smile. He told me to smile and laugh more and to worry less and stop stressing my body and to move my body.
Even though I experienced some level of fear at some moments, it didn’t cause me to lose hope in Allah, or to feel miserable because I believed sincerely that whatever the tests we face in life, whatever Allah decrees for us, it is what is better for us and we must trust Him and say Alhamdulilah in all situations. At that moment I sat across from the doctor at the table, I had no idea what my test results was going to be but I had my mother who I trusted by my side to support me and I banked on my faith in God and entrusted my affairs in His hands because Allah is the best disposer of affairs. He was in control and I happily surrendered and submitted to His will.
Ever since that day in the car, I’ve not experienced the emotion of fear the same way again.
These days whenever I feel or experience any creeping fear, it no longer gives me heart palpitations, or cause me to lose sleep at night. If I fear something, I make sincere dua to Allah about it. I entrust the matter to God and carry on with my life like nothing happened cause I trust He will handle it. If He is going to handle it why should I continue to feel fear? Why choose to carry that burden especially when 99% of the time the things we fear are beyond our control? It felt like a colossal weight had been lifted from my shoulder. I now get to smile a lot more and laugh more freely because my mind no longer swims in fear. I’m happy and content and I’m so grateful to Allah for helping me see and connect with His words in the Quran, which brought a lot of peace and healing to my body, soul and mind.
Today our country is faced with a national crisis…the level of insecurity and inflation is unprecedented and it has got a lot of people scared and rightfully so. I’m here to tell you today that if you are currently feeling fear or are anxious about the future…take a deep breath and remember that the feeling of fear you are experiencing is in itself a test from Allah. Don’t let your fear consume you. Don’t let it derail you. Don’t let it cause you to lose hope or faith in God and the miracles He can perform. Allah has power and control over EVERYTHING including your emotions and the very thing you are scared of. If you fear that one of the presidential aspirants will win the office and will drive this country down, then as a citizen you need to do your part to prevent that from happening, which is obtaining your permanent voters card (PVC) and coming out to vote for the leader you believe would serve and lead this country aright and pray for the security and development of our country.
Do not underestimate the power of dua. If the thing you fear is something that is outside of your control…just dua it and leave it to God to take care of. There’s literally nothing else you can do, so quit adding fuel to the fear by not focusing any of your energy or thoughts on the matter.
However, if the thing you fear is something that is within your control or something you can influence or change then you need to face your fear by doing everything you need to do to stop the fear from materialising. Do your part and seek help through prayer and patience. Also make dua to Allah against the thing you are feeling fearful of and ask for His support and leave the rest to Allah and trust He has it under control. What do I mean by this?
If for example you are someone that has struggled with your weight for many years, the numbers on the scale keep climbing up, your dress sizes keep rising and finally your doctor diagnoses you to be pre-diabetic or obese and the extra weight you’ve put on is now life threatening. Any person dealing with such at that moment would mostly experience fear. In this instance you have complete control over your fears. You can choose to keep fuelling your fear by making no changes to your diet and lifestyle or you can decide to do something about it. You can choose to correct your diet and commit to exercising more regularly and leading a more healthy lifestyle and taking better care of your body that is an amanah from God. In this instance you played your part but no one said it’s going to be easy. You will still need to pray to Allah to make it easy for you, to grant you the strength, commitment and ability to reach the goal or target your Doctor has fixed for you, you need to pray to Allah to not let you experience any medical conditions or other life occurrences that will make achieving that fitness and health goal extra difficult or even impossible.
Another example is if you are someone that fears deeply about the day of judgement and life after death in general; similarly you have two choices. You can choose to fuel your fear by making no changes to your life and doing the same thing you’ve been doing over the years or you start taking your life more seriously and being more intentional about every act of worship and deeds you perform. You examine and make an audit of your life and figure out your shortcomings and the areas you need to improve on and start doing the work. This could include praying on time, offering more voluntary prayers, changing your circle of friends, not entertaining any form of gossip or speaking ill of others, covering peoples mistakes, being more kind and generous, spending more time reading Quran (as it will intercede for you on the day of judgement) and generally hastening to perform more good deeds that will weigh heavily on your scale and improve your chances of succeeding on the day of judgement. And of course you will need to make ample dua because your deeds alone will not get you into Jannah; it is Allah’s mercy that gets us into Jannah. You will need to supplicate to Allah to save you from the punishment on that day and to grant you safe passage to heaven and to be one of His servants that will be protected under His loving shade and be in the company of the Prophet SAW.
We only get one chance to live on this earth. Make sure you live it well and in a way your future self would be proud and thankful of. Learn to let go of all the fears that cripple you, the fears that make you feel small, play small and remain small. Let go of all the fears that don’t serve you in this life and the next life. May Allah grant us all the courage and ability to face and conquer the fears that are within our control and disperse all other fears that are outside our control.
La hawla wala quwwata illa billah (there is no power and no strength except with Allah)
Until next time,