I WAS STANDING outside of Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi when a woman came to me, her eyes full of sadness.
“They won’t let me into the masjid…the guards said there is no more space,” she said desperately. She was devastated. She had just arrived in Madinah the day before and it would be her first opportunity to pray Tahajjud in the masjid.
“I feel as if there was no more space for me in Paradise!” she said with a cry.
I saw her broken heart, felt the pain of her anguish in my own. I told her to take the sadness, frustration and longing she felt in that very moment and combine it with the very real pain she was experiencing in her own life. The losses she’s gone through, the hurt she’s experienced, the difficulties she was struggling to survive, the heartbreaks tearing at her soul—and to pour it all out in sujood, in prostration, weeping to Allah to answer her calls. I told her to fervently whisper her ache to Allah, begging Him to answer her and open the doors of His mercy in her life, to make this closed door the opener of every other door of blessing and closeness to Him and His Prophet ﷺ in both worlds.
Her eyes flickered hope as we spoke. She moved away and began her prayer. I heard her bawling, her shoulders heaving, her whispers desperate. I was in awe of the passion of her salah; her prostration was intense, focused, forever. She wasn’t a person simply seeking answers. She was seeking redemption. Renewal.
Later, she caught up with me. Her eyes looked bright, changed. Her smile was lighter, her words emanating tranquility. “Had I gotten in earlier, I wouldn’t have had such an intimate moment with Allah,” she began. “It’s as if He closed the door I thought I needed to enter in order to open the door my heart truly needed. He is All Wise,” she breathed.
Another Woman’s Story
Her reflection reminded me of the mother of Mûsa (Moses), may Allah be pleased with both of them. She must have been trembling, frightened, frantic, when she gave birth to a son. Infant boys were being slaughtered all around her; where would she hide him? How would she protect him? She received revelation from Allah …when you fear for him, cast him into the river and do not fear and do not grieve. Indeed, We will return him to you and will make him [one] of the Messengers [Sûrat Al-Qaṣaṣ, 28: 7]. And eventually, she did throw him into the river in the feeble protection of the box that carried him.
God promised her he would return Mûsa to her. Yet where did Allah deliver Mûsa? You’d assume that God would answer the prayers of Mûsa’s mother by taking him far away from his potential murderer. And yet instead, Allah decrees that Moses is literally delivered to the doorstep of Pharaoh.
God had promised her that He would return her son to her. Yet imagine her human shock at where her son had arrived. The Quran describes her heart as becoming empty, that she was about to expose the reality—had God not bound her heart, giving her strength [Sûrat Al-Qaṣaṣ, 28: 10].
It’s just as our hearts are often numbed when we experience the worst, despite what we thought we were doing right for the sake of God.
How many times have we thought we were living morally, praying diligently, doing things right—only to find that our fears were actualized, our losses magnified, our pain almost unbearable? How many of us have wondered why God had put us in such a situation? Why He didn’t answer those pleas and calls of our desperation?
Yet it was through delivering Mûsa to the palace that he was raised exactly where he needed to be—in order to liberate the Banî Isrâ’îl and to continue to be a name praised, prayed for and followed until today.
And it was through that very action, too, that Mûsa was protected and through which his mother got her son back.
Anything He decrees is for our benefit. Out of His love, even the pain is blessing in disguise.
Understanding Our Story
Sometimes though, we misunderstand Allah. Understandably; our minds are too small for the greatness of His wisdom. But despite our knowledge of Him being All-Wise, all we see are closed doors. We see ourselves entering Madinah for the first time and unable to pray in the very Masjid we traveled such a long distance to worship in. We see a rejection email and feel our duʿâ’ has gone to waste. We’re turned down in marriage and we lose hope.
Sometimes, in our lives, we plan and we pray and we feel like we’re being slighted over and over and over again. But in those moments, remember the words of Allah …But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And God Knows, while you know not. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:216]
The Real Story
Don’t doubt His master plan. On the outside, it may seem like you’re being delivered to the palace of the Pharaoh; you may wonder why, you may become angry, you may even want to give up.
But in reality, perhaps your being delivered to the ‘palace’ is just one step forward towards being united with your loved ones, with your purpose, and with your life-long legacy.
He promises He will answer us. Just as He promised the mother of Mûsa that He would return her son to her. He commands us …Call upon Me; I will respond to you [Sûrat Ghâfir, 40:60]. And He assures us that He is listening, ready to answer: And when My servants ask you concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:186]
The Prophet ﷺ encouraged us to make duʿâ’, telling us: Verily, your Lord is generous and shy. If His servant raises his hands to Him in supplication, He becomes shy to return them empty (Tirmithi). And urged us to make duʿâ’ with conviction, saying: Ask Allah with certainty that He will answer your prayers (Tirmithi).
Sometimes, what we see as closed doors are different ways through which He is responding to us. Perhaps Allah will save us from some evil because of that duʿâ’, or give us what we’re asking or save a special package of that answered duʿâ’ for us in the Hereafter (referenced in Tirmithi).
Make Your Own Story This Ramadan
This Ramadan, open your heart to trusting in His decree. Make vulnerable, private, and pleading duʿâ’. Here’s a suggestion on how to revolutionize your duʿâ’ this Ramadan:
- As you prepare for Ramadan to enter, write out a duʿâ’ list. Memorize it so that you can speak from your heart, in your sujûd, at any moment.
- Divide your duʿâ’ list into 20 days. If you have 20 duʿâ’ on that list, you’ll have one a day. If your duʿâ’ list doesn’t reach 20, then you’ll be going through it more than once over the time period.
- Instead of making every single duʿâ’ on your list every day in a routine, habitual way, pour your emotions into those few specific duʿâ’ you have listed for that day. For each of what you’re asking feel the need through your bones; let your blood heat with the desperation that consumes you for what you’re seeking. Plead, beg Allah with the brokenness of a beggar who will die if they are turned away. Pour your emotions into your duʿâ’. And while you do it, let your body tremble with the certainty of knowing that Allah will answer you.
- In the last 10 nights of Ramadan, devote extra time to your duʿâ’ and make every single duʿâ’ on your list every night. One of those nights will be Laylat Al-Qadr. There is no way your duʿâ’ will not be answered in the holiest 10 nights which hold the holiest night of the year amongst them.
The Promise of Du’â’
And remember: Even if your duʿâ’ is not answered the way you want it, your making duʿâ’ with presence of heart can only lead to a closer relationship with Allah and blessings from places you could never expect.
Allah does not deny a person who comes to Him full of trembling hope, who struggles to live right and repents from their mistakes, and whose voice continually cries out, begging Him from the depths of their heart.
Never will Allah disappoint a person who has certainty in Him. Perhaps He doesn’t give you what you so desperately want because it’s not good for you yet, or because He plans for you something better. Perhaps the sheer weight in the slam of a door opens numerous others that are better.
Receiving Allah’s Best
In the words of Ibn Al-Qayyim: “When God tests you, it is never to destroy you. Whenever He removes something from your possession, it is only to empty your hands for an even better gift.”
Originally posted 2015-06-22 03:00:21.