By Sheima Salam Sumer
13 December 2016
Recently, a reader of my articles asked me to write about how I remain so positive while living in Iraq. Even though I live in a peaceful city in Iraq, he still encouraged me to answer his questions.
His first question was: “How, given the war, hate, conflict and really enormous pain and suffering in the part of the world you live in, do you manage to remain so positive?”
I replied to him saying that I have made it a priority to feel good within. A few years ago, God opened my eyes to something called the Law of Attraction. I realized that our inner states attract outer events to our lives. I understood that how you feel within impacts your outer experience. After God awakened my heart to this truth, I began to work on feeling inner peace and joy within.
Since my goal is to feel positive, I engage in actions that support this goal. I focus on my prayers and my relationship with God. I try not to hear too much news and negativity. If it’s really important, I’ll hear about it from some family member or friend.
One of my favourite Hadiths or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) teaches that everything that happens to a believer is good in some way:
“How excellent the affairs of the believer! His affair, all of it, is good for him, and this is not the case with anyone except the believer. If prosperity comes to him, he is thankful, and if adversity falls on him, he perseveres patiently. So it is all good for him.” (Source: Muslim, Ahmad)
This hadith helps me to stay positive because even our hard times bring us blessings.
Another question asked by this reader was how I managed to remain hopeful of better days. I replied that I believe that hope is the only real choice we have. Why would we choose to feel hopeless? Hope gives us the energy to do good deeds and seek solutions.
Prophet Jacob (peace be upon him) lost his beloved son Joseph, yet he never gave up hope of seeing him again. When it seemed that he would lose another son (Benjamin), he said, in the words of the Quran, to his other sons:
“O my sons! Go you and enquire about Yusuf (Joseph) and his brother, and never give up hope of Allah's Mercy. Certainly no one despairs of Allah's Mercy, except the people who disbelieve.”
(The Holy Quran 12:87)
Islam teaches us that this is not the main life to put our hopes in. The next life is more important. The next world is forever, while this world is temporary. The Holy Quran (16:96) states:
“Whatever you have will end, but whatever is with Allah is everlasting. And We will surely give those who were patient their reward according to the best of what they used to do.”
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The likeness of this world to the Hereafter is like a person who dipped his finger in the ocean. Let him see what would return.” (Source: Muslim)
This reader also asked me if I think it is possible to be truly happy and at peace (and also hope that others can be so) amidst the immense misery and suffering on a day-to-day basis that surround us, given that it might be easy for many people to do just the opposite and fall prey to despair and negativity in the face of it all.
Despair and negativity won’t solve our problems, I responded. We have to turn to God and look for solutions. God promises in the Holy Quran: “…And whosoever fears Allah…He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine.” (Holy Quran 65:2-3)
God also promises: “So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief: Verily with every difficulty there is relief. Therefore, when you are free (from your immediate task), still labour hard. And to your Lord turn (all) your attention.” (The Holy Quran 94:5-7)
God promises us that after every difficulty is relief. We must never lose hope that our situation will improve.
Even though we cannot change everything in the world, we can still do something to bring more positivity to it.
True happiness comes from having a positive relationship with our Creator. True happiness is an inside job. It has more to do with our inner world than our outer world.
Sheima Salam Sumer is an author and trained Counsellor. She is the author of How to be a Happy Muslim.