by Juwairiah Syed
For more than half of my life, I have suffered, dealt, and lived with a multitude of health problems.
Looking at me, you’d never know.
What I have previously dealt with and what I am currently enduring isn’t too important to what I want to say:
Without Islam, I don’t know where I’d be or if I’d still be here. The pain I once perceived as punishment from Allah has shown itself to be one of the biggest mercies and blessings He has bestowed upon me.
It began when I was 7.
I didn’t understand what was happening—I still don't—but I remember spending my recesses in the nurse’s office in pain while my classmates were outside playing. I remember aunties looking at me with sad eyes, telling my mom, “Ay, bechari!” Finally one day I asked her, “What does that even mean?”
It’s Urdu for “poor girl.” I hated it.
I was told that any pain I felt was expiation for my sins. As a little girl at the age of 7 or 8, I couldn’t help but wonder, what had I done that was so bad Allah would put me through this punishment? Had I really sinned that badly?
The Prophet Muhammad* (ﷺ) said, “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that,” (Sahih Al-Bukhari: 5641).
Years went on of this pain, and it made it difficult to even perform salah. Too painful to pray normally, I’d sit down. I started to dislike going to the mosque which is something I resented. I was a little girl who had to sit down to pray. No one else around me had to do that! It was humiliating.
I couldn’t go and play like the other kids. I felt left out and alone.
I continued to question, “Why me?”
I’m not proud to say this, but I believe it’s important to share: in middle school, I was tempted to harm myself on the surface because I was so fed up with the pain going on internally.
“And make not your own hands contribute to your destruction; but do good, for Allah loves those who do good,” (Quran; 2:195).
If it hadn’t been for Allah’s hold on me, and Islam teaching us that harming ourselves is a sin, my body could have been covered up with scars right now. There’s no benefit in sugarcoating my story, so I’m being honest about it. I want people in similar situations to know they are not alone in feeling this way, but also, it’s something we need to fight off.
I was frustrated and confused and angry—with myself for not getting better, but also with Allah for not giving me the strength to do so—or so I thought.
Finally, as I got a little older, I became a little wiser and began changing my view of the world, my situation and myself. Allah ka shukar, one of the verses of the Quran continuously plays in my head whenever I start feeling as if I can’t go on. It’s probably one of the best reminders I have used to help me keep moving forward.
“Allah does not burden a soul more than it can bear…” (Quran; 2:286).
The laundry list of health problems I have dealt with don’t seem like such a punishment anymore; they truly are a blessing in disguise. A very painful disguise, but a blessing, nonetheless.
For the past few years, my pain has become more severe and has hindered my ability to do so-called “simple” everyday tasks like getting out of bed, going shopping for a few hours, or merely having the energy to stay awake throughout the entire day. Probably doesn’t sound like much to the average person, but for me, it feels like a freaking marathon.
There isn’t much I can actually do to stop the state of pain my body goes through. However, I do have the power to improve my state of mind.
There may be some days when I get frustrated again and have a breakdown, but I see nothing wrong with that. An occasional breakdown can be good. We must allow ourselves the opportunity to breakdown if we feel that we are breaking. Then, we can rebuild ourselves stronger the next time around.
Sometimes I’ll still wonder what I did to deserve this “punishment,” but that mindset is from shaytan. Sometimes, I will have to stop what I’m doing and force myself to remember Allah, to remind myself to appreciate the countless blessings He has bestowed upon me.
It has become a necessity for my well being to be grateful, especially about how lucky I am to be tested by Him everyday. My tests are my pathway to continue to strive and thrive for the sake of Allah, subhanahu wa ta'aala.
If you are going through something like this, whether it’s an invisible illness like mine or something that makes you feel down, in pain, or lost, I beg you to work on finding Allah again. (If you or someone you know are going through something like this, please reach to a friend, a parent, a trusted adult, or seek professional help.) I promise you, if you go to Him walking, He will come to you running [Sahih Al-Bukhari: 7536].
One of the best things for me to remember is that we would not be tested in the ways we are unless Allah knew that He would see us through it—we are never alone, no matter how lonely our journeys may seem.
I’m still living with this pain every day, and I don’t know if it will last the rest of my life. I pray it doesn’t, but Allah is wisest. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me or to pity me, and I don’t want people to think that I’m very strong—whatever strength I have to continue my journey back to my Lord is from Him alone.
Do not let shaytan make you feel alone or lost because Allah is ready to guide us and keep us on the Straight Path so that we may reach our goal and eternal destination of Jannah, Insha' Allah. Take this from me: Allah and His love will keep you going.
“O, you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient,” (Quran; 2:153).
It is a matter of us doing our part to stay on it and we must continue to be patient in our individual situations.
It is so easy to forget our purpose, our love for Allah, and His love for us when our minds are focused on the physical or mental pain we endure. Remembering those things and using them to continue pushing through each day creates a mindset that is the reason I’m still breathing today. So, Alhumdulillah for everything, because everything is from Him.
It’s a challenge to wake up feeling ready for a new day, every day, knowing I’ll probably be dealing with some sort of discomfort or pain.
But because I have Islam in my life, I will always have a reason to get up again.
If you require assistance, please seek it:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-784-2433
National Adolescent Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Allah ka shukar= Urdu: Thanks to God
Subhanahu wa ta’aala= Glory to Him, the Exalted
Alhumdulillah= All praises belong to God
Insha’Allah= If God wills