Hajar, the wife of Prophet Ibrahim (upon them be peace), was left alone by him in the desolate, uninhabited Arabian valley, which is now the thriving city of Makkah, with their son Ismail (upon him be peace). She said to her husband, “O Ibrahim, will you go and leave us in this barren valley in which there is nothing?” She repeated this several times, and he did not answer her. Then she said to him, “Is it Allah who has commanded you to do this?” He said, “Yes.” She said, “Then He will not forsake us” (Sahih Bukh?ri, 3184).
“The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer although there is good in each. Desire that which will bring you benefit, and seek help from Allah and do not give way to incapacity. If something happens to you, do not say, ‘If only I had done such-and-such.’ Rather say, ‘The decree of Allah – He does what He will.’ Otherwise you will open yourself up to the action of Shaytan”
A strong Muslim trusts in the plan of Allah SWT and therefore is able to face even the most difficult of situations or circumstances. A strong Muslim does not need validation from anyone about the deepest issues of the soul – belief in the Divine Truth and trust in the Will and Wisdom of the giver of Truth. Strength therefore comes from within an individual, from the profound connection one has with Allah (SWT), knowing that He is watching, guiding, and protecting. Confidence and courage naturally follow.
The Strong Believer
Abu Hurayra (R) said that the Messenger of Allah (S) said, “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer although there is good in each. Desire that which will bring you benefit, and seek help from Allah and do not give way to incapacity. If something happens to you, do not say, ‘If only I had done such-and-such.’ Rather say, ‘The decree of Allah – He does what He will.’ Otherwise you will open yourself up to the action of Shaytan” (Muslim). Shaykh Faraz Rabbani suggests that the four characteristics mentioned in this hadith provide a roadmap to strong belief: 1) Be avid for benefit, 2) Seek the assistance of Allah, 3) Don’t deem yourself incapable, and 4) Don’t second guess yourself.
We must strive for these four characteristics if we are to strengthen ourselves as Muslims. The connection with Allah (SWT) is the core of one’s innermost fortitude, vigor, and tenacity. But there are many actions, found in common wisdom, that we can take to increase inner strength.
How to Increase Inner Strength
Anne Naylor, a personal motivation consultant and author, discusses a number of ways to build inner strength. Here are nine of them, with my own comments where pertinent:
“Take time to look within”— Go on a journey of self discovery to figure out your weaknesses and strengths. Once you know yourself, you are able to work on enhancing your strengths and improving in areas of weakness.
“Affirm your qualities—What qualities make you unique? Enthusiasm, sense of humor, joy, persistence, courage, the ability to connect with others? Affirm those in the present tense with ‘I am’ statements. Choose three affirmations and repeat them, first thing in the morning and last thing at night.” After you have said these words, end by saying Alhumdulillah.
“Learn to say ‘No’—Do not over-commit yourself. Refusing a request is not against anyone else. You are being honest with, and true to, yourself.”
“Accept, appreciate, and love yourself through difficulties—When your life is in turmoil, you may not do things perfectly. Give yourself permission to learn. Ask: What can this situation teach me?” Remember that this life is a test!
“Be forgiving—When you make a mistake, be tender, kind, and compassionate. Do not punish, criticize and condemn yourself.” Allah asks us to be forgiving if we want Him to forgive us. This includes not only forgiving others, but also forgiving ourselves.
“Focus on the positive—Even in the midst of disaster, look for the blessings and opportunity present. With a positive attitude, you can literally turn your life around.”
“Be patient—Make the most of each day and take steps to build a future you would like. This is not a passive, hopeless enduring, but an active participative anticipation of a better life for yourself and those you care for.”
“Be open for the best—You never know what good is right around the next corner. Keep an open and receptive mind.”
“Be grateful—The attitude of gratitude will take you through life’s worst storms and lead you toward greater joy, serenity and fulfillment.” Keep in mind that gratitude is a feeling and an attitude but also an approach to living that can be practiced. In each moment, one can choose to focus on the multitude of things that are good and beneficial, even in the midst of difficulty.
We can say that the ninth item above, “be grateful,” is pivotal to the degree and quality of one’s inner strength. It’s important to note that Shaytan tries to divert us from the path of Allah (SWT): “Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful [to You]” (7:17). What can easily cause a person’s downfall? – not being grateful to Allah (SWT). And gratitude must reside in one’s thoughts, be expressed by one’s words, and be demonstrated by one’s actions. The Prophetic wisdom says it all: The Prophet took the hand of Mu’aadh ibn Jabal and said: “O Mu’aadh, by Allah I love you, by Allah I love you.” Then he said, “I advise you, O Mu’aadh, do not fail to say this after every prayer: ‘O Allah help me to remember You, to thank You and to worship You properly.’” May Allah SWT guide us all. Ameen.