[dropcap]W[/dropcap]alking by the Bruin Bear one day, I felt overwhelmed and stressed. My grades weren’t where I wanted them to be, I was unable to give my relationships the time that they deserved, my eman was at an all time low, and I hadn’t been home in weeks and missed my family.
I saw a middle-aged man in a wheelchair approaching me. I was a little confused. My face must have reflected this state of stressed confusion because he wheeled right up to me, beamed, and said “Put a smile on that face!” That was all I needed to turn my day around.
This man likely has difficulty doing things we don’t think twice about, but he doesn’t let it faze him. He may have lost ease in mobility, but he has not lost faith. This stranger’s smile reminded me to have complete faith in Allah and put my absolute trust in His knowledge and His plan for me. As Allah states in the Quran,
“Put your trust in Allah. Allah loves those that trust [in Him].” (3:159)
Allah blessed me with Islam, with a family that loves me, with a community that brings me closer to Allah, and with friends that I pray to be reunited with on the Day of Resurrection. What else matters?
This stranger had no idea that his smile and reminder kept me going that entire day. My spirits were high, my Iman higher. His sweet words deeply penetrated my heart. Months have passed, but I still haven’t forgotten his kindness.
Of the many lessons I learned that day, I found two especially relevant to college students. One, always have a smile ready for those around you, and two, always give people seventy excuses.
Always have a smile
Being a student at UCLA is stressful. The quarter has just started as you already feel like you’re losing control. Imagine riding a beautiful Arabian horse on the beach. Initially you have total control over speed and direction. This is week one and two for most of us. After a short while, the horse begins to feel restless and pulls at the reins. You feel like you are losing control and you may not be able to get off alive. This is weeks three through nine. Then, the horse becomes extremely agitated and bolts at full speed while simultaneously trying to throw you off. This is week nine and ten. You feel like you’re going to fail every single one of your finals and the dream of graduating from UCLA fades into obscurity.
If you see someone in any of the various stages – from docile to crazy horse – smile, and remind the person that this horse cannot do anything without Allah’s will. If Allah wills for you to survive the journey on the horse (or the quarter), then you WILL survive.
The Prophet (pbuh) said to Ibn Abbas, “…If the whole nation were to gather together to benefit you they would only benefit you with that which Allah had already written for you, and if the whole nation were to gather to harm you they could only harm you with that which Allah had already written to harm you. The pen has been lifted and the ink has dried.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Give seventy excuses
Hamdun al-Qassar said, “If a friend among your friends errs, make seventy excuses for them. If your heart is unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own self.”
For example, how many of us complain when someone doesn’t say salam or smile at us? Maybe the person just failed an exam. Maybe he/she was in a confrontation with a roommate. Maybe he/she found out a parent is sick.
We assume that if our lives are going well, then everyone else is also having an amazing time. But in reality, we are all facing our own problems and issues. Allah (swt) reminds us of the frequency of our hardships,
“Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such [trial] has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until [even their] messenger and those who believed with him said, ‘When is the help of Allah?’ Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near.” [Qur’an, 2:214]
We expect understanding when we are struggling and cannot be the Muhammad or Mariam we usually are. But when another individual is going through difficulty and doesn’t interact the way they usually might, the first thing we do is make it about ourselves. We get hurt and accuse the person of changing.
Instead of giving up on the person, give to the other person. Give them a smile. Give them seventy excuses. They will eventually overcome their difficulty. Our duty is to be there for them throughout this time, not to make it harder by abandoning or speaking ill of them.
We are all here at UCLA with common goals: to receive an education to better our lives and others’ lives, to use this education to bring ourselves closer to Allah, and to reach our ultimate destination, Jannah. There will be different obstacles throughout this journey for different people, but, as Muslims, we should be helping each other out each step of the way.
Allah reassures, “And give good news to those who persevere, those who say, when a misfortune strikes them, surely to Allah we belong, and surely to Him we will return, these are the ones on whom blessings from their Lord descend, and mercy, and these are the ones who are rightly guided’ (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:155-157).
Featured photo: “Smile,” © 2012 Yellow Becky, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/deed.en