A Passive Life or Just a Daydreamer?

Question and answer details
A Passive Life or Just a Daydreamer?
As-salamu `alaykum.   I am very mad at myself because in the past few years, I do little for my studies. I am a student of medicine (3rd degree), but was never happy with my choice. My dream was to go to an Islamic university to study Shari`ah, in Egypt for example, but being a girl, traveling so far away was not accepted by my parents. Now I pass my time reading books about Islam and I neglected my real studies. I think that is the main reason of my defeat at school, the lack of motivation, but my parents say that it's just Shaytan who's playing with my mind and that helping people will satisfy me later.   There is something else that bothers me and that is the fact that I'm so passive. I would like to do something for the Islamic minority here, but I don't find the courage nor the help to do something. When I think about being a member of an Islamic association, I hear my father saying that is wasting time and I should concentrate on my studies. Studies are a kind of obstacle to what I want to do. Sometimes I think if I was married everything would be more easy, but finding the man who will encourage me to study is not simple.   I really don't know how to continue my life. As long as my studies are at a low point, I feel really miserable, and I hate myself because I have much difficulty with making decisions or to make a change in my routine. Thank you for being a listening ear or a reading eye. I'm waiting to hear your point of view.   Wa salamu `alaykum  
Hwaa Irfan

As-salamu `alaykumwa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh, my dear sister, and may the acts of worship in this blessed month of Ramadan show you the way and give you courage to do what you are capable of doing, in sha' Allah.


Let me share with you a realization I have had during the month of Ramadan. When I return home from an arduous day at work and I am mentally and physically exhausted and I push myself to do the extra prayers and supplications, I have found the first rak`ah  an effort for my mind and body to do what I want it to do, but once I go into the second rak`ah there is a sudden release from the shackles of tiredness and I pursue the rest of my act of worship with a new release of energy that could not possibly have come from me. This is the reality of life. Whatever one intends, especially if it is not self-centered, requires that little bit of extra effort. This is the meaning of intention in Islam.


Scholar Yasien Mohammed tells us

When we say that such a man is fulfilling the purpose for his creation and existence, it is obvious that that man's obligation to serve God is felt by him as normal because it comes as a natural inclination on the man's part to do so. This natural tendency in man to serve and worship God is also referred to as dîn. … Here in the religious context it has a more specific signification of the natural state of being called fitrah. In fact dîn also means fitrah. Fitrah is the pattern according to which God has created all things. … Submission to it brings harmony, for it means realisation of what is inherent in one's true nature; opposition to it brings discord, for it means realisation of what is extraneous to one's true nature. (The Islamic Concept of Human Nature )

You feel that you have been prevented from moving towards your true nature by not fulfiling your dreams as a practing Muslim, but I question—have you? If you read the last sentence of the above extract, fulfilling one's fitrah is dependent on the ability to realize "what is extraneous to one's true nature." I ask you to ask yourself honestly, if your parents are to blame. A valuable asset to humanity would have been lost if Hajar (second wife of Prophet Ibrahim) did not strive between Safa and Marwa in what seemed to be an impossible situation to obtain the needed water for her baby Isma`il.


"Actions are but by intentions" (An-Nawawis #1), so ask yourself, what did you really intend when you say "My dream was to go to an Islamic university to study Shari`ah, in Egypt for example"?


Did you defend your dreams when your parents showed objection to you joining an Islamic association? I ask you another question, as much as you obviously love studying Islam—did you really want to travel away to study Islam? Is there no way that you could have defended studying Islam in your own country? Does studying Islam meaning taking time out of life away from your parents seem like the attractive option? Is it because you feel defenseless against your parents that you wanted to study away rather than study at home? At the end of the day, you feel powerless over your life and this is the core of your problem. As you said, you have difficulty in making decisions. Forget about your parents wish for one moment and try to think about what you really want.


Islam is not separate from life. The great scholars of the past, under greater adversity and without the resources we have today, studied and practiced in multiple subjects to perfect their knowledge.

  • Ibn Sina grew to become a renowned physician, philosopher, encyclopedist, mathematician, and astronomer. You may well say that he was a man and therefore free to do so. 
  • Fatimah bint Muhammad (d. 539/1144), a specialist in Hadith, also gave lectures and had students.
  • Umm Hani Maryam (778-871/1376-1466), for instance, learned the Qur'an by heart when still a child, acquired all the Islamic sciences then being taught, including theology, law, history, and grammar, and then traveled to pursue Hadith with the best traditionists of her time in Cairo and Makkah. She pursued an intensive program of learning in the great college of Cairo, giving ijazahs to many scholars. Ibn Fahd himself studied several technical works on Hadith under her ( Women Scholars of Islam).
  • Then there was one of the Companions, Al-Shifaa bint Abdullah Al-Qurashiyah Al-Adawiyah, who was one of the wise women of her time. Literate in an illiterate age, she was skilled in medicine and involved in public administration.


Ask yourself if you really want to pursue Islam as a field of study, in what way does it contradict studying medicine? All too frequently we separate Islam from the rest of our lives and hence a pattern of contradictions and inner tensions roll into action. There is nothing to stop you from studying now, there is nothing written to say that it has to be within a college or university, thus allowing you to complete a much-needed skill in medicine that would help many people.


The only reason why your parents have the level of command over you is because they know that they can. If you are truly convinced about studying Islam for itself, then there is nothing to stop you from doing just that, for one does not have to go away to do that as well as studying medicine, which does not take you away from Islam. It is only your thinking that takes you away from Islam. At the same time, your parents will be more responsive (albiet difficult at first because they are not used to you standing up for yourself). For "Hope is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly" (Langston Hughes).


Every obstacle is a test that challenges your courage and determination. Every obstacle is asking us what is it we need to learn. Sometimes those obstacles are from Allah for our own good. Who is wasting time by feeling sorry for themselves instead of looking at what needs to be changed within their self? You already know this, but as I said before, you need to ask yourself what is it you need to do and take courage in doing it as long as it hurts no one, including one's self. You have the options, but it is your mind that causes the delay and the feeling of helplessness.


{He it is Who sent down tranquillity into the hearts of the believers that they might have more of faith added to their faith. (Al-Fath 48:4)


By becoming a member of a reputable Islamic association or women's circle, you will not only learn more about Islam in theory, but also in practice, because being with others of good intention in this way will develop your sense of self and with this your self-confidence will grow.


Raise your spirit through the acts of worship in this blessed month of Ramadan and see your studies in medicine as a medium by which you can help yourself and then eventually help others because we were not born for ourselves alone. Keep a "Self-Watch" diary recording your

  1. Intentions for the day
  2. Tasks
  3. Achievements
  4. Results for the day (good or bad)


Then ask yourself

  1. Did my tasks match my intentions?
  2. What were my achievements?
  3. Did I fail at achieving something?
  4. How did that something match my intentions?
  5. Why did I fail? Was it because of (a) me or (b) external factors or (c) lack of preparation on my part?
  6. Did the results reflect themselves to be the outcome of my intetions?
  7. Why not?
  8. What is my challenge to myself for the next day?


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Fi sabili-llah.