A Personal Education Program Called Life

By Abdul Lateef Abdullah
Writer, Counselor - Malaysia

How many Muslims complain that they are not ‘getting what they want’ from Allah? Where is the teaching which says that Islam is about getting all that we desire from Allah, as if Allah were some big slot machine in the sky, and we are just waiting to hit the jackpot - that is what I hear so often. Of course, we all hope that our prayers are answered, our needs are fulfilled, and our halal desires are met. What is the part of the story that is about:


  • Giving
  • Being charitable and
  • Being merciful, rather than getting?


I think we are often too fixated on what we are getting as Muslims as opposed to what we are giving. If we think about our example, and how Prophet Muhammad (SAW) never thought about his own needs and desires being met unless they involved benefiting others. We are guilty of not following his real Sunnah, the Sunnah of the heart being in the proverbial ‘right place.’ 


As Muslims we must always try our best to realize that our lives are personal education programs designed and created by Allah to achieve knowledge and worship. Whatever happens in our lives, as ‘radical monotheists’ as we are sometimes referred to; we should realize that Allah has developed this personalized program called life to teach us about Him. But He has given us three important tools to achieve knowledge of Him, as He says in the Qur’an:through His revelations, His creation, and ourselves. Through these three tools, everything that we experience in life can become a sign of His greatness in some way. It is for this reason that Prophet Muhammad (SAW), if we reflect back on his way of life a bit, was able to supplicate continuously in whatever situation he found himself. He lived at this state or level of realization where his God-consciousness was so high that it was if he was in a constant, ongoing conversation with Allah. The beauty of his words reflects the deep need that we human beings experience as His creation. It is through his example that Allah has taught us about His total Oneness – ever-present in any and all situations and times. Therefore, we should be striving to be more conscious of Allah in our own lives, which will facilitate understanding, and help us to see that despite how awful things may seem, in sha-Allah if we remember the ‘big picture’ that Allah always provides us the reason, cause or ‘excuse’ to remember Him, and turn back to Him at all

times like Prophet Muhammad did, then in sha-Allah things may become clearer to us. Take the words of Sheikh Din Muhammad Abdullah:


"The mind-blowing thing about this Reality is that it is happening for everyone, for all, at the same time respectively, in the same way on every conceivable and inconceivable level. Imagine that! Everything that is happening here is a complete custom design for each one of us individually, yet we are all experiencing it collectively. Wow! That is what makes God, "God." This can happen in time and space in the "mind" of God. Everything that happens to you is for your benefit. How can you know that? Because, you needed everything that has ever happened to you to get you to where you are now….


"….However, we are here to experience, and it is okay to fall down, it is okay to trip, it is okay to mess up (whatever "messing up" means) and it is okay to get back up again. Get down. Get back up - a custom course work... Everything that is happening at every moment is the next lesson, like the next "flash card." Every person that walks in the door is the next flash card for you, your lessons. Everything that you feel is the next flash card for the next lesson. Everything that you see, everything that you taste, everything that you smell, everything that you hear and all of your realizations are part of the next lesson. Now "faith" is starting to become something real and personally engaging.

  • then you get when you are ready and willing to change and grow! 

Amazing how that works! Another sign of Allah’s wisdom and greatness….


Our wonderful scholars have written extensively over the past 14 centuries about the issue of prayers not being answered, and some of the reasons why this happens. Here is something to remember in regard to the Istikhara prayer for guidance, as mentioned by Sheikh Faraz Rabbani:


“Istikhara (prayer of seeking guidance) gives the best answer, for one's worldly and religious life (not worldly life alone), when coupled with another essential Sunnah: Istikhara (seeking sound counsel) of those worthy of being consulted, and taking the sound means of assessing the situation at hand.

"This is why it is good to consult with people of wisdom, understanding, and experience regarding the results of one's prayer of seeking guidance (Istikhara), because one's own interpretation is often clouded by one's inclinations and desires.”


Self-interpretation is often very difficult to do because we can often be blinded to what Allah wants to tell us by our own desires and biases which cloud our judgment. That it is why Sheikh Faraz mentions seeking the counsel of a wise person to help us see things more objectively.


Related Links:
What is the Nature of Man?
“I’m Starting with the (Wo)Man in the Mirror”
Muslim Identity or Living in a State of Surrender?
Dark Night of the Soul
A Superior Trust
Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah is an American convert to Islam. He holds a bachelor's in political science and economics from the University of Delaware, a master's in social work from Columbia University, and recently earned a doctorate from the Institute for Community & Peace Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia, in the field of youth studies. He has worked as a Program Assistant for the Academy for Educational Development (Washington, DC); and with the Taqwa Gayong Academy (New Jersey, USA and Penang, Malaysia) for troubled youth, both Muslim and non-Muslim.

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