In 2008, I was accepted to law school. It’s safe to say that I was absolutely thrilled. My heart pumped fast with anticipation. I kept grinning at anyone and everyone. I was that girl who had stars in my eyes. Deep inside, I believed that I would change the world. I was completely convinced that I would love being a family lawyer because I wanted to fight for justice.
I was wrong.
I went from one internship to the next feeling positively puzzled. Bit my bit, my passion waned. Having to stay up till 2 am on hectic days, with no time at all for my family and friends, made me miserable. Worse still, I started to realize something that truly shattered my heart. I realized that junior lawyers could not choose our cases. I realized that I could be standing up for someone when my gut feeling was telling me that he’s in the wrong.
Once, someone approached me for legal advice. Upon sitting down, he ranted about his crazy wife who wanted him to divorce her. “Syariah law is so unfair,” he lamented bitterly. He claimed that he was a perfect husband who deserved sole custody of the children and the house. Those who know me know that I have a peculiar way of getting the truth out of people. I calmed him down and asked for the relevant documents related to the divorce case. The picture that was painted by his wife was very different. She had been a faithful and loving wife for 23 years. She did not work because she had to take care of their two daughters who were born just two years apart. She was so dedicated that she didn’t have time for much else. One day, she contracted an STD. That’s when she realized that her husband must be cheating on her. My mentor had trained me to keep a poker face during meetings. I took a deep breath and looked at him. I didn’t say anything for a while. I quietly studied his face. He started to look very uncomfortable.
“Tell me, is this true?”
By Allah’s will, everything came spilling out. He admitted that he had a one-night-stand that was “no big deal.” He acknowledged that his wife is one of the kindest, most patient women he has ever met. However, he made it unequivocally clear that he wanted to “win everything at all costs” because she dared to ask for a divorce. I was stumped. As I trudged home that day, I remember asking myself how I had ended up here. I wanted to tell my parents that I felt like switching schools but I was terrified. I didn’t want them to be disappointed in me. I sobbed while making dua for Allah SWT to give me what’s best for me. This continued for months and months.
It turned out that Allah SWT had a plan for me. Honestly, I was not a stellar student. On average, my grade in law school was a B. My school made it compulsory to take Finance and Financial Accounting. I have never been good with numbers and flunked both. My GPA plunged. To qualify for bar exams, we had to graduate with a minimum GPA of 3. Mine was 2.98. I ended up not taking my bar exams. Truth be told, I felt relieved. I no longer had to carry out tasks despite my conscience telling me to run as far as I could.
My family and close friends were amazingly supportive, ma shaa Allah. However, I would be lying if I told you that it was a bed of roses. People who knew that I was in law school kept asking me why I did not practise law. What was weird was that the sequence was always painfully the same. I would tell them the same story that you are reading now. They would widen their eyes, look at me quizzically and then say, “What a waste!” while shaking their heads. What hurt me the most was having to see my parents blink their eyes slowly, with awkward smiles on their face. I would have been alright if I had had to deal with the barrage of queries and comments on my own. But it honestly devastated me that my parents were dragged into it. Every single time I looked at their faces, I couldn’t help but burst into tears. I doubted myself. I felt like a failure. I was jobless for months. I felt like a loser when I saw my friends becoming full-fledged lawyers. I knew what I didn’t want but could not think of a job that’s right for me. I kept crying to Allah in sujood. I never stopped making Dua. Not even a speck of dust can move without His permission so I left my fate in His Hands.
Fast forward a few years, I have an awesome job in marketing communications. I’ve always loved writing and now I get to improve my skills on a daily basis. My hours are regular. I live a stone’s throw away from Makkah. I love my colleagues. I get to do things that I am passionate about. I have time for my loved ones. I am happy. I thought that it would be nice to share with you the 7 things I learned from this entire experience.
1) Listen to your soul.
I used to feel so much guilt when I was interning at law firms. When I found out that I could not become a lawyer, Allah lifted the burden off my chest. Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan said, “Guilt is a gift from Allah, warning you that what you are doing is violating your soul.” Allah guides you through your conscience. He speaks to you through your soul. Learn to listen. I honestly believe that it’s when you no longer feel guilt that you have to be worried. Be brave. Never, ever compromise your values. It doesn’t matter if people don’t get you. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. You have nothing to prove to them. Having said that…
2) Muhasabah, always.
When Prophet Yunus was stuck in the belly of a whale, the situation seemed extremely bleak and hopeless. In his position, I wouldn’t have seen a way out. He engaged in muhasabah, realized his mistakes and cried out from within the darkness, “There is no god but You, exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers.” [Quran 21:87] Only then did Allah command the whale to surface and eject him to safety.
The Prophet SAW said, “Everyone starts his day and is a vendor of his soul, either freeing it or bringing about its ruin.” Take time to reflect on your choices and actions. Are you humble? Are you kind? Do you give others the benefit of the doubt? Do you leave what does not concern you? Are you sincere? Do you love for others what you love for yourself? Do you benefit other creations? Are you generous? Do you focus on Dunya or Allah? Do strive for the halaal and leave the haram? How do you act upon the knowledge that you have? Trust me, failing is a blessing. Sometimes, Allah tests us so that we realize our shortcomings. Sometimes, we have to hit rock bottom before we can learn, and rise stronger and better than we were before.
3) You are exactly where you need to be.
The web of events in your life may seem random but it is not. It is orchestrated by Allah, the Best of Planners. Nothing is random. Nothing is accidental. Nothing is coincidental. Nothing is in vain. Every painful experience, every devastating heartbreak, every crushing disappointment is preparing you for the moments to come. I’m not a lawyer now but my legal training shaped me to be more confident, eloquent, disciplined, logical and meticulous than I was before. These skills are indispensable and have helped me so much in different areas of my life. Some of the incredible people I met in law school are still my best, most trusted friends. My family was my pillar of support throughout my difficulties and I grew so much closer to them than I was before. Allah does not waste anything. “…and it may be that you dislike a thing that is good for you and that you like a thing that is bad for you. God knows but you do not know.” (Quran 2:216) Allah knows best; trust Him. When He takes something away from you, he’s making space for something better.
4) You can endure and overcome the hardship that you’re facing.
“Allah does not burden a soul more than it can bear.” (Quran 7:42) Allah is just. Allah would never put you through what you cannot handle. He knows that you can pull through. Don’t worry if you falter. Allah only gives his toughest battles to His strongest soldiers. Muster all strength to get up and keep on hustling. Through trials, you will realize that you are strong, you have the courage, and you can endure. Through tests, Allah brings out the best in you. Through pain and suffering, Allah raises your rank. Have faith. Allah is with you. Allah has prepped you for this. What you need is already inside of you.
5) Success may not be what you think.
Society may teach you that being successful means that you have to be wealthy. You need to be a doctor or a lawyer. You need to have status. You need to travel. You need to have a branded bag. You need to have a shiny car. However, those are just means and not the end. Allah says, “And whoever is removed from the Fire and admitted to Paradise, he indeed is successful”. (Quran 3:185) If your wealth and status take you away from Allah, you are not triumphant. You are on the path to failure. The focus is on Him. Uthman was blessed with money. However, he was not attached to his wealth. He carried it in his hands and not in his heart. He was humble and modest. He was generous; he freely gave away his treasures. When water was scarce, he bought a well for the poor. Every Friday, he would buy slaves to set them free. You may not have money like Uthman but you have talents. Ask yourself what your gifts are. How will you use them to be closer to Allah? How will you use them to benefit others? That’s where the key to your success lies.
6) It’s okay to cry.
Being able to cry is beautiful. Trust me, crying is a gift from Allah. Scholars have said that if you want to know the state of your heart, look at your eye. If it is dry, it is a sign that your heart is hard. We are Muslims. We are people with compassion and love. We are people with mercy and softness in our hearts. Even Umar Al-Khattab (radiAllahu anhu) cried. Abdullah ibn Shaddâd said, “I heard the sobbing of ‘Umar from the last rows while he was reciting the verse from the Qur’ân: “I only complain of my grief and sorrow to Allâh”. (12:86) (al Bukhârî, al Bayhaqi (2/251), Sahîh) Embrace the blessing, my fellow seeker. Let your tears flow. Allow Allah to wipe your tears. Allow Allah to wash away your pain. You will be happy again.
“When God wishes to help, He lets us weep. Wherever water flows, life flourishes, wherever tears fall, divine mercy is shown.” – Rumi
7) You can only find peace when you are conscious of Allah
“Only in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find peace.” Personally, it helped me a lot when I started reading more of Allah’s beautiful names. I used to wonder, “How can I be conscious of Allah if I don’t even know Him?” I’m still learning but what little I know touches my heart immensely. His names prompt me to love Him because they are utterly perfect. They remind me that He created us in the best of forms to be his Khalifah. He chose the most complete religion for us. He forgives our sins although we keep failing. He conceals our mistakes although we keep making them. He gives us countless opportunities to repent and return to Him. Allah is infinitely kind, compassionate and merciful. We are in the Best Hands. How then, can my heart not be at ease?
I hope that what I’ve shared has benefited you in some way in shaa Allah. But enough about me! I know I’m not the only one who has been through pain and failure. You’re a fighter too. You’ve been knocked down in this life and have mustered your strength to get up again. I would love to hear your story. Feel free to share it with me in the comments or here.