By Bilal Philips

To remove the obstacles we have to focus mostly on self-change and this is because Allah says:

{Verily! Allah will not change the good condition of a people as long as they do not change their state of good within themselves…} (13:11)

This is an area which we have control over. We can even develop patience, although the common idea is that some people are just born patient.

The Virtue of Patience

A man came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and asked what he needed to do to get to Paradise, so the Prophet (peace be upon him) told him:

“Do not get angry.” (Al-Bukhari, 48)

The man was an individual who would get angry quickly, so the Prophet (peace be upon him) told the man that he needed to change his angry nature. So changing oneself and one’s character is something achievable. The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said:

“Whoever pretends to be patient (with a desire to be patient) Allah will give him patience.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim, 26)

This means that although some people are born patient the rest of us can learn to be patient.

Interestingly in western psychiatry and psychology they used to tell us to get it off our chest, don’t hold it in because if we did we would explode, so better to let it all out.

Later on they discovered that when people let it all out small blood vessels would burst in their brain because they were so angry. They found that it was actually dangerous and potentially damaging to let it all out. So now they say it is better not to let it all out.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) told us to try to be patient, so externally we should give that façade of being patient even when internally we are boiling. And we do not try to be patient externally in order to deceive people; rather, we do so in order to develop patience.

If we are consistent in this then the external image of patience also becomes internal and as a result complete patience is achieved and is achievable as mentioned in the Hadith quoted above. Among the methods is to look at how the material elements of our lives play a major part with regards to patience and us achieving it.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) gave us advice on how to deal with these elements by saying:

“Do not look to those above you who are more fortunate, instead, look to those below you or less fortunate…” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim, 1482)

This is because no matter what our situation is, there are always those who are worse off than us. This should be our general strategy with regards to the material life. Nowadays the material life is a huge part of our life, we seem to be obsessed with it; gaining all we can in this world seems to be the main point that most of us focus our energies towards. So if one must do this then they should not let it affect their inner peace.

While dealing with the material world, we should not keep focusing on those who are better off than us otherwise we will never be satisfied with what we have. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“If you give the son of Adam a valley of gold he would want another one.” (Al-Bukhari, 6439)

The say that the grass is always greener on the other side, the more a person has the more a person wants. We cannot achieve satisfaction in the material world if we are chasing after it in such a way; rather, we should look to those who are less fortunate, this way we will remember the gifts, benefits and mercy that Allah has bestowed upon us with regards to our own wealth, no matter how little it may seem.

There is another hadith which helps us in the realm of the material world to put our affairs in their proper perspective, and is a Prophetic example of Steven Covey’s [1] principle of “first things first”. The Prophet (peace be upon him) stated this principle over 1400 years ago and laid this principle down for the believers by saying,

“Whoever makes this world his goal Allah will confuse his affairs and place poverty before his eyes and he will be able to attain nothing from this world except for what Allah has already written for him…” (At-Tirmidhi, 2465)

So a person’s affairs will not come together for him, he will be all over the place, like a chicken with its head cut off, running wild  if he makes this world his goal. Allah will place poverty before his eyes and no matter how much money he has he will feel poor. Every time someone is nice to him or smiles at him he feels that they are only doing so because they want his money, he can’t trust anyone and is not happy.

When the stock market crashes you read about some of those who invested in it committing suicide. A person may have had 8 million and lost 5 million with 3 million left after the market crashed, but losing that 5 million seems to him to be the end. He sees no point in living after that, as Allah has put poverty between his eyes.

Inner Peace is Reached Through Submitting to God

We have to keep in mind that a person will not get from this world except what Allah has already written for them, this is the bottom line. After all that running around, staying up late at night, being a workaholic a person will only get that which Allah has already destined for him or her. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“Whoever sets the Hereafter as his goal, Allah gathers his affairs for him, gives him richness of (faith in) the heart and the world will come to him grudgingly and submissively.” (At-Tirmidhi, 2465)

Such a person attains richness of the heart. Richness is not about having a lot of wealth, but richness is having wealth of the heart, and what is wealth of the heart? It is contentment, and this is where the peace comes from, when a person submits themselves to Allah, and this is Islam.

The inner peace is accepting Islam in our hearts and living by the principles of Islam. So Allah will put richness in a person’s heart and this world will come to him submissively, on its knees and humbled. such a person will not have to chase it.

This is the Promise of the Prophet (peace be upon him) if a person puts “first things first”, and that is the Hereafter. If it is Paradise that we want then that should be manifest in our lives, it should be the point of our focus, what we keep putting in the forefront.

So how do we know when the Hereafter is our focus? If we sit down with a person and all we talk about are the latest cars, expensive houses, travelling and holidays and money, if the majority of our conversations is about material things or it is gossip, talking about this person and that person then it means that the Hereafter is not our focus.

If the Hereafter was our focus then it would be reflected in our conversation. This is a very basic level in which we can judge ourselves, so we should stop and ask ourselves, “what do we spend most of our time talking about”?

If we find that our priority is this world, then we need to re-focus, we need to put “first things first”, meaning the Hereafter before the life of this world, and if we do this we can achieve inner peace, and Allah informed us of this in the Qur’an, a precise step to take in order to attain inner peace, and Allah says:

{Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.} (13:28)

So it is only by the remembrance of Allah that hearts find rest. This is the inner peace. The remembrance of Allah is in everything we do as Muslims. Islam is living a life remembering Allah, and Allah says:

{Perform the prayer for my remembrance…} (20:14)

Everything that we do (in Islam) involves the remembrance of Allah as Muslims. Allah says:

{Say: ‘Indeed, my prayer, my sacrifice, my living and dying are for Allah, Lord of all the worlds’.} (6:162)

So here is the way to achieve inner peace, to remember Allah in all aspects of our lives.

This remembrance (dhikr) is not as some people think i.e. to sit in the corner of a dark room constantly repeating “Allah, Allah, Allah…”

This is not how we remember Allah. Yes, such a person is saying Allah’s name, but if we think about it, if somebody came to you (and for example your name is Muhammad) and kept saying “Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad…” you would wonder what is wrong with that person. Does he want something? Is there something that he needs? What is the purpose of repeating my name without further talk?

This is not the way to remember Allah because this is not how the Prophet (peace be upon him) remembered Allah and there is no record of him doing that. Some people say that we should remember Allah by dancing around or swaying from side to side. This is not the way to remember Allah, as this too is not how the Prophet (peace be upon him) remembered Allah and there is no record of him doing that.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) remembered Allah in his life. His life was a life of remembrance of Allah, he lived a life in remembrance of Allah and this is the true remembrance, in our prayers and in our living and our dying.

In summary, the search for inner peace involves recognizing the problems that we have in our lives, recognizing our obstacles, recognizing that inner peace will only come when we identify those obstacles and understand which of them we can change and that we focus on those obstacles we can change, the ones which are related to our self.

If we change our self then Allah will change the world around us and give us the means to deal with the world around us. Even though the world is in turmoil Allah gives us inner peace with it.

Whatever happens we know that it is Allah’s destiny and that it is Allah’s trials and we know that ultimately it is for our good. and has good in it. Allah created us in this world and the world as a means to attain Paradise and the trials of this world is our own spiritual growth. If we can accept all this, accepting Allah in our hearts then we can find inner peace.

By Bilal Philips

[1] Stephen Covey is an internationally respected leadership authority and founder of Covey Leadership Center