Life is like a puzzle
By Sakina Hirschfelder
Life can seem like a puzzle sometimes, but it is a very simple one (even though it may not always appear to be) containing a few key pieces amongst others. Granted, there are a lot of pieces that need to be put into place, but we are not responsible for putting all those pieces in the right places; Allah does much of that for us. We have control, yes, and we must do our best to put together the puzzle correctly, but there is a point when we must also trust that Allah will fill in the missing pieces – that He will put the final touches on our effort.
The following story illustrates that Allah has complete control and has already written everything that will occur:
<<The Prophet (bpuh) said: Once, prophets Adam (‘alayhi as-salâm – peace be upon him) and Moses (as) argued.
Moses said: You are Adam, whom Allah created with His Hand, into whom He breathed His spirit, to whom He made the angels prostrate, and whom He taught the names of everything; why have you expelled us and yourself from paradise?
Adam replied: You are Moses, whom Allah favoured with His message and His words. Have you not found that they had been written about me before I was created?
He said: Yes, indeed.
Then he (Prophet Muhammad [bpuh]) said: Adam got the better of Moses in the argument.>> (Bukhari and Muslim)
Understanding this concept gives us perspective in our own lives. There are some things that just need to be left in Allah’s Hands because ultimately whatever happens has already been written for us anyway. Therefore, there is no reason to grow anxious or worried about the pieces of the puzzle that we cannot place. They will be placed by Allah according to an existing decree.
The simplicity of this puzzle, however, often becomes lost in the drama of life, when it is overshadowed with crises and heartaches. Still, a few well-placed pieces can go a long way, and when put together properly, the puzzle of life is joyous, peaceful, successful, and ultimately fulfilling.
The first piece that must be part of our psyche is self-acceptance. When we accept ourselves for who we are, for the way Allah created us, with all of our talents and imperfections, we can begin to grasp self-fulfilment. Self-acceptance, the most important piece, culminates in self-love.
Self-love is vital to our ability to share love with others and with Allah. We are not talking about narcissism here. Narcissism is self-love that goes over the top into arrogance, haughtiness, and egotism. Self-love, on the other hand, is tied to self-confidence and self-acceptance; it is a necessary aspect of self-fulfilment.
Along with self-acceptance, we need self-confidence and determination before we can be happy with our lives and content within our souls. These are not pieces that everyone initially possesses, and finding them may take personal work, inner reflection, and deep thought. For the individual, these can be used in the process of self-improvement – making positive changes in our lives for the sake of Allah as well as for ourselves. Self-improvement is not possible without first undertaking self-observation, which involves taking account of the self by looking inwardly in search of weaknesses or negative traits. Identifying the source of these traits is often the key to changing them and replacing them with positive traits. Acquiring all of these pieces is crucial to living a fulfilling life filled with love, contentment, and peace.
Once we attain self-acceptance, we can look towards building self-confidence. These two items are, in fact, intimately linked and part of each other. Self-confidence is the basis for being able to function constructively within society. It gives us the assurance we need to blossom within relationships, whether with family members, friends, neighbours, or co-workers. It provides us with the confidence to develop connections that may benefit us in the present or the future. Determination is also needed to achieve goals and to realize dreams. Everyone has this ability; we simply need to tap into our inner strength and find the drive to accomplish what we desire.
When we make the decision to improve ourselves and to seek true contentment within our lives, we need to master the art of self-observation. Looking inwardly to ascertain our imperfections and our strengths is the first step towards making positive changes.
Each of these individual pieces is tied to the others and cannot exist fully without them. Self-acceptance and self-confidence are necessary for self-determination. Relaxation and stress relief are also necessary for being resolute and for achieving our goals. Self-observation is a basis for self-confidence as well as self-improvement. Determination creates a source of positive change. Self-acceptance is a foundation upon which determination can be built. Alongside this, stress relief, which generates peacefulness within, is essential for accepting ourselves, being confident about who we are, and achieving our dreams. As you read through the following sections, you may notice some of the rhetoric being repeated as it relates to each individual piece of the puzzle. Intertwined, these pieces can uplift and fulfil the soul.
Self-fulfilment goes beyond individual effort, though. Having healthy relationships is a huge part of self-fulfilment as well. We do not live in a vacuum; we must interact with others on all levels – personal (family, friends, and neighbours), associate (co-workers), and societal.
In order to create dynamic relationships, we must communicate effectively and be willing to forgive others. With this understanding in hand, as well as the knowledge required for individual improvement, we can be well on our way to living a full and satisfying life.
Ultimately, what really matters in life are the riches of our inner life (spirituality and closeness to Allah), our health and happiness, and the joy and love we can give to and receive from others. To begin the quest for such fulfilment, self-acceptance is the first piece for the individual to master.
© IIPH 2013