As an empath and a deeply sensitive person, I spent most of my years caring for others to the point of codependency. I always sought to help, assist and take care of others, entangling myself in deep attachments that were not always healthy and that sometimes made me lose myself. As years went by, I learnt the very hard way that human beings will disappoint you deeply-whether intentionally or otherwise. They definitely will. This is because, at the end of the day, we’re humans- we’re flawed by nature. We all make mistakes and sometimes, you and I will be on the receiving end of these wrongs.
Some people will use you and then abandon you, some will betray you, and some will hurt you in unimaginable ways even if they weren’t out to do so from the start. And I came to realize much later on that the reason I always ended up hurt in my relationships with others, was because of my deep attachment to them.
I put my people on a pedestal and had such high expectations of them because, in my view, I would do the same for them, and much much more. I made them my objects of admiration and sometimes obsession, blinding myself from the fact that you cannot own another human being, regardless of how much you do for them or what they mean to you.
At the end of the day, each one of us has our own story, struggles, flaws, baggage, expectations and goals. And however much we pour into other people, they are not obliged to do the same for us. It is true that in our religion, love and brotherhood are highly promoted, yet the reality is, how many people sincerely care about those around them?
When we attach our happiness and fulfilment to worldly things and mortals then it is a recipe for pain. We shall keep pursuing it-whether it is the love of human beings, or their approval, wealth, status, or fame- it will never fill us. Instead, we will become slaves to these attachments.
“Anyone whose heart is attached to the creation, hoping for someone from the creation to help him or provide for him or guide him, then his heart submits to them and (according) to the degree that his heart submits to them, he becomes their slave. This holds true, even if he is outwardly a ruler or guardian over those whom he treats as masters. The wise one looks at realities and not at appearances. So if a man’s heart is attached to his wife, even though that is permissible, his heart remains a prisoner to her and she may rule over him as she pleases – though outwardly he is her master and her husband. In reality, he is her prisoner and her slave, especially if she knows how much he is in need of her and how much he is in love with her and how much he feels she cannot be replaced by anyone else. At that point, she rules over him as the tyrant master rules over his subjugated slave, who cannot escape or go free. Indeed for the heart to be taken as a prisoner is a much greater matter than for the body to be taken as a slave or prisoner. Even a body that is a slave can have in it a serene and peaceful and happy heart. As for the heart that is a slave to other than Allah (the Exalted), then that is true humiliation, imprisonment and slavery.”
-Ibn Taymiyyah Rahimahullah
An older sister in Islam that I really look up to sat me down the other day and told me her story of being deeply betrayed by her very best friend of about twenty years, and then went on to say, “You’re naturally a giver and I see how you care about other people and how you go extra lengths for them…I of course do not want to discourage you from helping others and being there for them, I just want you to be careful about how much you give of yourself. We do want that genuine, amazing sisterhood, but beware, this is not the world for it. This is not the place to lay out your entire heart for people. We can hope for that in Jannah in shaa Allah. As for now, know your limits. Don’t go above and beyond for people at the detriment of yourself.”
I have been sitting with her statements to date and I ponder a lot about them. Reflecting on my past and how my deep attachments to people mostly brought me extreme pain and disappointment, it totally makes sense. The life of Dunya has no value in the long run, except for what we shall have prepared for the next life. And perhaps it is high time we accepted that we can never truly find fulfilment in this life through other creations. It is only by our relationship with Allah Subhanahu Wataala.
This reminds me of something I read a while back, quoted from Ibn Al Qayyim Al Jawziya Rahimahullah:
“If a heart becomes attached to anything other than Allah, Allah makes him dependent on what he is attached to. And he will be betrayed by it.”
The pain, grief and heartbreak we experience from our objects of attachment are meant to remind us that Allah alone is the One we can fully rely on, have high expectations on, and trust completely. It is comforting to know that regardless of what happens, or how much we falter, He will always be merciful to us. Always awaiting our return. The hurt is meant to return us to Allah, the only One who will never fail us.
Even as I continue to unlearn so many things in my life, I realize I cannot do this without the help of Allah Subhanahu Wataala. I realize that I have no one but Allah to protect my soul from unhealthy attachments, from being blinded by love, and from holding onto what is not meant for me. He is the one who can fill the void inside my heart with peace and serenity regardless of who or what is in my life or the circumstances I am facing. I thus aim to have Allah as my very closest friend; the only one I know for sure will never hurt me and the only one I can lay bare to all my baggage and pain, without shame or fear.
Some of my favourite duas that I recite to seek Allah’s love, closeness, and protection are:
يارب إزرع في قلبي حبك، أشغلني بك وحدك، قربني إليك أكثر كي لا أبكي إلا من أجل شوقي لنور وجهك .. اللهم حُبك
My Lord, plant in my heart your love, occupy me with you alone, bring me closer to you so that I do not cry except for my longing for the light of your face. Ya Allah, your love…
اللهم إني أسألك حبك، وحب من يحبك، والعمل الذي يبلغني حبك، اللهم اجعل حبك أحب إلى من نفسي، وأهلي، ومن الماء البارد
O Allah! I ask You for Your Love, the love of those who love You, and deeds which will cause me to attain Your Love. O Allah! Make Your Love dearer to me than myself, my family and the cold water.
يا حي يا قيوم ، برحمتك أستغيث ، أصلح لي شأني كله ، ولا تكلني إلى نفسي طرفة عين
O Ever-Living, O Self-sustaining and All-sustaining, by Your mercy I seek help; rectify all my affairs and do not leave me in charge of my affairs even for the blink of an eye (i.e. a moment).
At the times when I am so overwhelmed by situations or other beings, and desperate to find peace in only Him, I keep my mouth wet with the short form of the first dua:
اللهم أشغلني بك وحدك
O Allah, occupy me with You alone i.e. Your worship and Your love.
May Allah strengthen our souls and Imaan. May He guide us to Him and make us among those who rely upon Him alone. May He grant us beautiful friendships, connections and relationships that will thrive both in this world and in Jannah. May He protect us from the unhealthy attachments of this world and the fitna and all the evil in it. May we always have the wisdom to only pursue His pleasure and love, Ameen.