Between faith and distress – fill your soul with the remembrance of Allah

“Mufti Ibrahim Raja Sahib

As humans we are prone to stress although we all wish to be immune from it. While stress may be beneficial at times however the excess of it will certainly affect our health and productivity. In controlling stress our mind set is so important.

There was once a very old Teacher who noticed his student very depressed. The wise teacher instructed the unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then to drink it. “How does it taste?” the Teacher asked. “Awful,” retorted the student.

The Teacher chuckled and then asked the young man to take another handful of salt and put it in the lake. The two walked in silence to the nearby lake and when the student swirled his handful of salt into the lake, the wise teacher said, “Now drink from the lake.”

As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the Teacher asked, “How does it taste?” “Good!” remarked the student. “Do you taste the salt?” asked the Teacher. “No,” said the young man.

The Teacher sat beside this troubled young man, took his hands, and said, “The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same. But the amount we taste the ‘pain’ depends on the container we put it into. So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to take it out of your cup and place it in God’s (Allah’s) Lake!

No doubt what practical measures or action that are needed in the situation must be taken, but we should then leave it to God (Allah) who is ultimately in control of everything!

Always be positive and forget about the bad things or events of the past and think of good things, always having hope that it can be better.” 


A brother sent me this story in a text message and as I was reading through the story, it got me thinking…


The story of the student and the teacher is a brilliant example, one with a very meaningful message. As I was reading through, my mind wandered through the possible outcomes, exploring how the story may develop. In doing so, I was lead to write this post – in a humble attempt to derive another lesson from this same analogy. As such, the current article seeks to use the above analogy with some slight differences.


The salt in this version symbolises what it does in the story above: pain, struggle, distress – inevitable constituents of life which also can improve the situation (much like salt may improve taste and is essential for the body in adequate amounts, difficulties and unpleasant experiences allow us to build on our understanding and learn from our mistakes – thus benefiting us).

The water, however, symbolises the dhikr of Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala, the extent of the soul’s nourishment with tawakkul, the mind’s relating all matters to Him and the heart’s ’emotional reflex’ causing one to seek refuge in Allah ‘azza wa jall spiritually for all purposes.

Thus, (in this version) when the student is asked to put a handful of salt in a cup, it symbolises the meeting of pain and difficulty with a soul that is malnourished, lacking in the extent of reliance upon Allah ta’ala and the frequency thereof. It still makes the salt a bit less bitter but the extent of the salt overshadows the extent of the water – just as the extent of sadness in our lives can sometimes overshadow the quality and quantity of our tawakkul. What the student then experience is bitterness, which symbolises pain, sadness and difficulty.

When the student adds salt to the lake, it shows how the amount of pain and struggle that is decreed for our lives still meets us, it still has some effect, but our hearts are so captured by the love for Allah ta’ala and the firm belief in His refuge and rahmah (love, mercy) that our souls can accommodate for it without overwhelming harm. It is now our dhikr of Allah ta’ala in all its aspects that undoubtedly overshadows any difficulty that we may face. It is now imaan (faith) that undisputedly conquers huzn (grief). It is now realised and acknowledged that Allah ta’ala is greater than any possible obstacle and that any problem is diluted by a heart illuminated by His remembrance and love for Him.


Allah ta’ala says in the Quran, in Surah al-Muzammil:

إِنَّ نَاشِئَةَ اللَّيْلِ هِيَ أَشَدُّ وَطْئًا وَأَقْوَمُ قِيلًا
Indeed, the hours of the night are more effective for concurrence [of heart and tongue] and more suitable for words

إِنَّ لَكَ فِي النَّهَارِ سَبْحًا طَوِيلًا
Indeed, for you by day is prolonged occupation

وَاذْكُرِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ وَتَبَتَّلْ إِلَيْهِ تَبْتِيلًا
And remember the name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him with [complete] devotion

رَّبُّ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ فَاتَّخِذْهُ وَكِيلًا
[He is] the Lord of the East and the West; there is no deity except Him, so take Him as Disposer of [your] affairs

Yes, we all have preoccupations. Yes, we all have to also work on our worldly lives. But this should not exclude our remembrance of Allah ta’ala. Recite the Quran when you are on your own, or whilst you are travelling. Ponder over its meanings when you see or experience something that reminds you of an ayah from the Book of Allah. Memorise a du’a from the Quran or from a hadeeth. If all else fails, know that you have no interruption during the night. If you find all of the above too difficult, then at least keep your tongue moist with the remembrance of Allah ‘azza wa jal – praising Him, thanking Him, reminding yourself of His greatness over all else, extolling His glory far beyond the reaches of mankind or of anything from the creation. Let your heart become absorbed in your love, awe and respect for Him when you mention Him in your heart or on your tongue.


This brings us to the conclusion of this article. Fill your faith with the abundant dhikr of Allah and reliance upon Him so much so that the effect of pain and distress is ultimately insignificant. Just as the handful of salt made no significant difference to the taste of water from the lake, any difficulty that you encounter will be engulfed by the dhikr of Allah in your heart.


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