For the past four years, every time I open the door to leave my apartment, I’ve almost consistently recited three poignant yet simple Islamic phrases in a subtle whisper that’s only audible to me.

“Bismillah” (In the name of God), I say in a quick breath as I rotate the lock to the right and grasp the door nob. I continue with “Tawakkul ‘ala Allah” (I place my complete trust and reliance in God), as I step into the hallway and gently close the door. And “Laa Hawla Wa Laa Quwwata Il-la Bil-laah” (There is neither might nor power except with Allah) glides along my tongue as I turn the key fasten the lock until, by God’s will, I return.

It takes the whole of about seven seconds to recite these lines before dashing to the elevator to rush to work, run an errand, attend a social gathering or take a trip to a grocery store. The words are so simple for the richness and tremendous power they encompass when reflected upon.

They embody the essence of surrendering to God, which is what Islam is all about. When we say them, we are acknowledging that from the moment of utterance, we’re leaving it to the Gracious One to guide, protect and guard us. And by doing so, whatever happens during the course of the day becomes a reflection of that state of surrender, whether it is good or bad, easy or challenging, unpleasant or comforting, agonizing or healing.
Everything becomes a blessing. While it is hard to imagine and accept the heartbreak, illness, loneliness, professional struggles and relationship setbacks that dot our paths as anything more than torment and nuisances, these trials enclose gifts.

There’s a stunning and thought-provoking Hadith, or saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, where he describes how “wonderful” a sincere believer’s affairs are because, ultimately, that person accepts with the certainty and the trust of all of her being that the good and bad occurrences of her life are two sides of the same coin. I will paraphrase and elaborate on this Hadith here.

For this person, this true believer, when something good happens to her, she bubbles over with thankfulness. She doesn’t lose sight of God’s role in granting her this gift. Rather, she acknowledges genuinely that He is the Source of it. Perhaps the relief that she finds at her fingertips follows a period of immense disappointment, the kind that drains your vitality and challenges your hope and faith. Or maybe the joy comes to her during a period of relative peace and harmony in her life, the very time when it becomes easy to dismiss remembrance of God. In either scenario, the believer’s response is to appreciate the gift with humble gratitude to Her Creator. This is a blessing.

For the same person, when something burdensome befalls her, as will inevitably happen, she bears it on her shoulders and perseveres. She carries the heartbreak, loss, loneliness, illness, anguish with delight, embodying the patience of “beautiful contentment” that the Quran refers to. That patience isn’t reluctant, but willing. It is full of pleasure because she understands and exemplifies another message that radiates throughout the Holy Book: that God will place no burden on a soul greater than it can bear. The more daunting the burden He lays on her, the stronger He regards her soul. So, rather than get filled with resentment, this believer is glad. She smells the rose while grasping its thorny stem. She knows with certainty in her heart that while the clouds may be blocking the sun from view, its brilliant unmatched Light is there all the same. Her state of patient being and acceptance is a blessing.

“Therefore do hold patience, a patience of beautiful contentment,” Quran, Surah 70-5, The Ways of Ascent

As I reflect at the end of a week that presented me with a good dose of both sides of this tale — the anguish and confusion, and the happiness and hope — I pray I can aspire to surrender in the beautiful way of this believer that the Prophet described. I pray that I can find the strength to consistently, without hesitation, see the delights and toils of life through the same lens. To see them as one coin that once flung into the air, whether it lands on heads or tails is a blessing all the same.

The Hiding Place

The most secure place to hide a treasure of gold

Is in some desolate, unnoticed place

Why would anyone hide treasure in plain sight?

And so it is said “joy is hidden beneath sorrow”

–Jalaluddin Rumi