Growing up, I always thought summer was about outdoor barbecues, picnics, pool parties, and vacations. It didn’t occur to me that there was anything more important back then. I had no idea that my decisions were going to become more stressful than something like buying souvenirs in a gift shop at the Smithsonian History Museum. Everything, however, changed for me this summer. I was stripped from my typical anticipation of relaxing, summer activities. After recently graduating from high school, my thoughts were constantly troubled by the dread of the future and the upcoming challenges I would have to face.
I know that some people may think my lack of excitement to start college, or as they like to call it, “the best years of my life,” is absurd. When I received my diploma, I could only think about how stressful college was going to be. I didn’t see what many people at my age would call “independence” and “freedom”. With the constant necessity to come up with college tuition, the back-and-forth of deciding on a major, the stress of exams, and the prevalence of mingling, all I saw were challenges and responsibility.
Some nights, I would stay awake at night due to the stressful and negative thoughts that would recur in my mind as I was trying to sleep. I would toss and turn in bed and ask myself questions for which I don’t have definite answers yet, questions that depressed me for that very reason.
What major is best for me? Will my family approve of it? How am I supposed to pay off college tuition without receiving loans? What are the chances that I can become a doctor? And if I do, would it just cut off my chances of having a family of my own? What will happen if I don’t do well in college and end up dropping out? These ridiculous inquiries felt like they were being thrown at me by my own uncertainty.
I then decided to tell a friend about what I was going through. She just smiled and gave me a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “Meryam,” she said calmly, “just trust Allah.”
“How?” I asked, surprised by her response.
“Focus on improving yourself and fulfilling His commandments. Take care of your responsibilities to Allah, and He will certainly take care of yours.”
It was the best advice I was ever given. My beloved friend made me realize that worrying about our worldly problems isn’t going to end and neither is it going to change anything. On the other hand, when we spend a significant amount of time worrying about the condition of our imaan and improving it, Allah will settle our affairs in the best possible way.
She then told me something that really struck me. “Allah has already predetermined our destiny. Whatever will happen in the future, He has already planned way back. Don’t worry about money or education to the point where it takes away your devotion to your worship.”
“Think of this world like a bathroom,” she concluded, “do only what needs to be done and then get out.”
A similar connection has been said in a hadith:
Ibn ‘Umar radiallahu ‘anhuma narrated that the Prophet (s) held his shoulder (to emphasize the importance of the advice) and said: “Live in the world as if you are a stranger or a moving traveler” (Bukhari).
This is what makes us differ from the rest of the creation. We have duties to our Lord. We have a purpose. This world, like my friend advised, should not be the greatest of our worries. If we forget our purpose and place, if we do not heed the words of our Lord, we will fill ourselves with thousands of worries.
Now, whenever I even begin to worry about my future again, I always remind myself that this world holds the dirt of a bathroom, a small, filthy room, just a corner of the house. Just like that, this dunya and what it contains shouldn’t fill our hearts, rather it should only occupy a tiny corner. We use everything within it as a means to an end, and we leave the rest. As we all know, our wealth, material possessions, and degrees will not follow us to our graves. We will only be left with a piece of white cloth and our deeds when we are lying in the ground.
For on the Last Day, the summer before college will be but a faint memory. And nothing but eternity will remain.