.بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Your Lord knows you better than you know yourself.
.اَلَا يَعۡلَمُ مَنۡ خَلَقَؕ وَهُوَ اللَّطِيۡفُ الۡخَبِيۡرُ
“How could He not know His Own creation? For He [alone] is the Most Subtle, All-Aware.“
— Qur’an, (67:14).
So what does this really mean, in practice?
It means that He knew you before you had even been born. He knows the ins and the outs of your life and your being; He knows what might be occupying your mind right this moment; what might be burdening your heart. Your first words; every step you have ever taken; everything. What you have ever wanted, out of this life; where you are headed, after you die.
He knows what He is testing you through. Whether you are going through a spot of poor health right now, or some financial strain. Loneliness, or anxieties concerning someone you love.
How could He not know His Own creation?
The Most Subtle, the All-Aware.
We think we ‘know ourselves’; we think the ones who love us might ‘know us best’. Thing is: we, and they, can sometimes be quite wrong. You can assume things, forget things, judge from personal schemas, built up from a range of personal, subjective experiences.
Objectivity is Allah’s, Alone. The Subtle, The Acquainted.
Have you ever been ‘in love’ before?
By, perhaps, the popular, ‘Western’ and ‘Bollywood’ and whatever else conceptions of this idea, when you ‘fall in love’: you come to know yourself so well, relationally, against the relational point of another. You’re Majnoon, and they’re Layla; you feel you have to fight to ‘prove’ yourself. Make yourself known, via all those subtleties that come together to make up you. Shield their eyes from your (inevitable) flaws; shine lights on whatever is good about you.
Others’ eyes and hearts are indeed, at least in good part, repositories for our identities. Whether or not you are a good person depends, in a great way, on how you typically treat those closest to you. The other people in your life are witnesses to your life, and life would feel pretty pointless without our witnesses. [If you didn’t post that meal you just ate, online, did ya even eat it?!]
Are we getting away with whom we’re ‘trying’ to be?
“Appear as you are;
Be as you appear.”
— (Attributed to) Rumi.
I write to tell you that, certainly, other people can get it wrong. Approach things from what they can see, and the ideas and norms that they have come to believe over time. One person can see you as being entirely _________, while another person defines ‘you’ as being… the opposite.
There are layers of complexity to all of this. They do know you (via who they are. The entireties that make them up. The nuances and natures of your relationship with them, or the lack thereof. Distance, or closeness. All the many factors and variables that influence these things). You know you. Informed, socially, sure, but I really do think we all have this innate, deep understanding of who we are, what we love, what we want, and so forth. As we journey through life, we learn more about ourselves; some things change, but for the most part… there are central consistencies. An ongoing narrative of self. We recognise ourselves, and what we love, in certain things, places, and people. We try to make others, and perhaps especially those whom we love and seek to be loved by, witnesses and repositories of the selves that we seek to make more ‘solid’ thereby.
And then: Allah knows you better. Best. The whole way through. We are nothing without Him. More than you have ever known yourself; more than anybody else has ever known you. Human beings are fallible; human beings can come and go from our lives; we can accidentally come to think things about ourselves and others, for better or for worse, that may not be true.
So we depend on the All-Knowing, the Subtle, the Aware. He has the answers, and we are creatures of His.
As much as we might be taught, by the movies, the music, the massive cultural emphasis around us, to focus on ‘romantic love’ as being ‘the saving’ force: the means through which we are known, in our ‘entireties’, and loved:
Islam is an entire framework. From the Originator of our existence, all the way down to how we can best structure our days, how we can nourish our interpersonal relationships best: parental, sibling, marital, friends, other relatives, and the rest. To not place people, irrespective of whom they may be, on unrealistic, idealistic pedestals.
To worship only Allah, and to see human beings for (the strengths and weaknesses) what we all are.
[But: the closer you are, to Allah, and the closer others are… the most strong, meaningful and beautiful interpersonal relationships are those that are for the sake of Him, and in His Name].
Have you ever felt lonely?
It can be a heavy, confusing, and burdening feeling: to be in a room filled with people, crowds, and, yet, to feel so deeply alone. I think the apex of my encounter with deep loneliness had come… just prior to the onset of the pandemic, and the lockdowns and everything. I had been living at my Nan’s at the time, and I had been sick.
Sure, people would frequent the house: in and out, and caught up in their running lives. And I had been there, behind a door, feeling so terribly… lonely. I remember just looking at one of the corners of the white-walled room (which is now my own room) and feeling that feeling. Alone, so detached.
“How are you?”
“I’m okay, thanks. You?”
“Good as well. Just checking in. We should catch up sometime”.
And Allah knows me better than I have ever known myself. It took some time, drop by drop, but we get to witness His qualities of supreme wisdom, ability, and awe-inspiring subtlety, as problems gradually get resolved. It might be: that you just haven’t met your closest friends yet. You can’t force those things, and, certainly, some ‘friendships’ are just with people who share things like workplace or sports interests in common. I could never have anticipated all that would happen, drop by drop, after that period of difficulty. Subhaan Allah.
Besides, I’ve noticed that many people might expect to meet their ‘best friends’ in secondary school. It may well seem that way for a while; you thought. And Allah knew better. Because then sixth form comes, and friends are ‘lost’. Some greatly expect to become very connected, socially, at university, or at least within one’s early twenties. You look around: it might seem like everyone is very ‘connected’. [But what if they’re doing exactly what you might be doing: biding your time, seeming busy, trying to arduously ‘create bonds’, be ‘normal’?]
You might meet your best friends at age twenty-eight. Your closest friends may well be your own cousins. You might meet your spouse at age forty-two. You might get divorced twice, within this lifetime of yours. It remains to be seen…
Allah will bring people, and places, into your life, in such subtle ways, which you might only be able to truly appreciate in retrospect. If, if, if: you hadn’t done this, one ‘small’, thing… It seems like it wouldn’t have happened. The friend you hadn’t really spoken to, before: you might have assumed things about him or her. Until: Divine Will. Stories brush against one another, and they ever-so-subtly, gracefully, majestically… collide.
Your Lord knows, and whatever you might be going through right now… you’ll also know relief, In Shaa Allah. It’s a learning game.
Personally, I want to now work on a particular aspect of my health. And at times, I may feel inclined to think, why on Earth didn’t I do this before?! But then again, I hadn’t experienced what I have, in retrospect and now, experienced, back then. I didn’t know what I know now. So, in light of what I have since learnt, what am I going to do now?
[There are always problems, and wants. They give us things to do; keep life progressing, dynamic.]
Finally: have you ever felt a lack of love?
Just because a particular person, or collection of people, didn’t know how to (or, maybe they chose not to) love you well, and properly — and they may well have used a decoy of ‘religion’ as a tool for their abuse [this seems to be the case with quite a few, unfortunately] — it doesn’t mean that you are not worthy; deserving of so much beauty and love and goodness. Just because present environments don’t really seem to be ‘right’ for you… doesn’t mean that there aren’t places for you. Your Lord knows best.
Why not turn to your Lord, and ask Him for those very things?
Du’as do come true. Maybe not exactly how you, a fallible and limited being, imagined. But how Allah decides for them to. Du’as do come true, and
it’s awe-inspiring, how they do.