Spiritual Growth In Islam

A hidden blessing: Growth
Spirituality is a component that has been highly correlated with something called post-traumatic growth.11 Post-traumatic growth is a positive change that occurs as a result of a major life crisis or traumatic event. It occurs when a person adapts to very difficult circumstances that would normally result in high levels of psychological distress.
Post-traumatic growth is not a direct result of trauma; rather, it comes about as a result of how a person responds to their new reality and whether they allow themselves to be positively changed by life’s challenges.
Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya described post-traumatic growth when he said:
His Wisdom (Glorified be He) determined that happiness, pleasure, and comfort are not reached except by the bridge of difficulty and fatigue, and they are not accessed except through the gates of hardship, patience, and enduring difficulties. What great disparity exists between the joy of someone He relieved after affliction, and enriched after poverty, and guided after being astray, and collected his heart after its dispersal, and  the joy of someone who did not taste those bitter pains.
What is this bridge of turmoil leading you toward? Your joy is on the  other side, waiting for you to find it as you journey through this struggle.
Post-traumatic growth cannot occur without pain and turmoil. It is actually through suffering that growth can happen. Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives guide us toward the path of the best thing that could possibly happen to us.
Researchers have found that post-traumatic growth can be measured through positive responses in five areas:
• Appreciation of life
• Relationships with others
• New possibilities in life
• Personal strength
• Spiritual change
There are so many examples of post-traumatic growth in our history. One is that of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم. His uncle, Abu Talib, and his wife, Khadijah, died within days of one another. After this loss of his strongest supporters, circumstances became more difficult for the Muslims in Makkah, causing the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم to look for another, more welcoming community for his people. He ventured to Ta’if, hoping it would be a place where Muslims could live in peace.However, he was turned away and pelted with stones. When the Angel Jibril stated that Allah جل جلاله would send the Angelof the Mountains to avenge the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, he said, No, rather I hope that Allah will bring from their descendants people who will worship Allah alone without associating partners with Him.
Consider how the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم responded to loss and devastation. With the option to avenge what had been done to him, he instead used this opportunity to hope for better possibilities for himself as well as for the people who had hurt him. This illustration of post-traumatic growth shows us the possibility of gaining greater emotional and mental strength as well as closeness to Allah through our struggles.
Post-traumatic growth occurs when we make our struggles a part of our life story without them controlling us or defining us. We cannot control what befalls us, but how we deal with our struggles can make the difference between growth and decline.
Here are some ways to encourage growth as we face difficult experiences:
• Trust: Trust in Allah (swt) that He is truly the Best of Planners.
• Courage: Have the courage to put forth effort to change things within your control.
• Confidence: Use strength-based words to describe yourself and your capabilities and understand that you are capable of handling whatever comes your way.
• Identity: Understand that you are defined by much more than your struggles.
• Process: Accept emotions and allow yourself to feel them rather than avoid them.
• Acceptance: Accept the situation and realize that despite being unable to control circumstances, you can control how you choose to respond to them.
The incredible thing about post-traumatic growth is the fact that, without an intensely difficult experience, you may never have had the opportunity to become your best self. Sometimes tragedy is  what propels a person to live their best life and to bring out their best qualities.
It may be strange to think that something so painful is what you needed in order to become your best self but Allah جل جلاله sends us what we need, despite it being packaged in a form we don’t want.
As Asmaa says in her powerful book, A Temporary Gift:  Reflections on Love, Loss, and Healing: The beauty of a gift has less to do with what’s actually given, and more to do with the relationship between the gifter and the receiver. Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “Give gifts to one another and you will love each other.” So it’s not about gifts, really.  It’s about love. When you love someone, you want to show it—and one way to do that is through gifts.Sometimes I think about the endless gifts that Allah جل جلاله gives us. We tend to think of the beautiful, happy things in our  lives as ‘gifts,’ and the difficult, painful things as ‘tests.’ And so they may be! But what if we recalibrated our hearts a little and convinced them to believe that everything is a gift. Everything. The terribly painful to the unbelievably blissful.
I know it’s hard, but gifting is about fostering love, right? It’s about strengthening bonds and bringing hearts together. Every happy thing you’re given is a chance to be grateful to Allah. Every difficulty you’re given is a chance to be patient and seek help and comfort from Him. Everything you’re given is either about fostering gratitude or patience—both of which are things that Allah loves and both of which strengthen your connection with Him. So yes, everything from Allah must be a gift because it’s an opportunity to do better and be better. Our entire existence is about worshiping Allah. All that comes our way is calling us to this one, true purpose. He is Allah, Al-Wahhab. The Giver of gifts.
Ibn Mas’ud (radi Allahu anhu) said:
A person may hope for some matter of trade or position of authority, until he is close to attaining it. Thereupon Allah looks at him from above the seven heavens and says to His angels: “Divert it from him, for if he attains it, he will enter into the Hellfire.” Thus, Allah diverts it from him and the slave of Allah remains pessimistic, saying “So-and-so preceded me to it, So-and-so outwitted me,” when in fact it is a favour from Allah.
Practical exercises
Conquering self-defeating thoughts  with self-endorsing thoughts
Step 1: Break down the self-defeating thoughts in order to address them one by one.
Step 2: Identify where you are minimizing the good and where you are maximizing the bad.
Step 3: Replace self-defeating thoughts with ones that are self endorsing by objectively identifying accomplishments and positive qualities to counteract each of the negative thoughts.
Step 4: Turn this into gratitude to Allah جل جلاله for giving you the ability to accomplish these things, no matter how trivial they may seem.
Conquering relationship-ruining thoughts with relationship-enriching thoughts
Step 1: Break down the negative thoughts in order to address them one by one.
Step 2: Identify where you are minimizing the good and where you are maximizing the bad.
Step 3: Replace negative thoughts with ones that are healthier
by objectively identifying the positive things this person brings into your life to counteract each of the negative thoughts.
Step 4: Turn this into gratitude to Allah جل جلاله, no matter how trivial the positives may seem.
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