Navigating Change with Faith – Mukadas Abdullah

2020 brought with it many surprises and changes. It was also a year that made history by bringing us the pandemic and our first female vice president, among other things.

The year brought so many challenges, changes, and times for reflection in my own life. This fall, I started my senior year fully online at home. I did not expect that this would be the case when I came home in March for what I had thought was going to be two weeks. But of course, as a Muslim, I know that we can’t plan and know everything, as the Quran even states: “Allah is the best of planners” (8:30). Despite knowing that verse and believing in God, there still have been many times when I have not wanted to accept the circumstances of the pandemic, yearning for the simplicity of the pre-pandemic world.

Yet, when I came back home for the second time in October, I knew I had to accept life as it was, facing the challenges and changes head-on. This fall, as I was taking classes and being involved in extracurriculars, I was at the same time preparing for grad school: taking the GRE and applying to PhD programs.

The fall semester felt isolating with the pandemic in full swing, and it was difficult navigating the grad school processes so far from some of my support systems, like my friends and the community I built in Madison.

Now having finished the application process and just beginning my last undergraduate semester at UW, so much nostalgia and fear are settling in as I approach a new chapter in my life. I have a plan for my future, but now almost a year after the pandemic I know that plans are impermanent; as people we love to make plans and have certainty, but the only permanency and certainty I have is Allah. This knowledge has led me to try to live more in the moment and not get as wrapped up in my fears for the future. I am trying now just to let go and let God!

During my winter break, I reflected a lot on how much I have done in the past year, how much has changed and where my life is going. But in this time when we don’t truly know when our world will go back to normal, it’s difficult to plan without fear of disappointment that the plans would fall through. This has made me realize that you must keep the hope and the faith, but as my faith teaches me, not become too attached to the outcome of what might happen. Whatever happens, Allah has willed it, and he knows best.

My time in prayer and reflection on life this past year has made me realize both my own strength and the importance of human connection. Despite talking to people mostly online, I realized the impact that a facetime, zoom meeting, or text can have, bringing joy to me and others.

I don’t know how long this pandemic will last but I know that the mentors, lessons learned in this chapter of my life, and my relationship with God are things I am taking with me.

I know that the next chapter of life will bring both joys and hardships, but as Allah tells us in the Quran, with “hardship comes ease,” (94:5) — meaning in the bad there is good.

I would love to hear how faith or your belief system helped you navigate our fall semester. What does your faith teach about seasons of faith or how to navigate changes in your life? For those without a religion, how do you navigate these things? What is a lesson you learned during the pandemic that you will take with you?

3 thoughts on “Navigating Change with Faith – Mukadas Abdullah”

  1. Mukadas, after reading your blog post I definitely got to self-reflecting about guiding change through my faith and recently I’ve struggled with my own career path and feeling like I’m not sure if I choose the right one. My dad the other day was talking to me and helped me remember, and this can be translated to any faith and religion, that god has a plan for everyone and whatever happens throughout our life, good or bad, god isn’t trying to punish me but push me closer to what I’m meant to be do and how I’m meant to get to that place of happiness and clarity. I think what I learned during the pandemic that I wouldn’t have otherwise, is that life throws you a lot of curveballs you just have find something that you trust whether that is your faith or god or something else and remember that things happen for a reason.

  2. Mukadas, I really feel your post. I have had many instances in my life where I planned for something and it didn’t go my way. During these times, I would blame God – how come things weren’t working out in my favor and why wouldn’t they if God was as good as people claimed. What had I done to deserve the hardship I was going through – my parents often told me that if I was an honest person who helped others and remembered God, that God would help me, so why still did certain things not go my way? They would also explain that things not working out was a form of God’s protection and that something bigger and better for me would come my way. Over the years, this faith and mindset has completely changed how I approach various challenges in my life. With this framework and the faith that whatever was happening for the better, I was able to guide myself through the tough time of the pandemic. In a world that is so dynamic, especially now due to the pandemic, my religion has been my go-to in terms of finding affirmation that I am on the right path whatever that might look like. I think a lot of people have relied on their faith or a form of spirituality to help them through the pandemic because both of these are a constant in an otherwise fast changing world. I find that my faith provides me the space to reflect, re-shape and re-frame the experiences that I am having which incredibly important for me to deal with future challenges.

  3. Hi Mukadas!
    I loved reading your reflections on coming to terms with all of the uncertainty and rough times created by the pandemic. I have always really admired people who can fall back on their faith and find strength in it when the going gets rough, and it’s really interesting to hear those ideas through a Muslim lens. One Jewish quote that is more cultural/not from the Torah that has been getting me through the upset of having plans repeatedly ripped up is, “Mann tracht und gott lacht” which means “Man thinks and G-d laughs” in Yiddish. It is something my grandma always says, and sometimes it makes it easier for me to laugh off the idea I had that I could control my life/plan everything out.

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