You have what it takes [2:286]

blog Apr 09, 2024

Yesterday we reflected on a truth about this life from the Quran: that life is full of challenges.

Today, let us look at a promise of Allah [swt] that gives us confidence that we have what it takes to succeed in these challenges and find our way through these distresses.

At the end of Chapter 2, Sura Al-Baqara the Quran tells us:
Allah does not task any soul [impose a duty on, place a burden on] beyond its capacity. [2:286]

This brief selection from a longer verse suggests many important points of reflection:

The word Quran uses for soul is “Nafs”, the struggling part of ourself. The part that struggles to be better and yearns to actualize.

In order not to burden us beyond our capacity or capability, He knows what that capacity is. So many times when we are facing challenges, they seem insurmountable, and we feel completely overwhelmed and inadequate to deal with them. At times like these, it is important to remind ourselves of this verse. Even if we are unsure of our own potential, He is in His infinite knowledge and wisdom knows what our capacity is.

We need to understand of course, that human capacity is not a static thing. That we grow by stretching ourselves. We experience this in all sorts of ways in the daily course of life in any case. When we go the gym, we do not lift Styrofoam weights that we can swing easily. We lift weights beyond what we think we can lift, thereby stretching our perceived capacity.

And in hindsight after going through a period of stress or challenge, we may look back with surprise and wonder at our own abilities to handle the situation. We realise that even though we may have thought we would DIE in the challenge, we actually did not!

Now, without Divine intervention, given that we prefer a life of comfort and ease [even though this is not ultimately good for us, nor why we are created], human beings would very likely pass away “full of potential”. We would never chose to willingly go through hardship and trials. His expectation from believers, however, is that they will live on the outer edges of their potential and fully realise and actualize it – not die with it.

And so we are given trials and distresses according to the measure of our ability and resources to actualize this potential.

When we go through and come out on the other side of such bespoke challenges, we are changed forever. There is no going back to “before”. We may have heard of the term “resilience” as the ability to “bounce back” after a set back. Let us deepen our understanding of our options in dealing with challenges.

Psychologists explain that people can react in three different ways to challenges and setbacks: we can be fragile and break easily. Or we can be resilient and withstand more stress before breaking down (and then bouncing back a little quicker than most). OR… we can be the OPPOSITE of fragile. Which means, the more challenge we face, the STRONGER we get. This is what Nasem Taleb calls being “Antifragile” in his book of the same name. Taleb gives us a great metaphor to bring the point home. Imagine the wind. It’s a strong wind. It is wind that will extinguish a candle. But it is the same strong wind that will fuel a fire and make it stronger.

In terms of this verse, Allah knows that we have the potential to be that fire and the challenges of life are meant to fuel this fire to bring it to its full blazing potential.

Our faith in Allah’s knowledge of our ability [beyond our recognition] can give us unshakeable confidence that we have what it takes.

Let us do a little teaching on confidence.

Etymologically, the word confidence comes from two little Latin words: con and fidere.

The word literally means "with intense trust." This is Intense trust in what? Not that everything will go perfectly. That is unrealistic of course and not in line with what we have been reflecting on. It is intense trust in Allah’s promise that it doesn’t matter what happens because we know we have the resources and the ability to handle these challenges. How do we know this? Because these challenges have shown up in our lives and because He has promised us that He will not place a burden upon us beyond what we are capable of.

Does this make sense? How will we think, feel and act differently the next time life throws us a curve ball? Would love to hear your thoughts.



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