What could possibly be better?

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We have so many plans for our lives. We have plans about what we will study, where we will work, where we will live, who we will marry, when we will have children, how many kids we will have, and what our family and our home will look like. But time and time again, we are reminded by life’s circumstances, that our plans can take us nowhere unless Allah plans the same for us.

And sometimes, Allah has other plans. Sometimes those plans might not be exactly what we wanted or what we fervently made dua for. Sometimes Allah might give us the exact opposite of what we asked. Sometimes, Allah might delay something to give it to us at the perfect time, sometimes He may take something away to give us what is better. Sometimes we understand and sometimes we don’t. But we must keep reminding ourselves that Allah’s plans are always better for us.

I often remind myself of Umm Salamah’s (رضى الله عنها) story whenever I find myself reflecting on and getting sad about all the plans I had for my family which do not seem to be panning out exactly as I had envisioned.

Umm Salamah (ضى الله عنها)  and her first husband Abu Salamah (رضى اللهُ عنه) had a wonderful relationship and she loved him immensely. She was extremely grieved when the two were separated at the time of the migration to Madinah due to the physical and political force shown by her tribe in Makkah. After she had been reunited with her husband, her husband was seriously injured in the Battle of Uhud and passed away some time after that.

In the intense grief she felt following the passing of her beloved husband, she remembered the dua she had heard from the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ).

She narrated: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying, ‘When a person suffers from a calamity and utters: ‘Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un. Allahumma ujurni fi musibati, wakhluf li khairan minha (We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return. O Allah! Compensate me in my affliction, recompense my loss and give me something better in exchange for it), then Allah surely compensates him with reward and better substitute.” (Muslim)

Other books of hadith mention how Umm Salamah (ضى الله عنها) narrates the thoughts she had when making this dua. In a narration in Ibn Majah it is mentioned that she says when she was about to say the words “and compensate me with better”, she couldn’t help but wonder: “How can I be compensated with something better than Abu Salamah?” She loved him so much and for her he was the best she could have had. She probably had so many plans about how they would live their lives together. At that moment, she couldn’t imagine anything better than those plans she had for her life with her beloved husband. But she trusted Allah and quickly completed the dua. She was later married to Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) and became of one of the Ummul Mumineen, narrating a number of hadiths from the Messenger (ﷺ) and serving Islam in a number of ways.

Umm Salamah (ضى الله عنها) said: When Abu Salamah (رضى اللهُ عنه) died, I repeated the same supplication as the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) had commanded me (to do). So Allah bestowed upon me a better substitute than him.” (Muslim)

I often think about Umm Salamah’s story when I find myself disappointed about the plans I had. Alhamdulillah for great friends who reminded me to make that dua when I was struck with the calamity of losing my precious baby girl after a full-term pregnancy.

I often get thoughts like Umm Salamah too when I find myself wondering, how could things be better than what I lost? I am human and so was she. I find strength and inspiration in her story by knowing that she had thoughts like these come to her too, but that she reminded herself to trust Allah and made that dua. And she got much much more than she had originally envisioned for her life and inshaAllah much more in the Hereafter.

We do not know Allah’s plans for our lives. We do not know how certain things that bring us the most pain may be the very means for us to get much better things in this life or the Hereafter. We can plan, but we must remind ourselves that when those plans don’t work out, Allah has a better plan for us. He will compensate us for our loss and He will inshAllah give us something much better.

Ali bin Abi Talib (رضى اللهُ عنه) used to make this dua:

“Oh Allah, when I lose my hopes and plans, help me remember that your love is greater than my disappointments, and your plans for my life are better than my dreams.”

May we always remember that. Ameen.