Escaping the Worst of Prisons


When Sara met Ahmed, she immediately knew. He was everything she had always dreamed of. Meeting him was like watching the sun rise in the middle of a snowstorm. His warmth melted the cold. But soon admiration turned to worship. Before she could understand what had happened, Sara had become a prisoner. She became a prisoner of her own desire and craving for that which she adored. Everywhere she looked, Sara saw nothing but him. Her greatest fear in life was displeasing him. He was all she could feel, and without him happiness had no meaning. Leaving him made her feel as though her soul was being peeled from her very being. Her heart was consumed with only his face, and nothing felt closer to her than him. He became to her like the blood in her veins. The pain of existing without him was unbearable because there was no happiness outside of being with him.

But Sara thought she was in love.

Sara had been through a lot in her life. Her father walked out on her when she was a teenager, she ran away from home when she was 16, she battled drug and alcohol addictions. She even spent time in jail. But all that pain combined could not compare to the pain she would come to know inside this new prison of her own making. Sara became a captive inside her own desires.  It was this captivity that Ibn Taymiyyah radi Allahu `anhu (may Allah be pleased with him) spoke of when he said, “The one who is (truly) imprisoned is the one whose heart is imprisoned from Allah and the captivated one is the one whose desires have enslaved him.” (Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Wabil, pg 69)

The agony of Sara’s worship of Ahmed was more intense than the agony of all her previous hardships. It consumed her but never filled her.  Like a parched man in the middle of a desert, Sara was desperately pursuing a mirage. But what was worse was the torturous result of putting something in a place only God should be.

Sara’s story is so deep because it demonstrates a profound truth of existence. As human beings, we are created with a particular nature (fitrah). That fitrah is to recognize the oneness of God and to actualize this truth in our lives. Therefore, there is no calamity, no loss, no thing that will cause more pain than putting something equal to God in our lives or our hearts. Shirk on any level breaks the human spirit like no worldly tragedy could. By making the soul love, revere, or submit to something as it should only God, you are contorting the soul into a position that it, by its very nature, was never meant to be in. To see the reality of this truth, one only has to look at what happens to a person when they lose their object of worship.

On July 22, the Times of India reported that a 40-year-old woman committed suicide in her home by pouring kerosene over her body and setting herself on fire. The police said it appeared that the suicide was an “extreme step because she was unable to conceive a child over 19 years of marriage.”

Only days earlier on July 16, police reported that a 22-year-old Indian man “committed suicide after his girlfriend left him.”

Most people could sympathize with the pain of these people, and most would be heartbroken in the same position. But if having a child or a particular person in our life is our reason for being, something is terribly wrong. If something finite, temporary and fading becomes the center of our life, the raison d’etre (reason for existing), we will surely break. The imperfect object that we place at our center will—by definition—fade, let us down, or pass away. And our break will occur as soon as it does. What happens if, while climbing a mountain, you hang on to a twig to hold all your weight? Laws of physics tell us that the twig, which was never created to carry such weight, will break. Laws of gravity tell us that it is then that you will most certainly fall. This is not a theory. It is a certainty of the physical world. This reality is also a certainty of the spiritual world, and we are told of this truth in the Qur’an. Allah says:


“People, here is an illustration, so listen carefully: those you call on beside God could not, even if they combined all their forces, create a fly, and if a fly took something away from them, they would not be able to retrieve it. How feeble are the petitioners and how feeble are those they petition!” (22:73)

The message of this ayah (verse) is deeply profound. Every time you run after, seek, or petition something weak or feeble (which, by definition, is everything other than Allah), you too become weak or feeble. Even if you do reach that which you seek, it will never be enough. You will soon need to seek something else. You will never reach true contentment or satisfaction. That is why we live in a world of trade-ins and upgrades. Your phone, your car, your computer, your woman, your man, can always be traded in for a newer, better model.

But there is a freedom from that slavery. When the object upon which you place all your weight is unshaking, unbreakable, and unending, you cannot fall. You cannot break. Allah explains this truth to us in the Qur’an when He says:


“There is no compulsion in religion: true guidance has become distinct from error, so whoever rejects false gods and believes in God has grasped the firmest hand-hold, one that will never break. God is all hearing and all knowing.” (2:256)

When what you hold on to is strong, you too become strong, and with that strength comes the truest freedom. It is of that freedom that Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy on him, said: “What can my enemies do to me? I have in my breast both my heaven and my garden. If I travel they are with me, never leaving me. Imprisonment for me is a chance to be alone with my Lord. To be killed is martyrdom and to be exiled from my land is a spiritual journey.” (Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Wabil, p.69)

By making the one without flaw, end, or weakness the only object of his worship, Ibn Taymiyyah described an escape from the prison of this life. He described a believer whose heart is free. It is a heart free of the shackles of servitude to this life and everything in it. It is a heart that understands that the only true tragedy is the compromise of tawheed (the doctrine of the Oneness of God), that the only insurmountable affliction is the worship of anyone or anything other than the One worthy of worship. It is a heart that understands that the only true prison is the prison of replacing something with God. Whether that object is one’s own desires, nafs (ego), wealth, job, spouse, children, or the love of one’s life, that false deity will entrap and enslave you if you make it ultimate. The pain of that bondage will be greater, deeper, and longer lasting than any other pain which could be inflicted by all the tragedies of this life.

The experience of Prophet Yunus `alayhi sallatu wa sallam (may Allah send his peace and blessings upon him) is so crucial to internalize. When he was trapped in the belly of the whale, he had only one way out:  turning completely to Allah, realizing Allah’s oneness and his own human frailty. His du`a’ encapsulates this truth in such a profound way: “There is no God but You, glory be to You, I was wrong.” (Qur’an, 21:87)

Many of us are also trapped inside the belly of the whale of our own desires and objects of worship. It is our own selves which we become enslaved to. And that imprisonment is the result of putting anything where only God should be in our hearts. In so doing we create the worst and most painful of prisons; because while a worldly prison can only take away what is temporary and inherently imperfect, this spiritual prison takes away what is ultimate, unending and perfect: Allah and our relationship to Him.

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  • Subhanallah! Beautiful article sister!

  • Marlina (Malaysia)

    Thanks.. Just found this web.. your word means a lot to me.. thanks to be teacher. Allah bless u sister.. Continue writing.. Writing from heart will enter heart of the reader… love u from far..

  • Awesome. Something everyone can relate to..

  • Afia

    Excellent dear Sis. May Allah reward you and help us all to be free from this kind of prison, ameen.

  • Fareedahab

    If a heart becomes attached to other than Allah, Allah makes him dependent on what he is attached to & he will be betrayed by it.” – Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah

  • Kanwaliqbal87

    such a beautiful and inspirational blog.. it is called sick love or codependency which leads to disaster ..

  • Miss Due

    God should be in our hearts. the best of all

  • sowa sharif

    SUBHANALLAh, ASTAGHFURILLAH. Thanks sister it is very beautiful manshaALLAH.

  • Fi

    Mashallah you write so wonderfully.

    This really hit home with me. I recently had a rishta experience where I really liked the guy and he didn’t like me back. I was totally smitten and it’s been hard for me to get over it. However, I keep telling myself, Allah SWT has better plans for both of us.

    In my right mind, I have to admit it was the best outcome. His level of imaan would have been a troubling factor – which he acknowledged and was one of the reasons for rejection.

  • Maya T

    I read that a person like the one in your story, with a bad childhood(lacking love), develops an internal, and deep attachment to people that is not 100% emotionally supportive, since is the people ‘she’ will feel familiar with, making the same mistake over and over, trying to find the ‘love” she never got from her parents, is like as and adult, and in her head, she still hopes, by other people, to get the parents the love she always craved for. This, apparently, becomes a very strong addition.. and Allah knows best. May Allah give light and guidance to people with bad childhoods.

  • spoter syah

    after watching this blog, what I thought was the prison of KPOP. nowadays, kpop are dominating the world. creating crazy, senile..etc fans. they seems to forget the morality of a human. they abandoned their prayers just to attend their favourite singers performance. i am deeply regret to my other relatives. once you put your admiration to the kpop world, it is very hard to get a hold of yourself.

  • ABW

    By all this account …. does it mean One can’t fall in Love at all ? But then one wold question – if it was in the hands of Humans, one would NEVER fall in love for the deception and hurt it brings. So why then Man is held responsible?

  • Zaheer

    I have a little question about this part:
    “Every time you run after, seek, or petition something weak or feeble (which, by definition, is everything other than Allah), you too become weak or feeble. Even if you do reach that which you seek, it will never be enough. You will soon need to seek something else.”
    While I mostly agree..I feel the need to ask one thing: What do we do then? Are you saying that college students shouldn’t try to get scholarships and for college? I thought knowledge was important. From what I learned since childhood, Allah wants us to ask HIM for anything we want. We would have to ask for it from Allah and then obtain it by seeking after it. But what you wrote feels contradictory to something most muslims know. So, my real question: We will always require certain things in this physical world, we know that magical miracles of the past don’t usually happen anymore, so we keep our faith in Allah and go after what we need. So, how are we supposed to apply the knowledge you gave in the quoted sentences?

    • Anonymous

      Zaheer, let me ask you this? The scholarship that the college student wants, who does it come from? Where does the knowledge and understanding come from? Yes, we want the scholarship. We want the knowledge. But why?And from who? That’s what is meant by ‘what are we really running after?’ Allah is the source of all things and the destination of all pursuits. The problem is we pursue these things for their own sake and make them our ultimate End. I hope that clarifies.

      • Zaheer

        Where did you study from?

        • Anonymous

          I did my BS in Psychology and my Masters in Journalism/Mass Communications at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

          • Zaheer

            Okay. What I really meant is that there are some things we need. What would be the right way to obtain these and other things we want? I’m a little confused. Most of everything so far is what-not-to-do kind of things instead how-should-I-do-it kinds. That’s what I’m really looking for. Please help.

          • Anonymous

            I think the best explanation is in the hadith of the Prophet (pbuh) when he told the companion, “iqilha wa tawakal”: “Tie your camel AND put your trust in Allah.” What I am describing is the state of the heart, not the state of the limbs. So the limbs (actions) will be working towards a goal, for example, applying for a scholarship, job, etc. But the heart will be focused on Allah and in a state of tawakkul. That means realizing:
            1. That Allah is the source of all things: scholarship, knowledge, job, provision
            2. Whatever the outcome, we should be content with. We did our part, the result is from Allah. And Allah knows what we do not know. And Allah knows best.

          • Zaheer

            Thank you very much! Finally got the clear explanation I was looking for! You can put your mind at ease, this commenter is satisfied. :)

          • Anonymous

            Allahu akbar!! :)

            Sent from AT&T’s Wireless network using Mobile Email

  • Sahar

    You are truly gifted Yasmin. Jazak Allah for brining so many of us closer to Allah.

  • Patricia

    Algamdulillah sister Yasmin. This is an inspirational and excellent article. Jazak-ALLAH i have found your blog.
    ALLAH bless you sister!

  • Sabah S

    I’m touched sister. This is a wonderful article. There’s a lot to learn from this.

    may Allah save us from shirk and these type of fitnah.

  • Subhana’Allah very nice article – cure for like every problem indeed!

  • Yasmin

    This is just amazing mashaAllah! May Allah (swt) reward you, it really makes you think deeply! JazakaAllah!! :)

  • Shaieas

    Jazakallah Khair!

  • Nayma

    You have made all my worries vanish, thankyou and may Allah (swt) guide you x

  • aifam

    I guess i’ve been through the same but in a different way.. he had a bad childhood.. so did i.. but now both of us are so much in love with Allah then our families and then eachother… although we see no chance of getting married because of his family issues but miracles still happen and He’s great.. he never disappoints the one he loves!

  • swalehah

    Mashallah an uplifting article of hope for the disease of the heart and mind.
    JAK May Allah SWT bless you for sharing your insights. Ameen

  • nahla

    i came across this when a friend told me to read it because i fell helplessly in love with someone but when it was all over i felt no meaning and never even one day have i felt fully fulfilled, but that only lies with Allah SWT because unlike the dunya and everyone else only he will never let u down

Reclaim Your Heart