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What Did You Expect? Let’s Be Honest

Umm Zakiyyah


“I can’t do this anymore,” the woman told me. “All this praying and fasting and staying away from sex, hoping I’ll get married one day. What’s the point? I’m thirty years old, and I don’t even know how it feels to be touched. And right now, all I want is for a man to touch me. What if I never get married?” she said.

“All those things we’re taught about being patient and obeying Allah so we can have a good life aren’t true,” she vented. “I haven’t experienced any of it. But you know who has? All my friends who broke every rule. While I was praying, they were partying. While I was fasting, they were feasting. While I was lowering my gaze and being a ‘good Muslim girl,’ they were out sleeping around,” she said, frustration evident in her tone.

“But now they’re the ones with husbands and children and big houses and lots of money,” she complained. “Meanwhile I’m alone, broke, and with no marriage prospect in sight. So I don’t see the point in following the rules anymore. All it’s brought me is misery and loneliness.”

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It broke my heart listening to my Muslim sister’s emotional pain. I wished I could take the pain away. I wished I could tell her that she’d have everything she dreamed of one day. But I couldn’t.

So I just told her the truth, the truth she should have been taught in her earliest lessons on Islam. “But we don’t obey Allah so that we can have a good life in this world,” I said. “We obey Him so we can have a good life in the Hereafter.”

“But can’t I have a good life in both worlds?” she asked, exasperated.

“Yes,” I said. “But it’s Allah who defines what that looks like for us.”

 Putting Things Into Perspective

 I remember reading a quote by Yasmin Mogahed that really resonated with me: “The secret to happiness is to not make it dependent on that which can be taken away.”

But unfortunately, so much of what we’re taught about our lives in this world, even from many spiritual teachers and imams, is that we’ll be granted worldly happiness and materialistic success if we’re “good Muslims.” Or that if we just have enough faith, all our wildest dreams will come true. I’ve even heard advice from fellow Muslim entrepreneurs that equated our income level with the spiritual state of our souls.

“If you think good of Allah, He’ll grant you all that you want in this world,” they say. “You just have to trust in Him.” While I certainly believe in both the power and necessity of thinking good of Allah and of our heart’s need to trust in Him, I grow very uncomfortable when these tools for spiritual nourishment and soul purification are taught for the purpose of promising very specific worldly outcomes.

It’s not that I believe that we shouldn’t strive for worldly success. Quite the opposite. In fact, I personally believe that we need to do a much better job at securing economic independence as Muslims, if for no other reason than we shouldn’t be relying so heavily on those outside our faith to sustain our families and communities.

Once during a keynote speech that I gave about increasing our wealth in this world, I shared this advice: Don’t use your belief in the Hereafter as an excuse to settle for failure and helplessness in this world.

When the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and the Companions lived simply, it was because they were generous with their wealth and worldly success, not because they didn’t have any. And it certainly wasn’t because they shunned working for wealth and success in this world.

I then shared this ayah from Qur’an, which has been translated to mean:

“But seek, with that (wealth) which Allah has bestowed on you, the home of the Hereafter, and forget not your portion of legal enjoyment in this world. And do good as Allah has been good to you, and seek not mischief in the land. Verily, Allah likes not those who do mischief” (Al-Qasas, 28:77).

Thus, it is upon us as believers to strive our level best for the best in this world and the best in the Hereafter, while seeking from this materialistic world that which is blessed and halaal for us.

However, as we strive for worldly success, we need to approach this noble goal with a different mindset than we do for ultimate spiritual success in the Hereafter. If we do not, our spiritual lives will suffer tremendously, and we will continuously be confused when things don’t turn out the way we expected.

Why We Get So Confused

Here’s a reminder I wrote to myself in my personal journal, in hopes of protecting my heart from the unnecessary turmoil that would befall it if I didn’t keep this world in proper perspective:

You know why we get so confused? Because we think of success in this world how we should think of success in the Hereafter. Allah promises us very specific rewards in the Hereafter due to our soul work, and we promise ourselves very specific rewards in this world due to our dunya work.

Relationship advisors share tips that promise long-lasting, loving marriages—or that guarantee knowing when someone is right for you. Business gurus share tips that promise having plentiful wealth and a successful business—and that promise ways to be debt-free and relieved from financial struggle forever. Even some spiritual teachers go as far as to tell you that all of this worldly happiness and success is promised to you if you’re a “good Muslim.”

And to prove they’re right, they’ll point to the perceived “success” in their own lives or in someone else’s—thereby taking credit for God’s work by saying these blessings are due to their own efforts.

But the life of this world doesn’t work like that.

You cannot gift your qadar (God’s decree) to someone else, no matter how convinced you are that they should follow in your footsteps to have success, wealth, or a lasting marriage.  The result didn’t come from you, so someone following your advice won’t grant them your life path.

Yes, we can benefit from each other’s journeys, experiences and advice, but we cannot duplicate other people’s successful results. And we shouldn’t even want to. Because we have no idea what trials await our souls and our families if we taste the result of someone else’s definition of “success.”

There are only two things that every soul is promised in this world: earthly trials and inevitable death. So if you want “foolproof” tips that promise success, then look to divine guidance on how to patiently endure worldly trials and how to gratefully appreciate worldly blessings.

And through this, bi’idhnillaah, you’ll learn how to attain the only success that really matters in the end: meeting your Rabb in a state of sincere submission and faith, and then finding that He is pleased with you.

—from What Did You Expect? Let’s Be Honest by Umm Zakiyyah


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Daughter of American converts to Islam, Umm Zakiyyah, also known by her birth name Ruby Moore and her "Muslim" name Baiyinah Siddeeq, is the internationally acclaimed, award-winning author of more than twenty-five books, including novels, short stories, and self-help. Her books are used in high schools and universities in the United States and worldwide, and her work has been translated into multiple languages. Her work has earned praise from writers, professors, and filmmakers. Her novel His Other Wife is now a short film. Umm Zakiyyah has traveled the world training both first-time authors and published writers in story writing. Her clients include journalists, professional athletes, educators, and entertainers. Dr. Robert D. Crane, advisor to former US President Nixon, said of Umm Zakiyyah, “…no amount of training can bring a person without superb, natural talent to captivate the reader as she does and exert a permanent intellectual and emotional impact.” Professor K. Bryant of Howard University said of If I Should Speak, “The novel belongs to…a genre worthy of scholarly study.” Umm Zakiyyah has a BA degree in Elementary Education, an MA in English Language Learning, and Cambridge’s CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults). She has more than fifteen years experience teaching writing in the United States and abroad and has worked as a consultant for Macmillan Education. Umm Zakiyyah studied Arabic, Qur’an, Islamic sciences, ‘aqeedah, and tafseer in America, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia for more than fifteen years. She currently teaches tajweed (rules of reciting Qur’an) and tafseer. In 2020, Umm Zakiyyah started the UZ Heart & Soul Care community in which she shares lessons she learned on her emotional and spiritual healing journey at Follow her online: Website: Instagram: @uzauthor Twitter: @uzauthor YouTube: uzreflections



  1. Avatar


    February 16, 2021 at 3:33 PM

    Thanks for the article.
    But I think there is an important point that we should not forget, when we are good practicing Muslims, we are promised a good life.
    But the question is: what is the definition of the “good life”?
    Speaking of this world, can we depend solely on what we like to define our vision of the good life we want to live now? if that was true, then drug addicts can claim that their vision of life is the true happiness despite what others think, and so on everyone see the life from different angle.
    What I think the ultimate happiness and joy of life is to be near Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He).
    We enjoy different worldly matters, and we should do, because those are blessings whose Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) lavish on us, but to our hearts to be attached to worldly matters, it means that we are further from Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He). Instead, worldly matters that we enjoy should be on our hands, not our hearts, so life’s tests won’t bring us down, and most importantly, we should focus of what the ultimate joy of this life and the hereafter really is, to be near Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He), everything after that doesn’t really matter.

  2. Avatar


    February 16, 2021 at 6:34 PM

    JazakAllah khair for this article.

    To add to what brother above said, we also need to define what a “good Muslim” is, becuase sometimes we take thing to an extreme. Sure you don’t need to party or take riba but it’s ok to interact with the opposite gender, and it’s ok to sell regular clothing instead of t-shirts with Muslim slogans. People monetising on spirituality makes me uncomfortable.

    I think we tend to take things to an extreme sometimes when we were meant to be a moderate nation.

  3. Avatar

    Gibran Mahmud

    February 20, 2021 at 4:38 PM

    JazzakAllahu khair this is pretty excellent. When everything in the world is destroyed the only thing left on qiyamah is our scrolls of deeds. If there is anything material it’s that record. The one thing from the earlier life that survives in the akhirah. A good life is a good record

  4. Avatar

    Ayan Qadeer

    February 21, 2021 at 9:07 AM

    Well said, JazakAllah khair. So easily do we forget that this life is a test. Our Rabb makes this test good and beautiful(in hardships and so called ease) if we obey him. What can be more successful than this life becoming a means of our forgiveness and being closest possible to our Rabb in Jannah

  5. Avatar


    February 24, 2021 at 12:40 PM

    As Salamu Alaikum,

    I agree with you, Ayan! Yes, some of us may have a ‘good life’ – even according to our own vision. But ultimately, this may not be good for us in the hereafter. Because we may forget Allah, we may not be grateful. We will also be asked in the hereafter what we did with all the good Allah gave us.

    On the other hand, some of us may have a good life but not even realize it. Not being married by 30 maybe pretty hard, but many are suffering from much worse. The Prophet (s) always told us to look to those who have less than us, not those who have more. There is so much to be grateful for! And those who we think have great lives may not really – ie, the sister says everyone but her is married, they live in big houses…but are their marriages and homes actually happy ones? We all know many marriages fail.

    Finally, some of us may have really hard lives. Even comparing ourselves to others, we may think, well not too many people are worse ofF than I am! Our test is to be patient; and the rewards Insha Allah will be immense both in this life and the next. In my own experience and the experience of those I know, being severely tested is one of the fastest ways to develop a real relationship with Allah. When everything falls apart and no one can or will help you, that is when you really get to know and love your Creator…

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