More often than not, the feeling of loss and purposelessness befall us. Even as Muslims, we are caught at the crossroads on how to deal with it.
The pain from feeling loss and purposelessness ranges and can intensify if left unchecked. From being in an initial state of shock to escalating anxiety, frustration, disillusionment and profound sadness, potentially the process can lead to the disruption of one’s mental and physical health.
Some might even question if the feeling of loss and purposelessness is a sign of weak iman (faith), or perhaps it is the devil’s way of distracting a believer. The feeling of sadness is what makes us human. Even our Prophets felt sadness when being tested.
As Muslims, we endeavour to learn how our Prophets dealt with these states of emotion and be truly convinced that “No soul is burdened with more than it can bear.”
So how do we, as Muslims, cope with feeling lost and purposeless in life?
Here are 5 perspectives that you can consider in practising the mind to overcome the struggles that you are facing:
Imbuing life with a sense of purpose is a major factor that facilitates purposeful action. Knowing the whys and the clear reasons for our own actions and decisions. A person who feels they should perform a task only because their supervisor asked them to do it is unlikely to enjoy a sense of purpose while performing the task.
The capacity for meaning allows us to wake up every morning and do what needs to be done. It requires that meaning to be present, especially in struggle and suffering. The Quran guides us:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ ٱلْجِنَّ وَٱلْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ
“I did not create jinn and humans except to worship Me”
(Surah Adh-Dhariyat, 51:56)
Our purpose in life is to worship Allah s.w.t. However, there are times, in spite of our attempt to internalise it, we keep falling back to the feelings of loss, purposelessness, and despair.
Solat is one of the most powerful ways to remind ourselves of our own purpose of living. It is also a form of guidance, like a compass to guide us in our day-to-day affairs. It acts as a spiritual enlightenment whenever we feel low on our faith.
Everything has to have a meaning. Sometimes, we do wonder if these meanings are learnt merely through our experience alone, or from our parents, or from the close circle that we surround ourselves with. Or it's probably a blend of all these experiences. The key is to enhance the experience of the meaning in life.
You must first recognise the importance of your life. There is some solace in believing that our lives and activities matter in the broader scheme of things. Surprisingly, the sense that you have had a beneficial impact on others is virtually always related to the belief that our lives are significant.
The notion that we matter to others is often at the foundation of existential crisis or mattering. It can range from the most minor to the most significant assistance, such as assisting your mother with housework, assisting an elderly person across the street, giving up your seat for another person in need, and so on.
Grasping a sense of coherence tells us that our lives make sense. We are hardwired as humans to make sense automatically, seeking to understand all topics and circumstances effortlessly.
However, life does not always make sense. For example, you may struggle and find it difficult to comprehend your own experience despite all the logical answers you can think of, especially if you have been through a terrible experience.
What we have to realise is that meaning is not simply about “connecting the dots” but also finding beauty in the overall picture that emerges with the entire situation. It is about finding the beauty in our own experience. Because at the end of the day, we will all return to Allah s.w.t. and we are accountable for our thoughts, actions, and decisions.
أَفَحَسِبْتُمْ أَنَّمَا خَلَقْنَـٰكُمْ عَبَثًا وَأَنَّكُمْ إِلَيْنَا لَا تُرْجَعُونَ
“Did you then think that We had created you without purpose and that you would never be returned to Us?”
(Surah Al-Mu’minun, 23:115)
What you do for yourself today will be a part of your answer for tomorrow’s rollout of events. There is no single perfect educational path, career ladder, or results, but there is our individual life’s path that we are constructing as we go along with Allah’s plan.
وَلِلَّهِ غَيْبُ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ وَإِلَيْهِ يُرْجَعُ ٱلْأَمْرُ كُلُّهُۥ فَٱعْبُدْهُ وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَيْهِ ۚ وَمَا رَبُّكَ بِغَـٰفِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ
“To Allah alone belongs the knowledge of what is hidden in the heavens and the earth. And to Him all matters are returned. So, worship Him and put your trust in Him. And your Lord is never unaware of what you do.”
(Surah Hud, 11:123)
Making room one step at a time is a method of decluttering the self from the mental and spiritual baggage. For example, the past will prohibit us from moving forward and keep us sidetracked in the present. There is no blessing in anything done without mentioning God in the beginning, directing towards God in the midst, and accepting God's outcomes at the conclusion.
Sometimes, we don't even consider involving God, let alone turning over our affairs to Him. There are times when our failures convinced us to believe we're better off on our own. If we must lament, we should not do so indefinitely. Because we don't need anything we've lost to bless us. As we go forward, we should welcome doors of opportunity and possibilities.
In a hadith, Anas bin Malik r.a. narrated that a man said:
"يَا رَسُولَ الله أَعقِلهَا وَأَتَوَكَّل، أَو أُطلِقهَا وَأَتَوَكّل؟" قَالَ: "اِعقِلهَا وَتَوَكَّل"
"O Messenger of Allah! Shall I tie it and rely (upon Allah), or leave it loose and rely (upon Allah)?" He said: "Tie it and rely (upon Allah)."
It's all too easy to become caught up in the past, whether it's failures, regrets, chastising oneself for not making alternative choices, or blaming someone else. You didn't know everything you know today. You did not have the same resources, surroundings, or responsibilities.
Maybe you didn't have the same perspective, perception, self-awareness, or support. Or maybe you're remembering the good old days when you hit milestones, when life was simpler, and you were more than this or that. But here's the truth: the past is no longer present. It tells us that our reality in this world is temporal.
We can choose to carry the weight of the pain or leave it in the past. We can choose to remember the good memories or to completely disregard any experience of joy and happiness. Make peace with the past. It was what it was. This is now, and it is what it is. Our life is happening right here and right now.
We are in the present, and by accepting the truth or the present, we may enjoy what we have right now while recognising that the bad will pass. When we are anxious or frightened, unhappy, lost, or lonely, we should take a deep breath and feel the present moment, the facts, and the truth.
Feel what's going on in your body and in your surroundings. Feel all you're feeling. Remember that this is just a moment and that there will be many more to come. As a result, it is critical to nurture a sense of thankfulness toward Allah s.w.t. in order to go forward in life and plan for a better future.
Read: Instilling Gratitude
In a hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah r.a, the Prophet s.a.w. said:
لاَ يَشْكُرُ اللَّهَ مَنْ لاَ يَشْكُرُ النَّاسَ
“He who does not thank the people is not thankful to Allah.”
(Sunan Abi Dawud)
Introspection in Islam is called Muhasabah. Ask the kind of questions that prompt inspired answers. When we ask ourselves questions, try to challenge our thoughts in a way that promotes growth. Without introspection, you cannot stand true to faith. Without self-analysis, you cannot purify yourself.
Introspection functions as a mirror; it acts as a reflection of ourselves. The Prophet’s companion, Umar Ibn Al-Khattab r.a, said:
حَاسِبُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ قَبْلَ أَنْ تُحَاسَبُوا وَزِنُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ قَبْلَ أَنْ تُوزَنُوا فَإِنَّهُ أَهْوَنُ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الْحِسَابِ غَدًا أَنْ تُحَاسِبُوا أَنْفُسَكُمُ الْيَوْمَ
“Hold yourselves accountable before you are held accountable and evaluate yourselves before you are evaluated, for the Reckoning will be easier upon you tomorrow if you hold yourselves accountable today”
At any point in time, when we feel overwhelmed, try to accept that what is possible in the present is limited. This is not shutting off our possibilities but rather a recognition of our own capacity so that we can stop expecting impossible things from ourselves and give ourselves a break.
At any moment, when there’s pure joy, happiness, and hopefulness, soak it all up. Feel every bit of the experience and delve into your own emotions, the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the touch. So, you can transform it into a precious memory when the moment has passed, which it will.
And Allah knows best.
 “God does not burden any soul with more than it can bear: each gains whatever good it has done, and suffers its bad-” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:286)