And no we are not really talking about fish in this post. As we all know, fish live in water. Water is the best environment in which they get their oxygen and are able to survive. A fish in the air, depending on how long it stays outside the water is really in dangerous territory. The reason I thought about a fish in the air in the first place is because lately I am realizing how important one’s environment is and I want to bring our attention to how it can make or break us.

Environment is defined as the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates.

I remember how amazed I was as a child when I found out that most fish could not breathe outside water. The air is filled with oxygen yet they can’t have access to it outside water because of the way Allah created them. The best environment for them to exist and use oxygen is in the water because their body parts (gills) are able to open up and allow for the absorption of oxygen. Outside water, the gills collapse on themselves and the fish ends up asphyxiating.

Allah Azza Wajal is the Best of Creators and the Most Wise. He created the perfect environment for each creation. When we go against what HE set up for us out of His perfect wisdom, we are in dangerous territory the same way a fish in the air is.

Human life however is more complex because we have been given the power to think and choose. It is therefore very possible for us to live in an environment that is gradually breaking us physically and spiritually. At that point, it is just a matter of time before we too ‘asphyxiate’.

This is why it is vital to take a step back and analyze the conditions we have chosen to operate and live in. Ask yourself:

“Is my environment conducive to my growth, to me reaching my best self?”

Let’s go back to the example of the fish. The fish needs oxygen to live and so do we as humans. The only thing that changes is the environment, not the oxygen. Some of us get stuck on the point that the oxygen is the problem when in fact it really is not.

Let me give you a few more examples closer to home. A sister called me last week telling me to pray for her because she is finding it really hard to wear the veil. That same week in a class I teach on the names of Allah Azza Wajal, I asked the students if they could share some of the things that brought them peace. One sister said ” My veil brings me peace because whenever I wear it, I am recognized as a Muslima.” This truly reinforced for me the point that it is not the oxygen, the veil or even the exercise that is the issue…

The exercise?

Na’aam, about a year ago, I wanted to be more physically active and take better care of my health. I made a vision board with pictures of sport shoes, people going up the stairs, just to motivate me to do more with my body. Walking was such a struggle for me. If I walked a mile three times a week, it was an accomplishment. I lived in a city where everyone drove. Very few people walked. I didn’t even feel safe walking in my subdivision and saw no one else walking. I would tell myself:

“Ok let’s at least go to the mailbox or take the trash out because that was about .8 mile away from where I lived.” It was a struggle. The environment was not helping, on the contrary it was pushing me to get in the car like everyone else instead of walking.

Three months ago, I moved to another city, another ‘environment’, a totally opposite environment. Here, everyone walks! Even the mail man delivers mail walking!

Sidewalks are filled with people, wherever you turn, you see someone either running, walking or riding a bike. Walking became so easy for me, it became the norm. I walk everywhere now, to the grocery stores, the pharmacy, the post office, the bank, the park, the restaurant, the swimming center etc…

Subhannallah, I went from really struggling to walk a mile a day to easily walking five miles a day. It happened so effortlessly that I once again realized that it was never the walking, it was the environment.

So what is it that you are struggling with?

Check your environment, your friends, those who surround you, how helpful are they to you fulfilling your goals. If you struggle to worship Allah Azza Wajal, are you surrounded by sisters who are striving in their deen? Are you living in a place where you can practice your faith freely?

Allah Azza Wajal reminds us in the Qur’an that His earth is vast encouraging us to consider another environment if the existing one is not allowing us to worship Him.

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ ظَالِمِي أَنفُسِهِمْ قَالُوا فِيمَ كُنتُمْ قَالُوا كُنَّا مُسْتَضْعَفِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ قَالُوا أَلَمْ تَكُنْ أَرْضُ اللَّهِ وَاسِعَةً فَتُهَاجِرُوا فِيهَا فَأُولَٰئِكَ مَأْوَاهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ وَسَاءَتْ مَصِيرًا

Verily! As for those whom the angels take (in death) while they are wronging themselves (as they stayed among the disbelievers even though emigration was obligatory for them), they (angels) say (to them): “In what (condition) were you?” They reply: “We were weak and oppressed on earth.” They (angels) say: “Was not the earth of Allah spacious enough for you to emigrate therein?” Such men will find their abode in Hell – What an evil destination! (Qur’an 4:97)

We really should not take for granted the fact that we are social beings and that our environment plays a huge role in our lives. Rasulullah Salallahu Alayhi wa Salaam said:

A man is upon the religion of his best friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends.

Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2378

Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Al-Nawawi

So my dear sister, all that to say that I am definitely learning to consider the impact of my environment whenever I hit an obstacle in my journey. I pray you do the same.

And Allah knows best.

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