Allah's (SWT) Plan
Submitted by Ifrah Abshir
I’m a planner. I plan excessively.
From a young age, I was the type to outline every hour of my day to ensure I get everything done. I rarely went off schedule, and when I did I would beat myself up for it and go harder the next day. I was the kid with chunky glasses carrying around 20 different shades of highlighters to color code my agenda based on routine. Red for homework, green for chores, orange for classes, and so forth. Honestly speaking, even at my current age of 22, I still plan. I plan a lot of things in advance. I do not like surprises.
As an SSA-UMN (Somali Student Association at the University of Minnesota) officer, I spent the better half of this year planning so many events - all leading up to the 4th annual national conference and Somali night. These were mass-scale events that would have gathered anywhere from 2,000 to 2,5000 people from all over the world. After this, I anticipated and planned for graduation. I planned a dress, my makeup look, how I would decorate my cap, and every other detail even down to the car I would drive that day. It was a moment I have been waiting for all my life. I planned to hear my name being called, to walk across that stage, and then hear my family's screams. I planned to celebrate with them that night and then beginning a summer internship which would eventually guide me into getting my MD (medical degree). That was my plan.
However, I was quickly humbled by the ultimate of planners. Just like that everything I had in my calendar was canceled (due to COVID) & I was forced to recenter. I realized truly that there is our plan, and then there's Allah’s (SWT) plan. No matter how many details I perfected for something, if it is not ordained by Allah (SWT) then there is no way it will come into fruition. This was a hard pill to swallow for a planner like me, and I spent weeks at home reflecting on it, reflecting on my journey thus far.
I spent my whole life hyper-focused on establishing my future. Where would I be come this September after I officially became a university graduate? What would my GPA be, my major? Would I be employed or back in for another degree? I spent the last 12 years of my life inside a system that told me what to do when to do it & exactly how, so would I be able to survive outside of that system? Who was I independent of assignment and instruction?
Through all this reflection is when I realized that never once did I pause to even breathe. If you know me, you know I spent my whole life steamrolling through academics. I kid you not, my motto used to be, “if it’s not about books, good looks”. I was so intent on building up my academic career that I neglected my personal and spiritual one. Sure I participated in programs that kept me sane (Freedom Schools & SSA) and I held on to the minimal requirements of my deen (religion) - but still, somewhere along the journey to being the best in my class, I became a fragment of myself. I fell off. I fell off with friends, family, my deen, and everything that did not involve a book and a schedule. Throughout the years whenever something tough occurred in my life, I simply ignored it and stuck with the plan - hoping that in the end, it would all work out. It rarely did.
So in a way, this COVID situation was a hard reset for me. In losing all of the things I wanted desperately, I gained the things I needed immensely. I still want to be a doctor (in Shaa Allah), but now I see there is more to life than degrees and planning. Life is about seizing the moment. It’s about jumping out of planes, moving to new towns, falling in love deeply with no conditions, building compounds with your family, starting a new family, trying new foods in new continents, praying all over the world, touching the black stone, and so much more. It’s about losses, wins, draws & everything in between. Life is about experiences, life is about living. Spending these past few weeks in isolation + reflection as I fast - I realized there is no longer an ultimatum. I can have it all - the books, the experiences, the deen, and the daqaan (culture).
I also learned that sometimes your plan will fail. There will be unusual circumstances that occur and knock everything off balance. But I also learned that this is simply a sign from Allah (SWT). When one path is closed, follow the one that becomes open. Let go, stop excessively planning & trust the ultimate of planners.