I used to pride myself on being an emotionally intelligent person; I was sensitive, heartfelt and attuned to my surroundings.
I was a deep thinker of life and an avid reflector of myself. I possessed a gift of emotional attunement: the ability to sense and reciprocate the emotional needs of others. I believed this gift allowed me to read people and situations. I even imagined I knew what people were thinking.
Every emotion I experienced was intense. I loved passionately and hated fiercely. I was emotionally aware and reactive to every slight change around me. Everyone and everything impacted my feelings, either positively or negatively, but more so in the latter!
A headache meant I was in a bad mood. The rain made me feel glum. The dishes exasperated me. And people? They were the cause and effect to my entire existence. I had a yearning to deeply connect to every relationship in my life. I invested my happiness and hopes into people. Their love, acceptance and approval of me were at my epicentre. But emotionally I felt far from centred. I felt an imbalance in regulating my internal emotions with the unpredictability of people and circumstances outside of myself. Unwittingly, but compliantly, I handed over to the world the keys to my emotional freedom. I became a helpless passenger, being steered recklessly, sometimes towards my happiness and hopes, but more often than not, in the opposite direction.
When I cosied up next to my husband on the sofa, I felt loved and safe. But sitting on the same sofa with my husband after an argument, I felt alone and full of resentment. My children playfully screaming in the garden would at times make me smile and reminisce fond childhood memories, but other times their “childish” and “immature” antics would drive me to despair.
Friends, family and acquaintances, could one day unite under my banner of love. But the next day, any “stand-offish” behaviour meant they were banished into my emotional no-man’s-land, only to return once I felt reconciled and reconnected with them.
I lived life flitting from feeling to feeling never knowing what the world would throw at me next. Never really knowing why I felt anything. Lucky for me, I thought, at least I possess this gift of emotional attunement; I was ready for whatever anyone did or said. I trusted myself to scour away any possible “threats” to my mental well-being. I thought I was protecting myself.
But in hindsight this was not a gift, nor a form of protection, but a burden which I had created for myself. I was delusional in thinking I was emotionally intelligent and that this was a safe and altruistic way of living my life. On the contrary, it made me feel vulnerable and judgemental towards others. In seeking deep, meaningful relationships with everyone, I had forsaken my free will and most importantly had overlooked my relationship with Allāh. I started to live my life based on how others perceived and desired me to be, instead of focusing on pleasing Allāh. I had become a heavy sponge, carrying the thoughts and feelings of every person I met. I felt drained from constantly sensing, absorbing and reflecting the emotional states of others. I was no longer a complete whole of myself, but felt fragmented and broken from the world’s disappointments. I kept giving away parts of myself to every relationship. I lost my authenticity in trying to meet people’s expectations and live in line with their reality.
It wasn’t until I experienced the mind-set transformation that I realised I was not emotionally intelligent at all. I was emotionally exhausted. I was actually a slave to my emotions. I had put so much emphasis on my emotions that I lived blindly through them, totally oblivious of their origin: my mind.
We put so much emphasis on emotions, we even have a word for a person void of emotions: heartless. But what about being mindless? Living away your life while asleep. Being so unaware of your mind and the extraordinary gift of thought that Allāh has blessed you with.
Our mind is our gateway to connecting with Allāh. It is through our thoughts we experience either high or low consciousness of Allāh and accordingly our actions follow on from this. It is truly miraculous that we are reminded time and time again in the Qur’ān not to be of the heedless. Heedlessness is what diminishes our connection with Allāh, as being a mindful Muslim is part and parcel of our faith.
Every act of ʿibādah starts in the mind with a conscious thought, an intention to perform an act of worship. How fitting that our beloved Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said “verily actions are judged according to intentions, and every man is granted what he intends”.
In order to purify ourselves and gain the most reward from our acts of worship, we must go back to our thoughts and question our motives and intentions. Correcting our thoughts will lead us to performing our deeds to the best of our abilities. Only then can our worship truly be for the sake of Allāh.
A heedless mind left untreated will continue to damage your Imān. You will go through life in a half conscious state, robotically ticking off physical acts of worship. It would simply be your limbs showing obedience to Allāh, but mindlessness deprives your spiritual heart and soul in being present, peaceful and content.
When you discover the power of your mind it is an awakening to the reality that you do not have to live your life emotionally incarcerated. You will become fully aware and alert to the fact that you have been created by Allāh with a free will. You are as emotionally incarcerated, or as free, as you think you are. Open your mind to fully grasp this exceptional gift from Allāh: the power of your free will. When we think of freedom, we think of a free body, we think of free speech, we think of a free spirit…combine all these together to free your mind and think freely!
Make a choice, do not live your life as a hostage to your circumstances. Consider the powerful mind-set of Sheikh Ibn Taymiyyah:
“What can my enemies do to me? My paradise and my garden are in my heart. They are with me wherever I go and they never leave me. If I am imprisoned, then it is seclusion for worship. If I am killed, then it is martyrdom. If they expel me from the land, then it is tourism.”
No amount of attempted persecution was able to threaten or harm him, because nothing on the outside affected his internal peace. He viewed his trials and tests as a source of goodness for him and a means to draw closer to Allāh.
When a test is received with humility, acceptance and trust, you will wholeheartedly testify to Allāh’s promise that “He does not burden a soul with more than it can bear”. You cannot control the tests and trials you will face in this world, but you do have a choice in how you think and feel about them. The test or trial does not have the power to overcome or consume you. How you think about the difficulty you are facing is what causes you distress. The answer lies in your mind-set. An emotion can never take place without your thought first allowing it.
We have been created by Allāh with both feelings and thoughts – it is a part of being human. Love, hatred, fear, sadness, joy, envy, anger are just a few of those we experience daily. Of course emotions have many benefits: they help us perceive our world and help us to socially and morally direct ourselves. However it is problematic when our emotions start to control us. The illusion we have come to accept as reality is that these emotions are caused by everything and everyone external to us. This misconception has left us as “passive victims of life”. Islam is a religion of moderation and balance in all matters of life, including our personal psychology. Understanding that your thoughts cause your feelings will help to keep your emotional balance in check. You will no longer see the outside world as a means to your well-being, rather you will put your trust in Allāh, regardless of your external circumstances.
If you fully comprehend that there is no might nor power except in Allāh, you will know with certainty, no one has the ability to cause any of your feelings. When Allāh is the Turner of the hearts, why do we so compliantly hand our hearts to the mercy of people? Our husbands, children, our family and friends.
However emotionally attuned you believe yourself to be, you will only ever see the world and others through your thinking. You can never think to know what someone else is thinking or feeling. As empathetic as you try to be, you can never carry the thoughts and emotions of others. I gladly admit I never did have the “emotional superpowers” to be able to read minds. I was simply judging people based on my own filter of the world.
I was not a deep thinker or a self-reflector; I was actually an extremely self-critical over thinker. In purging my mind of the clutter and chaos of this world, I was finally able to behold The One whom I had been searching for all along: Allāh
We do not need to seek approval, acceptance or happiness from anyone, as He is The All Loving.
We do not need to put unnecessary burden on ourselves to protect ourselves as He is The Protector and Overseer.
We do not need others to understand or validate our feelings, as He is The Ultimate Source of Peace.
How sublimely true are the words of our Lord:
“Verily, in the remembrance of Allāh do the hearts find rest”
In finding Allāh, I have found myself and I have found my purpose. I am finally free to be me; to be His slave, and not a slave to anyone or any emotion. I have never felt so peaceful, grateful and blessed, alḥamdulillāh.
Emotional intelligence is firstly being aware of your internal state. Understand yourself and your psychology before looking outward to understand others. Through realising your intentions, being present in the moment and training your ego, you will get to see and experience the most clear and untainted view of the world around you. As such you’ll become the most compassionate, open minded and truest version of yourself.
Now that my emotions have been reunited with my thoughts, my heart and mind are realigned and in balance. Consequently my emotions have become more intelligent.
 Bukhārī and Muslim
 Al-Wabil As-Sayyib 110
 Al-Qur’ān, 2:286
 Banks, S., “The Missing Link”
 Al-Qur’ān, 13:28
The views expressed on Islam21c and its connected channels do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation.