“Surely, with hardship comes ease..” (Surah Inshirah/Chapter The Expansion 94:6 Holy Quran)
When someone is stranded under 221(g) the very first emotion felt is that of confusion. It is not exactly a refusal to make one totally sad or a success to make one fully happy. It is a perplexing situation with things out of ones hand, with the hope that everything will work out at some point. But with so many possibilities of things going wrong (loss of job, expiry of petition, changes to employer) while this additional process takes place makes anxiety overcome hope. As time moves on this anxiety increases and turns into frustration with ones situation as well as the system. While every effort needs to be be made to make changes to the system which deals with immigrants as suspects of crime there is also a need to reflect on oneself. The most common reasons for 221(g) are muslim identity (name, beard, hijab), employment source and documentation. These need to be also dealt with spiritually and not separate them as mundane worldly matters for whatever influences the worldly also affects individuals spirituality. More than anything 221(g) from the spiritual side is the test of ones patience and steadfastness (Sabr). One of the best methods to seek it is through improvement of regular prayers (salah and dua) and constant remembrance of Allah.
A test can be a source of elevating an individuals spiritual status (maqam) or a method of exposing the frailties of faith (imaan). It is important to not see 221(g) as a punishment even if that is the case because this may lead to hopelessness and if someone is steadfast in punishment Allah might change his condition. Have hope Allah willing (inshallah) everything will work out for the best.
Surah Inshirah mentions with hardship comes ease not after hardship comes ease, so there is mercy (rahmah) of Allah even in a condition like 221(g). One of the best examples of this is the story of prophet Yusuf (Peace be Upon Him). He was in some what of a similar situation (albeit much more difficult) when he was put in prison without any method to defend himself and for a unspecified time (hopefully none of us are in jail). He kept seeking steadfastness through prayers during this time and the time in prison lead him to eventually become the treasurer of the state. I am not saying you will become US secretary of treasury at the end of this ordeal but rather that better things will come to you through steadfastness in this period of uncertainty. Also remember Allah does not put a burden on someone more than what he/she can bear. So have trust in yourself as this period like any other period in life will pass.
The small talk among people stuck under 221(g) is that they are being put through 221(g) because of their common muslim name (Mohammed, Syed etc) or because of their muslim choices (beard, hijab etc). There are two ways to look at it. Firstly there are plenty of people who are not from islamic heritage who get 221(g) (Check the facebook group on 221(g)). I have known hindus, buddhists as well as christians who were given 221(g). Even though the chances of one getting a 221(g) might increase with a common muslim name there are plenty of people who have a muslim name, sport a beard and wear a hijab who do not get 221(g). So it is pretty random in that sense. So do not make it an excuse to give up on something.
The second way to look at it is that the most powerful nation on the planet is giving witness (Shahadah) to our muslim identity. Usually wherever Islam went, initially there was a lot of misunderstanding of muslims and sometimes they had to deal with difficulties due to this. But when muslims remained steadfast in the difficult times (Meccan period, First migration to Abyssinia) acceptance followed.
A lot of the mistrust has to do with the public perception of a practicing muslim. Giving up our identity will not change this perception. Efforts need to be made to change this perception than changing ourselves. Hopefully as the background checks don’t yield anything it will make the people as well as authorities change their view of muslims. This does not mean we do not use legal means to object to 221(g) rather that we do not give up our muslim identity, because changing ourselves is not going to solve the underlying problem. Even if we do not get punished for giving up the identity through Allahs mercy we will definitely not get the reward (ajr) or station (maqam) for preserving it through our names, beards and hijabs.
It is very sad that several employers (even muslim ones) not only violate laws but also resort to unethical (haraam) practices in their work place. Some of them do not correctly compensate their employees for their labor while others use immigration as a leash on their employees to deny them basic rights. In such cases 221(g) punishes the victim (employee) and not the culprit (employer). If someone falls in this category try to review your situation and see if you can find a better employer who is just to you, follows laws and does not oppress your rights. In a tough job market it is struggle to change jobs. But it is definitely a worthy effort to pursue. In general though research your employer before choosing them to file H1B.
Some people are put under 221g as their documentation such as job description, work experience and career profile has mismatch. It is important to remember when we talk of halal it includes the sources of our income. Forgery of resumes to get jobs is one such thing. In some industries like information technology and computer science apocryphal resumes are so rampant that even a fresh college graduate puts down 5 years of fake experience. The usual response on questioning is that everyone does it, so to stand the chance of getting a job even a muslim has to do it. I had consulted a reputed scholar (Ashraf Ali of Deoband) on this issue and upon hearing all aspects including difficulties faced by individuals with no experience in such industries, he said even if leeway is given for getting the first job through this means when there is no other option, the individual needs to keep actively looking for job with his original resume until he/she finds one based on their actual profile. Forgery of resume is not to be confused with embellishment of resume. For individuals who had to resort to lying on resumes due to circumstances 221(g) might be a time to reconsider their situation and try to get a job on their actual experience.
On the day of judgement there will be two major kinds of people. Those who succeed because of the deeds they earned in the worldly life and those who fail because of the injustice they were to their life. While everyone will have a varying degree of wait there will also be a group whose fate will be indefinitely postponed. They will have to wait for a long time for their life to be scrutinized and deal with the anxiety of failing and hope of succeeding. While the time in 221(g) can be tough remember the judgement day is much tougher than the few months we spend waiting and this wait is probably a reminder for us.
حَسْبُنَا اللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ
Transliteration: Hasbunallahu wa ni`mal Wakil
Translation: Allah (alone) is sufficient for us (Qur’an 3:173)
Transliteration: Ya Hayyu ya Qayyoomu, bi raHmatika astagheeth
Translation: Oh Living, oh Sustainer, in your mercy I plead for rescue. (At-Tirmidhi)
Transliteration: Allahumma laa sahla illaa maa ja`altahu sahlan, wa anta taj`alul-hazna idhaa shi’ ta sahlan.
Translation: Oh Allah, there is nothing made easy except what you make easy, and you make the difficult easy, if you wish. (Ibn Hibban and Ibn As-Sunni)