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New Muslims Society

The Muslim in the Face of Life’s Trials

What do you do when you come to the end of a period of great effort and find only an insurmountable wall? What do you do when you feel broken? How do you face the trials of life?

Resilience and pride in the face of oppression is an oft-noted response throughout history. The tyranny breeds a strength of purpose in the oppressed, which astounds, and seems almost superhuman. But for most of us, our battles are more mundane, but they can be overwhelming.

The daily grind, the exhaustion of small children, a job you hate, domestic chores, bills to pay, teenagers being difficult, moving house, burst water pipe,  loss of a loved one, angst at work, a spate of ill-health, a boss on the war path, a miscarriage, loss of a job, spouse being difficult, elderly parents trying your patience…Some—perhaps even most of these things—will happen to all of us at some point in our lives.

Perhaps a few of them will hit us at once. And there may come a point when the culmination of many little things may break you, or a small thing may end up being the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. What do you do in such circumstance?

The sentiments needed are the same—resilience in the face of struggle.

Strive… Surrender

What do you do when you come to the end of a period of great effort and find only an insurmountable wall?

There may not be a tyrannical regime building the barricade, but it seems like an impossible barrier anyway.

What do you do when you have strived and struggled to do what is right on a daily basis, but at the end of it you simply feel “broken”?

There may not be an dictatorial government to crush your spirit, but you feel in pieces nevertheless. Such are the emotions for so many in the trying times and stresses of the modern age. For me, the only answer I can offer lies with God, and to surrender utterly to His Divine Will.

I know for many this concept of surrender and service to God is hard. Islam has sometimes been accused of being a religion that creates servile zombies, slaves to a nasty, vengeful god called Allah. Yet for me, this could not be further from my understanding of the role of surrender to the Divine.

The Creator of the Cosmos brought us into being out of love. He sustains and nurtures us out of Love, and in loving Him we find the very essence of Being. To surrender ourselves utterly out of love is not a lowly or slavish thing. To love the Divine, the Merciful, the Beautiful, with all our heart, and to desire to serve Him out of that love is not servitude, but beauty. To love; love is life itself. And in loving Love, and recognizing the limitless blessings He bestows on us, one finds huge strength, and the Grace to deal with life’s trials.

Trials & God’s Mercy

Surrender has become a negative word, as has servant. Who wants to be a servant?

It is one of those sad modern ironies that “community service”—far from being something that every child is taught, and every citizen aspires towards—is actually a form of punishment. Service to one’s family seems equally derided in the modern age.

But I know of no other answer to the trials and tribulations of life other than surrender, and a life of service. Surrender—like patience—is not passive, it is not servile, but it is—I believe—a transformative action.

Utter surrender is the complete emptying of the self in order to be filled by the One; it is the breaking in order to be built anew by the One, and ultimately it is the dying to be raised again through God’s Mercy. Surrender is accepting Grace into your life, and recognizing Him at work.

To Find God…

To find God’s abundant Grace through every trial is no easy task, but it is His Grace which will give us peace, in this world, and ultimately the next, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “None amongst you can get into Paradise by virtue of his deeds alone. They said: Allah’s Messenger, not even you? He said “not even I, but that God should wrap me in his Grace and Mercy.”  (Muslim)

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Source: http://www.emel.com/

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Categories
Ethics & Values New Muslims

Patience: A Tower of Light for the Muslim

The Prophet said: “ Patience is a light.” (Muslim)

In the intricate paths of life when difficulties and hardships confront a man, and the darkness of adversities an suffering becomes long, it is patience only that acts like a light for a Muslim, that keeps him safe from wandering here and there, and saves him from the muddy mire of disappointment, desperation and frustration.

Patience is such a basic quality that a Muslim needs it to shape his life in this world and in the next. On this basis only he should attend to all his work. He should make it a torchlight for guiding his way, else he will be defeated in the field of life. He should prepare his self to tolerate the hardships and difficulties, and should not holler or raise hell. He should not sit waiting for the results, however late that may take. He should not run away from responsibilities, whatever they may be.

No doubts and misgivings, no hardship of trouble should prompt his intellect to indulge in violence. He should have plenty of self-confidence. He should not be frightened by the dark clouds appearing on the horizon of life, even if they may be appearing continually, nay, he should be fully sure that these clouds of adversities and hardships will disappear, and the clear and bright atmosphere of success and glory will appear again.

Therefore, the demand of wisdom and farsightedness is that its coming should be awaited with patience, peace and conviction.

The Almighty God has stressed this point sufficiently that no man can escape tests and trials, so that man may be alert and ready at the time when these hardship and difficulties descend on him, and he should not be frightened by these heavenly and earthly tribulations, and need not be disappointed and disheartened.

And verily We shall try you ill till We know those of you who still hard (in the cause of Allah) and the steadfast, and till We test your record. (Muhammad 47:31)

The poet has expressed the same idea in these words:

“We had anticipated the hardships of the night before their coming. So when they descended, there was no addition to our knowledge.”

Undoubtedly if accidents and debacles are faced with a clear sight and full preparations, it will prove advantageous for man and this will help in stabilizing and consolidating his position.

The Two Pillars of Patience

Patience relies on two important realities. The first reality is concerned with the nature of this worldly life. Its details are: Allah has not made this world a house of peace and satisfaction or of rewards and recompense, but He has made it a house of trials.

The time that a man spends in this world is really a time for unending experiences. He comes out of one trial in order to undergo another trial which is harder and different from the one through which he has already passed, that is man is tested once by one thing and again by its opposite, as iron is first heated in the fire and then it is put in the water. Similarly man is tested by favorable as well as opposing means.

When Allah blessed Prophet Sulayman (Solomon) with a grand and magnificent empire, he knew about these natural laws of the world. He had said:

This is of the bounty of my Lord, that He may try me whether I give thanks or I am ungrateful. Whoever gives thanks, he only gives thanks for (the good of) his Own soul,’ and whoever is ungrateful (is ungrateful only to his own soul’s hurt). For surely, my Lord is Absolute in independence, Bountiful. (An-Nahl 16:40)

The causes of trial through sadness and hardships are vague and unfixed. However, we can understand them properly by the example of the soldiers fighting in the battlefield. In the battlefield some groups are made to fight till they have to lose their valuable lives, so that the lives of other groups may be saved. The security of other sections is dependent on the remaining groups being made to fight in new battles.

This strategy is followed in the wider interest of the country and for- greater advantages, by the great leadership of the army In this fighting the life of a man has no importance, because the problem is much wider.

Same is the position of luck or fate. A certain man is put to different kinds of trials, till he falls down defeated, as there is no other way for him, except that he should greet the hardship that has arrived with patience and submission. Since this life is a testing ground, we should strive hard for success in it.

What is the trial or examination of life? It is not words that they can be written, or talks to which attention may be paid.

The questions of the examination are these hardships and difficulties which confront a man, and which open before him the path of fright, terror, and frustration. Examination is the name of the anti-reality defects which prompt a man to be jealous and nourisher of rancor against his sincere friend; examination is the name of the tyrannies for which a nation occupies the place of god and the other people offer their blood as sacrifice for retrieving their usurped rights.

The history of life on this earth from the first day tin today is very sorrowful. The right thing is that man should himself make his own way in this life, and he should be sure that the way to his destination is fun of thorns and filth.

The second reality is concerned with the nature and temperament of faith.

Faith is the name of the relationship between man and his Lord. As in the relationship of men, the true friendship and sincerity can only be judged when it is confronted with unfavorable and bitter conditions, when they have to deal with the hardships brought about by the vagaries of time, and when they are surrounded by various kinds of problems.

At such a time a man’s real worth and sincerity is known. Exactly similar is the case of faith. To find out the truth and sincerity about faith it is necessary that a Muslim be tried, he should be put in the crucible of fire to see whether he comes out glowing like the gold or whether he will be burnt away with the impurities.

Do men imagine that they will be left (at ease) because they say, We believe, and will not be tested with affliction?

Verily, We tested those who were before you. Thus Allah knows those who are sincere, and knows those who feign. (Al-`Ankabut 29:2,3)

Undoubtedly, Allah’s knowledge covers all manifest and concealed matters, and from this examination there will be no addition to His knowledge, because He knows all the conditions from the beginning till the end.

The Divine knowledge cannot be made a basis for man’s reckoning. His reckoning will be on the basis of his own personal deeds. If some criminals deny their crimes, then on the Day of Judgment in what way proof can be brought against them except by putting them to trial in this world and man’s own parts of the body may give evidence against him?

About such people the Qur’an has to say this:

And on the Day We gather them together.. We shall say to those who ascribed partners (to Allah).. Where are (now) those partners of your make-believe ? Then they will have no contention except that they will say.. By Allah, our Lord, we never were idolaters. See how they lie against themselves, and (how) the thing which they devised has failed them. (Al-An`am 6:22-24)

How can the reckoning of such criminals be taken in the light of the Divine knowledge? Their justifiable retribution will be proper only when all their misdeeds are placed before them. Their efforts and striving to create corruption and mischief among others and all their misdeeds will be repeated before them.

On these two bases the foundation of patience has been kept. And for this reason religion demands it, but he who shuts his eyes from realities by force of his nature is dumbfounded when he has to face hardships and his hands and feet become inactive when he has to fight difficulties. His rashness dislikes waiting and patience and he is unable to tolerate it.

Therefore, when anything untoward happens, or he has to suffer some kind of failure, or when he meets with an accident, the earth with all its great vastness becomes narrow for him, and the conditions become exasperating for him.

He wants to come out of these conditions in the twinkling of an eye, but it is obvious that in this effort he will not ; be successful for it is against the temperament of the world and the religion, It is proper for a Muslim to learn to be patient and to wait and to wait for long.

Man is made of haste. I shall show’ you my signs, but ask Me not to hasten. (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:31)

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The article is excerpted from the book  “Muslim Character” , an American-English translation of Muhammad Al-Ghazali’s Khuluq Al-Muslim published by Islam Presentation Committee (IPC), Kuwait.

 

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Categories
His Character New Muslims

How Prophet Muhammad Expressed Grief: Lessons of Faith & Humanity

 

sadness_nature

Human beings, the Prophet among them, had to learn how to depart, and see their loved ones depart, in silence, with discretion.

During the tenth year of Hijrah (emigration from Makkah), young Ibrahim, who was then about a year and a half old, fell seriously ill. At the very time when the religion of the One was being established all over the Peninsula, with adversity constantly diminishing and the number of conversions continuing to grow, the Prophet saw his only son about to leave life and to leave him. He visited him every day and spent hours by his side.

When the child eventually breathed his last, the Prophet took him in his arms and held him against his breast, tears streaming down his face, so deep was his sorrow.

`Abdur-Rahman ibn `Awf, his faithful Companion, was surprised by those sobs, because he thought that the Prophet had previously forbidden such expressions of grief.  At first, Muhammad could not speak; then he explained to him that he had forbidden excessive manifestations of distress, through wailing or hysterical behavior, but not the natural expression of sorrow and suffering.

Then he gave verbal expression to his grief that, in effect , became a spiritual teaching, as he declared that his tears were “signs of tenderness and mercy.” He added a comment springing from his own experience, but which was also true in every Muslim’s daily life: “He who is not merciful will not be shown mercy.” (AL-Bukhari and Muslim)

Trying Times

In the difficult moments of life, kindness, clemency, mercy, and the expressions of empathy that human beings offer one another bring them closer to the One, Ar-Rahman (the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful). Through them, God reaches closer to the believer’s heart, offering the believer what the believer him- or herself has offered to a brother or sister in humanity.

The Prophet was intimately affected, and he did not hesitate to show and express his grief. He added: “The eye sheds tears, 0 Ibrahim, the heart is infinitely sad, and one must only utter what satisfies God.” (AL-Bukhari and Muslim)

God had once more tested him through his humanity and his mission. He had lost so many loved ones-Companions, his wife Khadijah, three of his daughters, and his three sons.”

His life had been crossed with tears, but he remained both gentle with his heart and firm in his mission. It was this chemistry of gentleness and firmness that satisfied the Most Near.

At the time when, in this tenth year of Hijrah, the world seemed to open up to the Prophet’s mission, Muhammad’s human fate seemed reduced to that tiny grave where Ibrahim’s body was laid, and over which he then led the funeral prayer. The Prophet was one of the eject; the Prophet remained a human being.

tears

His life had been crossed with tears, but he remained both gentle with his heart and firm in his mission.

Lessons for Life

A few hours after his return from the graveyard, an eclipse of the sun occurred. The Muslims were quick to associate the eclipse with the death of the Prophet’s child and see it as a miracle, a kind of message from God to His Prophet. But Muhammad put an end to all such interpretations, saying forcefully:

“The sun and the moon are two of God’s signs. Their light does not darken for anyone’s death.” (AL-Bukhari and Muslim)

Muhammad was thus reminding his Companions of the order of things and of the necessity to make no mistake in interpreting signs, in order to avoid lapsing into superstition.

This was, for them as well as for himself, a spiritual teaching in restraint and humility: human beings, the Prophet among them, had to learn how to depart, and see their loved ones depart, in silence, with discretion, and amid the indifference of the order of things.

The trial of faith and of humanity, which made the Prophet shed tears, consisted precisely in learning how to find, at the heart of the eternity of creation and of never-ending cycles, the strength to face the finitude of the human, sudden departures, and death.

The sign of the One’s presence at the time of a person’s death lies not in the occurrence of any miracle but rather in the permanence of the natural order, in the eternity of His creation, crossed here and there by the passage of created beings, who come and depart.

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The article is an excerpt from Dr. Tariq Ramadan’s book “In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press (2007).

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