By Shohala Hakim
In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful.
“And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said, “O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think.” He said, “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast.” And when they had both submitted and he put him down upon his forehead, We called to him, “O Abraham, You have fulfilled the vision.” Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good. Indeed, this was the clear trial.” (Qur’an 37:102-106)
Above is the conversation between Ibrahim `alayhi sallatu wa sallam (may God send His peace and blessings on him) and one of his sons. Here we see that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (exalted is He) asks Ibrahim (as) to make the most difficult of sacrifices. There are many kinds of tribulations in this world that leave us at utter loss and dismay, but one of the most painful tribulations for a parent is to lose his or her child. Yet, in the verses above we see a very different reaction from Ibrahim (as), and more so from his son. Allah (swt) makes it very clear at the end that it was obviously a trial for them. So what exactly makes these people different from us as to how we react to a test from Allah (swt)? A growing epidemic among Muslims today is the absolute impatience with the decree of Allah (swt). Oftentimes we see negativity in everything that unexpectedly happens to us; we completely lose our cool when afflicted with tribulation. And why do we react this way so often? Perhaps because our priorities are skewed and we trust ourselves more than we trust our Lord (swt).
Ibrahim (as) and his son were in a complete state of submission to their Lord—they had an undeniable certainly that their Lord, Al Lateef (the Gentle, the Subtle), would never hurt them, that they were in the good hands of Al Waali (the Protecter). To make it clearer, Imam al Ghazali (may God have mercy on him) said that it does not matter what situation you are in, what matters is what you make out of that situation. This means that we need to realize and be confident in what really matters. Our priority is to be successful in terms of the akhira (afterlife). Our priority is to be in obedience to Allah (swt) in every living condition possible.
Allah (swt) Exists when we are unwell and when we are well. He (swt) Exists when we are poor and when we are rich, when we are sad and when we are happy. So what difference does our state make when, in every state, Al Hay (the Living God) is ever-present with us? Can’t a poor person be more beloved to Allah (swt) than a rich person because of his mindfulness of Allah? Can’t a person with cancer be more beloved to Allah than a healthy person because of her love for Allah (swt)? We don’t have knowledge of the unseen. We don’t know what His plans for us are. But the knowledge that Allah (swt) did convey to us through His messengers is that the only thing that has any value in His sight is our taqwa (mindfulness of God). And the moment we internalize this, our problems of dunya (this life) will begin to look insignificant. How can outward and arbitrary tribulations be tribulations when we know that these events, by no means, can take us away from His obedience?
Some may ask, well if Allah has already decreed everything for us, then what’s the point of life anyway? Yes, whatever Allah (swt) has decreed will come to pass, but the point is not what Allah has decreed, the point is our reaction and response to whatever Allah (swt) decreed for us. Let us consider the example of Aasiya (may God be pleased with her): it was decreed that she would marry Pharaoh, but her forbearance and absolute conviction in the hereafter brought her so close to Allah (swt) that Allah showed her her house in Paradise. So next time we face a dead end in life, let’s remember that the situation at hand is not important. The importance actually lies in the fact that Allah (swt) has given you a chance to prove your love for Him.
And why should our priority be the akhira and not the dunya? Because whether good or bad, our life will come to an end very soon, but the hereafter is eternal. After 50 years it won’t matter if you got accepted to Yale or not. What’s going to matter for eternity is our relationship with our Lord. We all want to go to Jannah (Paradise), but the even the thought of death makes us uncomfortable. Perhaps that is because deep inside we know that we are not serious enough about our permanent abode. Most of us get worried out of our wits when we can’t hand in an assignment on time, but we couldn’t care less about the call of the adhaan (the call to prayer) five times a day. We log onto Facebook every day, but we forget to open the book of Allah as often. Allah (swt) is not being unfair to us, we are being unfair to ourselves by mixing up our priorities.
Our Prophet ﷺ was never disquieted or agitated in a moment of tribulation. Even in the most difficult day of his life, he ended his prayer by telling Allah, “So long as You are not angry with me, I don’t care.” Agitation at the tribulations around us is inconsistent with the characteristic of believers.
“It is He who sent down tranquillity into the hearts of the believers that they would increase in faith along with their [present] faith. And to Allah belong the soldiers of the heavens and the earth, and ever is Allah Knowing and Wise.” (Qur’an 48:4)
We need to internalize the fact that we come from Allah (swt) and we will return to Allah (swt). We have to remember that we are in good hands. It’s strange that we love and trust our parents so much, yet we do not fully trust Allah’s plans for us— whose plan it was in the first place to send us to these safe hands. We know with utter conviction that these two temporary guardians (our mum and dad) will take care of us, yet we don’t believe our real and eternal Guardian will take care of us. He took care of us before we had our parents. He took care of us when we were in the wombs. He (swt) took care of us when we couldn’t even ask for anything. If He took care of us through all this, how can we think He will forsake us now and not give us what is best for us? Brothers and sisters in Islam, let us be mindful of our Lord and straighten our affairs with Him. The result to this will be that He (swt) will straighten the rest of our affairs for us, perhaps in ways we’re not going to quite understand.
“O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” – (Qur’an 2:153)