From Issue: 980 [Read full issue]
Allah, Blessed and Elevated be His Name, has created highly fixed laws for the development and growth or weakening and decaying for all sorts of plants, animals and even non-living things. Nothing will flourish and develop without specific reasons that precede this, or decay and perish without causes that lead to this. These are the general laws of cause and effect that Allah has set to run our universe. They are confirmed by our everyday observations. These are unchanging laws that govern the life of animals and plants and the existence of inanimate things. For example, we will never see a well-built structure that suddenly collapses without observing agents that cause its walls to develop fissures and cracks or seeing persons who deliberately use tools to tear it down. Similarly, we cannot expect an oil lamp to abruptly be extinguished if all the essential constituents for its continued illumination are at hand. If it has a good wick and the correct amount of oil that does not flood it with abundance nor cause it to burst into flames due to its shortage, it must continue to give light unless someone extinguishes it by pouring water over the burning wick or it is extinguished by a sudden gust of air.
Likewise, the life of a healthy person is not expected to suddenly be terminated without an observable external or internal agent that causes its death. This, of course, does not exclude disease and the gradual decline caused by old age that naturally leads to demise. In using the analogy of the oil lamp, the wick stands for the human body, the oil for its nourishment, and the lamp with its light to life itself. The agents that extinguish the light of the wick are like the adverse surroundings that are being subjected to very high or very cold temperatures, beating, punching, knocking, wounding, or similar hazardous accidents. Accordingly, if the person leads a safe life that precludes such precarious incidents, consumes good nourishing food and drink, and takes part in other relevant activities that enhance his health, there would be no reason for him to accept any negative thoughts with regards to his sudden demise in the same way that no one should expect the light of an oil lamp to be extinguished, if there is no external agent that interferes to put out its flame. Such thoughts would no doubt be helpful to the one obsessed in counteracting negative self-talk concerning his health and supposed imminent death.
"Abu Zayd al-Balkhi's Sustenance of the Soul: the Cognitive Behavior Therapy of a Ninth Century Physician" - Malik Badri, pp. 63, 64