Merciful Guidance, Illness, True Dependency
Issue 781 » March 14, 2014 - Jumada al-Awwal 13, 1435
Ta-Ha (Ta Ha) Chapter 20: Verses 123, 124 (partial)
"... If there comes unto you guidance (huda) from Me, then whoso follows My guidance shall never go astray nor fall into misery. But whoso turns away from My remembrance (dhikr), His shall be a strait life, and We shall raise him blind on the Day of Resurrection."
It is one of the most characteristic features of Quranic thought that it conceives of 'religion' in terms of the 'guidance' of God. In this conception, the religion in the sense of islam-iman is nothing other than ihtida (verb. ihtada) which literally means 'to be rightly guided' or 'acceptance of guidance'. This is but a corollary of the basic fact that, in the Quran, Revelation is regarded as essentially a merciful guidance (huda) for those who are apt to believe. Indeed, even the casual reader of the Quran would not fail to notice that through the whole of it there runs the fundamental thought that 'God guides whom He will'. God is absolutely fair in giving guidance graciously to all men, but some people accept it while others reject it of their own free will.
It is interesting to note that in the latter half of the passage the word huda 'guidance' is replaced by dhikr 'remembrance', which is just one of the usual words in the Quran denoting Revelation in the sense of what serves to recall God to one's mind.
So viewed from the human standpoint, 'belief' is neither more nor less than 'accepting the guidance' and to choose the right path, while kufr means 'turning away from the guidance' so as to go astray from the right path.
"Ethico Religious Concepts in the Quran" - Toshihiko Izutsu, pp. 193, 194
The Prophet (upon him be peace) hated illness, and incurable disease in particular. Who among us enjoys a fever,or cancer? The desire for good health is both natural and human - only a pervert enjoys pain. Quite rightly then, the Prophet asks his Lord for the well-being of his senses and organs, seeking refuge in Him from illness, incapacity and decrepitude:
'O Allah! I seek refuge in You from leprosy, madness, and all horrible illness.'
It is well-known aspect of the Prophet's biography that he was a well-built man and he could throw a wrestler, he was capable of travelling great distances without tiring, and he was fully conditioned to bear the hardships of armed struggle in the way of jihad. It is then quite bizarre to find people arguing that emaciation and gauntness are signs of true piety.
The Prophet Muhammad was the sublime exemplar and true to human nature in his beseeching the Lord to distance him from all calamity and illness. So, whenever a Muslim (in spite of his constant beseeching of the Lord in the manner of the Prophet) is beset by worldly troubles, he bears with them, and submits to the will of Allah, while repeating what the Prophet taught us to say at such a time: 'Verily, unto Allah is what He takes, and unto Him is what He gives.'
"Remembrance And Prayer" - Muhammad Al-Ghazali, pp. 96-101
Jafar al-Sadiq said once to a devout atheist, "Have you ever been on the sea?" The atheist told him of one time when he was on a ship during a storm that tore apart his ship and drowned the sailors on board. "I was left clinging to a board. Then the ocean took the board from my hands, and I was left with nothing. An ocean wave then carried me to the shore, and I survived." Jafar said, "When you first boarded the ship, did you place trust in that ship? Didn't the sailors also? Then God took those away from you; then you put your trust in the plank. And when you lost that plank, where did you place your trust? Did you hope that you would survive?" The man told him, "Yes, I did have hope." Jafar al-Sadiq said, "There must be an object of hope. Who did you hope for?" The man didn't know how to answer. So Jafar told him, "The one who took away all your means and saved you despite them - that was God."
Even believers become complacent about where they place their trust. We often trust the material things around us, the shelter, the stream of paychecks, cupboards full of food, and so on. We can forget that all of this can be swept away, leaving us with the realization of our only true dependency. How many times have we seen storms take away everything from people: their homes, cars, clothing, and savings?
There is an overriding religious ethic in Islam whose truth is self-evident. If people are serious about living the covenant with God then there is no choice but to keep our trust in God alive and to affirm our faith and belief in Him. This is not an activity for one day of the week or special sacraments performed a few times a year. This is not the way humans were made. We require a constant and conscious connection with God the Exalted. Supplication is an excellent way to enliven our spiritual growth. When we ask of God, we should do so with trust and certainty that God will answer it.
"Purification of the Heart" - Hamza Yusuf, pp. 179, 180