Suffering, Stay Calm, Knowledge of God
Issue 1025 » November 16, 2018 - Rabi al-Awwal 8, 1440
Al-Anbiya (The Prophets) - Chapter 21: Verses 83-84
"And [mention] Job, when he called to his Lord, 'Suffering has truly afflicted me, but you are the Most Merciful of the merciful.' We answered him, removed his suffering, and restored his family to him, along with more like him, as an act of grace from Us and a reminder for all who serve Us."
That there is always hope is well illustrated in the story of Prophet Job. First, he lost his wealth. But he was not grieved. Then his children were killed. Still, he remained steadfast. Then he was struck with an unbearable illness that left him incapacitated. Indeed, his body was so afflicted that people felt disgusted when they looked at him. In excruciating pain, he cried to God.
There are three lessons to be drawn from this story. First, suffering is a natural part of life: anyone can be inflicted with pain and sorrow, and no one, not even a prophet, has the right to escape pain. Of course, no one wants to suffer; and we must do all we can to alleviate pain and reduce suffering as much as possible. But there is no absolute right that states that we should not suffer. Second, suffering has a value. It is only through seeing the pain and agony of others that we learn what compassion is all about. People found it difficult to look at Job: but only by looking at him could they realize that they too can become a victim of such affliction. It is through that connection, of seeing someone suffering, that one understands the true meaning of human compassion. Three, one should never give up. At each stage of the story, Job remains steadfast; he does not ask for death as an escape from his suffering, but prays for an end to suffering itself. It is his steadfastness that is ultimately rewarded. When it comes to suffering and death, mercy comes only from God; it is not a human prerogative.
"Reading the Qur'an: The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam" - Ziauddin Sardar, pp. 346-347
A young companion of the Prophet from the Baliy tribe reports: 'I visited God's Messenger (peace be upon him) with my father, and he spoke to my father alone, without me hearing. I [later] asked my father: "What did he say to you?" He answered: "If you are set on doing something, you proceed with a measured pace until God shows you the way out of it, or until God has provided you with a way out".' [Bukhari]
Staying calm and keeping one's cool is the only way to guarantee proper thinking and well-considered action. In every situation, we need to look at the positive and the negative aspects of the measures we want to take. If we happen to be upset, angry, worried, complacent, careless, hasty, etc. we may overlook factors that are too important to lose sight of. Similarly, if we are keen to have or to avoid something, we may be blinded to the effect of having or avoiding it. Staying cool and maintaining a measured pace is the only course of action that reduces to a minimum the chances of taking wrong measures or steering the wrong way. Hence the Prophet's advice.
But we also detect a subtle element in the Prophet's advice. This is implied in the last part of the had?th: 'until God shows you the way out of it, or until God has provided you with a way out it'. This refers to the need to rely on God in all our affairs. With such reliance, we are able to handle matters in a better and well-considered way, trusting that God's help will not fail to come. Thus, if we are in a tight situation or a difficulty, He will provide a way out for us.
"Al-Adab al-Mufrad with Full Commentary: A Perfect Code of Manners and Morality" - Adil Salahi
Knowledge of God
Anyone who will look into the matter will see that happiness is necessarily linked with the knowledge of God. Each faculty of ours delights in that for which it was created: lust delights in accomplishing desire, anger in taking vengeance, the eye in seeing beautiful objects, and the ear in hearing harmonious sounds. The highest function of the soul of man is the perception of truth; in this accordingly it finds its special delight. Even in trifling matters, such as learning chess, this holds good, and the higher the subject matter of the knowledge obtained the greater the delight. A man would be pleased at being admitted into the confidence of a prime minister, but how much more if the king makes an intimate of him and discloses state secrets to him!
An astronomer who, by his knowledge, can map the stars and describe their courses, derives more pleasure from his knowledge than the chess player from his. Seeing, then, that nothing is higher than God, how great must be the delight which springs from the true knowledge of Him!
A person in whom the desire for this knowledge has disappeared is like one who has lost his appetite for healthy food, or who prefers feeding on clay to eating bread. All bodily appetites perish at death with the organs they use, but the soul dies not, and retains whatever knowledge of God it possesses; nay increases it.
An important part of our knowledge of God arises from the study and contemplation of our own bodies, which reveal to us the power, wisdom, and love of the Creator. His power, in that from a mere drop He has built up the wonderful frame of man; His wisdom is revealed in its intricacies and the mutual adaptability of its parts; and His love is shown by His not only supplying such organs as are absolutely necessary for existence, as the liver, the heart, and the brain, but those which are not absolutely necessary, as the hand, the foot, the tongue, and the eye. To these He has added, as ornaments, the blackness of the hair, the redness of lips, and the curve of the eyebrows.
"The Alchemy of Happiness" - Al Ghazali