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COPING WITH FEAR AND GRIEF: An Islamic Approach [Part One]

 

COPING WITH FEAR AND GRIEF:
An Islamic Approach
Part One

Dr. Pasha

 

Ala,
Inna Auliyaa-Allahi La Khaufun Alaihim
wa La Hum Yahzanoon. Al-Ladheena Aamanoo
wa Kaanoo Yattaqoon ( Al-Qur’an, Soorah Yoonus).

Bear in mind, Allah’s friends know
neither fear nor grief! They are the ones
who believed and were fearful – of him (10:62).

 

(1)

A Common Human Condition

Pain, grief, fear, sorrow!

Afflictions, tragedies, horrors, suffering, calamities, adversities, losses!

Disappointments, regrets, missed opportunities, failures, problems, tests, challenges, worries, anxieties – and everything else of that ilk!!

Which one of us has not faced them?

At one time or another?

In one form or another?

With regard to one thing or another?

To one degree or another?

They are all part of the natural human condition – part of what human flesh is heir to in this world.

They are part of the package we call life on earth.

In other words, they are part of the professional hazards of living. They come with the territory.

In general, grief and sorrow are about the past.

They are about what has been – what has already taken place.

They are about losses, pain, adversities, harm and hurt you have already suffered in times gone by.

It is the part of your life you look back to – and hurt and suffer, thinking about it.

It is the living, lingering, recurring, pulsating memory of your old pains – the pain that often will not easily go away.

Fear, on the other hand, is about the future.

It is about what may yet be.

It is about what you think is likely to be – or even imminent. It is about something that you think is about to be.

If you want me to put it a bit more technically, I would say it is the anticipatory anguish and discomfort in your mind, body and soul, that you experience thinking about undesirable likely and probable future occurrences in your life.

That means it is about losses, pain, harm, hardships, problems and hurt that you fear are in store for you in the future – lurking, waiting for you around the next corner in life.

How sad indeed is the whole situation!

Poor human being!

Surrounded by pain at both ends of life’s short stick – past as well as future!

In what has been as well as in what is yet to be.

The Qur’an recognizes this dire human predicament.

Hear the Qur’an put it in its own inimitable, powerful, no-nonsense style:

Wal ‘Asr! Innal Insaana La-Fee Khusr

(Soorah Al-‘Asr)!

Which in paraphrase means:

By the testimony of time!

Surely, human beings are in a state of loss!

(103:1, 2)

But the question is, if this is the case, then what do we do? Where do we go for help?

How can we get of out the mess – the state of loss – in which we are supposed to be as human beings?

How do we deal with the human condition of fear and grief that are such a major part of that state of loss?

The next passages – Aayaat – of the Qur’an go on to provide answers to these very questions.

(2)

A Panacea for Pain

The Qur’an does not stop at identifying the problem that faces humanity.

It also proposes the panacea for this common human ailment.

The way out of our troubles, the Qur’an tells us in the very next Aayat (103:3), has four parts to it. And they are as follows:

(A)  First of all, we must have a firm foundation of faith – a strong anchor of belief.

That means we must believe firmly in God and his messenger, Muhammdad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.

And that we must believe in the Qur’an – and in all the other books and messengers of God.

And in accountability for all we do in this life.

It also means we must believe in life after death and in the Day of Judgment.

(B)  Next, our behavior and conduct must be good.

That means we must do the good and the right things in life.

That means we must, on the one hand, perform the obligatory worships such as Salat and Siyam – daily prayers and fasting, etc. – as prescribed by Islam.

As a part of that, we must also have a strong moral character and be owners of a kind and charitable disposition. We must be generous, tolerant, accommodating and forgiving.

In addition, we must do everything in our power to adhere to as many of Allah’s commands, and to as many of the teachings of his prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, as we can.

(C)  Step three in freedom from fear and grief is that we must undertake to propagate and popularize truth.

Let me explain this in a separate section.

(3)

Preaching Truth – Haq

It is true that there is a concept called Haq – truth.

It is also true that truth shall set you free – from fear; from grief; and from all other bondage, tyranny and oppression.

What is also needed is not just to adhere to truth in one’s personal and private life, but also to actively work for truth in larger social settings – to be a private as well as a public champion and advocate of truth.

What is required of those of us who want freedom from fear and grief is to be preachers of truth.

The Qur’anic expression for truth is Haq.

It is a unique and powerful Qur’anic concept. It refers to truth in all its forms and manifestations.

At the human level, it refers to truth about our world and about our own existence in that world.

It refers to reality as it exists and as it surrounds us – away from all forms of distortion, corruption, misrepresentation and falsehood.

In modern parlance, it refers to facts without twist or spin – whether personal, political, sectarian or commercial.

At the highest level, Haq refers to God Almighty himself. For, it is he who is the ultimate truth. He is the source of all truth.

Therefore, all truth in this world is a reflection of God’s glorious being. Just as all attempts to soften, dilute, distort or change truth constitute a deviation from God’s path and a direct challenge to him.

Haq, therefore, is Allah and whatever is from Allah.

Haq liberates you.

For, it is the nature of Haq to give freedom. Haq sets you and your mind and spirit – and the entire world – free.

Falsehood, on the other hand, is what distracts you and takes you away from Allah.

Falsehood entraps and enslaves you.

It enslaves your mind and your spirit and opens the door for the enslavement of your body, home, land and culture.

Thus, Haq is freedom and liberation while falsehood is bondage and enslavement.

The Qur’anic term for falsehood in all its dimensions is Baatil.

Haq is thus liberation, Baatil bondage.

Above all, Haq is freedom from fear and grief. Baatil, on the other hand, is life beholden to and dominated by grief and fear.

(4)

Mixing Truth with Falsehood: Pathway to Problems

Mixing truth with falsehood is a sure pathway to problems, whether in the lives of individuals, groups, organizations or societies.

Below is the clear-cut choice that the Qur’an offers people between Haq and Baatil – between truth and falsehood.

It is amazing how modern, how apt, how contemporary, how relevant and how directly applicable the Qur’an is to our times – and to every other time.

The passages (Aayaat) below address with unmatched clarity and directness the culture of spin and false facts that saturates our communication means and media and our dealings with one another today – a culture of mixed truth that blights our business, political and personal life everywhere.

They read as if they were written today and as if they were written for our times.

Read the Aayat below:

Wa Laa Talbisul Haqqa Bil Baatili,

Wa Taktumul Haqqa, wa Antum

Ta’lamoon (Soorah Al-Baqarah).

Which in paraphrase means:

… Do not mix truth with falsehood,

and cover up the truth, while you

know full well! (2:42).

And then read this other Aayat:

Lima Talbisoonal Haqqa Bil Baatili

Wa Taktumoonal Haqqa wa Antum

Ta’lamoon? (Soorah Aal-Imraan).

Which in paraphrase means:

Why do you mix truth with falsehood,

and cover up the truth, while you

know full well? (3:71).

And then ask yourself:

What is the probability that any of us would have predicted the existence of a clear, direct and forceful passage like this in the Qur’an?

What is the probability that any of us would have predicted the existence of a second and equally powerful passage on the same subject in the Qur’an?

And then ask yourself:

If this does not constitute a miracle – a serious departure from norm and a clear indication of something not just unusual and extraordinary but something beyond the human pale – what does?

If this does not build a case in favor the Qur’an being a most amazing and incomparable divine document, what does?

Therefore, those who want to be free from fear and grief must train themselves to love truth. They must teach themselves to live and work with truth; to deal with truth; and to demand and accept from everyone nothing but truth.

This is the ultimate in human dignity and freedom – and it is our earthly guarantee of freedom from fear, grief and everything else.

For, a great deal of grief, pain, fear and worry in this world is caused by untruth – by Baatil in its myriad forms and manifestations.

It is caused by false people, places, promises, performances, products, pleasures and preachers that are not true – those that promise you one thing and deliver you something else.

All those that deliver you less than full truth, when full truth is what you expect of them, and thus fill your life with pain, sorrow and grief about the past and with fear, trepidation, worry and anxiety about the future.

But those who want freedom from fear and grief must do more than merely love truth. They must become its active champions, advocates, leaders and preachers.

They must become active not only in the search for truth, but also in its propagation and popularization.

They must exhort each other to tell and live by truth.

They must tirelessly work to create a culture based on truth.

(5)

Building a Culture of Patience

(D)  The fourth and final step in the march for freedom from fear and grief is to work to create a culture of patience.

For, in human life there is something called patience, which in many ways is the key to true human empowerment – and to true freedom from fear and grief.

Patience and perseverance are the twin engines of human success on earth.

Those who seek freedom from fear and grief must cultivate patience and work to create a culture based on patience.

They must do so by preaching patience, perseverance and steadfastness to one another.

Impetuosity and restlessness can have their virtues, but patience and perseverance are often what make the difference between failure and success.

Essence of patience is a firm and unshakable belief in Allah. It is the knowledge that one’s affairs are entirely in Allah’s hands.

It is the belief and knowledge that everything in the world happens according to a meticulous scale of God’s design.

Kullu Shai-in Indahu Bi-Miqdar

(Soorah Ar-Ra’d).

Which in paraphrase means:

Allah does everything according a certain

measure and scale (13:8; 33:38).

Thus, when calamity or adversity strikes, a patient person knows that it is from Allah.

That person also knows that it cannot last forever, because Allah is kind, compassionate and merciful.

And because Allah promises in the Qur’an that good times will surely follow bad times.

Also, patient people must know that patience will earn them the company of Allah. Just when they thought they were alone, friendless and without recourse or remedy, it turns out that Allah himself is with them.

What better guarantee of freedom from fear and grief is there than to have Allah himself with you?

Allah says so over and over in the Qura’an. Here is what the Qur’an says:

Innallaha Ma’assaabireen (Soorah Al-Baqarah)

Which in paraphrase means:

Surely, Allah is with those who are patient

(2:153; 8:46).

Furthermore, Allah also says he loves patient people (3:146).

Wallahu Yuhibbus-Saabireen

(Soorah Aal-Imraan).

To have Allah with you, and then to have Allah love you, what better protection from fear and grief could one want?

Therefore, patience – Sabr – is a quality that people need to cultivate with some diligence if they really and truly want to be free from fear and grief.

In addition to that, they must also work to make patience a dominant virtue in the lives of other people.

In other words, they must become preachers of patience. For, preaching truth goes hand in hand with preaching patience. For, fearless service to truth may land you in all kinds of troubles of its own.

Patience, however, does not mean being inactive and passive and helpless. It does not mean being weak and ineffective.

Quite the contrary!

You are already an active preacher of truth. Now you must become also an active preacher of patience, which is really the other side of the coin.

Therefore, if you want to be free from fear and grief, you must work to create a culture based on truth as well as on patience and perseverance.

For, fear and grief do not have just individual (what are called micro) causes and effects.

They also have broader (what are called macro) social, political, economic and cultural dimensions.

Often, trying to change one without changing the other is not terribly effective. The solution that the Qur’an offers addresses both the micro as well as the macro dimensions of human life and the role of fear and grief in it.

It addresses these questions at the level of individuals as well as at broader social levels.

That is why instead of just asking us to practice or cultivate patience, the Qur’an asks us to preach and propagate truth and patience.

The Qur’an wants to turn us into activists for truth and patience.

And nothing chases fear and grief from the life of a person faster than a caring, conscious, committed and activist approach to life.

(6)

True Origin and Source

Here are some more detailed pointers on where fear and grief come from; where all the pain and loss and suffering come from – their true source and origin – and how we can best train ourselves to cope with them.

First of all, they all come from Allah – God Almighty. For, in the ultimate analysis, that is where everything comes from – good as well as bad.

To know this – and to believe it firmly and fully and with all of one’s heart – is, as they say, the bottomline in human affairs. For, there is nothing else one really needs to either know or believe thereafter.

Spiritually and psychologically – and in every other sense – it is the perfect panacea for all human ailments.

But at the same time, these things are also the products of who we are as people and what we do in our lives. They are, as the Qur’an puts it, the fruits of our labors – they are the result of what our hands have wrought.

Consider the following Aayah:

Wa Ma Asaabakum Mim Museebatin, Fa-bimaa

Kasabat Aideekum, wa Ya’foo An Katheer

(Soorah Ash-Shoora).

Which in paraphrase means:

Whatever calamity or tragedy befalls you, it is

due to what your hands have earned. But he

overlooks and forgives great many things (42:30).

Also consider this other Aayat:

Qultum Anna Hadha? Qul Huwa Min Indi Anfusikum. Innallaha Ala Kulli Shai-in Qadeer (Soorah Aal Imraan)

Which in paraphrase means:

You said, “Where is this coming from?” Say,

“It is from your own selves!” Surely, Allah

has power over everything (3:165).

(7)

Confusion about Causality

It is quite true, there are times and instances when the causal factors seem to be beyond anyone’s control – when it is not at all clear why certain things happen the way they do.

But anyone with any intelligence and integrity can see that much of what happens to us is a result of what we do ourselves. It is due to what people do to people – to themselves and to other people.

Not always or necessarily in a narrow, individual sense – in a micro sense, as some people would like to call it – but in a broader, more long-term sense. In what some people would call a more macro sense.

In fact, much of the mess in this world is the result of what human beings have done. It is a consequence – the sum total – of their actions as well as their inaction.

And here is how the Qur’an puts it:

Zaharal Fasaadu Fil Barri wal Bahri bimaa

Kasabat Aydinnaasi Li-udheeqahum Ba’dalladhee

Amiloo La’allahum Yarji’oon (Soorah Ar-Room).

Which in paraphrase means:

Things have gone wrong on land and sea due to

what people have done. He gives them a taste of

what they have done, so that they may return

(30:41).

Thus, collectively and individually, human beings have not helped their cause on the face of this earth.

From pollution of air, earth and water to exploitation of the poor by the rich, domination of the weak by the powerful and unjust wars, conquests and killings on the part of aggressive states at the macro (larger) levels to individual transgressions and wantonness at the micro (smaller) levels, they continually defy God’s commands and laws and perpetrate all kinds of abominations on themselves and others.

Given all that they do, the only reason they are not in more serious trouble than they are is because God Almighty overlooks and forgives many of the terrible things that people do to in this world – Wa Ya’foo ‘An Katheer.

Without question, he has the power to forgive, as much as he has the power to punish and to hold people accountable.

As Easaa Alaihis Salam says:

In Tu’addhibhum Fa-Innahum Ibaaduk,

Wa In Taghfir Lahum, Fa-Innaka Antal

Azeezul Hakeem (Soorah Al-Maaa-i-dah).

Which in paraphrase means:

If you punish them, surely they are your slaves.

But if you forgive them, then surely you are

most powerful and wise (5:118).

Therefore, knowing and believing all things come from Allah – good things as well as bad things – is basically to accept Allah as the true owner and master of this world.

It is to accept him as the only one who has any real power of any kind over us and over everything else that exists and happens in our world.

(8)

God: The True and Only Master

The fact is Allah is the master and human beings are Allah’s slaves.

That means at all times, and in every conceivable way, we are entirely and completely under God’s command and control.

That means we are literally – and utterly and totally – at his mercy.

That means he treats us how he would and he disposes of us as he pleases.

And he has every right to do so.

For, it is he who made us.

He made every single cell, hair, bone and muscle that we call our body.

And he made the world in which we live.

He made every grain of sand and every particle of dust on this earth that we so blithely tread, abuse and pollute.

Just as he also made every drop of water that we drink.

And just as he also made every molecule of air that we so casually breathe.

Thus, not only did he make us, he also made the earth on which we walk and everything else – air, water, food – that we need to sustain life on earth.

The body we call our own is thus actually his.

He is the one who made that body. He then lent that body to us to keep and use – but only for a certain period of time.

Is it then wrong that he should expect this body – the body that he made and lent us without us paying a cent – to be used according to his wishes, and not contrary to them?

And a very short period of time indeed it is that we have control of this body. For, the sand of time is running through the hourglass for everyone of us.

(9)

Sand in an Hourglass

And how fast it is running! This sand in the hourglass of our life!

And who in the world – what army of doctors or scientists or priests or pundits – can stop or reverse that process?

Can’t we then see that we are thus nothing but sand grains falling and nanoseconds racing away?

What are we if not a succession of breaths and air puffs not one of which can be reclaimed?

What are we if not compulsive creatures on a treadmill which we can neither slow down nor stop?

Nor is there ever a way for us to get off that treadmill!

That is, not till the treadmill has run its preprogrammed course and come to a stop all by itself. Then we tumble off it, only to be hauled off by others to be disposed off as others see fit.

Note the expression disposed off.

That means, when that happens, others pick up our remains and dispose of them.

And that is exactly what they call them: our remains.

And that is exactly what they do with them: dispose of them.

Some people are burned and their ashes scattered on land and water.

Some other people, Muslims among them, are buried in the ground.

Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return, it is said.

And the Qur’an says:

Minha Khalaqnaakum, wa Feehaa Nu’eedukum,

wa Minhaa Nukhrijukum Taaratan Ukhraa (Soorah Taahaa).

Which in paraphrase means:

From earth did we create you; and in it shall

we return you; and from it shall we raise you

up a second time (20:55).

But regardless of the specific method used, the fact is that after death we are all disposed off as others see fit.

(10)

Who Is Really in Control?

So, the question is: Who is really in control of our lives and our world?

How much more clear could it be that we humans are utterly and totally dependent on God Almighty for literally every breath in our life.

And after our death.

It is he – and he alone – that is in charge: of our lives and of our world.

Understanding this, and believing this firmly and fully and with all of one’s heart, is liberation. It is saying goodbye to fear of the future and grief over the past.

For, whatever happened in the past was from him. So why break our hearts over it, beyond what is normal for humans?

The same way, whatever will happen in the future will also be from him. Isn’t it enough to know that he is in charge?

And to know that he is kind, merciful, compassionate, ever-forgiving and just?

So, why ruin every waking moment worrying, agonizing and fretting over what might happen in the future?

Other than, that is, taking the normal and the best steps that we as human beings are required by God himself to take in the interests of living a logical, scientific and responsible life on earth?

Therefore, all we need to do at our end is two things:

(A)  Always try to be on the right side of God; try to be in his good books; try to do what pleases him; and try to stay away from what displeases him.

That means, to the extent we can, act with all sincerity and commitment, knowing all the time that our every act and intention is open book to him.

(B)   Always try to do the best we can with regard to everything – and leave the outcomes to Allah.

(11)

No Replacement Parts for Humans

For, there is not a place, agency, factory, plant or power on earth that can manufacture a few inches of earth for us to walk on.

Nor is there one that can make enough air for us to fill our lungs with.

Nor is there one that can mix the gasses to manufacture a glassful of water that we can drink.

Nor can anyone, except for crude mechanical devices, replace our eyes, ears, heart, lungs, liver, stomach, brain or anything else with genuine factory parts – no matter how much we may be willing to pay.

Certainly with nowhere near the same perfection of design or make or manufacture.

Nor anywhere close to the same durability, reliability, functional efficiency and warranty.

Everyone knows what the market has to offer. The best we can get in the market are false teeth.

Or fake nails.

Or false eyelashes.

Or false hair.

And sundry other plastic and synthetic parts.

And that is precisely what they are called: fake and false, which means the opposite of real.

And the best our best-trained professionals can do for us are metal plates surgically inserted into our bodies to support or replace broken bones.

So, no matter how we look at it, God Almighty is the sole and unquestioned master of all of us – and of all else that exists in this world.

An iota of sense in our head would make us see it all as clearly as daylight.

(12)

Worse than Animals

That is why those who cannot see this simple truth about the nature of life on earth are worse than animals. They are deaf, dumb and blind.

That is what the Qur’an calls them.

U-Laaa-i-ka Kal-An-‘Aami, Bal Hum

Adallu, U-Laaa-i-ka Humul Ghaafiloon

(Soorah Al-A’raaf).

Which in paraphrase means:

They are the ones that are like animals.

But they are indeed worse. They are in

a stupor (7:179).

And they are doomed to fear and grief – or to animal-like indifference and denial.

For, they have eyes but see not; they have ears but hear not; and they have hearts and minds but they fail to use them to recognize and embrace the truth about themselves and about the nature of their life on earth.

Therefore, the simple fact about life is that we own nothing; Allah owns everything.

We control nothing; Allah controls everything.

We create nothing; Allah creates everything.

So long as he is pleased with us, everything will be fine with us.

That is so even when things may not appear to be going well with us from worldly standards.

(13)

A Misnomer Called Religion

All this is not what people call theology.

Or even philosophy or speculation.

Nor is it what some simple, brainwashed, bemused, unthinking people call “religion.”

It is common sense.

It is plain and simple truth.

It is simple logic – based on elementary daily observation.

Therefore, this is also, in many ways, straight scientific reasoning.

In a word, it is reality.

It is what the Qur’an calls Haq – truth.

By calling it “religion,” and by turning it into a “theological” argument, human beings change the terms of debate.

They cheat.

And by doing so, they actually confuse and defraud themselves.

They, thus, give themselves the latitude to turn their backs on what is self-evident, urgent, undeniable, inescapable and imposing.

They, thus, offer themselves a false choice: to either accept or reject its fundamental thesis.

As if it was in their power to do so. As if it was a choice they could make.

Whereas what this is in reality is an incontrovertible fact of life.

(14)

Part of the Package

So, loss, grief, fear and pain are things that happen to humans because they are humans – often perpetrated by themselves.

From this point of view, not always and not necessarily because they are good or bad humans, but simply because they are humans, because they are all children of Adam.

Ultimately, however, these things are all, as we said earlier, from Allah. For, there is nothing in this world that is not from him.

But at times, as Allah says, they are directly due to what we may have done.

And in all cases, they are part of the package that we are handed by God Almighty.

The package we call a human being – body, mind and soul.

Most packages are quite wholesome, even pretty, to look at – some more so than some others. So much so some of us would fight and even kill each other over them.

Most packages are functional – they do what they are supposed to do, at least most of the time.

And some are more functional than some others.

Our sorrows, pains, hurts, griefs, losses and fears are part of the hand we are dealt.

In many cases, this is what we start out with on this journey we call life.

(15)

Key Is in the Coping

What is required of us as humans, therefore, is to learn how best to cope and deal with what we have been given by God Almighty.

And make the most of the lives we are given – with all the attachments of pains, sorrows, losses, fears and griefs that come with them.

And what we can do in this world to alleviate pain and suffering and increase happiness and wellbeing, both for ourselves and others.

And how to work ceaselessly to conquer our fears and nip in the bud the potential problems that may lead to the creation of fear in our minds.

That they should deal with them, humans have no choice. How they deal with them that is where their choice really lies. And that is where people may differ from one another.

People differ in the way they deal with difficulties in their lives.

Some deal with adversity creatively, purposefully, positively, using a proper perspective. Some others get angry and upset and curse themselves and everyone else – including at times God Almighty himself.

Thus, they trade the temporary miseries of this world for the eternal misery and damnation of the next world.

But no matter what they do, humans cannot return the package of their life to the maker and ask for a new one – even though there is a way to request a thorough overhaul, a total remake, of one’s life.

What people need to focus on in this world, however, is how to make the most of what they have been given. They need to focus on how to use it as a capital to build a better life for themselves and for others.

That is logic; that is science; that is rationality; that is reality; and that is the best and the most anyone in any situation in life can ever hope to do.

How they use their choice will show the kind of humans they are and the kind of life they will have.

It will also show the kind of world they will build – for themselves; for their children; for others.

(16)

A Special Dispensation for Some

To ask for and receive a new dispensation from God is a special thing. It is not given to everyone.

But it can and does happen. And it can happen to some without asking.

Abraham’s wife was given good tidings of a boy when both she and her husband were quite old.

Qaalat A-Alidu wa Ana ‘A-joozun wa Haadha Ba’lee Shaikhaa (Soorah Hood).

Which in paraphrase means:

How can I have a baby when both I

And my husband are so old (11: 72).

But they did go on to have both Ismail and Ishaq, both of whom became prophets and messengers of God in their own right and progenitors of future prophets and messengers to come including Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.

Some ask for it and receive it.

Allah tested Prophet Ayyoob Alaihis Salaam with all kinds of adversities and calamities – one after another. But then Ayyoob Alaihis Salaam turned to Allah and asked for relief.

He said:

Annee Massa-Niyaddhurru wa Anta

Arhamur Raahimeen (Soorah Al-Anbiyaa’).

Which in paraphrase means:

I am suffering from afflictions and

you are the most merciful of all (21:83).

Allah then responded to him:

Fa Kashafnaa Maa Bihee Min Durrin

Wa Aatainaahu Ahlahoo wa Mithlahum

Ma’ahum (Soorah Al-Anbiyaa’).

Which in paraphrase means:

We removed his affliction and gave him

his family back and doubled it (21:84).

In other words, he got a new lease on life.

But this kind of special dispensation is not given to everyone. There are those who are specially chosen for it.

But for others, more than anything else, it requires a life of total submission to and connection with Allah – the master.

It requires merging one’s will totally and completely into the divine will; doing his bidding in everything; seeking his pleasure at every opportunity; and in every way living for him over and above everyone and everything else.

It requires not just thanking him for the wonderful things he has bestowed, but knowing clearly that everything, good as well as bad, that happens in one’s life comes from him – and then rejoicing in it, in his decision and dispensation, regardless of what it may be.

That is a very special place to be, not given to everyone.

People like that are put in charge of their own destinies by their creator.

But by then such people have gone beyond caring for their own worldly wellbeing to caring solely for the pleasure of their maker and master.

They have so submerged themselves into Allah that their bodies and their worldly lives have become a matter of indifference to them.

God gives such people the power to command the winds and calm the waters.

When such people make a vow, or swear an oath, when they make a declaration or a pronouncement in the name of God Almighty, he makes it come true.

Such individuals become the instruments of God’s will on earth.

They no longer care or live for themselves, but only for their master and in the service of his people.

Those are the ones who have been allowed to write their own tickets to life as it were. They follow their own script in life and its affairs.

(17)

Human Dignity: A Poet’s Perspective

Dr. Muhammad Iqbal was a poet at the turn of the last century. He wrote in Urdu and Farsi.

In reality, he was more than a poet. He was a scholar, a thinker, a revolutionary, a visionary, a seer and a most eloquent and forceful spokesman for Islam and Muslims.

More than anything else he was a lover of Allah, his prophet, his book, the Muslims and all of humanity.

Among other things, Iqbal was a devotee of human liberty and dignity.

How beautifully did Iqbal put the idea of true human dignity and liberty in Urdu verse!

Here is a paraphrase of what he said:

In the eye of your maker,

Raise yourself so high that,

Before every dispensation,

God himself will ask you,

“Tell me, what is your wish?”

How can anyone exalt human dignity above that?

And how truly does Iqbal capture the essence of the Aayat of the Qur’an in which God states:

Wa La-Qad Karramnaa Banee Aadama (Soorah Al-Israa’)

Which in paraphrase means:

And indeed we did exalt and honor

Aadam’s progeny (17:70).

What honor or exaltation for a human being could be greater than God himself asking: Tell me, what is your desire?

And what greater guarantee of freedom from fear and grief could there be than to be so close to Allah that he would ask you at every juncture in your life for your wish and preference?

I often think Iqbal was one of the best translators and commentators of the Qur’an that ever lived.

One should hear Iqbal talk of his relationship to the Qur’an. It is quite enlightening and soul stirring.

(18)

Proper Understanding

Sometimes it is quite clear how humans bring pain, grief, sorrow and fear upon themselves. Sometimes it is not.

But when they do, they do so through their actions as well as through their inaction. That is, based on what they do as well as based on what they fail to do.

Sometimes, these things are the result of evil-others doing evil to innocent, weak, unprotected and vulnerable others.

Sometimes, they are tests from Almighty Allah to see how some good and potentially good people fare under adversity. These are people in whom Allah sees some hope.

He then wants to test them to see how they perform under pressure.

Sometimes, they are ways Allah uses to wipe out the sins and failings of good people and raise their standing with him.

Even a thorn that pricks a believer is cause for the expiation of his misdeeds, says the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.

Sometimes, they are simply part of the operations of the world of Allah – part of the cosmic motion of the universe.

At all times, they are manifestations of the will of Allah in his creation. It is all part of the flow and milling of cosmic traffic in space and time.

In all these situations, Allah is the real and sole actor. He is the only master and owner. Others are merely the locus of his will and action.

Others are either the targets or subjects of those actions. Or they are the agents and instruments of those actions – as allowed, determined and dictated by his will and wisdom.

For Allah is wise and just, kind and compassionate.

Allah is also the most knowledgeable. His knowledge is limitless. He knows everything. We know very little. We only know what he teaches us.

He is above all consideration of space and time. We are entirely and completely bound by them.

The knowledge we have is what he has chosen to give us.

His knowledge spans the past, the present as well as the future. These are distinctions that have no meaning or relevance from his point of view.

In all events, they are inseparably tied to Allah’s will and dispensation in his creation.

They happen the way Allah wants.

They happen in the context and circumstances as well as for the duration that Allah wants.

They take the specific forms and manifestations that Allah wants.

And they unfold according to the time scale that Allah sets up.

To know, understand and believe these things truly, fully and properly is the key to the liberation of the mind and of the spirit that sets a human being free from fear, grief, sorrow, pain, hurt and loss.

Proper knowledge and understanding are thus important requirements for freedom from fear and grief.

(19)

Key to True Knowledge

The key to true knowledge and understanding are three things:

(A) Knowledge of the self.

It consists of knowing oneself as the true slave of Allah and seeing oneself as truly and fully dependent on Allah at all times and in all things.

A proper knowledge of the self will automatically lead to and involve the true knowledge of Allah and the world in which one lives.

(B)  Knowledge of Allah.

It is knowing, believing and accepting Allah as the true and only master.

It is seeing Allah’s hand in everything, over and beyond mundane instrumentalities of everyday life. It is being in his presence in real time and space.

As a man who knew something about some of these things once said – in Farsi language:

Na Mee Daanam Chi Manzil Bood

Shab Jaa-ye Ki Man Boodam.

………………………………

KIhuda Khud Meer-I Mahfil Bood

Shab Jaa-ye Ke Man Boodam.

Which in paraphrase means:

I do not know what place it was,

Where I spent the night last night.

………………………………

God himself presided over the party,

Where I spent the night last night.

(C)  Knowledge of the world.

It is knowing and seeing the kinship that binds one to the rest of the creation.

Beyond that, it is seeing oneself as the custodian and caretaker of the planet and its occupants.

It is feeling a sense of fellowship with everything in existence as common slaves of the same true and only master.

It is being united with them all in common worship of God Almighty – albeit each in its own unique way.

Wa Immin Shay-in Illaa Yusabbihu

Bi-Hamdihi Wa Laakin Laa Tafqa-Hoona Tasbeehahum (Soorah Al-Israa’).

Which in paraphrase means:

There isn’t a thing that does not sing his

praise, except that you do not understand

how they do it (17:44).

Thus, knowing self, God and the world gives one the proper understanding of one’s place in the universe.

It provides the intellectual, emotional and spiritual tools for coping with fear and grief.

It sets one free from the bondage of the flesh and its raw and pungent desires – and thus from all attendant grief and fear – and gives one a proper perspective on everything that happens in the world.

(20)

Freedom from Fear and Grief

This realization – and an unshakable belief in its truth – is the true and only foundation of freedom from fear, grief, sorrow, loss, pain, worry and anxiety in this world.

The realization that God, and not you or me or someone else, is in charge.

If you are a Muslim, it is part of the requirement of your faith.

If you have not fully internalized this belief and this message, then you will have trouble being a good Muslim.

If you are not a Muslim, you can still benefit greatly by believing in this fact and basing your life on that belief.

Even as a non-Muslim you can let this fact influence your life in a positive way.

Knowing and believing that God is in control of you, your life and this world will give you new strength to deal with whatever troubles or challenges life may throw at you.

For, everyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, is smart enough to see how little he or she and how completely God controls their lives and destinies.

Anyone with any intelligence can see that ultimately it is God’s will that prevails – in what happens to them and in what happens in this world.

Yet people must do what they feel they must do. They must do everything in their power to make the best things happen for them, for those they love, for all those they are responsible for or have dealings with and for everyone and everything in the world.

What a wonderful way it is to go through life!

The fact is that most human actions are reasoned out in some way, using some kind of a personal logic and rationale.

It is that which makes human beings responsible for their actions and for the consequences of those actions. Yet, what gives them true success, and what sets them free from fear and grief, is the realization, that when all is said and done, it is God that is responsible.

A God who is most merciful and compassionate; a God who loves us more than any mother loves her child; a God who is most willing to forgive our sins when we repent; and a God who is most ready to grant us our prayers when we turn to him in supplication.

And who would we rather have in charge of our destinies – us or him?

Isn’t this thought enough to make a serious dent in our deepest grief and in our darkest worry and fear?

END OF PART ONE

No part of this book may be reproduced or duplicated for 
commercial purposes without the author’s express permission.

2003

© 2003 Syed Husain Pasha

Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional 
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at] 
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.