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

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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.


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.


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.

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