Faith in difficult times

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Author: Jubair Ali al-Sayed 

When we look at today's headlines in the newspapers and magazines, or perhaps hear a brief news report on the radio or television, or read the latest news updates on the internet, it is quite easy for a person who does not have the Qur’anic perspective and thus fails to consider that there is good in everything that Allah creates to be overwhelmed with a feeling of the darkest foreboding.

Unemployment is on the increase in many of the world's largest economies; financial markets are unable to shake off their doldrums for very long; the twin scourges of homelessness and hunger are on the rise. It seems to many that the days of limitless economic growth and the boundless wealth associated with it are coming perilously close to a shattering end. People are now feeling great anxiety about not only their own but their children's futures; recently, in London, England rampaging mobs of looters took to the streets to express themselves through wanton theft and lawlessness. All around us, it seems that the machinery of civilization is coming to a halt. We see signs of increasing immorality, of a hardening of attitudes in the hearts of men throughout the world, of the abandonment of the most helpless amongst us by not only their respective governments, but seemingly by their fellow men as well.

At difficult times like this, it is of the most vital importance for the believers to never forget that all these manifestations are not cause for us to resign ourselves to feelings of nihilism. We must always remember that it is our Lord, Almighty Allah, Who is in supreme control of all affairs, and all things happen through His All-powerful Will. Indeed, the life of this world is but a place of testing for the true life to come, the Hereafter.

One of the reasons so many people feel despair and hopelessness in their lives is that they have fallen prey to one of satan's greatest traps; they have put their faith, not in Allah, but in the transitory treasures of this world. They have replaced faith in our Lord with faith in the New York Stock Exchange. They long not to read the Word of Almighty Allah, the Qur'an, but instead their quarterly dividend statement. They wish to hear only the honeyed words of their financial advisor, and pay no heed to the call to prayer. They turn for help to economists, financial pundits and investment bankers, oblivious to  the only One Who can grant them assistance, Allah, the Creator and Owner of all things. As a result, their lives are an unending quest for ever-greater riches in the life of this world, all the while forgetting the eternal life to come. When events no longer proceed in the manner in which they foolishly assumed would continue for the rest of their lives, their hearts are seized with disillusionment, despondence, fear, and anger.

All too many people today have fallen into this snare set for them by satan; they have succumbed to his infernal whisperings. They live their lives in an egocentric manner, obsessed with the accumulation of riches and the acquisition of “the finer things in life.” They care not for their fellow men; they turn away when they see a homeless man or woman begging in the streets. They avert their gaze and walk by as though these needy people did not exist, and do not even give them a kind word if perhaps they haven't the money to spare them. In the worst cases, they privately (or even publicly) castigate these indigent people and wish them ill. These people have truly fallen into the lowest levels of moral degeneracy.

However, it is incumbent upon us as believers to profess our great devotion and deep faith in Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, He upon Whom all things depend, and for us to give our constant praise and thanks to our Lord for all the innumerable blessings which He has chosen to bestow upon us through His endless munificence. In times of difficulty, it is of course natural for us to turn to Allah for help in removing our afflictions; but we must also never forget to turn to Allah in heartfelt thanks in times of plenitude and show Him our deeply felt gratitude for the boundless blessings He has granted us. In these volatile times, we must also humbly implore Almighty Allah to give us the strength we need so that we may remain steadfast and continue on His path, and to seek refuge in Allah from the  “.......whisperer who withdraws, who whispers into the hearts of men among jinn and men.” (Surat an-Nas, 4-6).

Let us briefly reflect on what faith means to us as Muslims. The vast majority of Islamic scholars teach that faith is far more than simply a mental agreement with certain facts or mechanical adherence to a particular set of rules, but rather it is a believer's dedication to the Will of Allah and the recognition of His Sovereignty; this has profound implications for the believers’ behavior in their families, in society at large, and in the State as well. Certainly, Islam is more than just a mere external membership in a particular creed, or a simple theoretical agreement with certain sets of principles. For the believers, faith is something that is felt with every fiber of our being; it is what guides our actions, our speech, our behavior towards others and how we interact, not only with other believers, but also how we interact with everyone else in the world. As believers in our Lord, and as His servants and the followers of His eternal commandments, it is our faith that guides us at every moment of our lives until the very last breath we draw in the life of this world. Therefore, we must always strive to deepen and strengthen our faith, as doing so not only stands us in good stead in the Hereafter through earning the good pleasure of Allah, but also serves us well in this world for the very same reason. It is faith that not only sustains us in times of hardship, but it is faith that allows us to appreciate the times of plenty all the more, as we give thanks to our Lord for His provision which He, in His infinite benevolence, has bestowed upon us so that we may use it in His way. Likewise, in times of hardship, it is our faith which informs us that our current difficulties are but the means by which Almighty Allah tests us in the life of this world, and we should use such opportunities as a means of broadening our religious convictions and fortifying ourselves spiritually. In this way, we are able to draw ourselves closer to Him.

Additionally, it is also important for us as believers to remind ourselves in times of difficulty the lessons we may learn from the glorious examples of the Prophets of Allah, all of whom faced enormous difficulties on His way. We need only think of the example of our Prophet (saas), who faced slanders, lies, threats of physical harm against him, and expulsion from his home. Yet through all these tribulations, our beloved Prophet (saas) remained wholly steadfast in his faith in our Lord, and his profound faith was rewarded by Almighty Allah, not only in this world but in the Hereafter as well. We may reflect upon the Prophet Moses (pbuh) who faced difficulties in Allah's path chiefly through the machinations of that most arrogant of men, Pharoah, a disbeliever whose arrogance led him so far as to consider himself a living god, and to compel his subjects to worship him (surely Allah is beyond that). We should ponder upon Prophet Abraham (pbuh), who faced the threat of death not only from his own people but from his own father, when he reproached them for their persistent worship of false gods. Let us contemplate Prophet Noah (pbuh) who was mocked by his people although he persistently appealed to them to repent of their mistaken ways and to worship Almighty Allah alone. And let us not forget the example of the Prophet Lot (pbuh) a righteous man and devoted servant of Allah who stood against the perverse and defiant wickedness of the people of his city. All these Prophets were despised by their respective peoples when the Prophets made every effort to turn their respective peoples away from the Wrath of Allah, and to set them on the path to the True Religion. Indeed, no matter the difficulties we may face in our everyday lives, they surely pale in comparison to the enormities encountered by the Prophets in their heartfelt attempts to turn their fellow men on to the path of our Lord.

As we observe the lives of those who disbelieve, we can see how far they have fallen away. Quite recently, on the website of the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, there appeared an article describing how young women in the United States are resorting to a form of prostitution in order to pay for their higher education. The details of this  sstory suffice to illustrate the depths to which someone will sink when one has no sense of morality and concerns s him or herself  chiefly with financial matters.

Even an excerpt from the story shows that  all too many students are all too willing to sell their bodies for the sake of simply paying their debts. It goes without saying, of course, that this immoral and squalid behavior is in flagrant contradiction to the laws of Allah, who commands as follows in the Qur'an; “And go not nigh to fornication; surely it is an indecency and an evil way.” (Surat al-Isra', 32)

The lives of the disbelievers are further made insufferable through drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and violence; however there is no need to dwell further upon these ills prevalent in societies far removed from the principles of the True Religion . When we examine in detail the root underlying cause for these nightmarish social ills, we find one common denominator; the materialist philosophy.

In brief, materialism, the philosophy of the dajjal, has been with us for a very long time. It has been noted in surviving historic texts dating back to the Axial Age (cca. 800-200 BC). It emerged to the fore during the time of the European Enlightenment (the 18th Century), and achieved its highest theoretical exposition under the founder of Communism, Karl Marx. This godless philosophy states that the only thing that truly exists is matter; simply put, matter is the only substance with any reality (surely Allah, the Creator of not only matter but all things, is beyond that). Materialism went on to spawn Darwinism (the theory of evolution), Communism, Fascism, National Socialism and has led to an unending series of wars of conquest, economic and physical exploitation,  the wholesale slaughter of innocent men, women and children who committed no offense against their heartless executioners  and every manner of human misery. Materialism, and Darwinism in particular, hold that man is nothing more than a common animal, engaged in a never-ending struggle to survive even at the expense of his own kind, and this core philosophy has provided the underlying rationale for every nightmare the world has beheld since it was unleashed upon the minds of men by the eternal enemy, Iblis (satan) the loathsome jinn expelled from Paradise due to his willful disobedience and arrogance.

When we take a moment to see the lives of those without faith, it is materialism that forms the basis of their erroneous thinking, and has distorted their hearts and souls and turned them from the love of Almighty Allah. Not only are these wretched people doomed to an eternity of punishment in the fires of Hell (unless they turn in sincere repentance towards our Lord and implore Him for His forgiveness), but are equally doomed to an abominable existence in this life as well. It is easily observable that the lives of disbelievers are filled with loneliness, emptiness, hopelessness, despair, and feelings of abasement and self-loathing. They seek escape through narcotics, strong drink, violence, and by the pursuit of the most debased forms of depraved sensuality and mindless hedonism. These rotten fruits of the materialist philosophy are the harvest of horrors we see every day in the mass media; stories of murder, rape, and brigandage; parents, children and siblings ruthlessly turning against one another and throwing aside the bonds of familial love in unthinkable acts of betrayal; civilized lands such as Norway and England in shock and mourning because of individuals who think nothing of perpetrating the mass-murder of innocents, or in looting and maliciously destroying the property of their fellow men. When a person regards another person as a mere animal to be used for achieving one’s ends, these kinds of dreadful events are the natural and inevitable consequence.

O brother and sisters in Islam! We must not let us ourselves become disheartened or discouraged by the deplorable conditions we see around us in this world; we must always remember that the true life is the life to come in the Hereafter. However, we must not neglect our duties to our Lord in the life of this world, either.

As believers, we know that we will stand before our Almighty Lord on the Day of Judgment, and will be given a full accounting of what we did, and did not do, as His humble and faithful servants. Therefore, who amongst us wishes to stand before Almighty Allah knowing in the depths of his heart that he did not do enough?

In this blessed season of Ramadan, we fast as we were commanded to by our Lord. We are thus reminded of what it is to not have enough to eat or drink, of what it is to be amongst the poorest and most vulnerable. And though we break our fast at the setting of the sun, we must remember that for far too many in this world, destitution never ends except with their deaths.

We must always remember that it is also our duty to help our fellow men. Part of this responsibility is to not only help our fellow Muslims stay on the true path of Allah, but to reach out to others, especially in these trying times when so many have gone astray. We cannot allow ourselves to look upon others, particularly disbelievers, with hatred and contempt; when we feel hatred and contempt, we invariably dehumanize our fellow man and thereby fall into the materialist trap laid for us by satan, who forever seeks to turn peoples against one another.

We must also bear in mind that regardless of our theological differences, it is the People of the Book with whom we share a common history and lineage; though they are in error, they are nonetheless our natural allies in the struggle against the pernicious philosophy of the dajjal, and we must not allow ourselves to be ensnared by the retreating whisperer who seeks to inflame the dark passions of man and cloud his reason in order to cause enmity and hatred; it is through causing such malefic emotions to emerge in the hearts of men that the eternal enemy advances his evil agenda. Let us, as Muslims, live by the command of Allah when He says in the Qur'an, “Say; O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you; that we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him; that we establish not from amongst ourselves lords and patrons other than Allah.” (Surah Al 'Imram, 64). Let us look at the Christians and the Jews as our cousins, not our adversaries; we have but one adversary, satan, and on that particular matter of theology, there is absolutely no point of dispute whatsoever.

In regard to the disbelievers, we must reach out to them with compassion and love. Not all the disbelievers will necessarily heed the call of Allah, but there are those amongst them who are desperately and genuinely searching for a way out of their unspeakable condition. It is incumbent upon us, as devoted servants of Allah, to extend to them not a clenched fist and threatening shouts, but rather, a hand opened to them in a gesture of love and kind words. While we as Muslims must, at all times, enjoin the good and forbid that which is evil, we must also endeavor to serve as examples of the love that Allah commands us to show, and which was so magnificently illustrated by our Prophet (saas) and his companions (may Allah be pleased with them) who never once ceased inviting the disbelievers to the path of Allah; they did so not for the sake of their own prestige or to satisfy their own egos, but because their hearts were overflowing with the all-consuming love which their faith in our Lord gave them. And while we may invite, we must never  compel; as it says clearly in the Qur'an, “Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error. Whoever rejects false worship and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks.” (Surat al-Baqara, 256)

The difficulties we face and overcome (by His leave) in order to earn the good pleasure of Allah and our deep faith and endless devotion to Him and His commandments will allow us (insha'Allah) to be amongst those of whom it is revealed in the Qur'an; “Some faces, that Day, will be radiant (in brightness and beauty), looking towards their Lord...”  (Surat al-Qiyamat, 22-23). Therefore, in these turbulent times, let us not yield to melancholy, but rather let us discover the happiness in our love and abiding trust in Almighty Allah, and His love for us, and let these times serve to deepen our faith in our Lord, The Ever Merciful and Endlessly Compassionate. 

2011-08-21 10:43:20

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