By Alia Ahmed
Once, there was a king, who offered a prize to any artist that would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried their luck. The king looked at all the representations, and only two fascinated him. Ultimately, he had to choose between them.
The first depiction was that of a placid lake with mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. It seemed a perfect picture of peace.
The other image had mountains too, but these were rugged and bare. Above was an enraged sky, from which rain fell and lightening flashed. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a furious, foaming waterfall. Apparently, this was not all, for when the king looked closely behind the waterfall, he saw a tiny bush growing in the crack of a rock. In that bush, a mother bird had built her peewee nest. In the midst of the rush of angry water, the mother bird sat on her nest in perfect peace.
Guess, which one turned out to be the award-winning illustration? Yes, the second one. Why? “Because,” explained the king, “peace does not mean being in a quiet place void of trouble or hard work. Peace means being in the midst of it all and still remaining cool, calm, and composed in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.”
This narration compels one to ponder and cogitate. Since the basic unit of the human kind is an individual human, it is evident that in order to achieve peace in the outer world, it must first be attained within the heart of that individual. Consequently, outer peace, or world peace, is a by-product of personal tranquility and mental satisfaction of individuals that inhabit it. Thomas Kempis said: “First keep the peace within yourself, then you can bring peace to others.”
Some people are of the opinion that peace will only be achieved, when they control every single element in their lives. Maybe they are just oblivious to the fact that this is not possible. One must understand the difference between things that are within our control and things that are beyond. The concept of predestination (Qadar) is central to this understanding. Religious scholars and intellectuals are of the view that tribulation and distress in today’s world may have a perspicuous cause-we have lost the path that leads to salvation, because we are missing out on Allah’s (swt) cardinal instructions.
Inner peace is a feeling of calmness and satisfaction within our hearts. But the delicate question is: how can that be attained? ‘Iman’ – the true faith in Allah (swt) and the beliefs, on which the Islamic faith is based – is the only real fountain for one’s inner calmness and rapture. This Arabic word is derived from the root word ‘Amn’, pointing towards peace and tranquility that a believer enjoys in his heart as a result of practising and bolstering these beliefs. There must be no half-hearted consents but total submission to God’s commands. Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Truly, in remembering Allah (swt) do hearts find rest” (Ra’d 13:28). Dhikr, the remembrance of Allah (swt), leads to Allah (swt) consciousness, which persuasively brings forth total submission to His commands. Thereupon, it is imperative that in order to bring tranquility into our lives, we must live according to His commandments.
Another significant factor that massively contributes towards acquiring a complacent soul is ‘Shukr’ – thankfulness to Allah (swt). ‘Shukr’ is derived from the root word, ‘sh-k-r,’ and it literally refers to ‘when a cow feeds on less fodder but gives more milk’. Conspicuously, it indicates, how we as believers should be. We should be grateful to Allah (swt) under all circumstances. We must learn to develop a sense of gratitude within ourselves for all the blessings we have received. Most of us have a great deal in our lives to make us blissfully content, but, unfortunately, we lack the ability to acknowledge and appreciate it. A lot is taken for granted and this ingratitude prevents us from attaining tranquility within our hearts. As Melody Beattie says: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, and confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
Gratitude (Shukr) is considered to be the best and the highest of all the stations of faith (Iman). Gratitude also includes in itself the virtue of patience (Sabr). When we look at the life of Prophet Muhammad (sa), we find that there is nothing greater than his patience and gratitude. He was ‘Saboor’ and ‘Shakoor’. The reality is that as servants of Allah (swt), we can be in one of the two states during our lifetime. Either we enjoy a bounty, for which we should be thankful for, or we may be suffering a calamity that we should meet with patience and forbearance. Muslim states the Hadeeth: “Amazing is the believer, for whatever Allah (swt) decrees for him! If he is tested with a bounty, he is grateful for it, and this is better for him; and if he is afflicted with hardship, he is patient with it, and this is better for him.”
Patience has three main forms:
(a) patience for avoiding the prohibitions and sins,
(b) patience for acts of worship and obedience,
(c) patience required in the face of afflictions and hardships.
The Quran explicitly mentions the finest tools that may be applied to help ease the effects of suffering and hardship: patience (Sabr) and prayer (Dhikr). It is stated in Surat-al-Baqarah, verse 152-153: “Therefore, remember Me (by praying, glorifying (Dhikr)). I will remember you, and be grateful to Me (for my countless favors on you) and never be ungrateful to Me. O you, who believe! Seek help in patience and Salah (the prayer). Truly, Allah (swt) is with the As-Sabireen (the patient).” One may conclude that ‘Sakina’ – peace and tranquility within the heart – is a gift from Allah (swt), and the most essential ingredients that contribute to a serene and placid heart are: remembrance of Allah (swt), gratitude and patience. Consequently, a heart that remains thankful and patient, while in constant remembrance of its Creator, can never lose peace of mind.