The most popular fictional stories of today speak of people, who braved humiliation and personal loss and arose from the ashes of depression to take on the world and march towards success. As inspiring as these stories may be, they offer little practical advice on coping with our own personal pain. For learning to deal with real grief, we must look at the stories of real people; and such is the story of our Prophet Muhammad (sa).
Sahabahs have recorded the many afflictions our Prophet (sa) faced and how he endured them for the benefit of all Muslims. Just like us, he also bore the loss of his loved ones. In fact, his beloved wife Khadijah (rta) died early in his mission of prophethood. At that point of his life, he was already struggling with continual physical and emotional harassment by his townspeople and soon faced the challenge and helplessness of seeing his strongest supporter Abu Talib die a Kafir. Rather than wring his hands in despair, Allah’s Messenger (sa) entrusted himself to Allah (swt). His daughter once wept, seeing him being harassed by insolent Kaffars, and he in turn tried to comfort her by saying: “Do not weep, my daughter – Allah will verily protect your father.” (Bukhari)
Later, our Nabi (saw) suffered the anguish of witnessing the death of his young son Ibrahim, the only son, who did not die in infancy. He wept, yet mourned by simply saying: “The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved, and we will not say except what pleases our Lord. Oh Ibrahim! Indeed, we are grieved by your separation.” (Bukhari)
Our Prophet (sa) also endured the pangs of starvation, the humiliation of being labelled a magician, a liar and even a mad man. He was stoned by disbelievers in Taif, and his blood glued his sandals to his feet. He was wounded in the battle of Uhud and even spat on by his enemies. Unable to shake him from his determination to continue his mission, they attacked his family by spreading slander about his youngest wife Ayesha (rta). In each case, he called out to his Lord and asked for mercy and patience.
Our Prophet’s (sa) entreaties and Duas to Allah (swt) are lessons for us to follow in our own cases of pain. Our Prophet (sa) bore more than what we, his humble followers, ever could endure, as he himself explained: “Those, who are most afflicted among the people, are the Prophets…” (At-Tirmidhi) Although he was an exceptional man, Muhammad (sa) was a human being. Being orphaned at an early age, he was known to be a very sensitive person. We would be mistaken to assume that because of his prophethood, he could shrug off his grief and continue to strive for his mission, just like our mythical comic book heroes do. Sahabahs claimed they had never witnessed the Prophet (sa) weep, as he did when his cousin Hamza (rta) was assassinated. Though he gave no orders to search for the assassin, it became known that a slave named Washi had done it. Much afterwards, when the Prophet (sa) met him, he asked Washi to hide his face from him (Bukhari) – the pain of losing Hamza (rta) was still felt by Muhammad (sa).
It was his unshakeable faith in Allah (swt) that provided Muhammad (sa) with the healing balm for the wounds cut by the tests of life. We will also be tested to see, if we are worthy of Paradise. We will be able to pass our tests of life only if we turn to Allah (swt) as our Prophet (sa) did.