Whether we are devout Mumins, indifferent Muslims or uninformed non-Muslims, Allah (swt) has set aside our share of challenges, trials and losses. Clichéd phrases, such as ‘life is a bed of roses’ and ‘they lived happily ever after’ can be believed of Jannah – the perfect abode. While we are here in this imperfect world, our life is highly susceptible to damage and pain.
Alhumdulillah, our Lord (swt) has also granted us a capacity for inner healing. Otherwise, this world would have come to an end centuries ago. It is all about finding strength and moving forward when the stakes are high. This strength exists inside us. However, the magnitude of strength differs from person to person. Some people can overcome great pain gracefully and patiently, while some struggle with a prick of a thorn.
What does it take to handle suffering and grief? Is there a special diet, some magic Mantra, laughter therapy or nerves of steel? Wrong! The secret lies in our perception of this life. What do we consider the purpose of our existence? For example, if somebody’s aim in life has been to earn wealth, that’s where the gravity of life is for him. If one day misfortune strikes and he is declared bankrupt, or he experiences a financial loss in business, it can render him out of control of his life and throw him right into the arms of depression.
Dealing with momentary pain is still somewhat easier, as there is a hope of a reward, recovery and renewal to one’s former position of comfort. Examples include labour and birth, a medical surgery to remove an ailment, sending a child to a distant college for education, a temporary loss in business, a dispute with a relative, etc.
The real challenge lies when the pain or damage is permanent in nature. This may include death, medical surgery to remove an organ, a financial loss, divorce, etc. Undoubtedly, the scars are deeper.
In such cases, the first question that generally comes to the mind of the grieving person is – why me? There can be many possible answers to this. Allah (swt) tries His beloved slaves by granting or withdrawing His blessings to see how faithful His slaves really are. There may be some hidden benefit (Khair) that the human intellect cannot perceive and which will reveal itself after a certain passage of time. The loss suffered in the world may alleviate an even greater loss likely to occur in the Hereafter. It may be a means to remove sins and return to Allah (swt) in purity. Lastly and most importantly, it may be Allah’s (swt) warning to His slaves to repent to Him and live the remainder of one’s life in complete submission to Him for eternal salvation, especially if one has deliberately been heedless.
How to Tackle Grief
Some real life experiences of people will help you see your own loss in a different light.
Mrs. Kareem’s thirty-four-year-old mentally retarded son passed away one morning in one of his epilepsy seizures. All along she had cared for him like a little child, so he was literally the focus of her life. He was a special child, whom she loved dearly. I heard her say, crying bitterly: “Alhumdulillah, Allah (swt) took him away in my life. I always used to wonder, who would care for him once I was gone. Allah (swt) relieved me of my worries.” For a mother to lose her child is among the greatest trials one can face. But only a woman, who believes in Allah’s (swt) mercy, can accept His decree in such pain. The Prophet (sa) explains, how Allah (swt) reciprocates His love for such slaves: “O son of Adam, if you show endurance and seek your reward from me in the first affliction, I shall be pleased with no less reward than Paradise for you.” (Mishkat and Ibn Majah)
Another courageous woman is Sarah. After nearly five years of her childless marriage, she ended up in a divorce, due to some severe cases of mistrust and misunderstanding with her spouse. Once it was over, she realized how wrong she had been and that her marriage could have been saved. Her ex-husband re-married and started anew. However, as our prejudiced culture hardly gives a divorced woman another chance to re-build her life, Sarah remained single and lonely.
This is when she found strength in the Quran and turned a new leaf. She took up learning her Deen and, Masha’Allah, today she is a well-versed teacher of the Quran, imparting knowledge and wisdom to many. What she could not do for herself, she did for others by guiding them in their marital lives. Allah’s Messenger (sa) states: “Never a believer is stricken with a discomfort, an illness, an anxiety, a grief or mental worry or even the pricking of a thorn, but Allah (swt) will expiate his sins on account of his patience.” (Bukhari)
One lady, who came from a wealthy and respectable family, had to suffer sudden financial loss. Her husband lost his job, and after a considerable time, he lost all his savings too. She had to step out of the house to support him in earning bread and butter. After Fajr, she would stay up to cook and clean and then, leave for her job. Swinging from one bus to the other, she would run to give tuitions to her students and would return home exhausted by late evening. This would give her enough funds to send her children to school and support her husband and other household expenses. Whenever I would meet her, she would be smiling and thanking Allah (swt). In spite of her own busy schedule, she was always willing to offer help to others in whatever way she could. She shares the secret of her contentment: “I want to work so hard in the day that by the time night falls, I have no energy left to think of my miseries. That keeps me going.” The Prophet (sa) stated: “He, whom Allah intends good, He makes him to suffer from some affliction.” (Bukhari)
Conclusively, it greatly depends on the individual’s own strength to not let grief drown him in the whirlpool of dejection. He/she could rather make the most of what is still left. Shaitan will constantly try to misguide and create animosity when we are struck with misfortune. He makes an attempt to shake the pillars of our faith by planting poisonous thoughts, such as: “Your Lord does not love you, He has forsaken you, you are a sight of pity, etc.”
Here, one needs to be extra vigilant, because in moments of grief, one can earn great rewards by practicing Sabr and offering Salah. But if we fall into Shaitan’s trap of disbelief, the same moments can bring us Allah’s (swt) wrath. The Prophet (sa) said: “Patience is (becoming) only at the first (stroke) of grief.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
A great tool is to listen to a lot of Quranic interpretation. Try to be in the company of those individuals, who offer hope and are close to Allah (swt). If health and pocket permits, it is very fruitful to get involved in community service. Giving joy to others or witnessing other people’s pain reduces one’s own miseries.
Eventually, one must realize that we are here only on a temporary journey. Whatever we own, including our own lives, has been entrusted to us by Allah (swt). We will have to return it to Him, when He demands it back. In such cases, we must pray: “We are from Allah and unto Him we return. Oh Allah, take me out of my plight and bring to me after it something better.” (Muslim) We can ask the King of the worlds (swt) to grant us eternal blessings in Jannah, free of pain and fear of loss. Insha’Allah, this will be a driving force for us, through our misfortunes in this world.