Strength. Power. What comes to mind when we hear these words? Someone may imagine a muscular athlete with a stern face, while someone else may think of the power of a thought or a word.
So who, in your opinion, is truly strong? Is it someone who can bend iron rods or pull a truck on his own? Yes, such people are ‘strong’ in the physical sense of this word; we cannot argue over this. However, how can we identify a person with a strong spirit? Here intuition will be of no help as a person with a strong spirit can only be identified through his deeds and his words. Have you ever heard the statement: strong is not the one who beats, but the one who can tolerate the beating? It is a fact that no special talent is needed to hurt someone. However, helping another person or finding enough strength within oneself to refrain from replying to an offender in kind is something that is in decline today.
It is not always true that those who possess willpower – which characterizes them as a strong person – are able to live through the hard times and trials of life without collapsing and falling in the eyes of the society as well as close ones. Often, the reason behind all the troubles of a ‘strong’ person is his inability to accept his own weakness. Unwilling to admit this, such people swing from one extreme to another as they seek a way out of difficulties, making use of means which exceed the limits of morality and conscience. Today, we witness such cases in our society more and more often.
Who is the strong one today, according to the standards of society? Is it someone who has power, money, and beauty? Some hundred years ago – in fact even a few decades ago – the concept of strength included, first of all, masculinity, education, strong willpower, incorruptibility, honesty, compassion, and the like. Today, the priorities have shifted tremendously. Undoubtedly, at every point in history, beauty, power, and money were highly valued. However, there is one difference: earlier, people who wanted to have all of this understood the heavy burden involved in possessing it: that you needed to have lots of other qualities, which would ensure you would not perpetrate injustice, harbour pride, and be excessively ambitious. They understood the responsibility of possessing beauty, power, and money. Today the majority has forgotten about this responsibility, and without these ‘strong’ traits of character, they fall even lower – into jealousy, ferocity, backbiting, and the like. Why is all this happening? The dilemma is two-fold: first is the above-mentioned lack of responsibility; second is that those who do own beauty, power, and wealth misuse it. For example, if you have power, you oppress and humiliate for gaining what would benefit you, even if it hurts others. The same applies to beauty and wealth.
1400 years ago, all of this was already known to our Prophet (sa). Abu Hurairah (rtam) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “My society will be afflicted with the disease of (other) societies.” (People) asked: “O Allah’s Messenger (sa), what is the disease of these societies?” He replied: “Arrogance, conceit, striving to multiply, competition for worldly benefits, and mutual hatred and jealousy towards each other, (which reaches such proportions) that (at first it leads to) injustice, and later to killings.” (Muslim)
Is there any solution to such a situation? Honestly speaking, considering the level of decay in every society, it is difficult to imagine a solution. However, every one of us must have a positive outlook on life in order to be hopeful about change. If hope is lost, we will not be able to help each other. From this we can draw our first conclusion. Strong is the one who knows how to support others; strong are those who join their efforts.
Islam pays special attention to the unity of the community: the Ummah. Look, for example, at our body: if one body part stops working, the others are affected by it. The same applies to the society at large: we have to ensure the functioning of all individual ‘parts’ in order to live well as a whole. Allah (swt), the Most High, has said: “The believers are nothing else than brothers (in Islamic religion). So make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allah that you may receive mercy.” (Al-Hujurat 49:10)
Secondly, strong is the one who can accept his own weaknesses. You will say: “But that sounds absurd!” However, if we look at this closely, isn’t this the ability that allows us to look at a problem openly? Isn’t this the ability that helps us understand that we need to seek a solution in a different direction? Of course, there are many directions, but what I am trying to say is that a person should not admit his weakness in front of other people. Instead, we should admit that we are weak in front of the great power of our Creator, discarding our pride, disowning our petty ‘strength’, and turning our face to Him (swt) with sincerity so that we can request for the help of the One Who will definitely offer to us the best solution.
So where does one’s strength lie? Our strength is our belief in the Most Powerful, the Most Forgiving Lord of the worlds! Our strength is in the faith we have, in our sincerity, determination, compassion, willpower, perseverance, love, kindness, and other values, all of which build a strong character. Allah (swt) has given us clear guidance: if we follow what is written in the Book of the Most High, we will gain that same strength, which will give us in this life the opportunity to hold ourselves and our dear ones away from committing sins, away from all that which is hated by the Most Forgiving. There is no fear in possessing such strength as in this world it will give us only what is valued by all, and in the eternal abode, there will be nothing more valuable than this strength.
When we will stand in front of the Most High, only this strength will make us beloved to Him, and only this strength will give us the opportunity to receive His endless mercy. And remember: “…Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa…” (Al-Hujurat 49:13) It was narrated that once the Messenger of Allah (swt) was asked: “Who are the most worthy among all the people?” He replied: “Those who stand out as the most pious in front of Allah (swt), the Most High.” (Bukhari)
Gain your strength though your faith in Allah (swt). It will enable you to overcome the difficulties of your life, Insha’Allah. Peace to you and your families.
Translated for Hiba by Laila Brence.