Hafsa Ahmed – Hiba’s team writer
Adversities bring out our real selves – the heroes or cowards crouching within the faith or hypocrisy in our hearts. The more difficult the test, the clearer the result. Natural disasters, in particular, are an extensive trial. Bodies are battered, beliefs are shaken, lives are changed forever.
Yet a greater catastrophe follows. While people lose their lives and limbs, some start losing their faith and questioning the mercy of God. They ask how the Most Merciful God could allow the loss of so many innocent lives, how He could destine so many to a life of disability and pain.
Man remains a hasty creature, judging superficially, mistrusting everyone. He even has the audacity to sit in judgment on his own Creator. He forgets the countless manifestations of His mercy in his own life and His justice that has yet to be completely manifest.
He is constantly indebted to Ar-Rahman for his very existence, for every breath that enters his body and leaves it, for the complex systems working tirelessly within his body and the sustenance he receives daily from the moment he begins life in a dark womb till the time he leaves this world. He doubts his Lord and that is the greatest calamity- spiritual loss.
THE GREATER CALAMITY
We consider a natural disaster to be the greatest calamity, yet a more continuous and devastating catastrophe awaits us. That is the Day when we will only have His Mercy to depend upon, for our good deeds can never be enough to save us. The Day when the earth will be shaken in such a way that all life will end; then the scales would be set up and each individual will have to pass over the bridge of Hell where one slip could mean an eternity in the Hellfire- that is where we will need His Mercy the most.
Ar-Rahman will forgive many on that day, for many He will allow intercession; many will be removed from the Hell-fire and admitted into Paradise. Only those who constantly denied Allah, the worst of humanity, would be left in Hell. The raging Hell would call out for more and more, until Ar-Rahman would finally silence it with His Foot.
Yet His Justice also demands that those who transgressed His right and the rights of other humans must be brought to account. It is to be borne in mind that while Allah has said about Himself that “He has decreed upon Himself Mercy” (Al Anam:12), He is also “swift in account” (Al Maidah:4) and “severe in penalty.” (Al Baqarah:196)
The people of Paradise would experience the greatest manifestation of Allah’s Love and Mercy. They would have everything that they desire and more. Yet the height of their pleasure would be when they behold Ar-Rahman with their eyes and receive the blessed news that He would never be displeased with them from then onwards.
WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN?
The trials and punishments that come upon us in this world are a proof of Allah’s love for humanity. He wants to arouse us from our stupor and apathy before it’s too late, He wants to save us from the greater and everlasting punishment by giving us a small taste in this world of what lies ahead, in the hope that we will realize, repent and amend our ways.
It’s at these times of shock, trauma and suffering that our heart’s eyes open and we see a glimpse of reality. We discover the presence of a more Powerful Being than ourselves. Hardened and rusty hearts thaw out, eyes moisten, hands extend in supplication and the mercy of Ar-Rahman gathers us in its arms.
COULD WE HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH IT?
Allah says: “Indeed, Allah does not wrong the people at all, but it is the people who are wronging themselves.” (Surah Yunus:44)
Instead of blaming a non-compassionate God for the problems and calamities in our lives, exactly as Satan did when he said: “Because You (Allah) have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them (i.e. mankind) on Your straight path.” (Al Araaf:16) we should analyze our own actions.
WHY SO MUCH PAIN AND SUFFERING?
We see only apparent misfortunes such as poverty, disability and death as complete failure yet we fail to see the complete picture. The poor will enter Paradise 500 years before the rich. The disabled and ailing will be rewarded for their suffering.
Our Prophet (saw) said: “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.” (Bukhari)
People who die painfully, for instance during childbirth or by drowning, have been given good news of a grade of martyrdom. Innocent people who die in collective punishments will be raised on the state of their faith.
Umm Salamah, the Prophet (saw)’s wife heard the Messenger of Allah (saw) saying: “If sins become apparent in my Ummah Allah will surround them with punishment from Him.” She said: “O Allah’s Messenger! Will they have righteous people among them then?” He said: “Yes,” She asked: “What will happen to them?” He said: “They will be stricken as the people, but they will end up with
Allah’s forgiveness and pleasure.” (Ahmed)
We do not look at the entire picture because for many of us, this immediate world is the end of our dreams and the complete culmination of success and failure. We should remember that the similitude of this world and the Hereafter is like the water that wets one’s finger after having been immersed in the ocean.
WHAT AM I DOING?
- What am I doing to receive Allah’s Mercy in this world and the next? What have I gained or lost in this catastrophe?
- Have I emerged from its debris with a stronger faith, an urgency to do something for my Hereafter, a transformed life?
- Or have I explained away the event, passed my own judgments, put my conscience back to sleep and resumed my regular life again?
If the answer is the first, then for me, this catastrophe has been a test which we have passed and a merciful awakening. If our answer was the second, then this catastrophe has been a punishment for us.
At the end, each one of us will have to account for our own actions ourselves.