At least kings, dignitaries and rich people who lived 3,000 years ago had more wealth and comfort than many smart university graduates of the 21st century. We, people of the 21st century, have fast planes, gigantic ships, fairy-tale communication and transportation systems. Artificial intelligence is being developed every single day. 5 G is no longer a curiosity. Our present is for sure nothing compared to the future. But the Babylonians, who lived 4,000 years ago, were no less smart than us, given the means they had. It’s them who made the minute 60 seconds, the hour 60 minutes, the year 12 months, etc. The Maths of today owes so much to people who lived thousands of years ago. And then you have the Pyramids in Egypt, Petra in Jordan ; you have Pythagore, Aristotle, Avicenne, Galileo and so on. And yet, even today, we still ask questions that people asked 6,000 years ago.
Some birds have very beautiful feathers, very beautiful colours, very beautiful twitters, which other birds don’t. Why ? Some people have all good and beautiful things, which other people don’t. Why ? Where can one find answers to such questions ? Take me. I am a Muslim. I believe in the Quran. So what does the Quran tell me ?(...)
So if I am not a believer I cannot get "a healing and a mercy". But would this be enough for me as a reward if I believe? Wouldn't I really need a healing and a mercy in a time of a crisis like this? Can anyone other than Allah grant me a healing and a mercy in a time when nobody really feels safe? But how can I believe? What should I believe?
First thing I should believe that the Quran is the Word of Allah. Then, I believe that Allah is God. Then, I believe Allah's promises and warnings.
The Quran says it's Allah who created the world. A scientific person may want material proof that it's actually Allah who created the world. Therefore, Allah talks in the Quran about the earth, the sky, the mountains, the sea, the rain, the winds, and so on and so forth. We'll see that in a moment. But why should a non-scientific person believe in all this? Allah created the world, and that's it. No. We are not made like this. We are forgetful. When we go to market to buy fruits and vegetables we think about prices, not about Allah who created them. We look inside our fridge with our stomach, not with our hearts and souls. When we open our wardrobe we don't think about (Allah who created) the wool, the cotton, the silk, etc. We don't think about our vision and hearing until our eyes and ears ache. We don't think about our heart until we are sick. So we need to be reminded again and again, as we'll see in a moment. We need to remember that Allah has something to do with our life and death. Forest fires need water to be put out. Only Allah can help us with rainfall - even though some wildfires are started by humans. Drought, which can also be caused by human activities, kills animals and harvests. Only Allah can give or withhold the rain. Allah is present in every aspect of our individual and collective lives. Our livelihood depends on Allah. So we must listen to what Allah has to say to us about our world and ourselves.
Allah is Creator of all things, and He is Guardian over all things. (39:62)
And verily We created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, in six Days, and naught of weariness touched Us. (50:38)
Disbelieve ye verily in Him Who created the earth in two Days, and ascribe ye unto Him rivals? He (and none else) is the Lord of the Worlds. He placed therein firm hills rising above it, and blessed it and measured therein its sustenance in four Days, alike for (all) who ask; Then turned He to the heaven when it was smoke, and said unto it and unto the earth: Come both of you, willingly or loth. They said: We come, obedient. Then He ordained them seven heavens in two Days and inspired in each heaven its mandate; and We decked the nether heaven with lamps, and rendered it inviolable. That is the measuring of the Mighty, the Knower. (41: 9-12)(...)
This is serious indeed. Allah is calling on me to believe in Him as the Only God and to express my gratitude towards Him as proof of my belief. I may say I have no problem with that. I believe that Allah is my God. I am grateful to Him for all His gifts and favours. But why should I, for example, perform my prayers every day, repeating myself again and again ? Why don’t I pray only when I am free and focused ? Yes, it’s repetition. But our day is cram full of repetitions, isn’t it ? We eat and drink every day ; we go to the toilet every day ; we sleep every day, we do a lot of things every day, don’t we ? Also we make use of our vision, our hearing, our mind, our hands, our feet and much more every day. People in many countries pay local taxes on their home windows ! They pay taxes to humans for Allah’s air and sun. Wouldn’t it, then, make sense for me to give thanks to the Creator and Provider by remembering Him every day too ?
As a believer I also have to pay Zakat : OK. Zakat is meant to help the poor. But that’s the state’s job, I would say. It’s the state who should take care of the poor. I already pay taxes for that. In return for the taxes we pay every year, our state provides us with services (schools, hospitals, roads, etc) and we need all that only and only as long as we are alright and fit. What about when we begin to become unable to walk alone, unable to sit up or eat unassisted or even hear or recognize our relatives ? What could the state do for us then ? We may be even asked to pay for our funeral and burial after our death. Zakat, when I can afford it, is what I pay for eternal bliss in Heaven, where there are no economic crises, no racial tensions, no wars, no hurricanes, no wildfires, no climate change, no viruses, no fear, no depression, no death. And that does not have a price.
In the same vein, I may ask myself : why should I fast a whole month ? Good question. But, to be honest, I should also ask : how much would it cost me to spend a month in a deluxe hotel in a beautiful country ? What if I had to spend a 30-day holiday in a good hotel every year ? Then I ask myself : how much am I prepared to pay for one day –just one day– in Paradise (after my death) ? Fasting is but a symbolic price for a place in Heaven !
Heaven is no doubt great, I would say. What about my life in this world ? Can’t I be happy here too ?
Happiness means different things to different people. So how can Allah make me happy ? Well, I don’t even need to ask such a question if I believe I can do without Allah. The moment I ask what Allah can do for me to be happy I have to bear in mind what I would have to give in return. There should be some kind of covenant. When the government pays me unemployment benefits in a time of an economic crisis it’s because I, or most people in my country, pay taxes to the state. Can Allah pay me weekly/monthly unemployment benefits in a time of a major economic crisis ? Of course not. Worse, He can make me lose my job and suffer poverty even in a normal time when most people are well off. Why ? Well, it’s not a question of capability, to be sure. Allah «answereth the wronged one when he crieth unto Him and removeth the evil » (27 : 62) , which nobody else can do. And « Allah giveth without stint to whom He will. » (2 : 212) As we’ll see in a moment, it’s rather a question of faith. (…)
So let’s reflect a little bit. Is Allah good and kind and loving only when He grants us joy and happiness ? Do we really believe in Allah and the Hereafter, by the way ? What makes us different from non-believers ? Well, let’s listen to Allah again.
Only now can we ask what we should expect in return for our belief in Allah and the Hereafter. We’ll see what Allah can do for us in the life of the world. But let’s see this first.
In one of his lectures on strong believers (among prospective scholars) Abdelqader Al-Jilani (…-….) said : « (…) They keep their duty to Allah and yet they see no way (out of their hardship) ; they implore Allah and yet their prayers are not answered…as though they are non-believers ! » Unfortunately, that’s very true. It’s scary. But that’s not a problem for strong believers, who are not interested in being among the foremost when happiness is being doled out in this world, nor are they eager to be among the foremost when the heavens are being distributed in the Hereafter. يسابقون إلى الخيرات و هم لها سابقون
لم يدخلوها و هم يطمعون
Strong believers have yaqeen (strong belief) that Allah will not let them down however long and hard their trial may be, so they are willing to endure hardship(s) for decades on length, if necessary. They outdo everybody else in patience ( يصابرون) and they are ready to wait ages (until the very end of their lives) to see salvation. But Allah knows that life in this world cannot be sustained if all believers are deprived and suffering. There should be enough manpower and money to keep the economy going and society at peace. So even in a Muslim society (be it devout or depraved) you’d see that most people lead more or less a normal life. In truth, Allah would not love to see Muslims in a miserable state (يباهي بهم الملائكة ). So most people work, marry, beget children, build homes, do business as normal, etc. And like all societies there’s a small minority who would suffer from some material or immaterial depravations even in normal times –when there’s no war, no economic crisis. So to believers who find themselves caught up in such an unlucky minority the Quran stands as a thoughtful reminder (a rampart) against despair and depression.
Now that we have read all this Quran, what do we know about Allah ? Not as much as He knows about us, anyway.. All we can say is Allah is beyond compare. He does not change : the same power as ever, the same infinite knowledge, the same vigilance, the same readiness, the same Godness. Allah is God. Man is man. Allah is One. Man is too many. Man can’t even be master of the planet earth. And yet Allah remains رحيم ودود
و يجيب المضطر إذا دعاه
Allah even cares about our feelings. لا يسخر قوم من قوم تلمزوا أنفسكم بالألقاب تواب رحيم
So it’s normal if Allah does not like us to be indifferent to Him. No matter what we do, our belief in Allah will remain limited, and so will our gratitude towards Him. We can never pay our parents back for their favours, what about Allah ? But if we don’t try our best to be thankful to Allah, who should we thank ?
Allah is great and wants man to be greate too : by having more virtues than vices, by having great values, by purifying themselves. Gratitude is one great value. Prostration to Allah, for example, is an honour for man, not a belittling, a degradation or a humiliation. Prostration is glorification of Allah and sublimeness of the faithful’s conduct. Do you think Allah waited thousands or millions of years for someone like me to write something like this ? If I believe in Allah that’s a favour from Allah, not from me. If I believe in Allah I only bear witness to an existing truth. I only acknowledge a fact –whether I exist or not, whether I believe or not. Before Galileo (…-…) most people believed the earth was flat. Before Hubble (…-…) most scientists believed there was one galaxy in the world. What should be amazing to us is that this small brain which Allah created in our (small) heads has already known so much about the world. That which we can’t know we have to believe. We should admit that «و ما أوتيتم من العلم إلا قليلا » And yet Allah does not want us to believe in Him blindly. As we saw in the verses above, Allah calls on us to reflect, to meditate, to contemplate the world around us.
Even if we are lazy, or don’t have the time or the means, we don’t necessarily need to go (to) faraway places in order to meditate. Just in the nearest market, we find innumerable varieties of homegrown and imported fruits of all colours, shapes and tastes. But we often take that for granted. A good believer of our times may not be able to dive into the sea and see for himself the incredible life of fish and sea plants. He may not be able to explore the Amazon forest and other jungles or treck the high mountains or the glaciers and see how people, animals and plants live out there. He may not be a neurologist or a cardiologist or a botanist, but when he is in front of his TV screen and the like and watches documentary films or reads books, he just can’t help chanting subhanallah (God be praised) with his heart and tongue. From his safe place at home he can meditate about the vast space above and about those weak creatures living in the wildreness among wild predators and those secluded/isolated people living in extreme weather / climate conditions in uncharted country, or about the cells in his own body… Lessons from these can only strenghten the morale of من كان له قلب أو ٱلقى السمع و هو شهيد A truly good believer, who thus meditates on Allah’s infinite power and knowledge, can only become stronger and stronger. And that’s what’s meant by رحمة و شفاء (a healing and a mercy) ألا بذكر الله تطمئن القلوب
Think this through. How many times did you ever get tired, sick or demoralized/depressed ? Maybe few or several times. But how many times did you ever succeed in stopping your days and nights from being eaten away like an unemployed person’s savings ? Never. We are weak. We are mortal. Allah is God. Allah is not like us. That sounds obvious, but we tend to forget it when we are well off.
I can’t say for sure why Allah calls on His bondmen to pray Him in the watches of the night, when other people are sleeping. Probably night time helps one to focus more on prayers.
إن ناشئة الليل أقوم قيلا
But what would feel if I got up in the middle of the night and thought about the whole picture –not only my daily worries and routine ? Well, first thing I get the feeling that I am juste de passage, a passer-by. I am like a tennis ball thrown back and forth between sunrise and sunset. Sunrise throws me to sunset a,d sunset flings me to sunrise : I can’t stop time. And one day I realize how fast I’m ageing. This may bring about in me the willingness to make the best use of the rest of my life, by doing more and more good and less and less evil if I can. Even if I worship Allah in the watches of the night, He is still occupied with the rest of the world.
لا تاخذه سنة و لا نوم
For Allah it’s all DAY. Even if I make this kind of effort that many others wouldn’t care to make, what would that add to Allah ? It’s all symbolic, and Allah likes that. غفور شكور It’s a sign of love. الغفور الودود Even the best expression of gratitude can’t pay Allah back for the slightest of His favours. I owe everything to Allah, my life plus. If I am beautiful, it’s Allah who, gave me my beauty. If I am strong, it’s Him who gave me my strength. If I am smart, it’s Him who gave me my wits. If I am rich, it’s Him who provided me. If I become famous, it’s Allah makes me so.if I belong to a rich, democratic and powerful state, that’s a favour from Allah too. Whatever I am like, whatever shape I am in, it’s by Allah’s grace. Whatever good I do, it’s thanks to Him. يسابقون إلى الخيرات بإذن الله
To Him I owe my life, so His Hymn I praise , and to Him I prostrate myself. His Words I chant. To Him and of Him I say سبحان الله، و الحمد لله، و لا إلاه إلا الله، و الله أكبر، و لا حول و لا قوة إلا بالله العلي العظيم.
But I don’t stop there. If I can’t pay Allah back for His countless favours, I should pay it forward –to humankind. Allah يأخذ الصدقات , not for Himself, but for His bondmen –believers and non-believers alike. إن الله بالناس لرؤوف رحيم
الله يرزق من يشاء بغير حساب (believers and non-believers alike)
كلا نمد هؤلاء و هؤلاء
and yet He gives me the chance (and the honour) to do good, to give charity, if I can, to His bondmen, out of love for Him, as a sign of gratitude to Him, and I don’t say, like non-believers : أنطعم من لو يشاء الله أطعمه...
I try to be among those who يطعمون الطعام... لا نريد منكم جزاء و لا شكورا
Have you ever seen a nest ? Have you thought about it ? If a man and a woman take care of their offspring, they may hope to benefit from them in their old age. But when a couple of swallows takes pains in making a nest, and then takes pains in feeding and protecting these chiks, they will grow up and become full-fledged and fly away. Who will then pay back the parents for their kindness ? This is but a mercy from Allah.
It's not easy to see people let you down in the hour of need. It's not easy to see all doors closed in your face. It's painful to see yourself like a wingless, tailless bird. It's not easy to feel lonely. but trial is not the same for all. As in the Hadith, أشد الناس بلاء الأنبياء فالأمثل فالأمثلَ
Allah does not try anybody, except for a purpose that He alone knows. Trial (by ordeal) means loss and suffering. But does that happen to strong believers only? What about ordinary people struck by flooding, drought, fires, war...? Allah says: و يرسل الصواعق فيصيب بها من يشاء
Right now millions of souls have been lost to Covid. How many people learn a lesson from that? How many people lose not only an income or a loved one but their lives? In the Quran we read : أحسب الناس أن يتركوا أن يقولوا ٱمنا و هم لا يفتنون
و تلك الأيام نداولها بين الناس
ما يعبأ الله بكم لولا دعاؤكم
و ترجون من الله ما لا يرجون
It's this hope that we should treasure. That's for believers only. Even if I had everything I wanted my happiness wouldn't or shouldn't be total in a world where I am not alone, where there are millions of homeless people, of orphans, of single mothers without income....
Besides, trial has a prize. When you succeed in a trial you are actually winning both the life of the world and the Hereafter. If I don't care about the Hereafter, if I only want happiness and joy and eternal fun here and now, why should Allah care about me?
You know, some non-believing people make nice prayer rugs for believers to pray or beautiful rosaries to remember Allah or pretty gowns to go to mosque. The makers are happy with the money they get from those rugs and gowns. But good believers will be happy with Paradise too, if they really good believers. خالصة يوم القيامة...