Monday, May 7, 2012

Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem

Catastrophes, hardships, difficulties bring out our real selves - the heroes and cowards crouching within, the faith or hypocrisy in our hearts. The bigger the test, the clearer is the result. Natural disasters, in particular, are a massive test. Bodies are battered, beliefs are shaken, lives and destinies 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 God, Who is supposed to love us more then seventy mothers could kill so many innocent, poverty-stricken people, how he could kill innocent children, how He could destine so many to a life of disability and pain. "Why did it have to be that young man who just got married, why the old widow, who was going to see her grandchildren?" they ask. "Why do this to poor people who already had so many troubles in life?" They begin doubting Allah's Wisdom, Justice and Mercy.
Man remains a hasty creature, judging situations and others superficially, mistrusting everyone. He even has the audacity to sit in judgment on his own Creator, The Most Merciful Ar-Rahman. He forgets the countless manifestations of His mercy in his own life, His wisdom in guiding his way in life, His justice that has not yet been completely manifested. For the benefit of doubting hearts and uncertain souls, let us examine the proof of our Merciful God.

If we only consider our own lives, we can find enough proof of the Mercy of Ar-Rahman From the time He designed us intricately in our mother’s dark wombs, till the time we emerged as incapable, weak infants in an unknown world, it is Ar-Rahman Who fed us and took care of our most private needs through a miraculous system inside the mother’s body. After leaving that security, it is He Who teaches the infant to suckle, it is He Who educates him from the start and enables him to survive in this world. None other than The Merciful sustains even those who are born with a disability. Many a times it is He who saves a child from fatal hazards that surround him that no parent can foresee or prevent.He is the One Who puts mercy in the heart of the mother so that she sacrifices her sleep, appetite and life to bring forth and nourish a child- not just amongst us sensible humans but even among wild animals. 
The Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us, “Allah has divided Mercy into one hundred parts, and He kept ninety-nine parts with Him and sent down one part to the earth and because of that one single part, His creatures are merciful to each other, so that even the mare lifts up its hoof away from its baby animal, lest it should trample on it.”   
                                                                                  (Sahih Bukhari)
Had it not been for this parental love, no new life would have been able to survive.
Then as we grow older, Ar-Rahman gives us the ability to express ourselves in words and those who cannot speak, in many other ways. He teaches us how to walk, love, eat, laugh, cry, and feel a rainbow of different emotions at exactly the time when we require these faculties. He teaches us to strive from the start and to understand that experience and knowledge come with pain, that walking cannot be learnt without falling. 

Then as we enter youth, it is Allah who patiently bears our newfound rebellion and our transgressions, waiting for us to return to Him. Is it not His overwhelming Mercy that even after sinning for a lifetime and living  a life of ingratitude and rejection for years, when at last His slave does turn to Him in repentance, He greets him with open arms and wipes out his past forever? Not only that, if His slave does righteous deeds, He replaces his sins with good deeds. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us that if a person takes one step towards Allah, He takes 10, if a person walks towards Him, Ar-Rahman runs to him. He rewards a believer’s good deeds by 10 or 700 times or more but never multiplies the punishment of a single sin, rather He rewards him even for an intended sin which his slave refrains from doing. This same Ar-Rahman, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us, is happier at the return of his repentant slave than a man who loses his provision-laden camel in a desert and when he is completely despairing of life, he finds it again (hadith).
Even parents disown or write-off a constantly disobedient offspring, they reach a point where they never want to look upon such a child again, but not Ar-Rahman. His love and mercy exceeds a mother’s love for her child. He hates punishing His slaves more than any parent would and he gives them many chances and warnings so as to avoid the Great Punishment. Our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us that He waits for His slaves who err in the morning that they might repent in the evening and descends to the lowest heaven in the third part of each night, calling out, “'Who will call on Me so that I may respond to him? Who is asking something of Me so I may give it to him? Who is asking for My forgiveness so I may forgive him?” (Bukhari and Muslim) He accepts repentance until a person’s last breath before he sights death.
On that Final Day, we will see the complete manifestation of His mercy as in this world He has sent only one part and kept the other 99 parts with Himself. We consider a natural disaster to be the greatest calamity, yet a greater calamity; 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 repay the debt of His limitless blessings. The Day when the mountains will be shattered and blown away like dust,  when the earth will be shaken to destruction and life will end; then the scales would be set up, the sun would be close, sweat would envelop everyone, thirst would be unbearable and the wait for the judgment, endless. Passing 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. It is this enormous worry that should give us sleepless nights spent in prostration and a constancy in our struggle.
Ar-Rahman will forgive many on that day. He will save many from the humiliation of exposing his sins in full view of others, 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. We are told that the raging Hell would call out for more and more, yet Ar-Rahman would 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 (swt) has said about Himself that “He has inscribed for Himself (the rule of) Mercy” (Quran 6:12), He is also “swift in taking account” (Quran 5:4) and “strict in punishment.” (Quran 2:196)
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.

So, the warnings, adversities, trials and punishments that come upon us in this world are for our own good. They are also a proof of Allah’s love for us, that 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.
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.
Allah says: “Indeed, Allah does not wrong the people at all, but it is the people who are wronging themselves.” (Quran-10:44)
Allah doesn’t punish us immediately for the wrongs we commit daily. He gives us many opportunities and ample time to take heed of his signs, warnings and verses. Were He to start punishing mankind for their ingratitude, there would be no life left on earth.
And if Allah were to seize mankind for their wrongdoing, He would not leave on it (the earth) a single moving creature, but He postpones them for an appointed term…” (Quran- 16:61)
We cringe and become infuriated when anyone tries to point out our mistakes. Yet lessons from the Sunnah teach us that Muslims suffered losses and setbacks, even during the life of our Prophet (peace be upon him), due to their own actions. The actions of a few Muslims during the Battle of Uhud turned a victory into imminent defeat. The Prophet (peace be upon him) himself was injured and many Sahaba died. The Quran taught the Muslims at this point to blame none but their own selves for their losses. Allah told them: “And Allah did indeed fulfill His promise to you when you were killing them (your enemy) with His Permission; until the moment you lost your courage and fell to disputing about the order, and disobeyed after He showed you (of the booty) which you love.” (Quran - 3:152)
We blatantly do all of the above: disobey Allah and His Messenger’s teachings every day, dispute with fellow Muslims over minor religious issues, run only after worldly gains and have lost all courage before the enemies of truth. We refuse prostrating 5 times a day (whereas Satan refused once and was doomed forever) and still expect no consequence of our actions? How Satan has made our deeds beautiful for us, how he has deluded us, how he has affected our very intellect that distinguishes us from other creatures!

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 sent me astray, I will surely sit in wait against them (humans) on Your straight path.” (Quran- 7:16) we should analyze our own actions and blame only our selves for the events in our life.
We see only apparent misfortunes such as poverty, disability, death as complete failure yet we fail to see how this could turn into eternal bliss. The blind have been promised Eternal Paradise and its visual treats (as reward for their faith, piety and patience) in return for the misery of not enjoying eye-sight in this world. The poor people will enter Paradise 500 years before the rich. The disabled and ailing will be rewarded for their suffering by having their sins expiated for every pain they go through. 
Our Prophet (peace be upon him) 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 mothers during childbirth or people who drown have been given good news of a grade of martyrdom. Children who die in their childhood (according to one view, even of those who are not believers) are admitted to Paradise. 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 (saw) said: “Yes,” She asked: “What will happen to them?” He (peace be upon him) 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, goals 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, as compared to the entire ocean.

O mankind! Verily, the promise of Allah is true. So let not this present life deceive you, and let not the chief deceiver (Satan) deceive you about Allah.” (Quran)
The question for us, rather for me is, what am I doing to receive Allah’s Mercy in this world and the next? What share of my time, money, efforts and talents have I dedicated to His cause? 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 I have passed and a merciful awakening. If my answer was the second, then this catastrophe has been a punishment for me.
At the end, I have myself to account for.