Here I was, seated in a comfy brown leather chair in a doctor’s office. I was pacing mentally, in anticipation; as I stared at the degrees and certificates that decorated his walls. All of a sudden, the door opened. Finally he showed up, I thought, as the doctor took his seat.
The doctor looked up and asked, “Have you heard of Mario Lemieux?”
What Canadian hasn’t, I thought. He was only the greatest hockey player to wear a Pittsburg Penguins uniform. “Of course I have, but what about him?” I replied.
“Do you know he had Hodgkin’s disease in the prime of his career?” the doctor said.
Tell me something I don’t know, I thought.
The doctor continued, “And he resumed his playing career after it, as well.”
Great, he was able to recover, wait, is this doctor trying to tell me something I thought. Was the surgery and series of scans amounting to this?
In that moment, time stood still and I couldn’t make sense of anything. Or perhaps, everything became so vividly clear. I felt something strong overcome me. I didn’t know what to do, what to think or who to turn to – a moment of despair. Was I approaching death?
Despair, Webster’s describes it as, to lose all hope or confidence. What the dictionary cannot describe is the feelings that envelopes a person in the state of despair. Let’s recall a moment where we lost all hope and our confidence shattered.
This state is usually accompanied with spurts of anger and perpetual frustration. It’s a moment when one feels at their wits end. “I’ve tried every viable alternative but the sum is consistently unfavourable” (or presumably so). Patience and hope for better days is what we’re hanging on to by when that grip is loosening. The toxic energy starts to course through the veins. It’s infectious, and the negativity begins to overwhelm us. One is at their most vulnerable state and feels all alone, left to our own devices. The dictionary description cannot express that.
What makes matters worse is sometimes we lack the verbiage to communicate our suffering or simply choose not to. Compound that with: when you do articulate yourself your audience cannot comprehend. Worse, they may even judge you. This is the temporal abode of many, which is garnished with the outward façade of a fierce warrior. In this state, one’s mind, body and soul is fragile. This fragility of the mind can also lead us to reevaluating deeply rooted core beliefs. This sort of quest is truly encouraged. However, one should be cognizant of the sciences required.
As the English proverb goes, “there is a tool for every task.” What are these tools for life? Quran and Sunnah (tradition of the prophet Muhammad PBUH), Allah SWT tells us in the Quran that challenges/tribulations are a part of life.
We created death and life that He may try you; which of you is better in deeds. And he is the All Mighty the Most Forgiving. [Surah Mulk]
Allah (SWT) is reminding us that he will test us and there will be challenges, trials and tribulations.
We will surely test you by means of fear, hunger and loss of wealth, life, and fruits (of labour). [Surah Baqara]
In this verse Allah depicts 5 area in which man (proverbial) will be tested or tried: 1. Fear 2. Hunger 3. Loss of wealth 4. Life 5. Fruits (of labour)
Give glad tidings those who patiently persevere. Who when afflicted with calamity say, Truly to Allah we belong to Him we shall return.They are those on whom are the Salawat (i.e., who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His mercy, and it is they who are the guided ones. [Surah Baqara]
I want us to really ponder this verse, which comes right after. Take a minute and re-read this verse. The beauty of the Quran is, the more you let it “marinate” in your soul, the sweeter it gets. Anticipate challenges, embrace them (easier said than done) and put your trust in Allah.
Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope.[Surah Baqara]
We have been provided the “swiss army knife” to life. We simply must explore the modern day usage and application. During this state of duress, enduring patiently and with dignity will provide spiritual growth and unimaginable benefits. The proof is in the pudding. To aide oneself in this journey, identify a sojourner. One who would listen to your grief, boost your confidence and lessen your hearts load. The prophetic tradition of Yaqoob (AS) – in this scenario – is mentioned as follows.
I only complain of my grief and sorrow to Allah. [Surah Yusuf]
Really think about that. Who better than our Lord?! The one who created us! Allah states in the Quran:
And your Lord says, call upon me, verily I shall respond. [Surah Ghafir]
These are opportunities for us to establish a relationship with our creator. Challenges are also an indication of Allah’s grace on his servant.
If Allah loves a people He tests them. [Tirmidhi]
Why would he test those who he loves? Allah says in the Quran:
Do people think that they will be left alone to simply allege,we believe and not be tested? We have tested those who preceded them in order that Allah will make evident which of them are truthful and which of them are liars. [Surah Ankaboot]
These Ayah (verses) are very explicit. We know challenges will convolute our path, but we must bear them accordingly. Allah is vetting us to see who amongst us the true believers are. Truly think about that. Are we not vetting for positions in our day to day life? This is a universal system. Those who are closer to Allah are challenged the most. As its mentioned in the Quran:
And when his Lord put Ibraheem to test. [Surah Baqara]
Ibraheem (AS) was put through many challenges. At a young age he confronted his father and his whole community about idolatry. His own people persecuted him and threw him into a blazing fire. He was ordered to leave his wife and young child in a barren land. He was ordered to sacrifice his own son Ismaeel. These are tall orders but examples of how Allah tries those he loves.
The verse carries on:
With his commandments and he completed them successfully. [Surah Baqara]
Ibraheem (AS) fulfilled all of the mandates in an exemplary fashion. Thus he was graced with the title Khaleel ullah (Friend of Allah).
Imagine a person who lost his father before birth. He then loses his mother at the age of six. Two years later his grandfather, who was rearing him passes away. This child is now raised by his uncle. As a young man, once beloved to his own, now reviled by them. They boycott him and humiliate him by any means. His beloved wife and uncle pass away at a critical juncture in his life. He is forced to emigrate from his native land. All his male children die at a young age. These are just a few of the trials our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) faced. Aisha (RA) narrates:
I never saw anyone more tested with pain than the Messenger of Allah (SAW). [Bukhari]
This is our Syed (beloved), the Imam of the Prophets and he too, was tried in a fashion that would be unbearable to most. We must accept these challenges head on. We have the strength and come fully equipped to address these trials. We may not have those characteristics but they can be fostered. This will ensure we keep the feelings of despair at bay. Allah (SWT) says in the Quran:
Do not despair from Allah’s mercy. [Surah Zumar]
When all else has failed we should be mindful that Allah’s mercy is far greater than one can imagine. We must learn to take precautionary measures, our due diligence, and leave the rest in the hands of Allah.
Abu Hurairah (RA) narrates from the Prophet (SAW):
I am to my servant, as he perceives me to be. I am with him where remembers me. The Holy Prophet (SAW) continued saying; By Allah! He is more pleased with the repentance of a servant of his than one of you who finds something (camel) lost by him in the desert. Allah says: one who advances towards me by a hand’s length, I will advance towards him one arm’s length. He who advances towards me by an arms length, I advance towards him by two arms length. If a servant of mine comes towards me walking, I go towards him running. [Bukhari]
While this hadith has many beautiful points to ponder, I would like to reflect on two of them.
Allah is to us as we perceive him to be. If we expect that Allah will not assist us, then unfortunately, that may be the case. We should accept that Allah is our savior and our guardian. That whatever trials and tribulations befall us, Allah will give us the strength to navigate through it. An added blessing we’ll notice is spiritual growth and gifts from the treasures of Allah.
Secondly, Allah is inviting us to him. He is encouraging us as his servants to turn to him. That in the deepest darkest moments of ours, if we remember Allah he is with us. Any actions to please him are reciprocated exponentially. Let’s focus on establishing that connection with our creator.
All (SWT) encourages/invites us to seek his good fortune, as mentioned earlier:
And your Lord has said: Ask of me, I verily will respond. [Surah Ghafir}
Allah has given us such powerful tools to leverage his good fortune. Its upon us to illicit that connection. In doing so, one will notice that despair fades to hope