“ […] Allah is the best of all planners.” [Quran 8:30, 3:54]
We spent a lot of time planning everything out in the previous year. In general, no plan has a 100% success rate but in 2020, the surprising blow dealt to us through a pandemic was a large-scale disruption in a very long time.
“ […] My planning is flawless.” [Quran 7:183]
Whenever something happens that we perceive negatively, we often wonder why. We try to figure out why the said negative events took place and what we might have done wrong. We grieve, doubt, and think about what to do ahead in future. All these phenomena were greatly amplified as the threats posed by COVID-19 grew and further grow as we hear about the new mutant strain of COVID-19.
People, regardless of their religion wonder why things happen.
Through the lens of Islam, we can answer that question in the following ways:
Events fall upon us as punishments or as reminders so that we may return to guidance
“Corruption has spread on land and sea as a result of what people’s hands have done, so that Allah may cause them to taste ˹the consequences of˺ some of their deeds and perhaps they might return ˹to the Right Path˺.” [Quran 30:41]
It is becoming increasingly difficult to reach common ground with modernizing cultures, exposure, and religion. A significant proportion of Muslims make a sacrifice in part of religion to keep up with modern trends. Calamities can be said to fall upon us as a reminder of religion so that we may correct the decisions we make.
Good and bad things happen as a test of gratitude or patience.
“Beware of a trial that will not only affect the wrongdoers among you.” [Quran 8:25]
While punishments and reminders hit hardest to those who have gone astray, many calamities also affect those who have been on the right path. The above cited verse shows that Allah often sends calamities to everyone—whether guided or not. And these calamities are either a test or a punishment from Allah; but the purpose of these calamities is always bringing people closer or their creator and to learn lessons from their previous mistakes.
“We will certainly test you with a touch of fear and famine and loss of property, life, and crops. Give good news to those who patiently endure—who, when faced with a disaster, say, “Surely to Allah we belong and to Him we will ˹all˺ return.”” [Quran 2:155-156]
Patience during tests will help as tests are for good and expiate sins.
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “If Allah wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him with trials.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 5645)
Abu Sa’id and Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Never a believer is stricken with a discomfort, an illness, an anxiety, a grief or mental worry or even the pricking of a thorn but Allah will expiate his sins on account of his patience”. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. Riyad As Salihin Arabic/English book reference: Book 1, Hadith 37
Tests can be hard. Even the prophet and his companions were worried and asked about Allah’s help at times of severe calamity.
“Do you think you will be admitted into Paradise without being tested like those before you? They were afflicted with suffering and adversity and were so ˹violently˺ shaken that ˹even˺ the Messenger and the believers with him cried out, “When will Allah’s help come?” Indeed, Allah’s help is ˹always˺ near.” [Quran 2:214]
Accepting Qadr (Destiny or fate) will help battle undesirable qualities of the self and make space for desirable ones
Accepting fate will help us come to terms with many things that happen to or around us. It will also help inhibit feelings of ego, self-centrism, and allow gratitude, patience, and more down-to-earth qualities to sprout within us.
“No calamity ˹or blessing˺ occurs on earth or in yourselves without being ˹written˺ in a Record before We bring it into being. This is certainly easy for Allah. ˹We let you know this˺ so that you neither grieve over what you have missed nor boast over what He has granted you. For Allah does not like whoever is arrogant, boastful—” [57:22-23]
A resolution to make for 2021
This new year, I sat among my family and relatives after watching the fireworks at a rooftop around a bonfire. Instead of a camping horror story, the conversation revolved around our lessons from 2020 and what we want to do in 2021. I was wearing a fancy combination of red and black with a hat. I am sure the level of seriousness that would have been given to the sermon I was delivering would have been very different if I had said the same things with the same outfit in a backward/traditional setting. The point of conversation would most likely divert to the color of my clothing and my reluctance to dress traditionally, although my level of religious understanding tells me that there are not many provisions on that rather than to cover appropriately.
As I have grown older, many questions have surrounded me in terms of religion. Some easy to answer and even the contrary. They revolved around music, interactions among genders, sense of fashion and clothing, how much and how to cover oneself, consumption of intoxicants, traditional practices, and much more. Over the years, I have seen a lot of missing puzzle pieces among a good proportion of those who have been Muslim by virtue of birth. We tend to attempt answering complex questions and indulge in controversies without knowing basics of what and why we are Muslim, what we pray, and our other basic foundations. Those who have reverted to Islam have shown a stronger foundation. Among those who circled our bonfire at new year was also a woman who reverted to Islam at the age of 21. Her story was a testament to how many born Muslims take the religion for-granted and miss out on important details. As a person who was searching for the truth since her childhood, she talked about her understanding of Islam from scratch by her free-will through the Quran and Hadith.
Clearly, our first step to become better Muslims is to drop trivial conversations and return to starting from basic and authentic sources (The Quran and Hadith (sayings of the prophet [PBUH])) and understand Islam in an unadulterated form.
Working Towards Positive Changes and Enforcing our Resolution
Making any change requires perseverance. We often teach others that failures do not imply that the person is not good at something, but that they need to keep trying and they will eventually reach where they want to be. Yet, when the matter is about religion and a person is unable to do something, they say that “it is simply not destined.” We must understand that destiny is a little more complex than that and it does not infringe upon the freedom of choice given to humans to a good extent.
A young man who drank wine brought to Khalifah Umar, when he saw him, Umar said, “Carry out al-Hadd (the punishment fixed by the Noble Qur’aan or the Sunnah of the Noble Prophet, peace be upon him) on him,” but the young man said, “By Allah O Commander of the Believers, Allah decreed that I drink wine.” Upon hearing this Umar said, “”Carry out Al-Hadd on him; the first time for drinking wine and the second one because he invents a lie against Allah.” Then, he said, “Woe to you man, Qada’ (the preordainment) of Allah never deprives you of the free will nor does it cause you any harm.” (Source)
The first step to change is that we must be determined to work towards it. While the will of Allah is unquestionable, the following verse highlights the importance of individual effort:
“Allah will never change the state of a person unless they are willing to change it themselves.” [Quran 13:11]
Another perspective and state of mind that was suggested by the revert I talked about earlier was that our Islamic goals can be a backward working plan to achieve a bigger goal. The bigger goal is that we must want to see Allah in heaven. She suggested that we work backwards from that goal. What must we do to achieve it? As we answer subsequent questions, we set long term and short term goals and make alterations to our actions, beliefs, and mind set to ultimately achieve a much bigger and valuable goal. This strategy can work better than plainly setting short term goals and targets.
Begin working towards your resolution as soon as possible. You do not have to revolutionize overnight. Consider the message and see how you should move ahead. Affirm your commitment by reaffirming the resolutions in the comments section below.
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