بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.
وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ
Walanabluwannakum bishayin mina alkhawfi waaljooAAi wanaqsin mina alamwali waalanfusi waalththamarati wabashshiri alssabireena
And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient,
(Surah Al-Baqarah, Quran 2:155)
My dear brothers and sisters. All praises are due to Allah (swt), the One that has blessed us with the greatest blessing of all, which is that of imaan. Where would we be without imaan? We would be questioning our existence. We would be questioning every part of our being. We would be questioning every thought that we had, questioning every action that we took, questioning every relationship that we have. The doubt and the question becomes endless. Allah (swt) gives us imaan and He gives us the answers to our existence. He gives us the answers and the guidance that we need as human beings. Because as human beings, we realize very early on in our lives that we are limited.
Maybe when we are younger, we feel unlimited. We feel like we can do anything and we can figure anything out and that we understand everything. But as you learn and as you understand- the more you know, the more you realize there is to know. The more you realize that your wisdom is limited, the more you realize the limitations of your existence, the limitations of your understanding, the limitations of your abilities.
So all praises are due to Allah (swt) for that one great thing, which is that of imaan. May Allah (swt) give us strong imaan and conviction, despite the challenges and the difficulties of holding onto imaan in this day and age.
This past week, there was a great tragedy in Turkey and Syria where many people suffered the tragic result of an earthquake and the death toll is increasing 20,000+.
As believers sitting from over here, and seeing it on the news, and having the conversations within our families and in our community and amongst our friends- How are we understanding this type of event? How are we understanding this type of challenge and this type of tragedy? How do we as Muslims understand it? Because many people are asking, “Why does it happen? What is the wisdom?”
And as Muslims what do we believe? As Muslims, we have the answer. What do we believe? We believe that Allah (swt) is Al-Hakim. That He is the All-Wise and that He’s not wise on a one size fits all approach, but that He is wise on an individual level.
He is Al-Khabeer. He knows everything. He knows your whole life. He knows your whole background. He knows all the challenges and the the difficulties that you went through. He knows them. He is Al-Khabeer. He knows the minute details of every single human being, every single creation. He knows every minute detail.
He is Al-Latif. The one that pays attention to the most minute of details- not just our actions, but our thoughts- our innermost thoughts, the thoughts that we don’t even realize we have.
Allah is Al-Hakeem, and He is Al-Khabeer, and He is Al-Latif. That is how we start this conversation. We start this conversation that Allah (swt) is The Most Merciful and He has placed his mercy within us. His mercy is many, many, many multiples greater than our mercy- the mercy that we feel for that child that is left without their parents, for the family that loses the breadwinner, for the women that are left widowed, for the men that are left without their families. All of these tragedies and challenges and difficulties that result from this one incident and this one event as Muslims. The mercy that we feel in our heart towards these people, the empathy that we feel in our heart towards every single person that is suffering- that is something that comes from Allah (swt).
When the Prophet’s (pbuh) son Ibrahim died, he cried, and the people asked, “Oh Prophet of Allah, you cry. Don’t you tell us, Oh Prophet, to trust in Allah? Don’t you tell us that Allah has His wisdom and Allah has His reason, and Allah does everything for a reason, yet you cry, Oh Prophet?” Not questioning out of disrespect, but questioning out of respect and out of curiosity to understand.
We learned from that, that the question is okay, that the question existed in the time of the Prophet (pbuh) to understand. And the Prophet (pbuh) said,
هَذِهِ رَحْمَةٌ– these tears are a mercy, which Allah has placed in the heart of the believer.
So that is something which is important for us to understand. That this mercy that we feel towards people is coming from Allah (swt), who is the Most Merciful, and that whatever He does, He does with wisdom.
Now you might say, “Did Allah do this for a reason? What reason could there be for this? What reason could there be for this tragedy and this calamity?” And what’s interesting is the question itself. The question itself is interesting because this question itself, emanates from our existence here. It emanates from first world problems.
Do you understand first world problems? Our first world problem is, “My phone isn’t working so well. It’s taking 10 seconds to load. The thing that I want to do is not happening fast enough. This phone is now two years old. Let me get rid of it and get the latest and greatest.” So when we see a tragedy of this enormity, we think, “Whoa, how can this be? How can God allow this to happen? If there is a God, why would He allow such evil to exist?”
And then you see the images, and you see the videos. And you see a Muslim man stuck under the rubble with no hope. And he’s saying to his people, SubhanAllah, he is saying, “Get me the water for wudu. I am stuck in this rubble.”
And the people are saying, “You can do tayammum to pray. You don’t need the water for wudu. You’re in a situation where you can just tap the dirt and you will have wudhu and you can pray.”
And the man is determined. He says, “No, give me the water for wudu. These are my last moments on earth, then I wish to pray to Allah (swt).” SubhanAllah. Where are we and where are they?
Where are we and where are they? That when we see this enormous tragedy, the first thing we ask is, “why did Allah do this?” But these people who are suffering through it say, “let me worship my Lord. Let me spend my last minutes on earth praising and thanking Allah (swt). Where are we and where are they, my brothers and sisters?
So it’s not about, how do we answer this question? It’s about, why do we ask this question? Where are we? What is our situation that we must ask this question? Where is our imaan that we must ask this question? I’m not shaming you for asking the question. I’m simply pointing out that there’s another way to understand our existence on this earth.
And let’s not fall into the atheistic secular idea, right? This idea is the number one reason that people put for, “I don’t believe in God because there is suffering in the world.” That is the number one reason. And it’s interesting that the people who say this are the ones that are living in luxury, otherwise. They are living in luxury and they’ve become so used to luxury that they become entitled to a life without suffering, and a life without tragedy, and a life without difficulty and challenge.
But the people that are suffering the most, the people that don’t even have the medical infrastructure to deal with this tragedy. The people that don’t have the resources or the people or the equipment to remove this rubble- they’re using their hands. They’re using 10 people to remove a rock. The people that don’t have that are praising Allah (swt). They’re remembering Allah. They’re taking the lesson that you should take. So it’s a question for ourselves, first and foremost. How do we understand our existence? How do we understand challenge? How do we understand difficulty?
And let us understand what our deen, what our religion talks to us about when it comes to these situations. The Prophet (pbuh) told us an amazing thing, and it beats the secular idea right away. He said that, “Allah (swt), on the Day of Judgment, will take the person out of all of humanity who suffered the most and will dip that person into paradise. And then Allah will ask that person, “Have you suffered at all in the dunya (world)?”
And the person will say, “I have not suffered at all. My whole life was great.” Just after being dipped into paradise. Just after a moment in paradise. And that is what Allah has waiting for us. That is what trumps this argument. Because if you try to explain suffering without the hereafter, of course it’s going to be a challenge because all you see is this world.
So when you see this newborn who is left without a family, you think, “How can a God allow this?” But if that newborn is given an eternal life in paradise that lasts forever, where every moment is greater than all of the moments on Earth combined. Then would you say that the child suffered? Would you say that Allah was not merciful to that child?
Another thing we must understand is that generosity only exists when there’s scarcity. Just like we only know darkness because there is light, and we only understand light because there is darkness. If there was light all around all the time, we would not appreciate light. Generosity only exists because there is scarcity. Allah tells us in the Quran He’s given some people more and He’s given some people less, as a test to see what you will do. Not because He loves this person more or hates this person more, and for that reason, He has differentiated us. No, He said, “This is the way I created you as لِنَبْلُوَنَّكُم so that we can test you.”
What are you going to do? What are you going to do with your strength for those that are weak? What are you going to do with your upper station for those that have a lesser station? What are you going to do to give back?
Or are you going to feel entitled that you are deserving of your station? That you are deserving of your job, or that you are deserving of your luxury, or that you are deserving of your entitlements? And say, “How come everyone can’t do this? How come everyone can’t pick themselves up by the bootstraps and get this done just like me?”
So how do we understand this? Now someone might say, “Did Allah cause that in order to remind us? Did Allah cause that earthquake and that tragedy to remind us?” But that points, once again, to our egocentric way of thinking about the world. Once again, we’re stuck where we think first, from our first point of view.
Allah (swt) does not test one person at a time. Allah does not act in one dimension. Allah tests respond to all of creation. Can you say that any one part of creation exists in a vacuum? That any one part of creation exists in a silo? Or do we say that every part of creation is interconnected? That the greatest example for us of the existence of one God, of one Allah (swt), is the oneness of this creation. How everything interacts with itself and with every other thing!
In school, we learn about the ecosystems of the world. That humanity comes and disrupts the food chain and disrupts the whole ecosystem that has adapted to work together. And even after that disruption, the ecosystem readapts. So everything is interconnected. So just because you are being tested in one way does not mean that the other person is not being tested in another way.
Now another question that comes up is, “Is this tragedy, is this earthquake a punishment? Is this a punishment from Allah? Did these specific people do something to deserve this punishment?” And that’s a big question. In our sources, the Quran and the words of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), we are told that Allah punishes in the hereafter and in this world, we are told this. The Prophet (pbuh) told us that when there is an increase in fornication, or adultery, or the drinking of alcohol, consumption of intoxicants, and so on, then Allah punishes. This exists in our Sunnah.
But we cannot say that this specific person deserved this. That’s again, a one dimensional way of thinking and that is applying a judgment to Allah that we have no idea- that we are simply not qualified to make. A tragedy or a calamity can happen for a number of reasons. The Prophet (pbuh) suffered more than most of us.
He was born and his father had already passed away, in a time when your father was everything. You were the child of your father. You were not an individual. You were the child of your father, of your grandfather, and he was born without a father, and there were no social services. There was nothing to support other than the tribe. And a few years later, his mother passes away. Then he goes to the care of his grandfather who also passes away. So, by the age of eight, he had lost the three most important caretakers of his life. And he moves into the care of his uncle who has many children, who is poor, who is not able to afford, you know, anything really. And so the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) works from a young age because he must support himself and his uncle.
So the Prophet (pbuh) suffered more than most of us. He buried all of his children except for Fatima. He buried each and every single child of his other than Fatima. He suffered incredibly. So would you say that his suffering was a punishment? No. How did the Prophet (pbuh) explain suffering? How did he explain difficulty? He said that every single difficulty the believer goes through is an expiation, is a forgiveness. That explains it all. That it is a forgiveness. It is a preparation for meeting Allah (swt) with less of a burden.
So we know that the children who passed away in this tragic incident, who we have mercy towards, who we feel empathy towards, who we are in pain for their family- And the Prophet (pbuh) allowed us to feel pain for their family and to support them. Not to simply hand wave it away. We’re not doing that. But we’re saying that we know that those children who passed away in that event, they are in paradise. They are in paradise waiting for their parents. SubhanAllah. We ask Allah (swt) that He gives us imaan. We ask Allah (swt) that He helps us to understand as much as we are able with our limited human minds and understanding.
Ameen. Ya rabbul alameen.
أقول قولي هذا وأستغفر الله لي ولكم ولسائر المسلمين فَاسْتَغْفِرُوهُ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
I say what you have heard and I seek forgiveness from Allah for me and you from every sin.
I just keep thinking about that brother who asked for wudu water while he’s at the bottom of the rubble. I just keep thinking of him, and thinking about where I am and where he is? May Allah (swt) help us to have that kind of imaan. That in our last moments, we’re not thinking about all the things we could have done in the world, but we’re preparing ourselves for the next stage, preparing ourselves for what is to come, getting ready to meet Allah (swt). May all of our last moments look like the moment of that man. Ameen.
Now, what can we do? What are our action items? What is it that we as believers should do?
- We take the reminder. We take the understanding of our mortal existence. Not that we believe this world is it, but the way we live our life, it’s as if this is it. This is all there is. But this is a reminder of our mortality. This is a reminder of our limited existence and that there’s a whole world beyond.
- We take this as a reminder to turn back to Allah (swt). Don’t take it as, “I’m getting away from Allah because of suffering.” But take it as the believer takes it. Take it as a reminder to come back to Allah (swt) before your time comes. Before my time comes.
- To understand our station, our ability, our strength that Allah (swt) has given us, and the wealth that He has provided us- How can we use that wealth and those abilities towards helping these people that are in pain? To helping these people that need it most right now?
And to helping not just any people but our own Muslim brothers and sisters, because our Islam transcends race. It transcends every other identity. It transcends culture or language and all of this. We could go to Turkey. We could not understand anyone, and we could still say, “Assalamu Alaikum,” and we would hear, “Wa alaikum assalam.” We could go to the masjid and we could pray the same salah that we’re about to pray here.
So understand that connection to our Muslim brothers and sisters and act accordingly with your generosity. Not that it is something that you deserve. Not that it is something that you are giving. But it is their right upon us. It is our obligation. It is not something we are doing extra. It is not something that we are doing because we will feel good. No, we are doing it because it is an obligation of ours towards those that have lost so much.
And that if we were in their shoes, we would hope that Allah (swt) would send the help from our own Muslim brothers and sisters all around the world.
Another action point for us is to explain this concept within our families. Whether it is to our children, explain that Allah (swt), on the Day of Judgment, will ask for the person who suffered the most and give them a moment in paradise and it will be as if that person never suffered.
Tell them about the story of Musa (as) and Khidr. The story of how Musa saw the curtain was revealed for a second. Musa said, “Why did you kill this child?” And Khidr said, “He will never be patient enough. He will not be able to be patient when I complete this action.” And Musa says, “why did you do this?” And the curtain is lifted for a moment. And Khidr tells Musa about the future of this child- tells him about the future of the impact that this could have. Realize that there is wisdom beyond our wisdom, and that wisdom belongs to none other than Allah (swt).
So we ask Allah (swt) that He helps us to support our brothers and sisters. We ask Allah (swt) for strong imaan. We ask Allah (swt) to help us live through and give us resilience, sabr, and perseverance through the challenges and difficulties of our own lives. We ask Allah (swt) that He helps us to be grateful for all that we have and all the blessings that we have, and that greatest blessing of all, which is that of faith and imaan.
We ask Allah (swt) that He gives us faith in the hereafter, in paradise, in Allah’s reward and His mercy. We ask Allah (swt) that He helps us to gain an understanding of our deen and of our book, and of the way of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and to follow for the rest of our lives. We ask Allah (swt) that He makes our last words لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا ٱللَّٰهُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ ٱللَّٰهِ when we leave this world and that we leave this world with those words on our tongues. Ameen Ya Rabbul Alameen.
عِبَادَ اللّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
Servants of Allah. Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.
اُذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ الْعَظِيمَ يَذْكُرْكُمْ واشْكُرُوهُ يَزِدْكُمْ واسْتَغْفِرُوهُ يَغْفِرْ لكُمْ واتّقُوهُ يَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَمْرِكُمْ مَخْرَجًا
Remember Allah, the Great – He will remember you. Thank Him for His favors – He will increase you therein. And seek forgiveness from Him – He will forgive you. And be conscious of Him – He will provide you a way out of difficult matters.
And, establish the prayer.
What do you think? Share your reflections below.