Allah subhanahu wa taala has Names and Attributes that are both Names of Beauty (al-Jamaal) and those of Majesty (al-Jalaal). So examples of the Names of Beauty would include الرحمن (the Compassionate), الرحيم (the Merciful), اللطيف (the Subtle) and so forth whereas Names of Majesty would include المنتقم (the Avenger), المذل (the Debaser), المانع (the With-holder) as well as others. Now the world that we live exists as the interaction and the manifestation of these divine attributes. And this is why it is a place of ease and happiness and also of hardship and sorrow. With this introduction, I would like to explore the concept of trials and tribulations as its understood in light of the first few verses of Surah al-‘Ankabut:
There is a very insightful hadith of the prophet (SAW), related in Sunan Abu Dawud on the authority of Abu Sa’id Khudri (RA), which mentions that the prophet (SAW) entered the mosque one day and found a man from the Ansar, who was known as Abu Umaamah, sitting there. He said, “O Abu Umaamah why do I see you sitting here in the mosque when it’s not a time of salah?” Abu Umaamah replied, “O prophet of Allah I am overwhelmed with worries and the debts that are upon me.” The prophet then responded, “Should I not teach you words that when you say them Allah will relieve you of your worries and arrange for your debts to be paid back? He said, “O messenger of Allah please do.” The prophet then said, “when you reach the morning or when you reach the evening, say O Allah I seek refuge in you from worry and sadness, and I seek refuge in you from inability and laziness, and I seek refuge in you from fear and miserliness, and I seek refuge in you from overwhelming debt and being overpowered by men.” (When relating this) Abu Umaamah said, “I did this (as instructed) and Allah relieved me of my worries and arranged for my debts to be paid back.”
If there is only one thing that’s certain about life, it is that it comes to an end. And this question of what is it that happens after death is a question that has intrigued us human beings since the beginning of time.
When we to look at the journey of a deceased human being, when left to natural causes, we can understand that at two levels. At the physiological level, the transformation that occurs is one that we can witness so we see that the heart stops beating, the lungs stop breathing, and the body is starved of blood and oxygen. This termination of blood flow to the outer extremes of the body leads to the impalement of the skin. Then with the oxygen cut off, cells begin to breathe anaerobically for a time, producing the lactic acid which causes the stiffening of the corpse’s muscles. Then, as the cells begin to decompose, the stiffening wanes, the temperature drops and the flesh begins to rot – until all that is left is dried-out bones.
One of the interesting things that we find in the Quran is that there is repetition of concepts, which in reality is a way of emphasizing the significance of any given concept. And the more likely it is for us to forget about that concept, the more frequently Allah (SWT) has mentioned it in the Quran. So Allah (SWT) for example frequently mentions the life of the Hereafter. Why? Because as human beings we have a tendency of overindulging in the affairs of this world and in the process forget about the accountability of the Day of Judgment. So the frequent mention of the Hereafter essentially serves as a constant reminder for us. One such often-repeated concept in the Quran, is that of taqwa.
We praise Allah (SWT) an abundant praise that He allowed us to live through an entire season of Ramadan, that He made the fasting and the Qiyam in the month of Ramadan easy for us, that He blessed us to spend the day of Eid together with our family and friends.
Now that the month of Ramadan is over, something that we should not loose sight of is that the month of Ramadan essentially is a month of training, which prepares us to meet the challenges we face outside this month. During the month of Ramadan, we see that the faith of the believers translates itself into righteous deeds. So we see the Muslims standing up at night to pray taraweeh. We see Muslims reciting Quran; many who recite three, four or more juz every day. We see Muslims praying to Allah seeking forgiveness for their sins. But such practices should not end with the month of Ramadan, instead they should carry on into the following months.
Allah ta’ala has blessed us that we are now at the doorsteps of another season of Ramadan. And we should have great gratitude to Allah that we were able to reach this far in the year for how many of our brothers and our sisters in the Ummah have passed away since the last Ramadan and hence are unable to take benefit of this month. And we cannot show enough gratitude to Allah for giving us this opportunity that perhaps our worship in this month will be a cause for us to enter paradise and to free our necks from the hell fire.
The month of Ramadan is a type of spiritual school to which we enter every year but yet unfortunately only few of us graduate. But Allah through His mercy has allowed us to come back to this school year after year that perhaps we eventually graduate through the lessons we draw from this month.
Allah (SWT) describes the very purpose of our existence in the Quran as ‘uboodiyyah:
Wa ma khalaqtul jinna wal insa illa liya’budoon
I have only created jinn and men that they may worship me.
The term ‘ibadah is very encompassing and there are many different forms of ‘ibadah. One of the many forms of ‘ibadah that we often do not appreciate to the extent that we should is Dua. Now when we talk about dua, there are many questions that come to one’s mind. What is dua? What are its blessings and its excellence? What is the proper etiquette that one must follow while making dua? Why is the dua of some people responded to and not that of the others? How can one increase the chances of getting one’s dua accepted? Also, if everything is already predestined, then what is the purpose of making dua?