Practising Patience in adversity
Q: In our everyday lives, we face so many problems and at times we get so tired that we keep wondering, ‘where’s God’, we lose hope, we simply want everything to end. As a Muslim, please tell me, how does one handle these problematic situations?
A: If we look at the obstacles in life, we can put them under a variety of headings: Personal problems, family issues, financial dilemmas, work pressures and spiritual confusion. And there are many issues under these headings.
We have so many problems, so many obstacles that they are like illnesses. If we try to deal with them one by one we will never get through them. We need to identify them, put them in some general categories and tackle them as a group as opposed to trying to tackle each individual obstacle and problem.
To do this we have to first of all remove obstacles that are beyond our control. We have to be able to distinguish which obstacles are within our control and which ones are beyond our control. While we perceive the ones that are beyond our control as obstacles the reality is that they are not. They are the things that Allah has destined for us in our lives, they are not really obstacles, but we have misinterpreted them as being obstacles.
For example, in this time one might find oneself born black in a world that favors white people over black people; or born poor in a world that favors the rich over the poor, or born short, or crippled, or any other physical condition which is considered a handicap.
These are all things that were and are beyond our control. We did not choose which family to be born in to; we did not choose which body for our spirit to be blown into, this is not our choice. So whatever we find of these kinds of obstacles then we just have to be patient with them and realize that, in fact, they are not really obstacles. Allah told us: “…and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” (Qur’an, 2: 216)
So the obstacles that are beyond our control, we may dislike them and we may want to change them, and some people actually spend a lot of money trying to change them. Michael Jackson is a classic example. He was born black in a world that favors white people, so he spent a lot of money trying to change himself, but he only ended up making a mess of himself.
Inner peace can only be achieved if the obstacles that are beyond our control are accepted by us patiently as part of Allah’s destiny.
Know that whatever happens which we had or have no control over, then Allah has put in it some good, whether or not we are able to grasp what is good in it; the good is still there. So we accept it!
There was an article in a newspaper, which had a photograph of a smiling Egyptian man. He had a smile on his face from ear to ear with his hands stretched out and both thumbs sticking up; his father was kissing him on one cheek and his sister on the other cheek.
Underneath the photograph it had a caption. He was supposed to have been on a Gulf Air flight the day before, Cairo to Bahrain. He had dashed down to the airport to catch the flight and when he got there he had one stamp missing on his Passport (In Cairo you have to have many stamps on your documents. You get this person to stamp this and sign that and that person to stamp that and sign this) But there he was at the airport with one stamp missing. As he was a teacher in Bahrain and this flight was the last one back to Bahrain which would enable him to report back on time, missing it meant that he would have lost his job. So he nagged them to let him on the flight. He became frantic, started crying and screaming and going berserk, but he could not get on the plane. It took off without him. He went (to his home in Cairo) distraught, thinking that he was finished and that his career was over. His family comforted him and told him not to worry about it. The next day, he heard the news that the plane he was meant to be on crashed and everybody on board died. And then there he was, ecstatic that he did not make the flight. But the day before it was the end of his life, a tragedy that he did not get on the flight.
These are signs, and such signs can be found in the story of Musa and Khidr. When Khidr made a hole in the boat of the people who were kind enough to take him and Musa across the river, Musa asked why he (Khidr) did that.
When the owners of the boat saw the hole in the boat they wondered who did it and thought that it was a nasty thing to have done. A short while later the king came down to the river and forcefully took away all the boats except the one with a hole in it. So the owners of the boat praised Allah due to the fact that there was a hole in their boat. (This incident refers to a king who was an oppressor and was known for seizing every good boat by force, but the people who owned the boat were poor people and it was their only means of benefit so Khidr wanted the boat to appear to be faulty so that the king did not seize it in order for the poor people to carry on benefiting from it.)
(By Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips)