وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوفْ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الأَمَوَالِ وَالأنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ
“And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to the patient ones.”
This aayah randomly popped into my mind today. I had been without my meds since last week because I had to order them elsewhere. And the sudden withdrawal was killing me. My brain just crashed. I was putting all my efforts into being mindful, staying grounded in the now so as not to get washed away by the inner turmoil caused by the abrupt disappearance of neurotransmitters. My body felt like lead, I could barely get myself to get out of bed. In such moments of helplessness, I always ask Allaah for help. I would never ever have made any progress whatsoever if I didn’t have Allaah to turn to. Anyway, I wanted to get dressed and go out, so I was making ducaa that Allaah makes it easier for me to get up. And as I was putting on my socks, this aayah popped into my mind.
And I wondered: what does the loss of things have to do with patience? I tried to remember the succeeding ayah:
الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُواْ إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ
“Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: “Truly! To Allaah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.”
and then I thought: why is calamity tied to the istirjaac (saying innaa lillaah wa innaa ileyhi raajicun)? The third ayah lined up thusly:
أُولَـئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ وَأُولَـئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ
“They are those on whom are the Salawaat (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. “
and once again, I mused:what is salawaat? and why salawaat and mercy? And how does all of that culminate in guidance?
You know when you feel a sneeze is about to come on? Or when you see someone who you vaguely remember and you stop to try to piece your visual memory together to know where you saw this person? Yeah, that’s how I feel when I have epiphanies coming on: I have scattered pieces that I’m suspecting would fit perfectly.
I continued to mull over this as I went hiking with my dad. And it hit me: detachment.
Loss of wealth and the lives of loved ones and sustenance and safety – the common denominator is that these are things we are very attached to, and to withstand the pain of detachment is like ripping off a bandaid on a fresh wound. You have to be grounded in something deep in order to be patient.
That’s why Allaah mentioned in the verse that they remind themselves of where they came from and where they are going: to break the spell of the suffering of detachment. To orient themselves in consciousness. To prevent being swept away by inner turmoil. To ground themselves.
And note how Allaah words these calamities: ‘shay`in minal khawf’, a small part of fear. and: ‘ naqsin minal amwaal’ a reduction in wealth.
not: complete and utter fear, or, a total loss of wealth.
This shows that the calamity isn’t to inflict pain, but to bring about something better.
Allaah never puts you through difficulties to punish you, but to cleanse and remind you.
And to elevate you. Look back on your biggest calamities and losses: friends you lost freed up space for better friends, money lost brought you back to a reality you were escaping and thus brought you back to yourself, heartbreak paved the way for someone who would nurse your wounds, not cause them.
Leaving the status quo and what we are attached to is always painful. But to be grounded, to be conscious, requires that one is open to life, open to feeling whatever emotions come. And through the same channel one felt great pain, is the one in which mercy from Allaah descends, to soothe the ache, to dull the loss.
Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.
— Leo Tolstoy
And the degree of pain, the degree of suffering is in accordance to how little patience one has. Patience doesn’t mean that one likes what has happened, but it means that one isn’t falling apart or catastrophizing because of that pain. It affords one emotional stability. This matters greatly because it’s what decides whether the pain will wear off or continue to reverberate because one is refusing to accept the situation at hand.
This act of being grounded is what guides one. It’s what keeps someone steadfast on the path, long after the rush of enthusiasm and eemaan has worn off. Long after the immediate gratification of walking the straight path is gone. This is why the two pillars of eemaan, (faith), is sabr (patience) and shukr (gratitude). Patience to keep one grounded through the difficulties, and gratitude to keep one cognizant of Allaah through the good times and prosperity. And one is forever suspended between struggle and blessings, often simultaneously.
The path to Allaah is traversed through the heart. The heart is the battle field of one’s evil and good and it’s through the heart one gains or loses in the Hereafter. The purpose behind Allaah sending down divine books and prophets isn’t to establish a caliphate or to tell people about hell and jannah.
It’s wholly to bring the heart back to its natural calibration of tawheed – the heart having a singular focus in its longing and adoration and need. The ideal state of a human is one devoid of attachments to superficiality, to power, to base desires, to everything that unleashes the beast within the human. That state of detachment – to whatever degree- is not an absolute one. One can’t exist in a void. Detachment from other things entails attachment to the creator of those things. That’s called cubudiyyah ( state of servitude). And it’s in that ideal state that humans are born in, and which is conducive to goodness. One doesn’t have to necessarily be Muslim to do good. They may do good because they have retained some of their innate goodness. But the state of servitude, the purpose of life can’t be completed without the conscious decision to direct one’s self towards Allaah, the creator and sustainer of the universe and everything in existence.
This is why the prophets and those most like them in piety were the most tested: to bring them closer to Allaah, to make their journey smoother through spiritual minimalism. It’s imperative to understand this, because it shifts the focus from ‘this is happening TO me’ to ‘ I’m going through this to grow through this’. And this is what’s called an internal locus of control, one of empowerment and resilience.
Before one is elevated, one has to dig deep and lay the foundation, the roots. One has to give up a lot. Look at Yusuf calayhissalaam: it was only after he lost his family, his dignity AND his freedom that he was appointed to the highest of position of power in Egypt. Not that this was the aim when he remained grounded throughout those years, but he was being prepared rigorously to shoulder such heavy responsibility. Responsibility that many cave under and take to dictatorship and genocide and oppression because their emotional instability unleashes their inner demons.
Allaah contrasts what happens when one is called to be raised, to be made conscious and ‘woke’, but one can’t seem to let go of the attachments:
وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ الَّذِيَ آتَيْنَاهُ آيَاتِنَا فَانسَلَخَ مِنْهَا فَأَتْبَعَهُ الشَّيْطَانُ فَكَانَ مِنَ الْغَاوِينَ
“And recite (O Muhammad ) to them the story of him to whom We gave Our Ayaat (proofs, evidences, lessons, signs, .), but he threw them away, so Shaytaan followed him up, and he became of those who went astray.”
لَوْ شِئْنَا لَرَفَعْنَاهُ بِهَا وَلَـكِنَّهُ أَخْلَدَ إِلَى الأَرْضِ وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ
“And had We willed, We would surely have elevated him therewith but he clung to the earth and followed his own vain desire.”
He made a choice, and that choice closed the doors to progress and growth, and it opened the doors to evil. HE opened the door to his own demise.
When we fail to heed our intuition calling us to change, we go through calamities to wake us up. That’s if Allaah knows that it’ll do us good. For those who are obstinate in the face of the truth, they are left undisturbed. Look to fircawn, look to the West, look to Iblees.
Pain heralds the birth of our true selves. It’s outgrowing immaturity and a shallow ego. It’s a kind of death of everything one *isn’t* , where one leaves behind comfort zones.
And it is as Rumi said:
The wound is the place where the Light enters you.
Detachment doesn’t imply indifference. It means independence of. It means that even if loved ones leave, if you lose the dream job, whatever – that you *will* be ok. That your core is beyond the reach of the fluctuation of this world, and it lies nestled in a state of being, not a state of having. When this becomes the case of the heart, it clears your insight and intuition and understanding of the truth.
“Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can be obtained only by someone who is detached. ”
— Simone Weil