By Sheikh Furqan Jabbar
With the recent shooting on Martin Place in Sydney, followed by the mass killing of children in Peshawar and then another terrible tragedy in Cairns, members of the community, be they believers or non-believers, asked a simply and salient question; why is this happening? Why does God allow this to happen?
For the rational mind, it is not conceivably possible to reconcile insanity or fanaticism. The Muslim, as well as being content with whatever Allah has decreed, becomes content with the fact that these horrific occurrences, albeit non-specifically, have perhaps been foretold by the Prophet (peace be upon him) over fourteen-hundred years ago and are a testament to his truthfulness:
- Abu Musa (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Near the establishment of the Hour there will be days during which (religious) knowledge will be taken away and general ignorance will spread, and there will be al-Harj in abundance, and al-Harj means killing.” [Sahih Bukhari]
- “The Prophet (peace be upon him) informed us that towards the end of times, there will be Harj. I (Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari (may Allah be pleased with him)) asked: “And what is Harj?” He said: “Lies and killings!” We said: “Even more than now?” He said: “It will not be the disbelievers killing you, rather, you will be killing each other, until a person kills his neighbor, and his uncle and his cousin and his relatives!”
We asked: “And while the Book of Allah will be still with us?!” He said: “While the book of Allah will be still with you.” We said: “Glory be to Allah! And while our intellects are awake?!” He (peace be upon him) said: “No, no, the intellects of the general masses at that time will be deceived! They will be following fools that have no intellects themselves. They will be assuming they have a (legitimate) cause, but they will not have a (legitimate) cause.” [Ahmad, 19492, Ibn Majah, 3959, Ibn Hibban, 1870 – Silsilah Sahihah, 1682 – Authentic].
Before the Prophet (peace be upon him) was sent, or all of the Prophets for that matter. We are told in the Qur’an, that Allah, the Almighty, proclaimed gave the angels news regarding the creation of mankind. Being that the creature was one who possessed the capacity for disobedience, the angels voiced their concern for man was a creature, not all too different from the previous one that was given stewardship over the earth. In their desire to understand and to benefit from the wisdom of their Creator, they asked:
أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَنْ يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاءَ وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ ۖ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
“Would you make upon it (i.e. the earth), someone who will wreak mischief upon it and shed blood whilst we glorify Your praises and sanctify You?” [al-Baqarah 2:30]
This concern which the angels raised was a very real concern, as it is one which humanity itself may ironically agree with. Nonetheless, Allah, out his supreme wisdom, offered an answer which they could not possibly disagree with or find fault in even if it was, at least outwardly, brief and simple. He, the Almighty, said:
إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ
“Surely, I know that which you do not know.” [al-Baqarah 2:30]
Allah, out of his complete knowledge and wisdom, knew full-well that several manners of evil, including the shedding of blood, would be committed upon the earth by this creation of His. Nonetheless, His Creation; the whole of humanity, was created for a grand purpose. Regardless of whether it is one we can fathom, it is nonetheless one which ultimately outweighs any kind of evil that can be committed by anyone originating from it.
Within this higher purpose, Allah has decreed certain members of humanity remain as tests or trials for others:
وَجَعَلْنَا بَعْضَكُمْ لِبَعْضٍ فِتْنَةً أَتَصْبِرُونَ
“We have made some of you as trials for others, will you not be patient?” [al-Furqan 25: 20]
And these trials, of course, are not intended to harm you, but rather increase you in your status for Allah, the Almighty, says:
الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا
“It is He who has Created life and death, so that He may see which one you is best in deed.” [al-Mulk 67: 2]
In order to gain contentment with this reality, the believer must firstly form an understanding that whatever has been decreed by Allah from the difficulties and challenges of the world are ultimately better for him or her. Perhaps these problems or difficulties which we have observed or experienced are a way to reacquaint ourselves with a newly invigorated servitude towards Allah. And whatever they are, the only acceptable way of dealing with them is through patience rather than inactivity. For it goes without saying that the Islamic approach to patience implies initiative and optimism, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Strive to do that which will benefit you and seek the help of Allah, and do not feel helpless.” [Muslim]
No doubt, these lessons are easy to write about, or even read. For some, more than others, these principles will remain as a lifelong goal. Part of overcoming the challenges which we find life offering us is to remain positive, not necessarily for the future, but for the afterlife. In one particularly uplifting verse, Allah, the Almighty describes one of the utterances of the people of Paradise:
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي أَذْهَبَ عَنَّا الْحَزَنَ
“Praise be to the One Who has removed depression from us!” [al-Faatir 35: 34]
The implication of this verse is that the people of Paradise did not experience an existence who could be described as carefree, rather it was one which it fair share or burdens. Perhaps the believer may find solace in the fact that whatever difficulties he or she experiences in the life of this world are not for nothing but rather to make him or her worthy of place of perpetual peace and beauty, and what greater joy can be there be than this?