If our lives were one steady line of contentment, life would be so easy. But that is not the way that Allah (ﷻ) decreed it for us. Many of us will speak of major periods of intense sadness for whatever the case might be, in our lives. Many people have been fortunate enough or perhaps they have been unfortunate enough, to have had in their lives moments of deep regret or disappointment or sadness. For many of us when we look back at the events of our lives we express our gratitude for these periods or moments when we fell or tumbled because of the sweep of events in our lives. At the time it happened, we said Alhamdu lillah, and we meant this. Today, which might be years later, there is a deep gratitude for the lessons we learnt at the time. Today also, when a murid experiences matters such as the death of a close relative or sudden poverty or illness, we thank Allah (ﷻ) for this human experience and we thank Him for the many lessons which flow from this experience.
Perhaps the one factor that can turn one’s direction almost totally to one’s Lord, is the illness which leads to death that happens to somebody very close to one, or even a sudden death without any illness. Perhaps one then realises the finity of one’s own life and also that there must have been one or other Divine Reason for Allah’s (ﷻ) action on one’s life. This is sometimes difficult to accept, but we do not understand the Workings of our Lord. Sometimes losing a child is a major trauma in one’s life. And the memories of that loss never leave. They are always there and they always shape other events in one’s life. Because of my personal experience of this, I have always said that the worst loss a person can experience is the loss of a child, especially a young child. It is very difficult to see one’s young offspring being buried under the sand. It is also very difficult to see one’s young offspring going through a period of intense illness which leads to death. But you know, we are always satisfied. Allah (ﷻ) shapes one’s heart, and we are satisfied. We do not know where the trauma comes from, but we are satisfied. Perhaps the death is a means of bringing out in one the kind of satisfaction one needs for one’s spiritual direction and growth. Perhaps it is so, one does not know. One looks at events in other people lives and one sees patterns, which one recognizes but which one doesn’t understand. One does not think today that there is anything that one can understand about one’s life. One does not think so. As Allah’s (ﷻ) “Hand” operates with one, and gives one direction, and sends one to one’s goals; what of these do we understand?
It is very clear that one’s life is shaped by the different kinds of experiences of events that one goes through. Some of these events are extremely happy ones and one enjoys them. Other events are not enjoyable, but they are also there to shape our lives and our characters. All the events that we pass through are God-made, as we believe. It is always Allah (ﷻ) at work. It is always His Decree operating, and it is also He that is the originator of all events. We as Muslims believe it like that. That is why whatever the nature of an event or the length of time that it endures, we always say Alhamdu lillah. We are not saying this because of the nature of event only, but more because Allah (ﷻ) is at work. We praise Him for His Work, whatever the outcomes.
Perhaps it should be stressed at this stage of this letter, that it is generally those events that, because of our humanity, that are bitter to us that shape our future directions. It is a strange thing to say, but trauma is like a scalpel in the hands of a doctor, it cuts and it shapes. And after the healing process, one faces another direction. There are so many examples of people who attained certain spiritual stations only after intense trauma. There are so many examples of how trauma reshaped the lives of people, put them on another path, and provided for them other goals.
One such trauma of course is poverty although death is also a severe one. It is only in poverty, through major decreases in one’s sustenance, that one comes to learn about the frailties of life and how easily circumstances change. And when one’s position improves, how easily one sees the “Hand” of God in operation. Poverty teaches us not to waste, for Allah (ﷻ) does not love those who waste. Poverty teaches one to share, for Allah (ﷻ) loves those who share what He grants them. Poverty teaches one to be humble because the spiritually-humble will be of the major inheritors of Paradise, and so many more things. When one passes through a stage of poverty, one should see it as a major blessing for one’s spiritual development. That is why many of the pious people are referred to as faqirs, those poor in relation to their Lord. They are those who have discarded the material world for the heavenly one. They came to know how poverty helps one in one’s growth. This does not mean that those who have an abundance of sustenance cannot become pious. There is a Tradition in which Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ) said that those who remember their Lord and they relax on couches of luxury will be given special graces in the Hereafter.
Most of our lives are shaped by what happens outside us. But it is what is inside us that impacts on those things that come from outside. And so we learn as we are shaped. It is therefore clear that there are a large number of variables, both inside one and outside that have made us what we are today. What we are today, we were of course not ten years ago, sometimes we have changed beyond recognition through major events in our lives. But sometimes we remain as we were. It is as our Lord has decided. I sometimes hope that in the Hereafter, I would be given some understanding of the lives of human beings, and perhaps of my own life. We ask our Lord to open to us such doors of understanding, amin.