Yesterday June 9th 2016, the 4th of Ramadan, the nation buried the Legend Muhammad Ali, may Allah have mercy on his soul. Tears streamed down my face as I watched the live broadcast of his Janazah. Then I recalled his words when asked about how he felt about being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Syndrome. Brother Muhammad Ali said, “God gave me Parkinson’s Syndrome to show me I am not ‘The Greatest’ He is.” In the midst of affliction he was able to clearly see the blessing. It occurred to me that in sorrow there is always a blessing. We might not think so, but it is an emotion that we ought to be equally grateful for as we are joy and happiness. You know why? Because our sorrows free us from attaching ourselves ourselves to people and things in this life to the point that we venerate them. We make them hallow when in reality they are shallow.
As humans we love life. It’s natural. But as Muslims celebrating and venerating life to the point that it becomes sacred is an issue. Why should life itself become the deity we worship andlive and die for, when in reality it will perish: “All that exists upon it will vanish/ There remains but the Countenance of your Lord, the Owner of Majesty and Glory” (Qur’an 55:26-27). In reality we are so invested in this life. So attached to it. So entangled in it. It controls us, for we lose sleep over it. It determines our moods, makes us happy, sad, anxious, stressed. When things go well we are elated, and when things don’t we fall into depression. We are like children at a candy store, and when our Moms say we can’t go into the candy store we cry like the world has come to an end. Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) created us this way, “Surely man is created of a hasty temperament/ Irritable (discontented) when evil touches him/ And when good touches him, withholding [of it].” (Qur’an 70:19-21) So, Allah created us this way—hasty temperaments, irritable and discontent in times of affliction and all.
That does not mean Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) hasn’t provided us with a solution to this miserable state of living. We’ll get to the solution at the end of this piece.
So, in essence we need to see life for what it is: it and everything in it is temporary. Money comes and goes. It is earned and it is spent. It is gained and it is lost. Pillars in our lives die. People we love and consider our backbones change in a heartbeat and leave us. Positions we have achieved, celebrated and held we will eventually retire from. We only realize this reality when sadness and affliction wake us up to them , because in the hustle and bustle of life we tend to forget. Our sorrows come to remind us not to attach ourselves to people and things but rather to the One, Allah. The Irreplaceable. The Unchangeable.The Constant Giver. The Listener to Duas. The One who never disappoints. Allah says, “And do not invoke with Allah another deity. There is no deity except Him. Everything will be destroyed except His Face. His is the judgement, and to Him you will be returned.” (Qur’an 28:88) So there is a higher purpose to calamities in our lives, no indeed they are gifts for Allah says:
No calamity befalls on the earth or in yourselves but is inscribed in the Book of Decrees, before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah/ In order that you not despair over what has eluded you and not exult [in pride] over what He has given you. And Allah does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful. (Qur’an 57:22-23)
For calamities to build us and not break us, we need to be grateful for them. Then we ought to ponder on the wisdom behind them. Remember Brother Muhammad Ali’s saying, “God gave me Parkinson’s Syndrome to show me I am not ‘The Greatest’ he is.”
But how does one attain this state of seeing the blessing in affliction? Yes,“Surely man is created of a hasty temperament/ Irritable (discontented) when evil touches him/ And when good touches him, withholding [of it]” (Qur’an 70:19-21) but Allah adds to this verse and says, “Except those devoted to Salat (prayers)/ Those who are constant at their prayer” (Qur’an 70:22-23). That is those who maintain remembrance and connection with Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) through Salaah (prayer). Who keep the lines of communication with Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) open at all times. But wait there is more, “And those in whose wealth is a recognized right / For the beggar who asks, and for the unlucky who has lost his property and wealth, (and his means of living).” (Qur’an 70:24-25) Your wealth is not just money, but all that you possess and love. Teach yourself to give away what you love (even your comfort), or part of that which you love to break your attachment to it. Say to all that you possess and love, “I possess you, you do not possess me,” so that when you do lose some of it, it’s no big deal you are in control and it is not in control of you. I’ll conclude with another of Muhammad Ali’s quotes: “Inside of a ring or out. Ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.”
May Allah have mercy on Brother Muhammad Ali. May Allah have mercy on those who left this world . May Allah have mercy on us the living who are with each day closer to the end of this temporary journey called life .