Friday, April 1, 2016

Words on Ambition (2008)

What should the life of a good Muslim man be like? Well, let's see what the Koran says about it.

"And We have commended unto man kindness toward parents. His mother beareth him with reluctance, and bringeth him forth with reluctance, and the bearing of him and the weaning of him is thirty months, till, when he attaineth full strength and reacheth forty years, he saith: My Lord! Arouse me that I may give thanks for the favor wherewith Thou hast favored me and my parents, and that I may do right acceptable unto Thee. And be gracious unto me In the matter of my seed. Lo! I have turned unto Thee repentant, and lo! I am of those who surrender (unto Thee). Those are they from whom We accept the best of what they do, and overlook their evil deeds. (They are) among the owners of the Garden. This is the true promise which they were promised (in the world)." (Al-Ahqaf : 15-16)

This implies that by the age of forty a man should be fulfilled, i.e., he should have a home, a wife and children, among other things. If we look around us, that's what we find. Most men marry and beget children even before the age of forty.

But what if a man reached forty years and yet had no home of his own, no wife, no children? Would that be a sign of failure, a curse, or what? In society, yes, that's a sign of failure. Why should a man be called a man if he could not start a family before the age of forty? There's certainly something wrong with him!

Now, what could be "wrong" with such a man? It could be a matter of money. It could be a matter of choice. In either case, the Koran says: "And let those who cannot find a match keep chaste till Allah give them independence by His grace." (An-Nur : 33) But for how long, one would ask? How long can a single man keep chaste? How long can a man keep hope? Well, marriage is not the end of the road, to begin with. Many married men divorce their wives. Many married men complain about their children for various reasons. Many men don't have children in the first place. So what if a man hastened to marry just to please society and then his wife turned out to be the wrong choice? How long would he tolerate that? What if he found just the right spouse, but then he failed to have children because he or she was barren? How long would he keep hope before he could be blessed with a child? Would he divorce his barren wife just to please society? Well, good men don't do that.
"A mention of the mercy of thy Lord unto His servant Zachariah. When he cried unto his Lord a cry in secret, Saying: My Lord! Lo! the bones of me wax feeble and my head is shining with grey hair, and I have never been unblest in prayer to Thee, my Lord. Lo! I fear my kinsfolk after me, since my wife is barren. Oh, give me from Thy presence a successor Who shall inherit of me and inherit (also) of the house of Jacob. And make him, my Lord, acceptable (unto Thee). (It was said unto him): O Zachariah! Lo! We bring thee tidings of a son whose name is John; We have given the same name to none before (him)." (Maryam : 2-6) Why did Zachariah (pbuh) resort to du'a (invocations to God)? Why didn't he do just as Henry VIII of England ? He didn't do so because he believed that the fact that his wife was barren wasn't her fault, but rather a matter of Fate. He knew that getting married and begetting children were not personal achievements to pride oneself on, but rather a gift from God. That's why he said : "give me from Thy presence a successor ..." He knew that he could not force the hand of Fate.

"Unto Allah belongeth the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. He createth what He will. He bestoweth female (offspring) upon whom He will, and bestoweth male (offspring) upon whom He will; Or He mingleth them, males and females, and He maketh barren whom He will. Lo! He is Knower, Powerful." (Ash-Shura : 49-50) But did Zachariah (pbuh) really expect God to give him a son at such an old age? We don't know. All we know is that he sounded surprised to learn that he would get a son even now that he reached infirm old age! "He said: My Lord! How can I have a son when my wife is barren and I have reached infirm old age? He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me, even as I created thee before, when thou wast naught." (Maryam : 7-9) That was not the first time such "a strange thing" happened. It had happened once before to Ibrahim (pbuh). "They said: Be not afraid! Lo! we bring thee good tidings of a boy possessing wisdom. He said: Bring ye me good tidings (of a son) when old age hath overtaken me? Of what then can ye bring good tidings? They said: We bring thee good tidings in truth. So be not thou of the despairing. He said: And who despaireth of the mercy of his Lord save those who are astray?" (Al-Hijr : 53-56) "And his wife, standing by, laughed when We gave her good tidings (of the birth) of Isaac, and, after Isaac, of Jacob. She said: Oh, woe is me! Shall I bear a child when I am an old woman, and this my husband is an old man? Lo! this is a strange thing! They said: Wonderest thou at the commandment of Allah? The mercy of Allah and His blessings be upon you, O people of the house! Lo! He is Owner of Praise, Owner of Glory!" (Hud : 71-73)

For people like Zachariah and Ibrahim, the difference between believing and knowing doesn't matter much when it comes to matters of Faith. These people know what they believe in, and if they don't know, they ask questions while sticking to their belief.

"And when Abraham said (unto his Lord): My lord! Show me how Thou givest life to the dead, He said: Dost thou not believe? Abraham said: Yea, but (I ask) in order that my heart may be at ease. (His Lord) said: Take four of the birds and cause them to incline unto thee, then place a part of them on each hill, then call them, they will come to thee in haste. And know that Allah is Mighty, Wise." (Al-Baqara : 260)

"And make mention of Mary in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to a chamber looking East, And had chosen seclusion from them. Then We sent unto her Our spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. She said: Lo! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from thee, if thou art God fearing. He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son. She said: How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste! He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained." (16-21)

The problem is not with those people. The problem is with us, with most of us--at least. We know for sure that it's only God Who can decide our fate, and yet we don't want to believe in that--just out of arrogance. We continue to disbelieve in what we know is the Truth until we get caught in a situation where we give up our arrogance and burst into tears and prayers, imploring God to save us.

"He it is Who maketh you to go on the land and the sea till, when ye are in the ships and they sail with them with a fair breeze and they are glad therein, a storm wind reacheth them and the wave cometh unto them from every side and they deem that they are overwhelmed therein; (then) they cry unto Allah, making their faith pure for Him only; If Thou deliver us from this, we truly will be of the thankful. Yet when He hath delivered them, behold! they rebel in the earth wrongfully. O mankind! Your rebellion is only against yourselves. (Ye have) enjoyment of the life of the world; then unto Us is your return and We shall proclaim unto you what ye used to do." (Yunus : 22-23) "Hast thou not seen how the ships glide on the sea by Allah's grace, that He may show you of His wonders? Lo! therein indeed are portents for every steadfast, grateful (heart). And if a wave enshroudeth them like awnings, they cry unto Allah, making their faith pure for Him only. But when He bringeth them safe to land, come of them compromise. None denieth Our signs save every traitor ingrate." (Luqman : 31-32) "And when harm toucheth you upon the sea, all unto whom ye cry (for succour) fail save Him (alone), but when He bringeth you safe to land, ye turn away, for man was ever thankless. Feel ye then secure that He will not cause a slope of the land to engulf you, or send a sandstorm, upon you, and then ye will find that ye have no protector? Or feel ye secure that He will not return you to that (plight) a second time, and send against you a hurricane of wind and drown you for your thanklessness, and then ye will not find therein that ye have any avenger against Us?" (Al-Isra : 67-69) "Say: Can ye see yourselves, if the punishment of Allah come upon you or the Hour come upon you, calling upon other than Allah? Do ye then call (for help) to any other than Allah? (Answer that) if ye are truthful. Nay, but unto Him ye call, and He removeth that because of which ye call unto Him, if He will, and ye forget whatever partners ye ascribed unto Him." (Al-An'am : 40-41)
Now, where does our arrogance come from? It comes from our desire to show off. We want to show people around us that we are self-independent, we are the best. We want the world to know that we got our job because, as they say, "one Scotsman's worth 3 Englishmen". Idem for one's spouse. Idem for one's children. Idem for one's fortune. It's all the fruit of our ambition. It's all a matter of merit. By the way, wasn't Zachariah (pbuh) an ambitious man? Wasn't Ibrahim (pbuh) an ambitious man? Well, the answer would depend on what we mean by ambition! If ambition means the desire to attain glory, power, social success, etc., I don't think Zachariah (pbuh) and Ibrahim (pbuh) were that kind of person to have such a desire. If ambition means aspiration for a noble goal, a strong will to please God (and save humanity from evil) with deeds that would continue even after one's death, then, definitely, there's no doubt Zachariah (pbuh) and Ibrahim (pbuh) were just that kind of men. And that's what God wants good Muslim men to be like. How? Well, let's see this first: "Or deemest thou that the People of the Cave and the Inscription are a wonder among Our portents? When the young men fled for refuge to the Cave and said: Our Lord! Give us mercy from Thy presence and shape for us right conduct in our plight, And in like manner We disclosed them (to the people of the city) that they might know that the promise of Allah is true, and that, as for the Hour, there is no doubt concerning it. When (the people of the city) disputed of their case among themselves, they said: Build over them a building; their Lord knoweth best concerning them. Those who won their point said: We verity shall build a place of worship over them." (...) "And say not of anything: Lo! I shall do that tomorrow, Except if Allah will. And remember thy Lord when thou forgettest, and say: It may be that my Lord guideth me unto a nearer way of truth than this." (Al-Kahf : 9-24) "And (it is said) they tarried in their Cave three hundred years and add nine. Say: Allah is best aware how long they tarried. His is the Invisible of the heavens and the earth. How clear of sight is He and keen of hearing! They have no protecting friend beside Him, and He maketh none to share in His government." (Al-Kahf : 25-26) See? These good young men left the city (with all its glamour) and took refuge in a cave. And it is clear from those verses above that God liked these young men. And yet God did not look at what these young men had "achieved" in their lives (or at what they looked liked). ("And thou wouldst have deemed them waking thou they were asleep, and we caused them to turn over to the right and the left, and their dog stretching out his paws on the threshold. If thou hadst observed them closely thou hadst assuredly turned away from them in flight, and hadst been filled with awe of them." (Al-Kahf : 18)) God rather looked at what was in these young men's hearts. God praised what was in the young men's hearts and did not praise "the achievements" of their people back in the city--just as the Queen of Sheba did not praise Suleiman for the wonders of his palace, but praised God instead. It was not the Queen's eyes that spoke (when "It was said unto her: Enter the hall. And when she saw it she deemed it a pool and bared her legs. (Solomon) said: Lo! it is a hall, made smooth, of glass. She said: My Lord! Lo! I have wronged myself, and I surrender with Solomon unto Allah, the Lord of the Worlds." (An-Naml : 44)), but it was rather her heart that uttered those words of truth. That's why the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: "Allah does not look at your bodies nor does he look at your images, but He looks into your hearts." The true "civilisation" is in the hearts of people, not in their buildings and constructions. The true power is in the hearts, not in the bodies.
"He said: O chiefs! Which of you will bring me her throne before they come unto me, surrendering? A stalwart of the Jinn said: I will bring it thee before thou canst rise from thy place. Lo! I verily am strong and trusty for such work. One with whom was knowledge of the Scripture said: I will bring it thee before thy gaze returneth unto thee. And when he saw it set in his presence, (Solomon) said: This is of the bounty of my Lord, that He may try me whether I give thanks or am ungrateful. Whosoever giveth thanks he only giveth thanks for (the good of) his own soul: and whosoever is ungrateful (is ungrateful only to his own soul's hurt). For lo! my Lord is Absolute in independence, Bountiful." (An-Naml : 38-40)

But does this mean that God wants good men to be wretched homeless people going around begging disbelievers on the street? Does God want good men to live in caves, far away from towns and cities? No, far from it.

God would like to see you as perfect a man as possible. He would like you to be smart in your mind: "He giveth wisdom unto whom He will, and he unto whom wisdom is given, he truly hath received abundant good, But none remember except men of understanding." (Al-Baqara : 269)
"Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Are those who know equal with those who know not? But only men of understanding will pay heed." (Az-Zumar : 9)

God wants you to care even about your appearance.

"Is he who goeth groping on his face more rightly guided, or he who walketh upright on a beaten road?" (Al-Mulk : 22)

God does not want to see you shabby, certainly not while praying Him. Nor does He want you to starve for the sake of Him.

"O Children of Adam! Look to your adornment at every place of worship, and eat and drink, but be not prodigal. Lo! He loveth not the prodigals. Say: Who hath forbidden the adornment of Allah which He hath brought forth for His bondmen, and the good things of His providing? Say: Such, on the Day of Resurrection, will be only for those who believed during the life of the world. Thus do We detail Our revelations for people who have knowledge. Say: My Lord forbiddeth only indecencies, such of them as are apparent and such as are within, and sin and wrongful oppression, and that ye associate with Allah that for which no warrant hath been revealed, and that ye tell concerning Allah that which ye know not." (Al-A'raf : 31-33)

God wants you to be honest, free from contradictions, fair in your judgement. "As for man, whenever his Lord trieth him by honoring him, and is gracious unto him, he saith: My Lord honoureth me. But whenever He trieth him by straitening his means of life, he saith: My Lord despiseth me. Nay, but ye (for your part) honor not the orphan, And urge not on the feeding of the poor, And ye devour heritages with devouring greed, And love wealth with abounding love." (Al-Fajr : 15-20)

See? You can't have everything you want without anything in return. Look around you: if you are well off, others are poor and in need of your help, and so on and so forth. If you are poor yourself and need others to help you, ask yourself why but don't be quick to take offence. You may have one or two things that many others don't have. "And if ye would count the favor of Allah ye cannot reckon it. Lo! Allah is indeed Forgiving, Merciful." (An-Nahl : 18)
If you have the means, God would want you to be kind to mankind as He has been kind to you: "But seek the abode of the Hereafter in that which Allah hath given thee and neglect not thy portion of the world, and be thou kind even as Allah hath been kind to thee, and seek not corruption in the earth; lo! Allah loveth not corrupters" (Al-Qasas : 77)

Your belief in God entails a responsibility on your part, otherwise you'll be of those of whom God said: "And when it is said unto them: Spend of that wherewith Allah hath provided you, those who disbelieve say unto those who believe: Shall we feed those whom Allah, if He willed, would feed? Ye are in naught else than error manifest." (Ya-Sin : 47)

You may ask that very question yourself. And the answer you get -if you truly are a believer- is this: "Every soul must taste of death, and We try you with evil and with good, for ordeal. And unto Us ye will be returned." (Al-Anbiyaa : 35) This means that God may try you with evil just as He may try you with good. So no wonder some men will be poor all their lives, and some men will be disabled all their lives. Being poor or disabled may mean a lower social status, but in God's sight there's no difference between poor and rich, abled and disabled. They are all God's bondmen, but they are tried with different things. A good deed from a rich, healthy man is the same as a good deed from a poor, disabled man. Idem for ill deeds. It is, therefore, only God Who decides who should be poor and who should be rich.

"Is it they who apportion their Lord's mercy? We have apportioned among them their livelihood in the life of the world, and raised some of them above others in rank that some of them may take labor from others; and the mercy of thy Lord is better than (the wealth) that they amass. And were it not that mankind would have become one community, We might well have appointed, for those who disbelieve in the Beneficent, roofs of silver for their houses and stairs (of silver) whereby to mount, And for their houses doors (of silver) and couches of silver whereon to recline, And ornaments of gold. Yet all that would have been but a provision of the life of the world. And the Hereafter with your Lord would have been for those who keep from evil." (Az-Zukhruf : 32-35)

"And they say: We are more (than you) in wealth and children. We are not the punished!Say (O Muhammad): Lo! my Lord enlargeth the provision for whom He will and narroweth it (for whom He will). But most of mankind know not. And it is not your wealth nor your children that will bring you near unto Us, but he who believeth and doeth good (he draweth near). As for such, theirs will be twofold reward for what they did, and they will dwell secure in lofty halls." (Saba : 35-37)

"He frowned and turned away Because the blind man came unto him. What could inform thee but that he might grow (in grace) Or take heed and so the reminder might avail him? As for him who thinketh himself independent, Unto him thou payest regard. Yet it is not thy concern if he grow not (in grace). But as for him who cometh unto thee with earnest purpose And hath fear, From him thou art distracted. Nay, but verily it is an Admonishment, So let whosoever will pay heed to it" (Abasa : 1-12)

Does this mean, though, that a poor man should accept his state of poverty as something fated for him and not try to improve his living conditions? No! On the contrary, a poor man should try again and again and never despair of God's mercy, and never consider himself as doomed to remain poor all his life. Being rich is not a sin, just as being poor is not a curse per se.

Some of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said to the Prophet (peace be upon him): "O Messenger of Allah, the affluent have made off with the rewards: they pray as we pray, they fast as we fast, and they give away in charity the superfluity of their wealth." The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Has not Allah made things for you to give away in charity? Truly every tasbiha is a charity, every takbira is a charity, every tahmida is a charity and every tahlila is a charity; to enjoin a good action is a charity, to forbid an evil action is a charity and in a sexual act each of you there are a charity." They said: "O Messenger of Allah, when one of us fulfils his sexual desire will he have some reward for that?" The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Do you [not] think that were he to act upon it unlawfully he would be sinning? Likewise, if he has acted upon it lawfully he will have a reward."

Abu Hurairah narrated that Abu Dharr said to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh): "The wealthy people have all the rewards; they pray as we pray; they fast as we fast; and they have surplus wealth which they give in charity; but we have no wealth which we may give in charity." Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said: "Abu Dharr, should I not teach you phrases by which you acquire the rank of those who excel you? No one can acquire your rank except one who acts like you. [...] Say Allahu Akbar thirty-three times; and say Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah) thirty-three times; and say SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah) thirty-three times; and end it by saying, Laa ilaaha illallahu wahdahu la shareeka lahu, lahul mulku wa lahul hamdu yuhyi wa yomeetu wa Huwa ‘ala kulli shayin Qadeer. (There is no god but Allah alone, He has no partner, to Him belongs the Kingdom, to Him praise is due and He has power over everything.) Your sins will be forgiven, even if they are like the foam of the sea."

Sometimes we know all this and yet we make as if we have never heard of it. We behave as if we were the masters of our lives. Instead of seeking God's pleasure, we want God to please us with good things. And if God does "please" us with good things, do we give thanks to Him?

"Man tireth not of praying for good, and if ill toucheth him, then he is disheartened, desperate. And verily, if We cause him to taste mercy after some hurt that hath touched him, he will say: This is my own; and I deem not that the Hour will ever rise, and if I am brought back to my Lord, I surely shall be better off with Him, But We verily shall tell those who disbelieve (all) that they did, and We verily shall make them taste hard punishment; When We show favor unto man, he withdraweth and turneth aside, but when ill toucheth him then he aboundeth in prayer." (Fussilat : 49-51)

But not all men do this. Men are not all ungrateful.
"And if We cause man to taste some mercy from Us and afterward withdraw it from him, lo! he is despairing, thankless. And if We cause him to taste grace after some misfortune that had befallen him, he saith: The ills have gone from me. Lo! he is exultant, boastful; Save those who persevere and do good works. Theirs will be forgiveness and a great reward." (Hud : 9-11)

"Lo! man was created anxious, Fretful when evil befalleth him, And, when good befalleth him, grudging; Save worshippers Who are constant at their worship And in whose wealth there is a right acknowledged For the beggar and the destitute; And those who believe in the Day of Judgment, And those who are fearful of their Lord's doom. Lo! the doom of their Lord is that before which none can feel secure, And those who preserve their chastity Save with their wives and those whom their right hands possess, for thus they are not blameworthy; But whoso seeketh more than that, those are they who are transgressors; And those who keep their pledges and their covenant. And those who stand by their testimony And those who are attentive at their worship, These will dwell in Gardens, honored." (Al-Ma'arij : 19-35)

These are the men God likes. These are the true gentlemen who acknowledge and assume their responsibility. They give as much -if not more- than they receive. And yet they fear that God -for all His mercy and compassion- may not be pleased with them. They strive and keep striving to please God in whatever way possible. ("And of mankind is he who would sell himself, seeking the pleasure of Allah; and Allah hath compassion on (His) bondmen." (Al-Baqara : 207)) These men don't sit back with crossed arms and wait for God to do everything in their place. They look for creative ways to circumvent adversity, bearing in mind that they won't achieve except that which God has ordained. It's these people who know the meaning of God's words: "And say not of anything: Lo! I shall do that tomorrow, Except if Allah will. And remember thy Lord when thou forgettest, and say: It may be that my Lord guideth me unto a nearer way of truth than this." (Al-Kahf : 23-24) It's these men who understand that patience means "if you fail for the tenth time, try again". They understand what Jacob (pbuh) meant when he said : "O my sons, and ascertain concerning Joseph and his brother, and despair not of the Spirit of Allah. Lo! none despaireth of the Spirit of Allah save disbelieving folk." (Yusuf : 87) They're not of those of whom God said: "And among mankind is he who worshippeth Allah upon a narrow marge so that if good befalleth him he is content therewith, but if a trial befalleth him, he falleth away utterly. He loseth both the world and the Hereafter. That is the sheer loss." (Al-Hajj : 11)

But these men remain men, after all. They are human beings. So there's a limit to what they can stand, whatever the (high) level of their faith and (exceptional) degree of their sincerity. Even prophets experienced moments of weekness vis-à-vis society, because every man likes to be liked in society. No man would like others to speak ill of him.

You continue reading and listening to the Koran until you say from the bottom of your heart Yeah when you hear or read "Or shall man have what he coveteth? But unto Allah belongeth the after (life), and the former." (An-Najm : 24-25) You keep increasing your eemaan (faith) until you have no more doubt that "If Allah touch thee with affliction, there is none that can relieve therefrom save Him, and if He touch thee with good fortune (there is none that can impair it); for He is Able to do all things. He is the Omnipotent over His slaves, and He is the Wise, the Knower." (Al-An'am : 17-18) You say the problem now is not with God, it's with society. People keep asking me what I do; they want me to say I'm jobless. They lecture me on what I should do to get a (new) job--as if I were new to this world! They want to see weekness in my look, in my tone. They want me to feel small. They want me to feel ashamed of myself. That's my problem.

Is that all? Well, God said to the first Muslims:
"Assuredly ye will be tried in your property and in your persons, and ye will hear much wrong from those who were given the Scripture before you, and from the idolaters. But if ye persevere and ward off (evil), then that is of the steadfast heart of things." (Al-i'Imran : 186)

You say yes I can understand that when it comes from disbelievers, but the problem is I'm hearing much wrong from my fellow Muslims! What can I do? How can I feel strong in front of them? How can I stand shoulder to shoulder with other men when I can't even find words to explain my situation without lying to them? How can I persevere? How can I be an ambitious man when I see that people with less qualifications than me are by far better off than me? What's left for me to dream of at this age? That's my problem. My problem is not with the Scripture, it's with society.

Well, let's see what the Scripture says about it!

Here's Mary, a pious woman who has never been touched by a mortal. But now she's pregnant! How would society react when poor Mary comes out with a baby in her arms?

"And she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a place. And the pangs of childbirth drove her unto the trunk of the palm tree. She said: Oh, would that I had died ere this and had become a thing of naught, forgotten!"

Mary wasn't a disbeliever, though. She had always led a virtuous life. She believed she had done nothing wrong, and yet she feared people's talk. She knew that society wouldn't be merciful towards her. So what could she do now that she had the pangs of childbirth? It's a tragedy, isn't it? But "Then (one) cried unto her from below her, saying: Grieve not! Thy Lord hath placed a rivulet beneath thee, And shake the trunk of the palm tree toward thee, thou wilt cause ripe dates to fall upon thee. So eat and drink and be consoled. And if thou meetest any mortal, say: Lo! I have vowed a fast unto the Beneficent, and may not speak this day to any mortal." (Maryam : 22-26) Now Mary had the yaqeen (absolute faith) that she was on the right path and therefore had absolutely nothing to fear from society. "Then she brought him to her own folk, carrying him. They said: O Mary! Thou hast come with an amazing thing. Oh sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a wicked man nor was thy mother a harlot." That was an understatement that Mary was a 'harlot'! So what did she do? Did she burst into tears? No. She faced her people and "Then she pointed to him. They said How can we tale to one who is in the cradle, a young boy? He spake: Lo! I am the slave of Allah. He hath given me the Scripture and hath appointed me a Prophet, (...)" (Maryam : 27-30)

So yaqeen saved Mary in this situation. But Mary was a woman. What about a man? Would it be easier for a man to face up to society? Not necessarily. Even a prophet could have difficulty facing up to society. The Koran relates this about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):

"And when thou saidst unto him on whom Allah hath conferred favor and thou hast conferred favor: Keep thy wife to thyself, and fear Allah. And thou didst hide in thy mind that which Allah was to bring to light, and thou didst fear mankind whereas Allah had a better right that thou shouldst fear Him. So when Zeyd had performed the necessary formality (of divorce) from her, We gave her unto thee in marriage, so that (henceforth) there may be no sin for believers in respect of wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have performed the necessary formality (of release) from them. The commandment of Allah must be fulfilled. There is no reproach for the Prophet in that which Allah maketh his due. That was Allah's way with those who passed away of old and the commandment of Allah is certain destiny. Who delivered the messages of Allah and feared Him, and feared none save Allah. Allah keepeth good account." (Al-Ahzab : 36-39)
God knew why the Prophet (pbuh) feared mankind and yet He let him go through that bitter experience (of fear and anxiety)--just as had happened with Mary, and, before her, with Abraham, who had seen himself in a dream cutting the throat of his only son). God knew what would happen to Lot. "And when Our messengers came unto Lot, he was distressed and knew not how to protect them. He said: This is a distressful day. And his people came unto him, running towards him and before then they used to commit abominations. He said: O my people! Here are my daughters! They are purer for you. Beware of Allah, and degrade me not in (the person of) my guests. Is there not among you any upright man? They said: Well thou knowest that we have no right to thy daughters, and well thou knowest what we want. He said: Would that I had strength to resist you or had some strong support (among you)!" (Hud : 77-88) God knew that Lot would be embarrassed. And Lot was embarrassed despite the fact that he was a prophet. But when his guests spoke to him about those people he quickly acquired yaqeen. " (The messengers) said: O Lot! Lo! we are messengers of thy Lord; they shall not reach thee. So travel with thy people in a part of the night, and let not one of you turn round (all) save thy wife. Lo! that which smiteth them will smite her (also). Lo! their tryst is (for) the morning. Is not the morning nigh?" (Hud : 81)
So why did God let those good people experience those feelings of fear and panic? Did God want to torment his bondmen who had devoted their lives to worshipping Him Alone? Did God not know that these people believed in Him and feared Him and would do everything to please Him? Of course, God knew all that. But we too know now that all those stories had a happy ending. And we now learn from those stories. We learn that we should know about the truths that are not conspicuous at first sight. We learn that we have to develop yaqeen while we are alright and in good shape and not wait until we are in an adversity. We learn that we should acquire yaqeen and know that we may need it as someone would like to have his savings in handy in the hour of adversity. But yaqeen is not a sura (chapter from the Koran) or invocations to be learnt by heart. Yaqeen is the fruit of both the knowledge we acquire by reading/listening/discussing, etc, and personal experience. Hence, the importance of reading and meditating about the stories in the Koran before, while and after going through a bad situation.

Now, what has this got to do with ambition? What has it got to do with losing one's job? Well, the link might not be evident, but it's there. Losing your job is one instance of hardship. If you lose your job you may need moral support until you find another job. Yaqeen will provide you with that moral support; it will give you (at least the strict minimum of) hope that you will find a new job. Your hardship is an occasion for you to strenghten your yaqeen and to think more about your life, about your goal in life: what do you live for? What do you want to achieve? Who is the role model you would like to emulate? Is your goal something special? or is it something that anybody around you (or many people) can achieve (such as getting married, begetting children, becoming a doctor...)?

Has your goal got anything to do with your faith (such as da'wa, for example)? If it has, then bear in mind that you will suffer--as all those who passed away before you suffered before they attained their hopes. Read this, if you like: "Or think ye that ye will enter Paradise while yet there hath not come unto you the like of (that which came to) those who passed away before you? Affliction and adversity befell them, they were shaken as with earthquake, till the messenger (of Allah) and those who believed along with him said: When cometh Allah's help? Now surely Allah's help is nigh." (Al-Baqara : 214)

When we read stories about what happened to prophets, saints and devout people, then we can understand why gloom enshrouds us the moment we hear that we'll be laid off, or the moment we leave our workplace for the last time. Then we can understand why we can't stand before people who are lucky to keep their jobs without feeling some kind of shame or guilt. These are always hard moments, be we believers or disbelievers.

Mohamed Ali Lagouader

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