Monday, November 21, 2016

Is God with or against me?

Why should you ask that question if everything is OK for you ? But actually nothing is OK for you. Your faith is strong, but Fate is stronger than you. It’s failing you again and again, no matter what you do, however hard you try. And you think God is the source of all your trouble. Everywhere you turn, even when you come to this blog, you are lectured on patience. Be patient and everything’s gonna be alright ! But you know all the Quranic verses, all the Haddith, all the talk about adversity and patience. You could even preach others about patience were you not in such an adversity that never ends. You want to be patient and thus please your Lord, even if there were no gardens of Eden, but you can’t anymore. You want to see the end of it now. Enough is enough. Most of those who are lecturing me on patience are people who have their own jobs, they have their own homes, they have children, they have cars, they have everything. They travel the world, they’re famous. They’re everything. But me I have nothing. I’m only suffering. Is this all Faith is about ? Should I be miserable in this world so that I can have a place in Heaven ? Why are people around me not like me ? Aren’t they believers just like me or are they better believers than I ?

Probably you don’t know what I know. Many years ago, a friend of mine suggested that I read a book by Abdelqadir Aljilani (1083-1166). At that time I was going through a hardship. Until then I thought that if I asked God for help, He would automatically answer my prayer, as is in the Quran. Well, Aljilani’s book transformed my way of thinking. He spoke of people who prayed and prayed and kept their duty to God and outdid everybody in patience and endured their hardships with devotion and sincerity… and yet God would not answer their prayers, He would not remove the hurt that they were afflicted with –as if they were not believers, as if they were the worst sinners in the world. Honestly, I could not finish the reading of that book and returned it to my friend. I took Aljilani for a cynical cleric. (But I purchased two copies of that book later on.) In 2008, I wrote religious articles that I posted on my old blog INNOCENT WHISPERS. I preached patience. I will tell you why. In 2009, I had a very big problem that made me give up writing religious posts. I wrote love poetry instead. I had a very popular blog of poetry in French, and several authors with books in print asked to be featured in that blog, which got hundreds of comments. Then, all of a sudden, something went wrong, and I had to remove all the love poetry and all the book presentations of other authors, and then that blog began losing its visitors until it was forgotten. Also the Islamic discussion forum where my novel THE TAILOR was viewed 3,000 times and THE PHILOSOPHER 2,000 times (in 2006-2007), well it simply went offline, and I became unkown again. In February of 2013, the total number of views for my blog LAGOUADER'S SPACE , created in 2007, was a little more than 6,000. Until that time I posted only links to the forums where I had posted my fiction. In March 2013 I posted a text : my novel THE PHILOSOPHER. A year later, the number of views shot up to 12,000. Visitors came from more than ten countries. They came to my blog, not to other people’s forums. They searched my name and became regular visitors. In 2012, I wrote my first religious article since 2009 and posted it on a forum. In March 2014, I wrote another religious post, but this time in my own blog, and then visitors from USA, France, Germany, Ireland, UK, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, China, Japan… added my blog to their favourites. Only then did I really become a writer ! Only then did I understand Aljilani’s comments on those people who prayed and prayed and would not see their prayers answered.

Another  thing that shocked me into changing my mind is what happened to Abdul-Rahman Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), one of the most, if not the most ever, distinguished Arab scholar of all times. In his diaries, which I read in an Arabic school book, he said something like this : "Many people here (in Egypt) were jealous of me when I became a Maliki Judge. There came a time when I could not endure anymore, so  I asked to be relieved of my duties. Then, I devoted my time to writing and teaching. But I soon missed my family, who were still back in Tunis. The problem is I could not go there because of the Sultan of Tunis. So I asked the Sultan of Egypt to speak with the Sultan of Tunis on my behalf. The latter allowed my family to leave Tunis. They took a ship, but as they neared the Egyptian shore the ship sank, and so all the members of my family were lost… " This happened to Ibn Khaldun when he was too old to think of marriage and begetting children. And yet he remained mentally fit and told us his story. Now, all the distinguished thinkers in my country and in the Arab world were influenced in one way or another by the writings of Ibn Khaldun. They all care about his thoughts ; nobody gives a thought to his personal story.

Now, why do people come to my blogs ? Maybe they find something interesting. But as a young writer I only thought of fiction and poetry. When I finished my first novel THE POET, in 1996, I wanted it to be published. I did everything I could for that purpose, but without success. When my first Interview appeared, in April 2008, it was copied-and-pasted in no less than seven different websites and translated into Spanish, and I thought I would soon see my dream come true. I thought that my patience was going to pay off at long last. And that encouraged me to write about patience in a religious blog. Even my material situation was a bit better then than ever before. But then I realized that only a fool would write about religion. As I said, in 2009, I went through a very hard adversity that made me put more and more questions. You can’t write about patience like you write about football. You will be put in a situation where you have to prove that you do as you say. This means you’ll have to suffer. And yet I found myself writing about religion once again. I have been doing so for the last three or four years. Some people are not amazed even at all the things God has created, let alone be amazed at an unknown author’s blog. But I am amazed at people’s interest in my blogs. The most viewed blog I have ever seen had a little less than 100,000 views and the author was a Western journalist. Why can’t I be amazed at an unknown author’s blog that got 29,000 views ? Why can’t I be amazed at the fact that, in 2014, a Moroccan film director, who had never met me before, called to say he wished he had the money to adapt my novel THE POET to a film ? He said he had found a copy of my novel (self-published in 2004) at the National Library in Rabat and enjoyed reading it. I have never had a passport and I have never left my country, and yet I have visitors from three continents. I am amazed at that too. And I am grateful to God Almighty for all that.

Now let me go back to that topic that only a fool would write about for all the risks it entails. I mean patience.

Patience is a big word. Patience is a frightening word. Patience is the last thing one would wish to hear about. A Moroccan proverb goes, “Patience is the only door where people don’t jostle.” Even if you earnestly believe that patience is key to success; even if you preach patience in mosques, in speeches or in writing, it is always difficult to perceive patience as a “normal” thing. There will always come some time when you start questioning what you believe or preach if the thing you have been patient for seems still too far away. There are so many factors that may make patience hateful to many of us: society, age, chronic illness, family, etc, etc. So what to do when you have to live with patience on a daily basis –as if it were indeed a chronic illness? How do you manage your life as a patient (or patience-loving) person? How can you keep hope when everything around you inspires only despair and frustration?

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)

Any believer going through such hardship could ask that question if he said "Lo! we are Allah's and Lo! unto Him we are returning", and made invokations to God, and strove as best he could to ward off evil, and outdid all others in endurance, and yet his hardship went on and on as before, if not worse. The fact is that all the above efforts are good, but they may not be sufficient because God does not always answer prayers as quickly as one makes them, except for the case of "the wronged one". "Is not He (best) who answereth the wronged one when he crieth unto Him and removeth the evil" (An-Naml : 62). If God did not answer your prayers as soon as you made them, it might be because what you want(ed) was/is not good for you. Time will tell you that the person who was the sunshine of your life at some point, or the job that looked like your dream job, wasn't really good for you. "but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not." (Al-Baqara : 216)

If one were left alone, he/she might bear his/her sufferings in silence. But when (excited) people who are newly married or who have just found a job, or who have just been relieved of a hardship –especially if these people used to quote a lot of Quran and Haddith during their talk with others, well, when these people provoke you with inappropriate comments or impolite looks, you may explode. Because of their excitement and complacency, these people could harm you a great deal––if you (naively) expected them to be “more thoughtful” as a result of their previous suffering.

In my post Why Sould I Be Tried?    I said : In a garden we gaze at the beautiful flower; we turn a blind eye to the dead one. We clap eyes on the palace and ignore the hut beside. But no (straight) man would ignore a young woman passer-by to see flowers instead. A young woman is more precious than a beautiful flower. Prophets, who lived a long time ago, told our forefathers that this world is but a stage in our life. They said there will be another life after death. Therefore, one should prepare oneself for his/her life after death. Even today many people believe in this. But even those who believe in the promised eternity don’t really think about it as much as they do about their everyday life. It takes a lot of years, a lot of experience, for one to even start sighing when seeing a dead rose. At this stage, one can look beyond the beautiful flower, at the young woman. The promised Hereafter begins to appear more precious than this world. From experience to experience, such people end up wanting nothing more than the Creator of both worlds. They would seek neither worldly happiness nor Paradise in the heavens; they would ask for one thing only: Allah’s satisfaction. If Allah is satisfied with them, then that’s their happiness, that’s their Paradise. Some of these people called themselves, or were, rightly or wrongly, called  Sufis. All such people, whatever their  designation, agreed on one thing: you can’t reach this stage of adoration of Allah unless you are tried with poverty.

These are the men God likes. These are the true gentlemen who acknowledge and assume their responsibility. They give as much as –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)

Do these people live in permanent suffering ? Do they not ever never enjoy themselves ?  God says: “We try you with evil and with good, for ordeal. And unto Us ye will be returned.”  (Al-Anbiyaa : 35) Some people are tried with evil, others with good, but it’s all trial. You can’t go to Heaven without being tried on earth. “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)

Most scholars talk of two kinds of ibtila (Arabic for trial or test) : ibtila tarqiya and ibtila tanqiya. Ibtila tarqiya (or Promotion Test) is for the devout faithful who –at worst– commit minor sins or no sins at all. God tries these people with affliction and adversity so that their eeman and yaqeen will rise higher and higher. Their patience and endurance (despite all hardships) will earn them higher grades in Paradise than they would normally get for merely performing acts of worship (like praying, fasting, etc.). Ibtila tanqiya (or Cleansing Test) is for sinners among believers. The calamities that befall these people are a means to cleanse them of their sins if they stick to their iman and do good deeds to atone for their ill deeds. Ibtila in this sense is kind of educative punishment.

Strangely enough, there's a kind of ibtila which could be for both the devout and sinners alike. This ibtila is kind of a preparation for a mission that you'll have to accomplish later in your life. This is the longest and hardest ibtila. This could be, though, a godsend for sinners if they managed to endure their hardships until the "mission" was accomplished, for the prize is no less than the company of the Elite in Paradise. "Whoso obeyeth Allah and the messenger, they are with those unto whom Allah hath shown favor, of the Prophets and the saints and the martyrs and the righteous. The best of company are they! Such is the bounty of Allah, and Allah sufficeth as knower." (An-Nisaa : 69-70)

The problem is, there’s sometimes a great difference between what we know and what we feel. A few years ago, I heard a civil protection officer tell a Moroccan TV this little anecdote. "The other day, I found myself in front of a father and his son, a little boy, both had fallen into a deep hole, and my heart sank when I saw the unfortunate boy. However, when I wanted to extricate the boy his father interposed himself between him and me, begging me, 'Please, sir, save me first!' "It is a little shocking, but hardly surprising. Historians tell us that during a certain blockade of Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire, mothers had to eat their babies in hope of staying alive. During the blockade of Marrakech, by the Almohads, we are told, the prisoners had to eat each other. It's atrocious, it's disgustful, but we can be quite reduced to that. When one is struck by a misfortune one thinks only of oneself.

Let us take this example. A car hits a motorcyclist and knocks him off his bike, seriously injuring him. The ambulance arrives right away, the police too. The victim is transported to the hospital as a matter of urgency. Doctors and nurses welcome him into the emergency room. His family learns the sad news by telephone and soon joins him in the hospital, offering him flowers. A lawyer comes to inquire about the facts. He wants to know whether the victim has the right insurance. Meanwhile, a mechanic arrives to repair what he can. Then a sweeper comes to clean the area of ​​the accident. I'm not telling you anything new. Is it not said that the misfortune of some makes the happiness of others? Why don’t we think of this when we think of God? When someone works in an SME that manufactures cables, computer systems, or other, for military aircraft, does he think for a moment of the potential victims of the planes equipped with his cables, etc.? ? What would the doctors, nurses, pharmacists ... do for a living if there were no sick people? What would the mechanics, the lawyers, the insurers, the paramedics, the courts, the flower vendors, the telecommunications operators, the sweepers, do for a living if there were no such problems?

Now let us take this other example. Who can count how many people would 'live' off a wedding ? Well, a lot of people live off it ! The same goes for the education of a child, and so on.

If we say that our misfortunes and our happiness are intimately connected, it is not far from the truth. Human life is like that. We cry when we lose our father, we smile when we receive our share of the inheritance. It is because one knows that he’ll be hungry that he goes to the grocer’s. The hairdresser is there because there are necessarily people who will need a haircut. It’s always humans going to other humans, either to deal with them or to chase them away. In Casablanca, the economic capital of Morocco, many people suffer during the period of the aïd-el-kebir, because many traders and almost all craftsmen (plumbers, mechanics, electricians, repairers of refrigerators, etc. .) disappear from the city. They spend the holiday with their families in their native  towns or villages. They return ten or fifteen days later, to revive the white city. These people came here to live and to support their families. The barber (tooth puller) needs someone who has a toothache but does not have enough money to go to the dentist ; the shoe repairer needs someone who has torn his shoes but cannot buy new ones ; the mechanic needs someone who has had a road accident, and the list is long. That’s obvious, one would say. But when X or Y has such a terrible night-time toothache pain, does he think of all this? Does he put himself intoa  'philosophical' exercise? Apparently, few people do that. So let's do it together, here!

By taking a philosophical look at life from a historical point of view we can overcome many difficulties of  psychic nature. Today we see the glamour of others, we see how ‘lucky’ people live, we see the growing gap between the poor and the rich ... and we just cannot understand all that. And what do we see when we take a close look at History? Well, roughly speaking, we see that there were before us, in those ancient times, as well as in more recent times, people who enjoyed some glamour, too ; there were handsome men and beautiful women who loved each other, who had children, who lived in beautiful mansions, who worked (for some), who listened to music, who walked in beautiful gardens, who said sweet things to each other, who made love, who dreamed of better days, who fell ill, who divorced, who waged war, who killed each other, who got injured, and who died. People just like us. Are we therefore simply a continuation of the human species? Where are we heading? Will we always have the same so-called pleasures, the same frustrations? Why are we here on this earth? Will there not be a day when misfortune  disappears forever? What’s life worth if one does not live it fully, in joy and quietude? Why should one be tried at all ? What’s the use of History, what’s the use of philosophy, what’s the use of literature ... if historians themselves, if philosophers, if  male and female writers take their own lives to escape their terrible realities? I do not have answers to that. However, I just notice that there are many people who do not commit suicide. They confront life with the few means they have. That means that, at least for these people, life is worth living. Now, is life really worth living –whatever our sorrows ? To try to answer this question, it is necessary, I think,  to see how people in all corners of the planet are leading their lives.

We have been led to believe that man has gone through several stages. We were told about pre-history, where man was rather wild, and about the Bronze Age, and so on. But in some parts of the earth there are still humans that could be called 'savages', according to historical terminology. There are people who could be said to be still in the 'Bronze Age'. Why are these people not 'like' us? But who has the right to say that these people are not like us? Do they not have eyes, mouths, ears, feet, sexes like us? Don’t they get hungry like us? Don’t they marry, laugh, dream ... like us? Besides, the Red Cross and MSF, to name but a few, make no distinction between the 'savages' and the 'civilized', do they? What about animals? They too have eyes, ears, feet, genitals ... They too make love and give birth to little ones ... They too eat and die as we do. What about plants? They too live and die like us. They cannot live without water, just like us, and like animals. They too are of different colours, different shapes, different degrees of beauty ... They grow everywhere. Where there are men there are plants and animals. We all need water and oxygen. The same water from the Seine (River), or the Nile, is drunk by plants, animals, whites, blacks, Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists ... This water does not stop at the borders. It has no nationality. Provided there is water for all! Sometimes there is none, or not enough. People are dying of hunger or thirst. Others migrate to flee famine. They go to countries where there are humans like them. Some of these emigrants are beautiful, for beauty, like ugliness, is everywhere. Some of these emigrants settle where they arrived. They marry people from the host country. There will follow mixed children. Mixed but not so different, because all  remain human after all. All eat vegetables and fruit, bread and cheese. All want to grow up, work, get married. All will have the same problems and the same pleasures. A mere continuation of the human species? I do not think so. Americans of Irish descent may not be exactly like their ancestors who had to leave Ireland after years of scarcity. There is some progress, nonetheless. Both at the material and intellectual level. These brave Irish children have contributed to the emergence of one of the greatest civilizations in the world. Some of their American brothers had to flee persecution in Europe. Together, the Americans built a fabulous federal state governed by formidable democratic institutions. However, evil is still not eradicated from this country, nor from any other country in the world, for that matter. Is that a frustration? Should we, even if we could, completely eradicate evil? Is it possible, for example, to dispense with military means for national defense, since it only serves war, and war is evil? Yes, it may be necessary to go through this to be able to answer strictly personal questions. The word 'evil' and the word 'good' come from somewhere. For some, it is Man who invented these concepts. For others, these words have their origin in religion. Where does religion come from? For some, it is a purely human invention. For others, God sent messengers to teach us religion. If this religion is a human invention, those who invented it have unfortunately not left us with a reliable book to explain what we want to understand. If, on the other hand, religion is a message from God, then let us see what He has to say to us in this message. And we will not lose sight of the question we posed at the beginning of this article.

Not being Buddhist or Hindu, I can only talk about my religion, Islam, as I did in the first half of this topic. When I say God it is Allah.

Reading our religious texts, we learn that God first created the earth, then the skies  (the seven heavens). He then created the angels and the jinns. The angels remained up there in the seven heavens. The jinns have inhabited the earth. Satan, the first of the jinns, was promoted to the rank of angels, and so he lived some time up there among the angels. During this time God created Paradise, then Adam and Eve. The latter committed a grave error which cost them the banishment of paradise, just like Satan. Satan knew the earth already. Adam and Eve discover it for the first time. They realize that the earth is much less splendid than the paradise from which they were driven out. They discover the cold, heat, hunger, thirst, fatigue, fear, death ... But they also discover new pleasures: the pleasure of eating after hunger, the pleasure of drinking after thirst, the pleasure of rest after getting tired, sexual pleasure, etc. They also discover new realities: their life on earth makes them responsible for themselves and their offspring. They must work to be able to eat, to dress, to guard against all danger. And in addition to that they have to remind their children that they must do things if they hope to return to the lost paradise. Adam was the first messenger of God. He had to talk to his children about Paradise, a perfect world that only he and his wife had seen with their own eyes. The children, on the other hand, were asked to believe in what they could not see. Some have believed. Others saw paradise only in the world around them. And history has been repeated since. 

If we dissect all this a little, we can see, on the one hand, a certain god who does what he wants, as he pleases, and on the other hand, a human being who bends to the will of this god. God creates man, brings him into a sublime world, Heaven, then expels him and puts him in a planet earth where he must do everything to live or survive, and, in addition to that, has to deny himself certain pleasures and, on top of that, chant the praises of god. How is it that a man who makes every effort to perfect himself, who is educated in the best universities, who gets the best jobs, who builds himself a beautiful dwelling without asking anyone for anything, etc., etc., –how is it that this man should prostrate himself before a god whom he does not see, whom he does not know, and, moreover, to whom he does not feel indebted in any way whatsoever?

First of all, it is because God knew that this Man would be able to learn, to educate himself, to perfect himself, to surpass himself, to take charge of himself, that He created him in the first place. The Qur'an tells us of this episode in which the angels ask God what’s the use of creating a man who is only going to commit corruption and make mischief in the earth. Divine pedagogy makes Adam demonstrate that he is worthy of God's trust. Adam demonstrates to the angels that he knows things that they do not know and, consequently, that he can undertake things that they cannot yet imagine. The Qur'an also reminds us that this Man cannot do anything as a kid. He must be breastfed, first, then fed, then protected, and then educated. It is God who makes parents (instinctively) take charge of this phase of the life of each one of us. The Qur'an says that "2.233 Mothers shall suckle their babies for two whole years ; (that is) for those who wish to complete the suckling. The duty of feeding and clothing nursing mothers, in a seemly manner, is upon the father of the child. No one should be charged beyond his capacity. A mother should not (be made to suffer) because of her child, nor should he to whom the chils is born (be made to suffer) because of his child. And on the (father’s) heir is incumbent the like of that (which was incumbent on the father). If they desire to wean the child by mutual consent and (after) consultation, it is no sin for them ; and if ye wish to give your children out to nurse, it is no sin for you, provided that ye pay what is due from you in kindness. »  "16.78 And Allah brought you forth from the womb of your mothers knowing nothing, and gave you hearing, sight  and hearts that haply ye might give thanks. » This being said, there are things you can learn at school. Maths, Physics, this can be learned at school. But there are things that require inspiration or intuition. An ordinary worker in an industrial firm could solve a technical problem to which a hundred engineers could do nothing. Where does this inspiration or intuition come from? Where do our dreams come from? There is a mysterious part in our lives that must be taken into account. Logic and reason cannot explain everything. Even the best prognosis may be wrong. There are things beyond our imagination. Hence the importance of remaining open to all possible explanations.

God is God. Man is Man. To each his greatness. Even among us humans greatness varies. A minister cannot give orders to his president or sit in his chair or stand on the same level as him. Even in the United States of America the Vice-President and the Secretary of State still stand a little behind the President. But when the minister is at home, in his office, he is the boss. So to demonstrate His Greatness, God wanted Man to be in the earth, far beneath Heaven, the seat of the Divine. Nevertheless, He wanted the whole universe to be at the service of this Man. One cannot humiliate someone and at the same time give him the tools and the means to grow. In other words, the earth is the natural place for man in relation to God, all the more so because it is of the earth that God created Man. In addition, God spent four of the six days of creation preparing the earth for human life and He only spent two days creating all the heavens. This is to say the care with which God treats man. Better still, God made the angels prostrate to Man (Adam). Better still, God says in the Qur'an that He loves (some) men and values ​​them. «4.125. Who is better in religion than he who surrendereth his purpose to Allah while doing good (to men) and followeth the tradition of Abraham, the upright? Allah (Himself) chose Abraham for friend.» Better still, God attaches great importance to the testimony of man as to the oneness and divinity of God.
« 3.18. Allah (Himself) is witness that there is no God save Him. And the angels and the men of learning (too are witness). Maintaining His creation in justice, there is no God save Him, the Almighty, the Wise.» We spoke earlier in this topic of the care with which God treats man right from his infancy. God reminds us in the Qur'an that He «27.60. sendeth down for you water from the sky wherewith We cause to spring forth joyous orchards, whose trees it never hath been yours to cause to grow.» «16.5. And the cattle hath He created, whence ye have warm clothing and uses, and whereof ye eat. 16.6. And wherein is beauty for you, when ye bring them home, and when ye take them out to pasture. 16.7. And they bear your loads for you unto a land ye could not reach save with great trouble to yourselves. Lo! your Lord is Full of Pity, Merciful.» Better yet, God willed that there should be no obstacle or intermediary between Him and (believing) man when he needs Him. Man can address his prayers directly to God without any intermediary. It would only take that man have the humility and the honesty to be grateful. Man is not God, but both have things in common. Who among us would love lies, arrogance, ingratitude, injustice, aggression ...? The Qur'an states that «4.28. Allah would make the burden light for you, for man was created weak.» But this man, despite all his weaknesses, has the privilege of the fact that God «15.29. breathed into him» of His Spirit. This breathing should be a source of great energy which forces man to perfect himself not only on the material level but also and above all on the moral level as well. And, fortunately, Man has always been capable of it. Man has always made peace after the war; he has always created courts to do justice; he has always built schools to educate future generations; he has always built cities and villages to enable men to feel close to each other, to create all kinds of healthy relationships, to join hands, to exchange services, even when personal relations or between immediate neighbours or clans are notperfect. The neighbours quarrel and reconcile. It is not philosophy or literature that has forged our ways of behaving towards one another, but it is religion. Even when this religion is distorted, there are always traces of the Word of God. For there are always wise men in every society who are not entirely corrupted by worldly life. Religion is, in this sense, a source of hope and hope. It teaches us that we can triumph over our weaknesses: avarice, jealousy, covetousness, arrogance, hatred ... Of course, an atheist or agnostic can quite be a good person. There are people who do not believe in any religion and yet give charity, engage in volunteer activity, who do not like injustice, lying, arrogance, corruption .... But they categorically refuse to bow down before any God. They see it as a form of humiliation. For God, it is quite the opposite. Prostrating before God is the sublime form of gratitude, the total manifestation of being freed from all that is other than God. We only prostrate ourselves before God, He Who has given us this chance to know where we came from, where we are heading, why we are here on earth and what is awaiting us upon our death. By bowing down before God, all the physical distance that separates us from Hi mis gone at once. One is never closer to God than at the time of prostration, as the prophet said. If one loves recognition and gratitude, honesty and freedom (all of which are human virtues) one can only see in this gesture an honour. Do they not say I have the honour to .... ? So what is more honourable than to prostrate myself before Him who gave me everything, who tells me that He is there to protect me and guide me to my success in this world and my happiness in the hereafter ? How can I, a mere mortal, compete with Him who existed before me and who will exist after me? Moreover, « 22.18. Hast thou not seen that unto Allah payeth adoration whosoever is in the heavens and whosoever is in the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the hills, and the trees, and the beasts, and many of mankind, while there are many unto whom the doom is justly due. He whom Allah scorneth, there is none to give him honour. Lo! Allah doeth what He will.» One should first solve this problem with oneself before asking whether God is with or against him/her. Do we accept God in our hearts, from the bottom of our hearts? Do we want God only if He grants us this or that? Is our gratitude to God objective or subjective? In other words, is it conditioned upon the fact that I must be married, that I must have children, that I must have a permanent home, that I must always feel happy .... ? If you have not yet solved this problem with yourself, well, God will subject you to trials to make clear whether your eeman (belief / faith) is true or false. «29.2. Do men imagine that they will be left (at ease) because they say, We believe, and will not be tested with affliction? 29.3. Lo! We tested those who were before you. Thus Allah knoweth those who are sincere, and knoweth those who feign.» That’s why I said only a fool would write about religion or about patience. When you write about such thing you give the impression that you are godly, that you are sincere….. Well, God will try you so that you’ll show Him, to yourself and to your audience that you do not feign. In that book by Aljilani that I quoted at the beginning of this post, he said that many of the devout, of the saints, of the righteous of his time and of the times before him had all been hypocrite at some stage of their lives. Those good people went from hypocrisy to sainthood. «13.11. Lo! Allah changeth not the condition of a folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts.»

Mohamed Ali Lagouader

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