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

Why Should I be tried

That’s an enigmatic problem that no one has ever had a convincing answer to. It's part of the Divine Secret. One can only do some self-coaching to try to overcome one’s difficulties while waiting to see more clearly. Why self-coaching? Well, it is because the best of the ulema (religious scholars), the best of the preachers, the best book in the world, the best of your friends can only advise you to have patience and warn you against pessimism. You alone are perfectly aware of the limits of your patience and your immunity against pessimism. If you have a problem with money (unemployment, etc.), words of consolation would never suffice you. You could hear the same words in the first month, the seventh month, the fourth year, the twelfth year, with nothing really changing to your situation. Even flattering love poems that you could be told morning and evening, every day, every month, every year, that will  change nothing to your problem because you want a wife / husband / children / a stable job and not beautiful hollow words repeated like by a parrot. But this is just what people can ever offer you ! You cannot ask them for more than that. And you're lucky if you only have people around you who show compassion. What if you had people around you who would only make your life harder than it already is? Hence the importance of a self-coaching. I mean by self-coaching the way you speak to yourself when nobody else can speak to you the way your heart wants. 

Now, how to proceed? A good self-coaching requires a minimum of knowledge of the Qur'an and the Hadith. The Qur'an, for example, speaks clearly of punishment. The story of Yunus (Jonnah) shows that even a prophet could be punished if there is anything wrong. So you have to be fair. If you have sinned, you have to accept punishment. Just as when you do something good, God will give you something good. These are rules that will never change. "10.64. There is no changing the Words of Allah." This does not mean, tough, that you are punished for all your mistakes. "42.30. Whatever of misfortune striketh you, it is what your right hands have earned. And He forgiveth much" If you begin to ask yourself why so-and-so does this and that and yet he/she is never punished, or why should anybody be punished in the first place, that will only stir up your anger and frustration and will not change anything to your state. If you focus on yourself, if you take care of your own soup, you will have a chance to avoid depression unless you are already in there. The Qur'an calls you to  siyaha (spiritual tourism): "50.6. Have they not then observed the sky above them, how We have constructed it and beautified it, and how there are no rifts therein? 50.7. And the earth have We spread out, and have flung firm hills therein, and have caused of every lovely kind to grow thereon, 50.8. A vision and a reminder for every penitent slave. 50.9. And We send down from the sky blessed water whereby We give growth unto gardens and the grain of crops, 50.10. And lofty date palms with ranged clusters, 50.11. Provision (made) for men; and therewith We quicken a dead land. Even so will be the resurrection of the dead." "Have they not travelled in the land, and have they hearts wherewith to feel and ears wherewith to hear? For indeed it is not the eyes that grow blind, but it is the hearts, which are within the bosoms, that grow blind." (Al-Hajj : 46) "Such as remember Allah, standing, sitting, and reclining, and consider the creation of the heavens and the earth, (and say): Our Lord! Thou createdst not this in vain. Glory be to Thee! Preserve us from the doom of Fire" (Al-i'Imran : 191) It’s extremely hard for people like you and me to imagine that the heart plays the role of the mind. But if you want to take on this approach, you have to adhere to the whole conceptual system. It’s all from God. Once you believe in God you have to believe in the Word of God. You believe that it’s God Who knows. “Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Would ye teach Allah your religion, when Allah knoweth all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, and Allah is Aware of all things?"  (Al-Hujurat  : 16) "So coin not similitudes for Allah. Lo! Allah knoweth; ye know not."  (An-Nahl  : 74)

Life is fascinating, it’s dazzling. We’re all tempted by the big-strong-and-fast kind of life. The funny thing is, whatever we do, however genius we are, there’s always somebody one step ahead of us, with something a little bigger, stronger or faster than we have. It’s a Tom-and-Jerry game! What a shame! Focus on your soul: the gold is in there, the peace is in there, the happiness is in there. And few people will beat you on that front! If you’re not hungry, why rush to that trendy restaurant?  Just to impress somebody (who doesn’t have your financial problems)? Why don’t you give importance to yourself? 

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. Just as you are more precious than all the things you have.

The world is beautiful. We can see its beauty with our own eyes. We all have mirrors in which we look at ourselves. We all like nice clothes, nice homes, nice furniture, nice cars. Who wouldn’t be happy to be invited by a friend in a splendid guest room and served the best food?

Sometimes, one just can’t help sighing at seeing a dead rose beside a beautiful one. What makes him/her sigh? It’s clear: all beautiful roses will die in the end. All beautiful abodes will crumble one day. All nice furniture will decay. Friends go. Nothing is there to stay. Seasons change. There must be a winter before the spring. You may have to go through a nasty place before reaching the wonderland. The tiring return trip may make you forget the pleasures of your stay in the beautiful place. Things like these may push some to think about the transient beauty of our world. Is it our world, by the way? Or are we just passers-by? What’s next?
Stop from time to time to meditate about your own life. If necessary, isolate yourself in open spaces (park, woods, beach, etc), where you could speak loud to yourself: ask yourself questions like, “Hasn’t there really been anything new happening in my life since the beginning of this ordeal?” ...or questions like: "Did He not find thee an orphan and protect (thee)? Did He not find thee wandering and direct (thee)? Did He not find thee destitute and enrich (thee)?" (Adh-Dhuha : 6-8) Ask yourself: what was your reaction the last time you were relieved of a hardship? "And if misfortune touch a man he crieth unto Us, (while reclining) on his side, or sitting or standing, but when We have relieved him of the misfortune he goeth his way as though he had not cried unto Us because of a misfortune that afflicted him. Thus is what they do made (seeming) fair unto the prodigal." (Yunus : 12)

If you can, try to change the décor of your everyday life. If you live in town, why not have a stroll or ride on the outskirts and see how people out there go about their everyday life; and while you are there contemplate the landscape around you. The more you do it the more you discover new things you had taken for granted. This little "tourism" is in fact part of a believer's practice of his/her faith. "Will they not regard the camels, how they are created? And the heaven, how it is railed? And the hills, how they are set up? And the earth, how it is spread?" (Al-Gashiya : 17-20) "Have they not observed what is before them and what is behind them of the sky and the earth?" (Saba : 9) As nobody will really feel what you personally feel, then nobody would speak to you in the way you would wish. Now that you are alone (far from eyes and ears) you could speak to yourself as some do in front of a mirror in the dressing-room. This sounds crazy, but you would find it as a breathing exercise! It would relieve your soul of its “poisons” as exercise would rid your body of its poisons. By asking yourself frank questions here you would end up admitting that, after all, there’s some kind of “progress” in your life despite the overall ordeal. Maybe you thought too much about what other people have and forgot about the most precious thing you have : your heart. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “if the hearts get tired they become blind." So get out of your home, leave the city, walk alone (if you're safe), away from people, in the middle of the greenery. Look around: at these beautiful flowers, these beautiful birds, this beautiful sky –who is interested in all this? Who will come here to see these flowers, who will come to see these birds, who will spend his time contemplating the sky above? Who gave these colours to this flower, to this little bird in front of  you? Is it not He who gave you eyes to see them, feet to come here...? How could God, who has made this flower grow far from the eyes, forget you who has this heart so sensitive to this beauty? This (very little) beauty will make you shed tears, tears of repentance; It will make you say to God what you would not dare to say to humans. You will tell Him your regrets, your sufferings, your wishes ... You will wash your heart with the tears of your eyes. You will have marked a point against Satan, who never let go of you before you came here to give him a blow where it hurts him the most. No tablets, no vitamin Z. Just tears in the wild. While you are there, go see the nearest potato fields and poultry factory and sit on a rock to meditate on what I’ve been saying to you. Breathe clean air and enjoy God’s beauty and think about this: "Know that the life of this world is only play, and idle talk, and pageantry, and boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children; as the likeness of vegetation after rain, whereof the growth is pleasing to the husbandman, but afterward it drieth up and thou seest it turning yellow then it becometh straw. And in the Hereafter there is grievous punishment, and (also) forgiveness from Allah and His good pleasure, whereas the life of the world is but a matter of illusion. Race one with another for forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden whereof the breadth is as the breadth of the heavens and the earth, which is in store for those who believe in Allah and His messengers. Such is the bounty of Allah, which He bestoweth upon whom He will, and Allah is of infinite bounty. Naught of disaster befalleth in the earth or in yourselves but it is in a Book before We bring it into being. Lo! that is easy for Allah. That ye grieve not for the sake of that which hath escaped you, nor yet exult because of that which hath been given. Allah loveth not all prideful boasters."  (Al-Hadid : 20-23) Instead of looking at the wealth of the owner of those potato fields or that poultry factory, look at the beauty of the land, look at God’s creation, and see how God is Great. Instead of envying anybody, ask God of His bounty. "And covet not the thing in which Allah hath made some of you excel others. Unto men a fortune from that which they have earned, and unto women a fortune from that which they have earned. (Envy not one another) but ask Allah of His bounty. Lo! Allah is ever Knower of all things."  (An-Nisaa : 32)

God says: “And We have appointed some of you a test for others: Will ye be steadfast? And thy Lord is ever Seer.”   (Al-Furqan : 20) Most people fall into two groups: those who are 'better' than you will look down upon you; those who are like you or 'worse' than you will envy you. Why should you care about what other people have if you are happy with what you’re doing? Life is not only money, marriage and children. A good life is one that you live everyday with a feeling that if you lost something in the past, you are gaining other things at present and may gain more in the future. Then remember that "Whoso desireth that (life) which hasteneth away, We hasten for him therein that We will for whom We please. And afterward We have appointed for him hell; he will endure the heat thereof, condemned, rejected. And whoso desireth the Hereafter and striveth for it with the effort necessary, being a believer; for such, their effort findeth favor (with their Lord). Each do We supply, both these and those, from the bounty of thy Lord. And the bounty of thy Lord can never be walled up. See how We prefer one above another, and verily the Hereafter will be greater in degrees and greater in preferment."  (Al-Isra : 18-21) God provides both believers and nonbelievers. But true believers know, not only believe, that "the Hereafter will be greater in degrees and greater in preferment."  (Al-Isra : 18-21) 

Now just go a little further and you’ll find not only larger fields belonging to richer persons, but also dazzlingly beautiful homes. Each time you sigh (and say) “I wish I had such a beautiful dwelling!” you’ll see another one, more beautiful, then another one, much, much more beautiful. It’s like a man obsessed with beauty looking for a beautiful woman in a big city, each one makes you forget all about the others. Then go a little further and you’ll find an asphalt road. Stop for just a few moments and you’ll see not one, but many cars you’d desire to have for yourself. Who then would you be jealous of? That asphalt road will lead you, past large farm houses, to a poultry factory. Will you be jealous of the owner of this factory too? If you can, sit down on a rock near this factory and meditate. How many people work in this factory? How many families do they support? How many people, jobless people, would be happy to find work, even seasonal work, in this factory? Ask yourself: how many chickens and eggs does this factory produce every day? How many people will buy, transport… these chickens and eggs before they land on your dinner table? How many other people will eat that factory’s chickens and eggs? When you think about these things you may realize that you are, in fact, a king, yes a king! See how many people serve you! That “poor farmer” and the “poor” owner of that poultry factory and the people working for them……………are all servants of YOU! They serve YOU. You can’t count the people who are serving you every day! The clothes you are wearing, who made them for you? Did you sew them up yourself? The watch you’re wearing, your mobile, your laptop, your car, etc, etc, etc. Aren’t you a king? If you only think about one thing, one aspect of your life, you may see only the bad side. You may be quick to conclusions. "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."  (Al Fajr : 15-16) Idem for other people. You may see only one aspect of their life. Who told you, for example, that the farmer is happy? Not every smiling person is happy. Even a happy-go-lucky comedian who makes millions of people “happy” with his gags may end up taking his own life, to everybody’s surprise. 

A good self-coaching also requires a little intellectual work, and this takes time. If you can, do read a lot. Don’t just read the Quran. You can read poetry and fiction, as well. You can read a bit of philosophy. You can read biographies or any inspirational material. You can read all this and more in addition to the Quran. The more you know of the world the more you understand your sufferings and the more you know how to deal with them. In so doing, you would acquire wisdom, which is in itself a great gift from Allah. "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) I am not a great reader myself. But I have read History books, among other things. History teaches us that life is so beautiful for those who understand it. It teaches us that one can live happily with the bare minimum if one can define one’s essential needs from the needs imposed by  society. It is up to us to know how to distance ourselves from our society in order to discern what is essential from what is not. That would be a giant step towards quietude that will make us less dependent on many things that we don’t have, on many people we consider indispensable, irreplaceable. The master word is therefore 'quietude'. God says in the Quran: 70.19. Lo! man was created anxious, 70.20. Fretful when evil befalleth him 70.21. And, when good befalleth him, grudging; 70.22. Save worshippers 70.23. Who are constant at their worship 70.24. And in whose wealth there is a right acknowledged 70.25. For the beggar and the destitute; 70.26. And those who believe in the Day of Judgment…  Man is afraid of sickness, death, poverty, among other things. Man needs to feel reassured, protected, safe. It is only natural that one should seek this inner peace with someone. Instead of seeking this inner peace with others, God would like you and I to be rather the source of this peace for others, as those of whom the Qur'an says they 76.8. feed with food the needy wretch, the orphan and the prisoner, for love of Him, 76.9. (Saying) : We feed you, for the sake of Allah only. We wish for no reward nor thanks from you;” “59.9. Those who entered the city and the faith before them love these who flee unto them for refuge, and find in their breasts no need for that which hath been given them, but prefer (the fugitives) above themselves though poverty become their lot. And whoso is saved from his own avarice such are they who are successful.”  “23.61. These race for the good things, and they shall win them in the race.”  Reread these verses: 70.19. Lo! man was created anxious, 70.20. Fretful when evil befalleth him 70.21. And, when good befalleth him, grudging; 70.22. Save worshippers 70.23. Who are constant at their worship 70.24. And in whose wealth there is a right acknowledged 70.25. For the beggar and the destitute ; 70.26. And those who believe in the Day of Judgment…  Don’t you see here an invitation to purification? You purify yourself from your avarice, from your selfishness by thinking of the beggar and the poor. If you can't help the beggar and the poor, you can purify yourself from your anguish by fulfilling the salat (the daily prayers) that connects you directly with God five times a day. You purify yourself from your quest for peace with others by entrusting yourself to God. 16.98. And when thou recitest the Quran, seek refuge in Allah from Satan the outcast. 16.99. Lo! he hath no power over those who believe and put trust in their Lord. 16.100. His power is only over those who make a friend of him, and those who ascribe partners unto Him (Allah).” “65.3. And whosoever putteth his trust in Allah, He will suffice him. Lo! Allah bringeth His command to pass. Allah hath set a measure for all things.” The Welfare State was created to give people this sense of security. Some are still nostalgic for the communist era when they could, at least, find with the state a safe haven: housing facilities, schooling for children, free medical care, etc. Neither the welfare state nor the communist state nor the best democratic state in the world can now reassure anybody any more. Globalization has surpassed everyone. Nobody knows anymore what the future will be like. Hence the fear of the unknown. Hence the need for this inner peace that we think we can find with people who are closest to us. It may seem at first sight that one only wants to be reassured in relation to the future. But, in fact, one confuses reassurance with love. When you say to someone or when someone says to you, "You have nothing to fear, all the future is before you.” , that’s not like saying "I love you". The Love of God is the only thing that is really indispensable, irreplaceable. God does not need our love, it is we who need His love, and it is He who gives us this love, it is He who makes us love one another. Did He not say, "30.21. And of His signs is this : He created for you helpmeets from yourselves that ye might find rest in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo, herein indeed are portents for folk who reflect." How to get the love of God? "3.31. Say, (O Muhammad, to mankind) : If ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." . God asks for no more than that. On the contrary,  God loves the faithful infinitely more than they could ever love Him. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace and salvation be upon him) informs us that Allah says: "I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.’” -(Sahih Bukhari) Is it easy to always have a healthy, respectful relationship with God, especially when you are unhappy? Is it possible that we get, at one time or another, angry at God? Yes, of course. Your "anger" at God is in fact a declaration of love. It is as if you say, I who love you, I who adore you, I who have deprived myself of so many things to please you, who have made so many sacrifices to have your pleasure, and despite all that you put me in this pitiful situation ... ? It is as if you are blackmailing God. You are in a state of distress, you say anything to avoid the implosion from within. But quickly, a few hours, a few days later you return back to order. You pray, you ask for forgiveness, you read the Qur'an, you regain hope - even if nothing has really changed since your moment of anger. It is a sign that you love God, and it is also a sign that you should do more to understand what is happening to you, why God did this to you. There certainly must be a reason. Earlier we talked about punishment. But there's not just that. God will submit you to trials even when you are on the right path. If you see in your trials only the suffering side, it means that you have not yet understood. Where does this suffering come from, whatever the reasons? From God, doesn’t it? True, He says "4.79. Whatever of good befalleth thee (O man) it is from Allah, and whatever of ill befalleth thee it is from thyself." But what’s important is that God is capable of the best and the worst. "3.129. Unto Allah belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. He forgiveth whom He will, and punisheth whom He will. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." "39.53. Say : My slaves who have been prodigal to their own hurt! Despair not of the mercy of Allah, Who forgiveth all sins. Lo! He is the Forgiving, the Merciful." "42.30. Whatever of misfortune striketh you, it is what your right hands have earned. And He forgiveth much 42.31. Ye cannot escape in the earth, for beside Allah ye have no protecting friend nor any helper." "10.107. If Allah aflicteth thee with some hurt, there is none who can remove it save Him; and if He desireth good for thee, there is none who can repel His bounty. He striketh with it whom He will of His bondmen. He is the Forgiving, the Merciful." "39.10. Say : O My bondmen who believe! Observe your duty to your Lord. For those who do good in this world there is good, and Allah's earth is spacious. Verily the steadfast will be paid their wages without stint." All this means one thing: that God alone can control your life. This is how self-confidence is born, that trust (in God and in yourself) that makes you do what you like to do without being afraid of what others can say about you or what you do or how you do it. If what you do is good for you, God will help you succeed in it (but in His own way). If what you do or want to do is not good for you, in the near future or in a future time, God will throw a spanner in the works to attract your attention. Even the worst punishment (the worst privation) that God could inflict on you for some fault or other, it will only do you good. But you’re human, you will only see the suffering side.

Now ask yourself these questions: do you want to succeed at all costs or to be happy? It's not the same thing. Many people who have been successful are anything but happy, and many people who are happy have not been so successful. What do you want? Be both happy and successful? Okay, but what comes first: success or happiness? "11.6. And there is not a beast in the earth but the sustenance thereof dependeth on Allah. He knoweth its habitation and its repository. All is in a clear record." "31.34. And no soul knoweth what it will earn tomorrow, and no soul knoweth in what land it will die. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware." You see, you cannot do anything without God knowing, "because everything is recorded in an explicit book!" "31.34. And no soul knoweth what it will earn tomorrow." and "
0.107. If Allah aflicteth thee with some hurt, there is none who can remove it save Him; and if He desireth good for thee, there is none who can repel His bounty. He striketh with it whom He will of His bondmen. He is the Forgiving, the Merciful." So what else can we do but submit to God? What do we have in return if we willingly submit to God? Read the answer: "33.41. O ye who believe! Remember Allah with much remembrance. 33.42. And glorify Him early and late. 33.43. He it is who blesseth you, and His angels (bless you) , that He may bring you forth from darkness unto light; and He is Merciful to the believers." You want to succeed right away because you fear what others may think. God wants to bring you out of the darkness of the fear of others to make you a free person: free to choose your own belief, free to make your own choices, master of your destiny. Your life is already in the hands of God, and you want others to dictate what you have to do or be just to please them ? What if you had a mishap after a great success? You would then risk falling into the darkness of the depression, wouldn't you? "33.42. God is full of mildness for the believers." "33.43. He it is who blesseth you, and His angels (bless you), that He may bring you forth from darkness unto light; and He is Merciful to the believers." The light of hope, the light of happiness. Success will not come only through your own efforts, for there is success and success. There is the success which makes others jealous of you and makes them enemies for you, and there is the success prepared for you, in peace or in pain, by your Lord Who knows how long you are going to live, and how you will live all that time.

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 weakness vis-à-vis society, because every man likes to be liked in society. No man would like others to speak ill of him.

Normally, in normal circumstances, you’d continue reading and listening to the Quran 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) But there may come a time when you say my problem 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 weakness in my look, in my tone. They want me to feel small. They want me to feel ashamed of myself. That's my problem. Yes, that’s your problem because you are looking at people as “persons” rather than as “human beings”. Try to pay attention to what people have in common: greed, arrogance, impatience, envy, etc. When you read the Quran, or autobiographies or any kind of writings, try to meditate about “the psyche” of Man. The Quran whispers in your heart: “Lo! the guilty used to laugh at those who believed, And wink one to another when they passed them; And when they returned to their own folk, they returned jetting; And when they saw them they said: Lo! these have gone astray. Yet they were not sent as guardians over them. This day it is those who believe who have the laugh of disbelievers, On high couches, gazing. Are not the disbelievers paid for what they used to do?" (Al-Mutaffifoon :22-36) 

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/woman when I see that people with less qualifications than me are by far better off? 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 Quran 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 now know 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 stuck 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 surah (chapter from the Quran) 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 Quran 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.

This is a very serious problem indeed. It’s very serious because you don’t have all the tools to deal with it. Even very highly educated people who find very demanding, very challenging job adverts in prestigious magazines, such as The Economist and TIME, and reply to those ads and pass all interviews and are accepted and do start work with good salaries…., they don’t know what may happen to them in the future. Nobody knows what the future holds. All the education and skills you got, that’s the past. You may still have to worry about marriage, if you’re not married yet, or about your children, if they’re still young, or about your health… and all that is in the future.

You may have good insurance. That insurance will only solve the money side. Insurance will not replace a lost eye, a lost breast or a lost limb. Insurance will not solve the immaterial side (feelings, affection, mental strength…). And all that is in the future. The best economic minds of the world were unable to anticipate, let alone to avert, the 2008 Financial Crisis –are you sure your mind can anticipate (and avert) bad things for you? If your mind can’t, your heart may be of some help. Are you prepared to “save” at heart as you would save at a commercial bank?

This is one of several approaches, though. It may be not as easy as other approaches. You could leave it as the last resort. You could give it up in the middle of the process. But it all starts with a choice, with a decision. Normally, before you choose or decide anything you need to know about it in advance. That’s your legitimate right. The Quran, not me, explains to you your rights and obligations.
In the Quran’s eyes, the best and most precious part of you is your heart. In the Quran we read : "The day when wealth and sons avail not (any man). Save him who bringeth unto Allah a whole  heart." (Ash-Shu'araa : 88-89) The Quran describes some disbelievers as "having hearts wherewith they understand not, and having eyes wherewith they see not, and having ears wherewith they hear not. These are as the cattle, nay, but they are worse! These are the neglectful." (Al-A'raf  : 179) "Have they not travelled in the land, and have they hearts wherewith to feel and ears wherewith to hear? For indeed it is not the eyes that grow blind, but it is the hearts, which are within the bosoms, that grow blind."  (Al-Hajj : 46)

So when God explains to you, through the Quran, what you have to do and what you can expect as a reward, you have to believe Him.

As the author of this article, I am only doing the work of a reporter. I am trying my best to explain things in simple words. To begin with, your choice is very important. Do you only want to improve your material situation so that people will say you are a successful person? What are the signs of success for you? A good job, a good spouse, a good house, good children, a good image of you….? What about your personal dream(s)? Do you have a specific objective, a personal ambition, that you would love to fulfill in your lifetime? How long can you wait to see your dream come true? What are the sacrifices you are prepared to make?

Such questions will help you make your choice. The biggest of all these questions is, do you want to work for both the life of the world and the life of the Hereafter at the same time?

To fight monotony and despondency, do assign yourself a long-term goal, mission or project –if you haven’t done it already. Do everything you can towards the fulfilment of this project and you’ll restore your feeling of self-importance when you realize that –at least– there’s something new happening in your life and that you’re not wasting away your time and life in this world. "And trust thou in the Living One Who dieth not" (Al-Furqan : 58)

The Quran asks you to do what you can. Study what you can. Invest what you can. Pray as much as you can. Give as much charity as you can. Do as much good as you can. Avoid evil as best you can. “Allah tasketh not a soul beyond its scope.” (Al-Baqara : 286) "Allah asketh naught of any soul save that which He hath given it. Allah will vouchsafe, after hardship, ease." (At-Talaq : 7) “So keep your duty to Allah as best ye can, and listen, and obey, and spend; that is better for your souls. And whoso is saved from his own greed, such are the successful.” (At-Tagabun : 16)

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)

Now let’s ask this question: How does one develop a strong psyche? Through self-analysis. If you are a liar, why do you complain about other people lying to or about you? If you are selfish, ungrateful, why do you expect others to be grateful to you? If you are dishonest, why do you want others to be honest with you? If you are a cheater, why shouldn't other people do the same? If you were unkind to somebody at one point in the remote past, do you think he/she will forget as you tried to forget and overlook all his/her past faults? Maybe he/she didn't go through the process (experience) that turned you into such a good, forgiving person.

There are people who have psychological problems that they may not be aware of or that they do not want to recognize. You deal with them in good faith, as if they are normal people, taking pains in enduring their arrogance, their lies, their fake love... You try to 'save' them, to help them in every possible way, assuming that they too can change for the better.... But in the sight of such people you are only a sucker, a naive person unable to see what's in their minds. Well, there's but rubbish in their minds, I tell you; there's but illness in their hearts. Run away from them lest they should kill you piecemeal!

As I said above, most people will either envy you if you are better off, or look down upon you if they are better off. You will rarely find people who will 'respect' you in all situations. If your superior/boss bullies or harasses you, that's because he believes he is 'better off', he believes that it's you who needs him and cannot do without him. He believes you are too weak to give up the job in such a time of crisis. Put yourself into that person's shoes and ask yourself whether you wouldn't do just the same! See if there's not something wrong with your own character (vis-à-vis other people). Cleanse your soul first, before complaining about others. Your soul is like your shoes. They may be clean before you leave home, but they may be less clean when you return home and you may have to clean (and shine) them again. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:  "Every Son of Adam is a Sinner, and the Best of Sinners are those who Repent".

Now, if you are over-kind (be it natural, voluntary or compulsive), within or without the work sphere, most people will take that for a weakness or a sign of stupidity; you will lose a lot, suffer a lot; but with resolve, sincerity and a clear purpose in your life, you will certainly prevail. You have to have kind of moral superiority. Once a man came to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and said: "O Messenger of Allah, tell me something about Islam which I cannot ask anyone else besides you." He said:  "Say you believe in God then be upright (be steadfast upon that)."  The meaning is, do everything you probably can to be a good person, don’t harm anybody who didn’t harm you, and then don’t care about what others will say about you or how they will react to your kindness.

Injustice may sometimes come from somebody who was very kind to you in the past. This somebody is teasing you now because he/she gave you so much kindness/help in the past, when he/she thought you might become something in the future and he/she would therefore get some kind of reward for the good he/she did to you in the past... but now that he/she is seeing you, year after year, without any real improvement in your life, he/she is playing tricks on you, beguiling you with false promises, teasing you, saying bad things on you... and you are in a hell because of him/her. You don't want to break with him/her and thus end a longtime friendship, always bearing in mind the kindness he/she gave you in the past. You strive to be faithful and grateful... But he/she doesn't care two-pence about your 'friendship'... You too may have been harsh to him/her in the past, in the remote past, and he/she didn't react then and preferred patience and silence because he/she still feared you might become something/somebody important in the future.... Now that you are a 'failed' person in his/her sight, he/she is ‘punishing' you for all those small and big mistakes. If you go on dealing with such a vindictive person, you will only kill yourself.

Another source of your unhappiness may be your fear of other people’s opinion about you. People will always comment your looks, the clothes you put on, the house you live in, the things you eat, the place where you eat, the music you listen to, the kind of work you do… If you are jobless, that’s horror ! Especially if you are married and a parent. If you are unmarried, that’s hell. This will fill your heart with jealousy and a Satanic wish to harm those you are jealous of, those you believe are better or luckier than you, those who are bullying or harassing you. The jealousy may destroy your heart from within as a fire would destroy a home from within… What’s the solution, then? I’m not a psychic, but I am confident that the first step to do is: accept within yourself the fact that you are exactly what people are saying about you, then say: So what? I am jobless, that’s my problem. You’re not going to help me. I’m unmarried, that’s my problem. I didn’t ask you to find me a partner. I’m a failed person on all counts, BUT I AM FREE. I won’t do what you –society– want me to do. I will go downtown wearing rubber sandals, that’s none of your business. I will go to work on foot or by bus, that’s none of your business. This car of mine that is not good in your eyes, I will sell it off and buy a bicycle instead. It’s not you who pays gasoline for me. You don’t like the colour of my suit (of my bag, of my shirt…) because it’s not in line with the fashion of the moment? Well, I will not wear anything else until the end of the season! You are bullying/harassing me because you think I can’t find work elsewhere? Well, I’m not leaving now. I won’t give you the chance to revel in my misfortune. I’ll wait until I get a better job and I’ll leave without regret… That’s how you can start liberating yourself from all the shackles people want to put on you. You will continue for some length of time to feel the bitter feeling of injustice and the pain of ingratitude, but they won’t be as painful as before. Your moral superiority, your being true to yourself (as long as you stick to it) will impress those who until recently made you feel ashamed of yourself for the mere reason that you are not like the rest of the livestock. Your indifference to their opinion about you will kill their evil.

However, don’t think that ‘moral superiority’ necessarily means attaining sainthood. Be realistic. You can’t pretend you wouldn’t love to have a steady job for life. What more than a government could give lifetime jobs and financial security? The problem is, government employees are partly paid by money coming from brothels, casinos, alcohol, cigarettes, potentially dangerous cosmetics, banks that strangle destitute helpless people, companies in which working conditions push employees to suicide, depression or cancer; factories that pollute whole regions, farmers that ‘poison’ underground water, big companies that enslave people with pitiless marketing campains…

If you are a State employee yourself or one of your parents, what would you say to that poor girl who works in a sex shop in order to pay for her studies? What would you say to that person who spends most of his salary in casinos? What would you say to that depressed person who spends a quarter of his salary on alcohol and another quarter on healthcare? What would you say to that husband who kills himself, his wife and children with active and passive smoking? What would you say to that young woman who develops cancer because of cosmetics or unbearable working conditions? etc, etc, etc. Well, part of those unfortunate people’s money ends up in your pocket. And if you or any of your parents is not paid by the State, maybe you were educated in State schools which used that kind of money, or treated in a hospital which used that kind of money, etc, etc, etc.

Putting such questions to yourself, in the process of self-analysis, will not increase your feeling of guilt, though; but will only help you realize that nobody is entirely innocent. Allah says in the Quran :  “And if Allah were to enlarge the provision for His slaves they would surely rebel in the earth, but He sendeth down by measure as He willeth. Lo! He is Informed, a Seer of His bondmen.” ( 42.27)     

The English proverb goes: "People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones." The Moroccan proverb says: "A camel only sees his brother’s hump." Just as a camel doesn't see his own hump, we only see other people's defects, not ours.  

If government morality is not as pure as the pre-Industrial Revolution Era rain, then expect that morality in business can’t be more pure than our era’s rivers. Then, why be more Catholic than the Pope? Part of our problem when we are wronged emotionally (I’m not talking here of rape, etc.) is we are quick to complain: all the evil is from somebody else. I am clean, I am pure, I am good. Tears. Sleepless nights. Psychics. Sex. Drugs. And you go closer and closer to the precipice.

You too can develop such a strong faith in yourself, a faith that makes you believe you can reach what is impossible in other people’s eyes. The first step, as I said, is to admit voluntarily and unregretfully that you are just as failed as people are saying about you. Then say: So what? You think I’m a failed person/writer/businessman/parent, SO BE IT! Get off my back, right?... Your self-analysis will help you take that first step. Regard admitting to failure as a strategy, not as a fait accompli... Remember that some people have gone from prison or hideouts into the top positions in their States, and vice-versa. Remember the has-beens: those former stars and megastars, those over-mediatized politicians, who suddenly fell into oblivion. Remember those talented people who didn’t benefit from their talents in their lifetime, people such as Edgar Alan Poe, Rudolph Diesel (whose name is in oil-stations all over the world)… Remember those people who were once living in their homes with their wives and children and are now helpless, homeless people, or refugees, waiting for others to help them.
You shouldn’t lament over the past. “Naught of disaster befalleth in the earth or in yourselves but it is in a Book before We bring it into being Lo! that is easy for Allah. That ye grieve not for the sake of that which hath escaped you, nor yet exult because of that which hath been given. Allah loveth not all prideful boasters."  (Al-Hadid : 22-23)

Always have trust in God. “And whosoever putteth his trust in Allah, He will suffice him.” (At-Talaq : 3) “Such as are steadfast and put their trust in Allah.” (An-Nahl : 42) "Lo! Allah loveth those who put their trust (in Him).” (Al-i'Imran : 159)

Always bear in mind that you are after a double wage: “O My bondmen who believe! Observe your duty to your Lord. For those who do good in this world there is good, and Allah's earth is spacious. Verily the steadfast will be paid their wages without stint.” (Az-Zumar : 10)


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