Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Your Heart Is Precious

America must be a good place to live these days. Unemployment there has dropped to a six-year low. Also in France the unemployed can dream once again.  Statistics show that France had 11,000 fewer job seekers last month (1): the first decrease since October 2013. In my country, unemployment is going up, not down. The rate is around 10 %. Still, those 90 % are lucky to have work. Most of these 90 % are married and have children. A great number of them have homes of their own, many have cars, etc. It’s only those 10 % that are more or less suffering. Should they suffer? Should they accept their situation? Shouldn’t there be somebody to blame for their situation? The government, for example?

French President’s approval rating has reached record lows, and everybody is linking that to the President’s presumed failure to deliver on job creation and economic growth (2). Paradoxically, there are plenty of jobs in the U.S., and yet President Barack Obama  gets little credit for it from the public (3). Gossip has it that if the German economy has been so good, until six months ago anyway, it’s because most employed people there are somewhat underpaid. (A minimum  wage was introduced in Germany only recently.) Nevertheless, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s popularity remains sky-high (4). In Ghaza and the West Bank 30 to 60 % of people are on the dole. The blame there is laid at the door of the Israeli Occupation. In Tunisia and Egypt the scapegoat for rising unemployment is the Arab Spring.

The blame game is part of human nature. We all blame others for our misfortunes. When there’s nobody specific to blame, we blame bad luck. But let’s be objective for a moment! The best intentioned, most competent government can’t guarantee jobs for all. The most compassionate, most patriotic business establishment in the world can’t guarantee lasting economic growth. There will always be a minority of “unlucky” people. Even highly educated people (doctors, engineers…) may be surprised not to find suitable jobs. (See my article Salam Layla 5.) Even governments of developed countries plead with other governments of developed countries to do better for their national economy. The French want Germans to do more for German economic growth. The Germans want the French to do more to reduce their budget deficit. The U.S. appeals to Europe to do more to get out of recession.

In my country, we often hear business people, economic analysts, and even government officials, say that if tens of thousands of our youth can’t find work it’s because their training is inadequate for business. People with degrees in Islamic Studies, History & Geography, Arabic language, Philosophy, etc., have nothing to do in the business world. They only wasted their time at Faculty. Business wants competent people. It wants engineers, managers, specialized technicians, etc. If you have a degree in the Arabic language, why don’t you be a poet? You’d do well to sell potato chips to kids in front of schools by day and write poetry and love stories at night.

A relatively recent problem for our government is that although it urgently needs thousands of teachers, including teachers of languages, History & Geography… to work in public schools, it simply can’t hire them because it can’t pay them. Most people, including myself, believe that the Government is acting in good faith. But it’s a problem of money. A much bigger problem for the Government is that, if nothing is done urgently, by 2021 it will become impossible for the State to pay retirement pensions to former State employees. This is not my personal view. This is being said by government officials, union officials, economists… Another problem for our government is that our traditional economic partners, namely Europe, are suffering. That translates for us into less tourist money and less remittance money from our fellow nationals living in Europe…

So what to do? Will you study what business wants so that business will be pleased with you? Will you sell chips by day and write poetry at night? Will you join sit-ins in front of Government buildings to pressure the Government to find you a job? Will you wait for economic recovery or better economic growth? Will you use heroin or cocaine to forget all about these problems? Will you turn to religion? Can you wait more and be steadfast when religion asks you to do so? Can you decide for yourself ? Can you defy all people around you? Can you trust yourself? Do you trust yourself in the first place?

This is a very serious problem. 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 Koran, not me, explains to you your rights and obligations.

In the Koran’s eyes, the best and most precious part of you is your heart. In the Koran 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 Koran 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)
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)

So when God explains to you, through the Koran, 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? Do not read on if the answer is no.

The Koran 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)

Then implore God to help you. Whether you got a first degree in Arabic from an Arab Faculty of Letters or a PhD in Physics at an American university, you have to implore God to help you. (Your PhD in Physics may bring you a good job with a multinational corporation, but not necessarily a good wife, etc.) Implore God to help you get what you want. Thank God for that PhD. Be kind unto people as God was kind unto you. “Exult not; lo! Allah loveth not the exultant; 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 : 76-77)

Be a good example, a good role model for others. Never forget your second life. You work for both lives at the same time.
Whatever your problem, implore God. “And your Lord hath said: Pray unto me and I will hear your prayer.” (Ghafir : 60) "And when My servants question thee concerning Me, then surely I am nigh. I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he crieth unto Me. So let them bear My call and let them trust in Me, in order that they may be led aright.” (Al-Baqara : 186)

If your prayer is not answered, it may be a question of taqwa (righteousness, fear of God) on your part. "And whosoever keepeth his duty to Allah, Allah will appoint a way out for him, And will provide for him from (a quarter) whence he hath no expectation. 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.” (At-Talaq : 2-3) "And whosoever keepeth his duty to Allah, He maketh his course easy for him.” (At-Talaq : 4)

It may also be some kind of punishment for some wrongdoing. “That is because Allah never changeth the grace He hath bestowed on any people until they first change that which is in their hearts, and (that is) because Allah is Hearer, Knower.” (Al-Anfal : 53)
But you should never give up hope, though. “And lo! when We cause man to taste of mercy from Us he exulteth therefor. And if some evil striketh them because of that which their own hands have sent before, then lo! man is an ingrate.” (Ash-Shura : 48) "And when We cause mankind to taste of mercy they rejoice therein; but if an evil thing befall them as the consequence of their own deeds, lo! they are in despair!” (Ar-Rum : 36)
You should stick to this approach whatever the situation. “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)  "Lo! Allah changeth not the condition of a folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts.” (Ar-Ra'd : 11)

If something bad happens to you, you may be unable to understand why. But God says to you: “(…) 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)  "No calamity befalleth save by Allah's leave. And whosoever believeth in Allah, He guideth his heart. And Allah is Knower of all things.” (At-Tagabun : 11)

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)
You have to believe God when He says: “Lo! he who wardeth off (evil) and endureth (findeth favor); for verily Allah loseth not the wages of the kindly.” (Yusuf : 90) “That which Allah openeth unto mankind of mercy none can withhold it; and that which He withholdeth none can release thereafter. He is the Mighty, the Wise.” (Fatir : 2) “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)

Unfortunately, you will have to prove your good faith. You can’t lie to God. Be prepared for tests. "Do men imagine that they will be left (at ease) because they say, We believe , and will not be tested with affliction? Lo! We tested those who were before you. Thus Allah knoweth those who are sincere, and knoweth those who feign." (Al-Ankabut : 2-3) "And surely We shall try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and crops; but give glad tidings to the steadfast, Who say, when a misfortune striketh them: Lo! we are Allah's and Lo! unto Him we are returning. Such are they on whom are blessings from their Lord, and mercy. Such are the rightly guided." (Al-Baqara : 155) 

If you pass the test(s) you are lucky. Those signs of success everybody is obsessed with (job, marriage, image…) , you’ll get of it what will make you feel happy and satisfied in your heart… and people will end up respecting you –even if they looked down upon you for years and years. "And lo! the sequel is for those who keep their duty (unto Allah)" (Al-A'raf : 128) "And the sequel is for righteousness." (Ta-ha : 132)

And your success in this life is only a concrete sign for you that your life after death must be much better. "For those who do good in this world there is a good (reward) and the home of the Hereafter will be better. Pleasant indeed will be the home of those who ward off (evil)."  (An-Nahl : 30) "And whatsoever ye have been given is a comfort of the life of the world and an ornament thereof; and that which Allah hath is better and more lasting. Have ye then no sense?" (Al-Qasas : 60)

You can’t get that without patience. You have to endure some kind of suffering (during the test(s)). This is the price. That’s why most people would not choose this way, this approach. They want the rose without thorns. They want to find solutions with their minds, not their hearts. Now it’s up to you to choose.

"As for those who strive in Us, We surely guide them to Our paths, and lo! Allah is with the good." (Al-Ankabut : 69) "Lo! Allah is with those who keep their duty unto Him and those who are doers of good." (An-Nahl : 128) "And thou (Muhammad) art not occupied with any business and thou recitest not a lecture from this (Scripture), and ye (mankind) perform no act, but We are Witness of you when ye are engaged therein. And not an atom's weight in the earth or in the sky escapeth your Lord, nor what is less than that or greater than that, but it is (written) in a clear Book. Lo! verily the friends of Allah are (those) on whom fear (cometh) not, nor do they grieve. Those who believe and keep their duty (to Allah), Theirs are good tidings in the life of the world and in the Hereafter. There is no changing the Words of Allah ; that is the Supreme Triumph. And let not their speech grieve thee (O Muhammad). Lo! power belongeth wholly to Allah. He is the Hearer, the Knower. Lo! is it not unto Allah that belongeth whosoever is in the heavens and whosoever is in the earth?" (Yunus : 61-66)  "Lo! Allah! With Him is knowledge of the Hour. He sendeth down the rain, and knoweth that which is in the wombs. No soul knoweth what it will earn tomorrow, and no soul knoweth in what land it will die. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware." (Luqman : 34)


(1) English-speaking jobs in France - The Local

(2) PressTV-Hollande's approval rating hits new low

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