[ This is an edited version of a recent Friday Khutbah]
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم taught us that we are supposed to say "Praise belongs to Allah in every circumstance" [Alhamdulillaahi 'alaa Kulli haal]. Another version adds "Or during blessing too" [Aw Ni'mat]. This statement has many levels, the least of which is that whatever situation we are in, it could always be worse. Even if we are unaware of the hadeeth from which this teaching derives, all of us, by necessity, know the statement Alhamdulilllaahi Rabbil 'aal ameen- praise belongs to Allah, the Caretaker of the Universe. After all, we recite this daily in our Salaah. This is an integral line in Soorat Al Faatihah.
When we combine the two expressions of Hamd,[from the Qur'an and the Hadeeth here] we are presented with a wonderful result. Allahسُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ is the source of all things, what we perceive as "good" as well as "bad". Allah runs all things, and he does so, not in some vicious or random way. Nor does He do so in a way that would imply playing with our lives as a game. Allah runs things in a deliberate, organized, elaborate fashion. Thus, recognizing that he is Rabbul 'Aal ameen [Caretaker of the Universe], when we encounter that which we are unfamiliar or uncomfortable, we are to still give him praise!
We also proclaim Hamd because we are acknowledging that a change is coming [or is already here]! Change is hard, we have to admit. After all, humans naturally crave stability, but that in itself can create it's own problems, such as stagnation, boredom, etc. Consider what Allah says. He says that he created death and life. In this particular verse, he mentions Death before he mentions Life! Both death and life are created by God. In a similar way, heath and sickness, wealth and poverty, all are created by Allah and are under the direction of Allah. These are examples of unavoidable changes, and when they do come, often we cannot see the wisdom behind them. Change can also be a frightening experience,yet, as believers we are to seek to ultimately connect ourselves to the thread of thinking that seeks to consciously submit to the Divine Will!
Jews and Christians are sometimes criticized in the Qur'an, even though they share with the Muslims similar beliefs regarding God, Prophets, scriptures, etc..So why are they criticized? Because they were unable [at least the Western Christians, as the overwhelming majority of Christians in Arabia and surrounding lands did eventually accept ] to accept the Qur'an and the Prophet. The Qur'an itself says "Those given the scripture recognize him [Muhammad] just as they did their own sons." الَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَعْرِفُونَهُ كَمَا يَعْرِفُونَ أَبْنَاءهُمُ
Their educated people of religion could see that the Qur'an and Prophetصلى الله عليه وسلم were the genuine article, but recognition was not enough. Thus, the verse ends "They bring loss to their own souls, in that they don't have Imaan." [Q 6:20]The Prophet, because he was an Arab, a people whose ancestor [Ishmael] is dismissed in the Bible as a "wild donkey of a man", was rejected by them because of bloodline alone. So the change, the change of Prophethood [to now go to an Arab figure], the change of Qiblah [Jerusalem to Makkah], these were changes they found unacceptable. Yet, change is a part of existence. Change is necessary. So, our situation[s] change, yet we still say Alhamdulillaah and keep on going.
الَّذِينَ خَسِرُواْ أَنفُسَهُمْ فَهُمْ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ
Our Prophet- upon whom be peace and blessings, is the embodiment of change, but that change was never capricious. The changes were not a part of some "Divine Comedy" [to borrow an expression from Dante'] . Allahسُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ says that our Prophet was nothing more than a Mercy to all nations.
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ
So, our Prophet- an example of change- was a Mercy to all- sent forth by Allah. That means that God cares. God has compassion. His Messenger [peace be upon him] was the same way. He lived from many life changing experiences such as marriages, place of residence, dealing with foes, yet the caring, merciful aspects of his character never left him! He issued amnesty for his foes when we overcame them in Makkah. He said "None of you have Imaan until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." He also said "A person who sleeps full while his neighbor is hungry is not a believer." So this quality of mercy was a constant.
Mercy, although a natural quality, is enhanced or sustained by thinking, by conscious behavior. Of course that means that there has to be a bit of struggle, to maintain that awareness. A struggle is needed, to maintain the attitude of mercy over that of wrath. In today's world, we have much wrath, violence, jealousy, and egotism, but little mercy!
A welcome change in today's world would be the change of this trend- from wrath to mercy, and that would also demonstrate our attempt to follow the Prophet, the best model.
So wherever you are, wherever you find yourself, still praise Allah and seek him, because he is real! Have confidence in what Allah has given you, in that any "bad situation" you find yourself in now- it may turn out to be simply a doorway to a better thing.