Sunday, September 4, 2016

Losing control: an Islamic perspective

[ Note: The following is an edited version of the Friday Khutbah given 9/216 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam.]

Opening remarks

All of us want to feel in control. We want to control our time, income flow, even health, and many of us can become obsessive over these things. However, we should ask what happens if and when we that control is removed?

All religions seek to give guidance to their adherents on issues of losing control, particularly at death. These religions have a particular viewpoint on what happens after death and gives inspirational slogans for those experiencing it as well as those loved ones around that person. This situation is not the only time when control is lost. What about experiencing the loss of a job, social standing, marriage, heart disease or cancer, non life threatening, but beyond the control of a person. What does religion say to these matters?

Look at Prophet Muhammad

We have to look at Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace and blessings, because Allah made him the model whose struggles provide first hand a deep perspective on these things. We have to pay particular attention to what Allah [Soobhaanahu wa ta'alaa] told his Prophet when he [i.e. The Prophet] was facing things seemingly beyond his ability to handle.

"Say: I have no power for myself to bring neither harm nor benefit, expect as God wills.." [Q 10:43]. Think of that. Recall when the Prophet [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] went to Ta'if, the leaders sent a youthful mob to stone him. It is said that the Prophet's shoes were overflowing with blood. The Prophet had no control there. A man can fight maybe one or two persons, yet he would be practically helpless against a mob. Allah tells him to say that he only operates within the limits given to him, and repeatedly in the Qur'an, Allah tells the Prophet to state this in public.

The Prophet was successful

Look at the Prophet. Despite years of all those things, he never became hateful or despondent or bitter. When he overcame the enemy in their capital [Makkah], he issued a general amnesty which extended even to the leadership which had led the charge against him for so many years.

This attitude and thinking are centered within the Divine Reality, the Prophet was blessed to see big picture, and that made him triumphant, even from a worldly perspective.

The whole of the Quranic message is a message of acknowledging limited control

The entirety of the revelation is a reminder that God is in ultimate control, however there are two verses which I would like particularly highlight.

"Whatever We [Allah] cancels of signs, or makes forgotten, We [i..e Allah] replace it something better or [atleast] comparable." [Q 2:106]
مَا نَنسَخْ مِنْ آيَةٍ أَوْ نُنسِهَا نَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ مِّنْهَا أَوْ مِثْلِهَا  
If God's plan is that we face one loss or another, be it in occupation, marriage, death of loved ones, the Sunnah of Allah is that eventually healing comes with a better situation. Thus, the verse ends "Don't you know that truly Allah is powerful over all.?" [Q 2:106]

This sentiment is strengthened in the next ayah:
أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللّهَ لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَمَا لَكُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلاَ نَصِيرٍ
"Don't you know that to Allah belongs the dominion of the Heavens and the Earth, and that other than him you have none to give you protection [Walee] nor any to give you victory [Naseer]?" [Q 2:107]

So don't lose your mind or your balance when things happen, because it is all in the hands of Allah anyways. Have confidence that Allah will take care of you. That does not mean a defeatist mentality.

You do your best to secure your income and and happiness by your own efforts, by your own sweat you seek your own rights. Seek to improve your health by proper diet and exercise. Yet, remember that these things can be taken away, yet Allah says that he replaces them.

In terms of death, it is not an accident. It happens at the right time for all parties concerned. Similarly, the giving or removing of power, wealth, prestige, all occur by the decree of God when it is best for all.

Remember that, and be guided. Or, we should say, remember that, because that is an indicator of proper guidance.


Bassam Ali said...

Excellent article. Thanks and God bless you.