What Should be a Muslim’s Response to Ongoing Tragedies? Not Despair

A father and son shell-shocked in Gaza

A father and son shell-shocked in Gaza

By Hesham Hassaballa

It has been a rough summerWhile everyone around the world was trying – as best as possible during the long and hot Ramadan — to fast and re-connect with God, ​​the horrific images from Gaza kept coming incessantly. Next door in Iraq, the “Islamic State” continued its reign of terror and bloodshed, destroying historical relics and killing innocent people – Christian, Muslim and otherwise – with terrifying fervor. Add to this the continuing horrific civil war in Syria, the terror of Boko Haram, and attacks of the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and it seems that the bleeding of the Ummah has no end in sight.

Here at home, it has been revealed that, despite assurances to the contrary, the government has indeed spied on American Muslims. That’s on top of the “terror experts,” who are nothing but, who disparage Islam and train law enforcement officers to suspect the entire Muslim community. Adding insult to injury, largely because of the terrible news from the Muslim world, the image of Muslims continues to deteriorate. Asked to rate various religious groups, our fellow Americans rated Muslims dead last.

Yup, it’s been a rough summer.

The question on many Muslims’ minds is what to do about this. Indeed, there are many responses, and I pray that no one responds by committing violence or harming anyone or anything. This is not the way of our faith, or our Prophet or our God.The other extreme — despair — must also be avoided. In fact, just like violence, it must be avoided at all cost.

God says in the Quran, “O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Do not despair of the Mercy of God … (39:53)”

Remember the Prophet Jacob, who told his sons:

“Never give up hope of God’s Soothing Mercy: truly, no one despairs of God’s Soothing Mercy except those who have no faith. (Quran, 12:87)”

It may seem bad now, but our Ummah has seen bad days before, and — by the grace of God — they have passed into oblivion. We should never despair.

In fact, to despair is to follow the path of Iblis, whose very name comes from the Arabic root balasa, which means “one who despaired.” Iblis, therefore, means “he who causes despair.” In fact, Iblis himself despaired after his arrogant and racist refusal to obey God’s command, and out of that despair came his pledge:

“Because You have thwarted me, I will lie in wait for them on Thy straight way (7:16)”

His hatred for us has come out of his despair, and thus we should actively resist, actively wage jihad, against falling into despair ourselves.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) never despaired, despite the terrible guile, hatred and violence meted out to him because of his preaching. During one of the most difficult times of his prophetic life, as he lay outside of Ta’if, in shock and legs bleeding, his main concern was whether God was angry with him:

“As long as You are not angry with me, then I do not care [what happens to me].”

But, he also said:

“Nevertheless, I would be much happier with Your mercy.”

And that mercy came almost immediately: He was soon thereafter graced with the Night Journey and Ascension to the very presence of the Beloved. The Prophet (pbuh) never fell into despair, and neither should we.Yes, it seems the constant tirades of the Islamophobes’, and those Americans who heed their filth, are gaining ground. It seems like so-called Muslims who are committing acts of evil are tarnishing our faith. But remember what God says:

“Their intention is to extinguish God’s Light with their mouths. But God will perfect His Light, despite the hatred of those who reject the truth. (61:8)”

God is in charge, and in that fact, we should rejoice. In fact, in times like these, we must redouble our efforts to get closer to God, reach out to Him and bask in the light of His love and grace. We should ask Him for respite from these terrible times, and we use the spiritual benefits gained by our fast of Ramadan to better ourselves, because:

“God never changes the condition of a people until they change themselves. (13:11)”

Yes, we should pray for all those who are suffering. Yes, we should help relieve the suffering of the victims of oppression. We should try to engage our society so that more justice can be spread both abroad and here at home.No, we should never respond with violence and evil. We should “never let the hatred [of a people towards us] move [us] swerve toward wrong and depart from justice … (5:8)”  And, we should also never, ever fall into despair. Remember:

“Do not think that God is heedless of the deeds of those who do wrong. He but gives them respite against a Day when the eyes will fixedly stare in horror (14:42)”

God is in charge. In that fact, we should rejoice.

And, may the Beloved Lord our God, the Beautiful and Holy Allah, the Glorious and Magnificent HaShem bring peace and healing to our suffering and bleeding world. Amen.

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago-based physician and writer. He is author of, most recently, Noble Brother: The Story of the Prophet Muhammad in Poetry (Faithful Word Press). You can follow Hesham Hassaballa on Facebook. Hassaballa’s column, “An American Islam,” is published monthly on the Muslim portal. Subscribe via email or RSS.

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  • 4ever49

    Dr. Hassaballa, I am struck by your naiveté when it comes to solutions for the despair you think exists in the Muslim community. Your quote verses from the Koran saying God is in charge and that Muslims should rejoice.

    Rejoice about what? Are you not aware that the bulk of the non-Muslim world is very much of the opinion Islam is the root cause of the terrorist attacks around the world and the thousands to millions killed or soon to be killed are losing their lives at the behest of Islam?

    You have to be aware that groups like ISIS are the scourge of mankind and that their beliefs arise out of Islam. You can craft all sorts of literary tomes about Islam but the fact is Islam teaches hate of Jews, Christians and all it considers kafirs. Further that it calls for killing apostates and relegates women to a one half that of a man.

    Somewhere, somehow, Muslims will have make fundamental changes in its core beliefs or your despair is certain to deepen.

    • Madzi

      War is coming. Make no mistake about that. One will either stand with the righteous who strive to live the lives God wants us to live or they will stand with those who are doing the will of the adversary. Pope Francis is right: this is NOT God’s will and to murder in His Name is an abomination.
      Where will you stand?

  • chris turner

    so is it all Gods will then? This is how he wants it to be?

    “God never changes the condition of a people until they change themselves. (13:11)” So its the fault of the victims that they are being killed by ISIS and BOKO.

    “He was soon thereafter graced with the Night Journey and Ascension to the very presence of the Beloved.” Oh that was nice for him, so we wont worry about the real people being killed and tortured in his name today.

    • Harun

      There is only one God. Do you not think that you will not be tried or tested in this life? Adam & Eve were misled by an evil accursed enemy ‘Iblis’. Therefore, do not lose focus in the remembrance of God. Always remain patient and persevere in the hope for God’s peace and mercy.

      • chris turner

        is it the fault of the victims?

        • Harun

          In Islam we believe in God’s preordainment therefore everything that occurs in this life was planned by God before you were even created. Your true lasting existence happens in the hereafter. Consequently, any reward or punishment you receive in the hereafter will be based the evil or good deeds you sent forth.

  • http://bigpulpit.com/ Tito Edwards

    “been a rough summer.”

    The extermination of the indigenous Christian population in Iraq, which predates Islam by 600 years, is called a “rough summer”?

    Even so-called moderate Muslims can’t say what is happening in the Middle-East is genocide.

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    You are Moslem- but by Muwahiddun standards, you are no more Islamic than I am. Where is the fear of what other Islamics are doing in the name of Jihad?