I have been banging my head against the wall to write about this latest massacre in the US, the murder of 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I feel like whatever I write will be either very sad and depressing or so “this is a test and if we succeed we’ll all get into heaven” trite that it is an insult to the grief of the families who lost their loved ones. In a moment of weakness, I along with so many others may have thought “Why, God, Why?” Why did You allow this to happen? Once I ask that in regards to Sand Hook, though, I have to ask it for a whole lot of other things….
Why Syria? Why bombs that wipe out apartment complexes in Damascus, burying whole families, including infants and small children just as beautiful and precious as those in Connecticut? Why rape of women and girls in Congo? Why IEDs blowing legs off soldiers in Afghanistan? Why Predator drones killing enemy and noncombatant alike in the mountains of Pakistan? Why genocide in Sudan, in Rwanda, in Serbia, in Germany? Why earthquakes in Iran and Haiti? Why a tsunami that killed a quarter of a million people? Why Hurricane Sandy? Why the atomic bomb that murdered two hundred thousand Japanese? Why a child dying of shaken baby syndrome in a poor urban center or a woman being shot by her husband in a rich suburb? Why? Why, God, Why?
Ever since the creation of the first man, this world has been a place of testing and tribulation. Even before, when Satan beguiled Adam and Hawa, peace be upon them, by deceiving them into eating the forbidden fruit. Then when they were put down on the earth, one of their sons exercised his free will and murdered his brother. And so it went generation by generation down to our present time. There have always been wars and famines and man’s inhumanity to man. We read about them in our legends and scriptures. We take lessons from the patience of Job, who lost everything and would not be ungrateful to God. Then when a crisis strikes close to home, in our shock we often can’t help ourselves. We fall to our knees and cast our gaze to the heavens:
Why, God, Why?
I don’t have an easy answer. I just have the answer that I believe to be the truth: Allah created this world for us so that we would be tested to our utmost. Here on the earth the wheat is separated from the chaff, and it’s just a sad truth that there’s a whole lot of chaff out there. But He also gave us a promise. If we trust in Allah, if we are patient in the face of our tests, then He will reward us with the everlasting joy of Jannah, a beautiful garden where ugliness and despair are banished and happiness and peace wash away the memory of every pain. If you believe in that, truly believe, then you can be patient.
On average, over 150,000 people die every single day. Do we disbelieve in Allah because of these deaths? Or do we accept His will only when those deaths happen to someone on the other side of the world who is not a close relative or friend? If I grieve over the deaths of people who are unrelated but geographically close to me in Virginia, should I not cry over the death of someone in China or Japan? If my faith in Allah is not challenged over the death of a farmer who is gored by a bull in Korea, why should it be tested when someone close to me dies of cancer?
I’m probably rambling but I keep having the hardest time putting this straight in my mind and writing about it. Look, everybody dies, right? That is a simple truth. Everyone who is born dies. Wouldn’t it be great if we all died quietly in our sleep at age 120 after a long fulfilling life, surrounded by loved ones and ushered into the Hereafter by choruses of angels? Yeah, that’d be nice, but you know as well as I do that it’s easy to be a person of faith if you are not tested. Allah allows this world to work on us, allows us to suffer the consequences of our actions and the actions of others, and that includes the possibility of an “early” death. A death by disaster, disease, or the mayhem of our fellow human beings. It matters and it doesn’t matter. It offends our sense of right when someone dies young. We grieve more for a life “cut short” than we do for our beloved grandfather who took his last breath at age 90. That’s okay; that’s part of our human nature. We consider the possibility of what that person’s life could have been, and the gap in our lives left by his absence. That’s okay; that’s part of our human nature. We grieve not just because they are dead but because we are still alive and have to go on without them. That’s okay; that’s part of our human nature.
For a person of faith, the comfort I can offer is this: That person’s test is over. You are alive because your job here is not done. If you want to honor the memory of the person who has passed, then your job now is to live a godly life so that when YOU die, and die you will, that you will be granted Jannah, Paradise, Heaven, and then you can be reunited with the loved one you lost. Grieve but go on. You have yourself to live for, and all the people who love you. Live a godly life now because you and I are not promised tomorrow. If you take any lesson from the mayhem around us, that is the one I want you to remember.
It’s easy to say and not easy to do. I have never been so sorely tested as many of my fellow human beings have. I don’t know how I will react if I am touched by tribulation on the level of Sandy Hook, Allah forbid. I suppose all I can do is live the best life I can now and deal with each test as it comes to me. And I’ll do my best to offer comfort to those around me who have suffered losses far greater than my own.