I remember hearing a hadith, when I was much younger, in which the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was reported to have said that there will come a time when holding onto one’s faith will be as painful as holding onto a hot coal. I, in fact, quoted this hadith in a college admission essay, describing how difficult it was trying to remain faithful to my Islamic duties back then. Yet, that time pales in comparison to the difficult time in which I find the Muslim community today.
Every day, I read of more innocent Muslim brothers and sisters being mercilessly slaughtered. The overwhelming majority of the world’s refugees are Muslims, like me. There is so much injustice that infects the Muslim world today, both from inside and outside. Wars continue to ravage many Muslim lands, and we are powerless to stop it. And if my heart aches at the sight of this suffering, there are some who call this an “ummah-itis,” an affliction that must be eradicated.
From the swamps of this injustice rises the choking weed of “Islamofascism,” or so it is called here in the West. Self-proclaimed “holy warriors” murder innocent men, women, and children in their quest to “defend the Muslims” from the “onslaught of the West.” With each year that passes, more digits are added to the pantheon of terror: 9/11, 3/11, 7/7. Terror plots are foiled, and diabolical plans of beheadings and mid-air destruction of civilian aircraft flood the airwaves.
On top of this, Muslims kill each other with evermore fantastic and vicious methods; not even Friday prayers are sacred, where mosques are repeatedly targeted by murderous suicide attackers. As a result of all of this, the vitriol against Islam and Muslims grows more vicious. More people look at us as brutal terrorists; our Prophet is maligned as a violent pedophile; our wives, mothers, and sisters are spit upon because they wear hijab; our mosques are firebombed. It is enough to drive anyone mad.
And it is easy to despair. Converts have left our fold because of the enormous negative pressure. Many more have contemplated such a move. Our youth become disillusioned and are tempted to leave the fold as well. All the lights have gone out, and all that is left is thick, black, stifling darkness. Yet, our people have been down this road in the past. The community of believers have been there and done that.
Our Lord says:
Do you think you could enter paradise without having suffered like those [believers] who passed away before you? Misfortune and hardship befell them, and so shaken were they that the apostle – and the believers with him – would exclaim, “When will God’s victory come? ” (2:214)
In the selfsame verse, God proclaims:
“Oh, verily, God’s victory is always near!” Elsewhere in the sacred text our Lord says: Verily, God will ward off all evil from those who attain to faith; [and], verily, God does not love anyone who betrays His trust and is bereft of gratitude. (22:38)
Let us remember our Master Noah (pbuh). For 950 years, he preached ceaselessly to his people, and they answered his call with rejection and humiliation: [And after a time, Noah] said:
“O my sustainer! Verily I have been calling unto my people night and day, but my call has only caused them to flee farther and farther away [from Thee].” (71:5-6)When there was no more hope in his people, the Lord asked Noah to build a boat – in the middle of barren desert. …And every time the great ones of his people passed by him, they scoffed at him… (11:38)
His building of the Ark seemed to confirm to them that Noah (pbuh) was a madman. It seemed hopeless for our Master. Yet, when the torrential waters came, our Master – and the tiny number of believers with him – were saved from utter destruction. The end was for those who were conscious of God.
Let us remember our Master Abraham (pbuh). With a few fell swoops of an axe, he utterly destroyed the foundations of his people’s idolatry. Yet, rather than accept the truth of the One God, they decreed:
“Burn him, and [thereby] give victory to your gods, if you are going to do [anything]!” (21:68)
And they built the fire. It was an enormous fire with which they planned to burn the Friend of God. It seemed hopeless for our Master. Yet, when he was thrown into the fire, our Lord said:
O fire! Be thou cool, and [a source of] inner peace for Abraham! (21:69)
And Abraham (pbuh) was saved. The end was for those who were conscious of God.
What about our Master Moses (pbuh)? When all seemed to be lost, with the sea at his face and the forces of Pharaoh at his back, the Almighty split the sea and provided a safe passage for him and the believers with him. And our Master the Christ (pbuh)? Rejected by his
own people and being sent to his death, the Lord purified and raised him up unto Him, giving him victory over his earthly enemies. Let us, also, never forget our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the Battle of the Trench.
Ten thousand Arabs, full of fury and poised to crush the Muslim enclave once and for all, gathered at the footsteps of Medina. The alliance with the tribe of Bani Quraizah was in tatters, and they prepared to attack from behind as the pagans were pushing from the front. When news reached that Bani Quraizah was coming, most of them, believers and Hypocrites alike, abandoned the Prophet (pbuh) at his most important hour.
It was, as the Precious Beloved describes, a most dark hour: Remember what you felt when they came upon you from above you and from below you, and when your eyes became dim and your hearts came up to your throats, and when most conflicting thoughts about God passed through your minds. (33:10) Yet, the victory of God came, and the Alliance of the Trench was rent asunder. No attack from the pagans was to ever come after that, and in a few short years, Mecca was taken with hardly a drop of bloodshed. The end is for those who are conscious of God.
Misfortune and hardship befell those believers who passed away before us, and so shaken were they that the Apostle and the believers with him, would exclaim “When will God’s victory come?” The Lord God answers the question in the very next breath of verse:
Oh, verily, God’s victory is [always] near! (2:214)
Throughout the history of humanity, the believers have been through difficult times, yet in the end, the Lord came to their aid and gave them victory. So will it be, God willing, with us.
All we must do is to keep working. We must keep building the Ark in the midst of the barren desert, enduring the mockery and smears of others, even if they are our own people. We must continue to strive to work for peace and justice for all, not just for us. We must continue enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, even if that evil is from amongst ourselves. We must never give up, and God willing, the Precious Beloved will come to our aid. God willing, He will not forsake us. When the floodwaters come, we will, God willing, be safe on the Ark. It is the promise of the Lord, and what better keeper of promises than the Precious Beloved, the Holy One on high?
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and writer. He is the co-author of “The Beliefnet Guide to Islam,” published by Doubleday in 2006. His blog is at godfaithpen.com. This article was first published in Illume Magazine, a California-based publication about Islam.