In a certain episode of a TV show, one of the main characters is a woman who received a corneal transplant after going through her life nearly blind. She admits that she quit her career as an architect after the transplant, even though her vision was drastically improved, because she discovered that “the world was [still] ugly.” She had essentially been told that her life would be much better once she could see, but found that this was not the case, so she switched her career to one which would not remind her of the bitter reality of the world as much.
Later on, we discover that this woman had not been seeing properly all along, and that her brain was misinterpreting the visual signals it was receiving even after the transplant. The world was “not as ugly” as she thought it was, but she hadn’t known that earlier because after her transplant, she “could see, but not see.”
Many of us go through what this woman did, but in a spiritual way. Something enlightens us to our religion, and we start believing that life will be better if we get more religious. Maybe a prayer was answered when we needed it to be, or a religious reminder that we heard or read really hit home. Whatever the case may be, we begin to associate religion and prayer as a solution to life’s harshness. If we sincerely pray salah and follow Islam, of course there can’t be major problems, right?
Wrong. We are told in the Qur’an itself that we will all be tested with fear, hunger, and loss of our wealth, lives, and assets (2:155). Religious or not, we will face these issues. So the question arises, why even bother? If we’re going to go through severe hardships and difficulties throughout our lives no matter what, then what’s the point of praying? The world is still ugly.
What needs to change is our perspective, not the world around us.
The answer is in the very next ayah: “Those who, when disaster strikes them, say, ‘No doubt we belong to Allah, and no doubt, to Him we will return.’ Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord, and mercy. And it is those who are rightly guided” (Qur’an 2:157).
We pray salah to show our devotion to God and due to our belief in an Afterlife, not because everything will be perfect if we do so. So what needs to change is our perspective, not the world around us. The world is ugly, but not as ugly as we think it is, because this is not our final destination. It would be infinitely worse if this life were all that we had, but we have something much better waiting for us after we pass these trials. But it’s up to us whether we choose to accept this Truth now and live by it, or whether we’re reminded on the Day when there’s no going back. It’s our choice whether we live a life of blindness or not, when in the end, our vision will be crystal clear no matter what.
“[It will be said on that Day], ‘You were heedless of this. Now We have removed your veil from you; so your sight, today, is sharp.'” (50:22)
May Allah make us of those who protect ourselves by choosing to lift the veil now; ameen.