Discovering One's Helplessness

MaulanaWahiduddin Khan | Islamic Voice | 15 October, 2016

A hadith appears in the Sahih al-Bukhari, the Sunan Abi Dawud and the Musnad Imam Ahmad. In the Sahih al-Bukhari, this report reads: “God is amazed at those people who will enter Paradise in chains.” (hadith no. 3010). In another hadith, the words “driven in chains” appear.

The experience of some believers that this hadith refers to is not something that will happen in the Hereafter. Rather, it is something that will happen in this world, before the Hereafter. Here, the word ‘chains’ actually refers to a compulsive situation. It means that some people will face such a compulsive situation that they will have no way out, but to adopt a God-centred and Hereafter-oriented life, and in this way arriving in Paradise ‘in chains’, as it were.

Sincerity and Noble Intentions

This good fortune lies in store for those people whose hearts are aflame with sincerity and noble intentions. On seeing this sort of readiness in someone, God will bless him by arranging for such conditions that would, willingly or unwillingly, lead him to act in a manner that is pleasing to God. Problems become heavenly chains for a person who has the capacity to turn to God whenever he or she is faced with problems, whose heart has been so softened as a result of problems that he or she turns into a person who often remembers God.

If you allow the problems that you face to turn you into someone who is constantly grumbling and complaining, they will only destroy you. But if your problems lead you to develop the habit of introspection, they will become a source of mercy for you.

According to a hadith in the Sahih al-Bukhari, once, a man fell sick and the Prophet went to visit him. When he got there, the Prophet said: “Don’t worry. God willing, it will be a means of purification.”

Now, this does not mean that when someone falls sick, his sins are washed away through some mysterious process and that he is automatically purified. Rather, it is something known that happens with a believer. If you are not sick and your body is in good health, you develop, consciously or otherwise, a feeling of pride and a sense of self-sufficiency. In such a situation, feelings of helplessness are absent from you and you become insensitive.

Discovers his Helplessness

In contrast to this, when a believer falls sick, he discovers his helplessness. It cultivates the virtues of kindness and compassion in him, and he experiences what it means to be a servant of God. In this way, illness serves to distance the believer from other things and takes him close to God. He turns his attention to God. He begins to remember God. He prays to God and beseeches Him. Sickness becomes a means for him to come near to God. On the face of it, illness is an undesirable thing. But if you have a proper way of looking at things, your bodily illness will become a means for your spiritual health.

In this world, what is of real significance is intellectual awakening. An awakened mind alone is capable of drawing lessons from every event. And the biggest trigger for awakening the mind is just one—and that is, difficult conditions.

Abdullah ibn Umar reports that the Prophet once said, “A believer who engages with people and is patient when he faces annoyance from them shall have greater reward than he who neither interacts with others nor remains patient at the troubles caused by them.” (Musnad Ahmad, hadith no. 5022)

A person who lives all by himself, without any social interaction will not face any unpleasantness at the hands of others. But someone who lives amidst others and interacts with them and is socially engaged will very naturally face various troubles, big and small, from others.

Why is someone who leads a socially-engaged life, where he or she has to face opposition from others, better than someone who leads a reclusive, lonely life?

Law of Nature

The reason for this lies in a law of nature. Every person is born with innumerable capabilities. But these capabilities are in a potential state. In order to actualize this potential, one must have to face some shock or the other. The system of nature is, you could say, based on the principle of ‘shock treatment’. If you can withstand the shocks that you face, your capabilities, that lie deep in your own self or nature in potential form, will begin to activate and unfold. Your intellectual development will proceed apace. On the other hand, if you are not ready to face and tolerate shocks, you cannot develop intellectually, and you will die just as you are now, without making any real progress.