By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com
“The sight of other people in trouble is almost always something talked about or something laughed at. We must be careful what we laugh at, because we never know when it will be our turn to deal with those same troubles. If we won’t say or contribute something good to improve the situation, then we can at least be quiet.” – Hanan K Bilal
Sister Hanan is right. The sight of other’s misfortunes should never become a source of amusement. News of death, illness or hardship should never become a juicy piece of gossip.
It could be our turn next. Do you think anyone signs up to get cancer, or lose their job, or have a child who uses drugs, or to experience a failed marriage? Do you think you have some shield against misfortune? You do not, my friend. You absolutely never know what tomorrow will bring, or if it will come for you and me at all.
Beyond that, when we mock those who suffer, when we find the agony of others titillating, we’ve lost the thing that makes being human worthwhile. We’ve lost our hearts.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has told us that, “Those who have mercy will receive the mercy of the Most Merciful. Have mercy on those who are on earth, the One in heavens will have mercy on you.” (Tirmidhi)
Our mercy should extend even to animals, for they too are included in “those who are on earth”. Once the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, told the story of a person who had fed water to a thirsty dog by climbing down a well and bringing water in his shoe, and attained Paradise for that act.
I used to know someone who, whenever he heard of someone in the local community who was experiencing hardship, asked many questions to learn all the details. But it’s not because he wanted to help. When I asked him, “Why do you care?” He said, “I don’t care. I just want to know who to blame for the situation.” In other words, he was looking for an opportunity to cast aspersions on another member of the community.
That person has lost his way. May Allah help him and guide him, soften his heart and fill him with love for fellow human beings.
The Messenger of Allah has told us how we should look upon those in pain:
Nu`man bin Bashir (May Allah bepleased with them) reported: the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. When one of the limbs suffers, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
In a very powerful statement of our human obligations, Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “Do not envy one another; do not inflate prices by overbidding against one another; do not hate one another; do not harbour malice against one another; and do not enter into commercial transaction when others have entered into that (transaction); but be you, O servants of Allah, as brothers. A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim; he neither oppresses him nor does he look down upon him, nor does he humiliate him. Piety is here, (and he pointed to his chest three times). It is enough evil for a Muslim to hold his brother Muslim in contempt. All things of a Muslim are inviolable for his brother-in-faith: his blood, his property and his honour.” (Muslim)
The Deed is the Destination
Let’s allow the sight of those in pain to move us, even to hurt us, because therein lies our redemption. Therein lies our salvation from our own sins and sufferings. When I say the sight of others’ pain should move us, I mean literally that it should make us move, make us act to help.
There is so much pain already in this world. I don’t want to add an atom’s weight to it, and I know you don’t either. Let’s be sources of ease and comfort to others. Let’s be helpers to Allah, which means being helpers to humanity. Let us be beacons of love. Does that sound like a huge, impossible standard? It’s really not. There is such a dearth of selfless caring in the world, that someone who lets the smallest amount of compassion flow freely becomes a torch bearer to all around.
It doesn’t even matter if those whom you help appreciate it. I once knew someone who took a small boat full of clothing, food and toys to the impoverished Kuna Indians of Panama, who live on tiny islands off the Caribbean coastline. She was bitter because they did not thank her, and the families who received the gifts tried to hoard them rather than sharing with other families. I can see how that might be disappointing, but as Muslims we must act fee-sabeel-illah, in the cause of Allah. The value lies in the act itself. We cannot control other people’s hearts, and we cannot determine outcomes. The deed itself is the destination.
It also doesn’t matter if others mock us for being compassionate. And yes, that happens sometimes. People will call you naive, foolish, idealistic… That’s okay, let them, and let it slip away. For every one who taunts you, ten others will be inspired, and once again it does not matter because we do what we do fee-sabeel-illah, not for the respect and admiration of others. The mission is action, and the end is with Allah.
Lift the Torch
There is darkness in the world. It is spread by the wicked among Muslims and non-Muslims. It takes the form of cruelty, bigotry, abuse of those who are weak, political imprisonment, torture, and war for material gain. It lies over the cities and continents like a shadow.
We need torch bearers of truth, justice and love. We need the torch of Islam and imaan (faith) held high. Lift the torch high. Laa ilaha il-Allah.
I’m reprinting this story from the BBC online. I found it quite touching and I hope you enjoy it as well:
A real Good Samaritan
24 December 2010 Last updated at 05:43 ET
One act of kindness that befell British writer Bernard Hare in 1982 changed him profoundly. Then a student living just north of London, he tells the story to inspire troubled young people to help deal with their disrupted lives.
The police called at my student hovel early evening, but I didn’t answer as I thought they’d come to evict me. I hadn’t paid my rent in months.
But then I got to thinking: my mum hadn’t been too good and what if it was something about her?
We had no phone in the hovel and mobiles hadn’t been invented yet, so I had to nip down the phone box.
I rang home to Leeds to find my mother was in hospital and not expected to survive the night. “Get home, son,” my dad said.
I got to the railway station to find I’d missed the last train. A train was going as far as Peterborough, but I would miss the connecting Leeds train by twenty minutes.
Bernard Hare: "To this day, I won't hear a bad word said about British Rail"
I bought a ticket home and got on anyway. I was a struggling student and didn’t have the money for a taxi the whole way, but I had a screwdriver in my pocket and my bunch of skeleton keys.
I was so desperate to get home that I planned to nick a car in Peterborough, hitch hike, steal some money, something, anything. I just knew from my dad’s tone of voice that my mother was going to die that night and I intended to get home if it killed me.
“Tickets, please,” I heard, as I stared blankly out of the window at the passing darkness. I fumbled for my ticket and gave it to the guard when he approached. He stamped it, but then just stood there looking at me. I’d been crying, had red eyes and must have looked a fright.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Course I’m okay,” I said. “Why wouldn’t I be? And what’s it got to do with you in any case?”
“You look awful,” he said. “Is there anything I can do?”
“You could get lost and mind your own business,” I said. “That’d be a big help.” I wasn’t in the mood for talking.
He was only a little bloke and he must have read the danger signals in my body language and tone of voice, but he sat down opposite me anyway and continued to engage me.
“If there’s a problem, I’m here to help. That’s what I’m paid for.”
I was a big bloke in my prime, so I thought for a second about physically sending him on his way, but somehow it didn’t seem appropriate. He wasn’t really doing much wrong. I was going through all the stages of grief at once: denial, anger, guilt, withdrawal, everything but acceptance. I was a bubbling cauldron of emotion and he had placed himself in my line of fire.
The only other thing I could think of to get rid of him was to tell him my story.
“Look, my mum’s in hospital, dying, she won’t survive the night, I’m going to miss the connection to Leeds at Peterborough, I’m not sure how I’m going to get home.
Bernard was desperate to see his mother Joyce before she died
“It’s tonight or never, I won’t get another chance, I’m a bit upset, I don’t really feel like talking, I’d be grateful if you’d leave me alone. Okay?”
“Okay,” he said, finally getting up. “Sorry to hear that, son. I’ll leave you alone then. Hope you make it home in time.” Then he wandered off down the carriage back the way he came.
I continued to look out of the window at the dark. Ten minutes later, he was back at the side of my table. Oh no, I thought, here we go again. This time I really am going to rag him down the train.
He touched my arm. “Listen, when we get to Peterborough, shoot straight over to Platform One as quick as you like. The Leeds train’ll be there.”
I looked at him dumbfounded. It wasn’t really registering. “Come again,” I said, stupidly. “What do you mean? Is it late, or something?”
“No, it isn’t late,” he said, defensively, as if he really cared whether trains were late or not. “No, I’ve just radioed Peterborough. They’re going to hold the train up for you. As soon as you get on, it goes.
“Everyone will be complaining about how late it is, but let’s not worry about that on this occasion. You’ll get home and that’s the main thing. Good luck and God bless.”
Then he was off down the train again. “Tickets, please. Any more tickets now?”
I suddenly realised what a top-class, fully-fledged doilem I was and chased him down the train. I wanted to give him all the money from my wallet, my driver’s licence, my keys, but I knew he would be offended.
I caught him up and grabbed his arm. “Oh, er, I just wanted to…” I was suddenly speechless. “I, erm…”
“It’s okay,” he said. “Not a problem.” He had a warm smile on his face and true compassion in his eyes. He was a good man for its own sake and required nothing in return.
“I wish I had some way to thank you,” I said. “I appreciate what you’ve done.”
“Not a problem,” he said again. “If you feel the need to thank me, the next time you see someone in trouble, you help them out. That will pay me back amply.
“Tell them to pay you back the same way and soon the world will be a better place.”
I was at my mother’s side when she died in the early hours of the morning. Even now, I can’t think of her without remembering the Good Conductor on that late-night train to Peterborough and, to this day, I won’t hear a bad word said about British Rail.
My meeting with the Good Conductor changed me from a selfish, potentially violent hedonist into a decent human being, but it took time.
“I’ve paid him back a thousand times since then,” I tell the young people I work with, “and I’ll keep on doing so till the day I die. You don’t owe me nothing. Nothing at all.”
“And if you think you do, I’d give you the same advice the Good Conductor gave me. Pass it down the line.”
Has a stranger ever done you a good turn? How about sharing your story with us?
By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com
They say every cloud has a silver lining. Goodness knows, a lot of people these days are laboring under heavy clouds. I am, sometimes. Maybe you are too.
Today, how about being someone else’s silver lining? Relieve someone’s distress, bring ease to someone’s heart, and help someone, as the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,
“Whoever relieves a believer from a distress of this life, Allah will relieve from him a distress on the Day of Judgment. Whosoever brings ease to a believer who is in difficulty, Allah will bring ease to him in both this life and the next. Whosoever conceals the shortcomings of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his shortcomings in this world and the next. Allah will always help a servant as long as that servant helps his brother.”
Many of us are familiar with Allah’s words in the Quran, in Surat al-Balad. It’s a Juz Amma surah, frequently memorized:
“And what can make you know what is [breaking through] the difficult pass? It is the freeing of a slave, or feeding on a day of severe hunger an orphan of near relationship, or a needy person in misery; and then being among those who believed and advised one another to patience and advised one another to compassion. Those are the companions of the right.”
What if you don’t have the capability at this moment of feeding an orphan, or a needy person? The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has given us examples of extremely simple things each of us can do that still count in Allah’s eyes as sadaqah (charity). He (peace be upon him) said:
“Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many… enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms — all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” – Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 98
All of these are only examples. Look around you at your community. What needs are not being met? What distress are people in? What simple things can you do to help the people around you?
- Muslims in communities from California to New York, and in other nations as well, have started soup kitchens to feed the poor and homeless.
- Muslims in Baltimore USA and other cities have opened shelters for victims of domestic abuse.
- There are many organizations that allow you to support an orphan anywhere in the world. For a monthly donation that’s probably less than you would spend on a movie or a restaurant dinner, you can make sure that one child is fed, clothed, and educated.
- Volunteer jobs are plentiful. The Prophet (pbuh) mentioned leading the blind. Even today many blind people need assistance from volunteers. You can help with grocery shopping, reading the newspaper, or sending and reading email.
- Many public libraries have adult literacy programs, and always need tutors to help teach people to read and write.
- Campaign online, through Facebook and forums, to raise money for victims of disasters like the recent typhoon in Indonesia, or the floods in Pakistan. Or work with your local masjid to collect clothing, blankets and food supplies from your local community to be sent to disaster areas.
- Volunteers in some inner cities have turned abandoned lots into organic food gardens. The inner city residents all pitch in to help, and the result is healthy food for people who otherwise would not have access to fresh produce, and a new sense of community brotherhood and sisterhood.
There are countless other examples I could give. Even clearing some broken glass out of the road or smiling at someone are counted as sadaqah; they may seem like small things, but the stakes are greater than you or I can imagine.
It’s not about being a goody-two-shoes, impressing your friends, having a story to tell, or earning a merit badge. It’s not about recognition. It’s about changing the world one small step at a time, earning Allah’s pleasure, saving your own soul, and becoming one of the people of Paradise. What could be more important?