The Wisdom of the Prophet: the Incident of the Epileptic Woman

Beautiful mountain meadow

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

There is a hadith narrated by ‘Ata bin Abi Rabah:

Ibn ‘Abbas once said to me, “Shall I show you a woman of the people of Paradise?”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “This black lady came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said, ‘I get attacks of epilepsy and my body becomes uncovered; please invoke Allah for me.’ The Prophet said (to her), ‘If you wish, be patient and you will have Paradise; and if you wish, I will invoke Allah to cure you.’ She said, ‘I will remain patient,’ and added, ‘but I become uncovered, so please invoke Allah for me that I may not become uncovered.’ So he invoked Allah for her.” – Bukhari :: Book 7 :: Volume 70 :: Hadith 555

This hadith was published recently on MuslimasOasis.com, and I was fascinated by the many comments from readers who have epilepsy and have been inspired or comforted by this hadith.

One sister wrote:

“(This hadith) was a comfort to me as an epileptic when I had a seizure outside of a masjid on the pavement in Philadephia during a busy Jumaah afternoon. When I came to, my niqab was removed, my hijab loosened, and my husband and a brother were helping the paramedics that had arrived. Because of this hadith I felt comfort in spite of being such a spectacle, alhamdulillah.”

Another said:

“I too am an epileptic. When I first reverted to Islam over 3 years ago, one of the sisters who witnessed my Shahada wrote this hadith out and gave it to me. It is a HUGE comfort to know this. May Allah ease the trials of all epileptics and those who suffer from any disease and grant us all sabr. Ameen!”

And there were other similar comments, from men and women, ma-sha-Allah.

I don’t have epilepsy or any other serious sickeness, Alhamdulillah (praise God)  for all His blessings. But as I read the comments of people who do have some illness and have been tremendously comforted by this hadith, all of a sudden I realized the huge wisdom of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in what he said to the epileptic woman. He could have simply invoked for her and she would have been cured, and then all of us 1,400 years later would read the story and say, “Ma-sha-Allah, another miracle to prove his Prophethood.” But it would have no lasting personal significance.

Instead, by asking the woman to be patient and promising her Jannah (Paradise), the Prophet (pbuh) has sent a message of hope down through the ages to all the other sufferers in the world:  Allah sees your suffering. Your pain will be compensated, and your patience rewarded with the greatest possible prize.

Even today epilepsy cannot be cured, though it can be controlled somewhat through medication. So even now, all these years later, in this age of medical wonders, this hadith still has immediate significance for people who suffer from this illness, and in fact from people who suffer from any illness, from cancer to leprosy to bipolar disorder.

Another point of note is that every Prophet was sent with certain types of miracles appropriate to the understanding of their people. Musa (Moses, peace be upon him) was sent with the staff of power and the white hand, because his mission was to a people steeped in sorcery. “Medical miracles” – curing the sick, even bringing the dead back to life – were the hallmark of the Prophet Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus son of Mary, pbuh), because he was sent to a people who specialized in healing arts.

If the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had made it his habit to cure the sick, the Christians might say about us Muslims, “Oh, you are only taking Biblical stories and applying them to your Prophet.”

Instead, though the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) performed his share of wonders, he was given the greatest miracle of all, the Quran, a living proof through the millenia, and a source of eternal guidance. This is appropriate because his immediate mission was to a people of poetry, of language and eloquence; while his greater mission was to all of humanity.

“Say: ‘If the whole of mankind and Jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like of it, even if they backed up each other with help and support.'” (Quran 17:88)

Did the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), a mere shepherd and trader living almost one and a half thousand years ago in the lonely deserts of Arabia, realize the lasting significance of his actions? Did he perceive the way his words and deeds would echo down the annals of history?

Sure he did. He was a man of great wisdom, courage and natural intelligence. He did not do things randomly, especially in matters of worship. And he was guided by Allah in these matters, so that his actions could serve as an example for humanity until the Day of Resurrection.

The Transformative Power of a Child’s Love

Salma smiling

My daughter Salma

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

I’m going to share something highly personal, something I would not normally share, but I see now that my writing on this blog is changing people’s lives, and that’s possible only because I am honest. The most vital lessons in life come from suffering. If we don’t share the pain then the message learned will not pass undiminished from heart to heart.

I have always been a loyal friend. I am the kind who believes in friendship as an enduring and meaningful bond. I am a trusting person, someone with a passionate love for the Ummah, a sense of outrage for the oppressed, and a deep faith in Allah and in humanity itself, even after all I have been through.

A Difficult Youth

My teen years were very difficult. I isolated myself from my own family, emotionally and geographically. For a while I slept in my car or in an ice cream truck that I owned, sometimes went hungry, even as I devoted countless hours to tutoring two disadvantaged children, teaching them to read and write. I would sometimes visit friends just so I could raid the fridge and get a bite to eat. I remember once digging some old egg salad out of the back of a friend’s fridge, then becoming badly sick. I collapsed in the street and was hospitalized for food poisoning.

My parents tried hard to reach out to me and help me during that time, but I was lost in my own confusion and determined to estrange myself.

Later I paid for a bedroom in an apartment that was shared among 11 people, mostly college students. I was often confused. I was expelled from the university three times, until something clicked in my final year when I discovered poetry and I suddenly began getting straight A’s.

Still, my life continued to be a mess until my mid to late twenties (I am now 45). I lived in difficult environments. I saw terrible things. I was attacked or robbed more than once and I was sometimes afraid. I experienced despair at times, and yet I became so strong, like a mountain, or a grizzly bear. When I was 27 I got a steady job and worked hard, trying to save money to start a business, until one day my roommate stole all my money and disappeared. After that I lived for six months in the YMCA, in a room so narrow that I could reach out with my arms and touch the opposite walls.

I say all this so that you know that I am not naive. I’m quite aware of the evil of which human beings are capable.

Those frightening years are behind me. I have been a working professional for many years now. I was married for almost ten years, and I have a lovely daughter Alhamdulillah. I own a beautiful home, thanks to Allah’s blessings and bounty.

As far as human relationships, I have made a conscious choice to trust people, to be open to other people’s hearts, because I never want my soul to become pinched and dark with suspicion and fear.

A Broken Heart

My divorce and the time following it was difficult. As it turned out, however, I yet had one more painful experience to go through. A few years ago I became engaged to a Muslim woman who I thought was perfect for me. Truth be told, she was someone whose family I had known most of my life, and I had always harbored some hidden feelings for her. Like me she had been through hard times in her youth but had come through loving Allah, loving the deen, wanting to better herself in every way and change the world.

I felt she was very special and I was so excited that we would be married. We spoke about sharing our lives, raising good Muslim children, and one day sitting on a porch watching our grandchildren play. We spent time together in halal ways, getting to know each other better. It was a wonderful time.

Sure, we occasionally had arguments. I sometimes said or did the wrong thing, and there were aspects of her behavior that troubled me, but I understood that no one is perfect. I felt that Allah was giving me a great gift, a reward for all my years of hardship. I was so grateful for that.

Then something happened, I don’t know what. I could speculate, but I will not. About one month before we were to be married, she changed her mind. We tried to work through it and even went to see a counselor, but the sister’s attitude became cold, sarcastic at times, even hostile. She seemed like a completely different person. It was a tremendous shock to me. After a few final humiliations, I walked away. I felt used and betrayed as never before in my life.

A Terrible Depression

The end of that dream, that beautiful future that I had seen not only for myself but for my daughter and the sister’s children as well, was a tremendous blow. I was shaken to the core. I questioned my own judgment and perspective. How could I have been so wrong? I doubted Allah’s guidance to me. Why had Allah done this to me? I felt like a shambling wreck of a human being. I could not even believe in friendship any more. At Iftar dinners in Ramadan I didn’t try to talk to the people around me. My friendly, trusting nature had been shattered. There was some piece of me, some vital component of the organic, spiritual being that was “Wael”, that was busted. It had been smashed as surely as if she had taken a hammer to my head.

For a few months I was more deeply depressed than ever in my life. I have my daughter Salma with me from Wednesday to Saturday each week, then she goes to her mother. My depression was worst after I dropped off Salma each week. On the way back, on highway 152, I would sometimes think about accelerating to 100 mph and then veering into a tree, just so that the sense of loss and betrayal would end. Yes, I’m a Muslim, and I fear Allah. And I have a commitment to my daughter. But when you are intensely depressed your thinking changes. I remember thinking that Allah would forgive me because He would understand my suffering. And that Salma would be better off, because I was not a good father to her.

In retrospect I know that my perspective was abominably skewed, and I also know that I would never actually have harmed myself. I’m too much of a believer for that. But even the fact that the thought was there shows how horribly shaken and miserable I was at that time.

And it’s true, at that time I wasn’t the best father. I tried hard to hide my depression in front of Salma, but I did not always succeed. I remember one time I was having lunch with her in the kitchen and in spite of my internal pain I was trying to hard to smile and be cheerful for her. I never wanted to let her see how much I was hurting. And suddenly she said to me, “Are you sad, Baba? You seem sad.” Such words from a three year old girl. Her words touched me so deeply that I began to cry in front of her, and I said, “Yes baby, I am sad, but not because of you. You’re a good girl and I love you.”

That is still a terribly painful memory, and one that brings tears to my eyes.

Elements of Recovery

I got through it. I survived because of three things: Allah, my practice of martial arts, and my daughter.

Salma dancing

The first of those – Allah – should be obvious. Without Allah none of us could survive an instant on this crazy ball spinning through endless vacuum. And for a Muslim, Allah is the source of strength. He is the refuge, the bringer of peace, the One who heals hearts. Alhamdulillah.

The second – martial arts – is a lifelong passion. I plunged myself into my practice of the arts, teaching or studying classes six times a week, and practicing for hours at home. When I’m training, everything else leaves my mind. I immerse myself in the motion, the physical exertion. It leaves no time to think, to feel sorry for myself. Curiously, lifting weights (something else I enjoy) is the opposite. During the rest break between sets I have time to think, and I find that weight lifting brings out whatever I’m feeling and intensifies it. If I’m feeling good and confident, weight lifting makes me feel like a superman. If I’m depressed it spills out like acid and cripples me. So I gave up weight lifting. Martial arts, however, is a medicinal whirlwind, a kind of therapy in motion.

The third thing that helped me survive was my daughter. Here’s the thing about being a parent, and you mothers and fathers out there already know this, but I’ll try to articulate it anyway:  you can’t afford to sit around feeling sorry for yourself. You have this little person to whom you are the sun, moon and stars. This little person who, when she falls and scrapes her knee, wants only to be comforted in your arms. This person who can’t sleep at night without your voice reciting Quran, singing a nasheed or telling her a story. This person who cannot live without you because you feed her (with Allah’s bounty), clothe her, and care for her in every way.

This little person looks up to you and admires you. She loves you more than anyone else in the world. She needs you as a plant needs sunshine. With a relationship like that, there’s no time for debilitating self-pity. If you can’t be strong for yourself then you must find your backbone and courage for the sake of the child.

Beyond that, this awareness that another human being is completely dependent on you, and loves you utterly, transforms you, because you are no longer the center of the universe. Your child is. That’s the amazing thing. Every other relationship in life is one where, though we may feel love and caring for the other person, we still generally think of our own well being first. Even the best friendships have an element of competitiveness to them. With your parents, you may have the greatest respect for their accomplishments in life, but you still might hope to exceed them.

With a child it’s different. If there’s a choice between feeling pain yourself or letting your child be afflicted, every parent will choose himself. When my daughter was younger she couldn’t fall asleep unless I let her rest her head on my arm. My arm would go numb and sometimes ache, but I’d keep still as long as it took for Salma to sleep. This is how it is with a child. We will give up anything to protect our children. We worry about them far more than ourselves. We fret about their health, their upbringing as Muslims, about raising them as polite and successful human beings, about their futures…

holding Salma upWith children, we become truly unselfish for the first time in our lives. We live outside ourselves. Someone else becomes the axis of worldly existence. We love someone else more than we love ourselves. As Muslims we are told that we have not truly believed until we love the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) more than we love ourselves. In that case, our love is expressed through obedience and following the Prophet’s example.

With a child, the act of loving someone more than ourselves is constant, suffusing us from skin to soul. There is no other experience in life that allows us – or compels us – to transcend the limitations of self in this way. And in the process, the love of a child rescues us. People give up addictions, leave abusive relationships, change professions, move from one city or country to another, rediscover God, learn and study, all for the sake of a child.

Once again I find myself reaching out to form friendships, smiling, choosing to trust, to have faith in people, to see what is good in the world. I find myself living joyfully, laughing with my daughter, teaching her (among other things) about the brotherhood and sisterhood of Islam. I do this not out of naiveté but because I know that she is watching and learning. From me she takes her cue and learns how to approach the world.

What do I want her to learn? To be suspicious and cynical, not to trust or believe in people? Heaven forbid. I want her to be a person of Imaan (faith). The Prophet (pbuh) said that Imaan has over 70 parts, and among those are love for Allah, sincerity, gratitude for His favors, being merciful to all creatures, fulfilling promises, having no envy or malice toward anyone, being just, making peace, and caring for neighbors. This is how I want Salma to approach the world, so this is how I must be, no matter how I may have been hurt in the past. It’s a choice I must make.

By our love for the child, and the child’s love for us, we are utterly transformed.

***

Here’s a poem I wrote last year, after I got through the hardest part of that ordeal:

I Live

Like a summer storm,
like a caught breath
tasting of spice,
like the sudden blast of a train’s horn

when you’re daydreaming on the tracks,
love came. My diamond,
my redwood queen, my lioness,
came into her own and loved me

for a time… And then
My forest queen
cast down my sylvan dream,
and sneered at my passion…

So I lived without passion.
My heart’s wings shriveled
so I lived without flying.
My promises were met with lies,

so I lived without joy.
I was run through the back
with a tin spear
so I lived without loyalty.

Darkness fell on my eyes
so I lived without light.
Purpose deserted me
So I lived without direction.

But I lived! And I live. I go on,
knowing myself, lifting my head,
amazed at my power,
jealous of no one,

amazed by my ability to heal,
astounded by the way my love returns
like lava, the way my daughter
hugs me and kisses my nose,

believing in me, loving me,
sure that I am the most important person
in the world, the most capable.
For her, I will be.

I live! I awake at dawn
and go on, shaken but strong,
titanium lining my bones,
fire in my eyes, and Allah

leading me, calling me,
forgiving me, loving me,
never giving up on me,
coming to me walking as I crawl.

Wael Abdelgawad
Fresno, California – 2009

Be someone’s silver lining

Dark cloud and light rays

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?

Five minutes of health

Desert wild flowers

Desert wild flowers. These flowers bloom after a rain, then die within a matter of days. That is the example of this life.

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

“Five minutes of health comfort the ill one.” – Bengali proverb.

In other words, a person who is ill would get comfort and relief from just five minutes of health.

This reminds me of my friend Hisham, who has an autoimmune disorder and has been confined to a wheelchair for many years. He is the same age as me, and we grew up riding our bicycles together. He was an avid cyclist and even participated in a ride all the way across the United States and back. In his twenties he was diagnosed with MS, and his health began to go downhill.

Recently a physical therapist has been working with him, and last week he stood on his feet and took five steps for the first time in three years, Alhamdulillah! He said he felt very tall, being on his feet again. It was an inspiring moment for him… SubhanAllah. He literally got comfort from “five minutes of health.”

That’s really something to think about, for those of us who have our health and fitness and take them for granted as if they were nothing. We moan and complain about small things, while ignoring the huge blessings in our lives. “Then which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?” – Surat Ar-Rahman. Allah has given us so much, so much.

And let me add that although I used my friend Hisham as an illustration of the proverb, that does not mean that I pity him. He also has many gifts, for example he is highly intelligent and articulate, and he has accomplished a lot in his life. I am overjoyed for him that he was able to stand again. Allahu Akbar!

Of course we must be grateful for every blessing, and thank Allah from the bottom of our hearts. But it’s important to understand that gratitude is not just a feeling in the heart. It is expressed through action.

  • Are you grateful for your healthy body? Then use it to bow down in prayer.
  • Are you grateful for the ability to see? Then look at that which is beautiful and halal.
  • Grateful for the ability to speak? Then praise Allah, recite Quran and spread the message of Islam.
  • Grateful that you are mentally and emotionally healthy? Then use your gifts to do good in the world. Show love to those who are grief stricken, and kindness to those in pain. Spend your money in Allah’s cause, don’t hold on it it until it can do you no good!

That’s why the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, in the famous hadith that we have all heard:

“Take benefit of five before five:
your youth before your old age,
your health before your sickness,
your wealth before your poverty,
your free-time before your preoccupation,
and your life before your death.”

(Narrated by Ibn Abbas and reported by Al Hakim)

Right? He didn’t only say, “be grateful,” he said, “take benefit”! That means USE what you have been given, while you still can, before the end of this brief life that is but a moment between a sleep and a sleep, or a desert flower blooming and then fading away.

Glory to Allah the Most High.

When times are hard, and you’ve fallen down…

A single tree on a grassy hill

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

When times are hard, when your spirit is low, when you’ve been knocked to your knees, or maybe just one knee… use that moment of humility to praise Allah, the Most Glorious. Then find something in your life to be grateful for.

Maybe you are grateful for your children, or your good health, or the plentiful food on your table, or having good clean drinking water that doesn’t give you diseases, or a friend who makes you laugh, or the fact that Allah has blessed you with Islam when so many are wandering in darkness and despair. Or even just sitting on the grass feeling the breeze, or a cat that sits in your lap and purrs… Find the many blessings in your life, the hidden sources of happiness, and stand up, and thank Allah.

Move forward with your head up, keeping your focus on Allah’s gifts to you, and your gratitude. Step, step, step with a grateful heart, and that’s how it’s done.

The Hidden Blessings of Illness and Hardship

Huge sunrays in a blue sky

By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com

I’m glad and grateful that I am ill right now, and that times are hard. Does that sound crazy?

Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) reported that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “For any adversity a Muslim suffers, Allah erases some of his sins, even though it may be no more than a thorn pricking him.” (Related by Al-Bukhari).

Another version of this Hadith is also related by Al-Bukhari on the authority of two of the Prophet’s (pbuh) companions, namely, Abu Saeed Al-Khudri and Abu Hurairah who quote him as saying: “Whatever befalls a Muslim of exhaustion, illness, worry, grief, nuisance or trouble, even though it may be no more than a prick of a thorn, earns him forgiveness by Allah of some of his sins.”

My father recently suffered a fall and broke his leg badly, and is now in a rehab center. In my personal life, two moves and one divorce in the last five years have made it hard to retain friendships, and I find myself feeling isolated. I’ve been through some painful personal experiences. And these are hard times economically as well. So there’s a lot of stress in the household.

I do my best to love my daughter more than ever, to play with her, hug and kiss her, and always remind her of Allah’s barakah. I try to make her world full of happiness, learning, and talks about Allah. I try to never let her see me sweat, as they say. But once she’s sound asleep in bed, I feel the weight of responsibility on my shoulders like a sack of stones.

So if by patiently enduring this illness and these hard times in general, I will earn Allah’s forgiveness for my sins, and maybe will be blessed in ways that I do not see, then I am grateful.

One more hadith: Jabir ibn Abdullah narrated that Allah’s Messenger salallahu alayhi wasallam said, “On the Day of Resurrection, when people who have suffered affliction are given their reward, those who are healthy will wish their skins had been cut to pieces with scissors when they were in the world.” (Al-Tirmidhi, 1570)

In other words, when people see how much reward is given to those who suffered in life, they will wish that they had suffered terribly, in the worst possible ways, so that it might become a cause of forgiveness for them in the Hereafter.

SubhanAllah, whatever pain we suffer in this life is not in vain. It is not wasted. We may cry and wince and groan over small pains, but Allah sees our suffering and will compensate us more than we can imagine, as long as we are patient and keep faith in Him. Allah the Most High has a plan for us, and He is the best of planners. We must have faith in Him and His plan for us.

Seeing the Good

Also, let us not be blind to the good things that have happened. I think this is very important. All too often we get caught up in our losses and dismiss some of Allah’s quiet gifts and blessings that have budded and opened up when we were hardly looking.

For example, I have always thought of myself as a writer at heart and have been happiest when I was pursuing that calling. When I was single I was obsessive about it. Even after a long day at work I would sit down in front of the computer in my little San Francisco loft, and write. After I got married and the responsibilities of family life fell on my shoulders I neglected my writing. Lately, however, I find myself writing daily and expressing ideas that have been growing in my heart for decades. The words flow as if they have been bottled under pressure, waiting for release. What a blessing!

In my teens I studied martial arts for some years. Life carried me in different directions and I stopped practicing but I still thought of myself as a martial artist, and kept meaning to get back into it. Finally in my late thirties I realized that my dream was passing me by. I got back into it and made a do-or-die commitment. Since then, with the moves from the Bay Area to Panama City to El Valle to Fresno, it’s been a struggle to find teachers and training partners, but I have persisted, in some cases creating my own training group out of scratch. For the last year and a half, partly as a way of dealing with loneliness and stress, I plunged myself into an intensive study of the arts.

Now I suddenly find myself entering this phase when my understanding of the arts is expanding like a tidal wave. I seem to have moved beyond rote memorization of techniques and I am able to spontaneously create combinations and visualize new possibilities. My balance is solid, my form is good. Basically, I have grasped the underlying principles of the arts and have moved beyond the 1-2-3 stage. I can finally call myself a martial artist.

That’s something I dreamed of all my life. And it came about because I was stressed!

What other secret blessings await me? What other lifelong dreams are quietly budding, getting ready to bloom?

Only Gratitude

That’s why the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “How amazing is the case of the believer; there is good for him in everything, and this is only so for the believer. If he experiences something pleasant, he is thankful, and that is good for him; and if he comes across adversity, he is patient, and that is good for him.” [Muslim]

How amazing indeed! What a treasure trove of strength and mercy there is in this deen! Who can say that this is not a religion of hope?

Allah rewards the believer even for the pricking of a thorn. Who can deny that this is the attitude of a Compassionate God, One who understand us, sees our pain, cares about our suffering, and wants only good for us?

And what does Allah want in return? Only gratitude, and that our actions manifest that gratitude. Nothing more.

Allah says, “And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.’ “ [Surat Ibrahim 14:7]

Which brings us back to my opening statement. I am grateful and glad even for the hardships. I am aware of all of Allah’s favors, and when He says, “Then which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?” my response is, “I deny none of them, O Lord!”

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