Lift the Torch High: How the Sight of Others in Pain Should Affect Us

Beautiful sunshine in a blue sky

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.

Extending Mercy

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.

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Article by Wael

Wael Abdelgawad is an Egyptian-American living in Fresno, California. He is the founder of several Islamic websites, including Zawaj.com and IslamicAnswers.com, and also of various technology and travel websites. He is a writer and poet, and has been a web developer since 1997. This project, IslamicSunrays.com, is very dear to his heart, as it has allowed him to express ideas that have growing inside him for many years. Wael is divorced and has one lovely young daughter. He practices and teaches martial arts (somewhat obsessively), and loves Islamic books, science fiction, and vanilla fudge ice cream. Wael is an advocate for human rights and blogs about these issues at AbolishTorture.com. He is also a volunteer with the MyDeen Muslim youth organization in Fresno. Wael tagged this post with: , , , , , Read 265 articles by
6 Comments Post a Comment
  1. María M says:

    As salamu alaykum,

    Laa ilaha il-Allah.

    Barak Allah Feek, hermano.

  2. María M says:

    Thank you for this beautiful article to Sister Hanan and to Wael. The word Torch means to me Lightening the Dark.
    God bless you, Sister and Brother for being so inspiring.
    A bit of myself goes here,

    I choose to follow Him,
    despite others opinion,
    despite others judgment,
    despite others whispering,
    despite others look,..

    I choose to follow Him,
    surrendering to His Love,
    claiming for His Forgiveness,
    asking for His Compasion,
    enjoying His Grace,…

    I choose to follow Him,
    falling to my knees,
    puting my eyes down,
    living His Word as
    the air I breath,
    being His Blessings
    the blood in my veins,…

    I choose to follow Him,
    thanking for every step I take,
    greeting everyone I meet,
    conscious of my ignorance,
    trying to be my best,…

    I choose to follow Him
    knowing that…
    It was His choice not mine
    that I choose to follow Him.

  3. wael says:

    It’s very nice. Very powerful. It deserves to be published more prominently on this website, if you don’t mind.

    • María M says:

      As salamu alaykum brother,

      It is an honour for me that you appreciate the poem to be published in your page. You have touched my Heart deeply. Gracias.

  4. María M says:

    As salamu alaykum,

    The Light of those who claim for what is right and fare brings Hope to all of those that still waiting for their moment to wake up.

    I could see all over the world, torchs with different shapes and colours, but all of them lightening the sky, comforting those that needed it, everyone in its own capability gives Light to those that are in darkness, are we conscious of this?

    Everytime someone prays, shares Light with the world, improves their essences and despite obstacles, are Living Torchs for the others. Thank God for all of them.

    This article is always inspiring. Thank you Wael and Hanan.

  5. wafa says:

    I do believe that there are angels that walk among us.
    They are the chosen ones to bring comfort to others.
    When our hearts are full of mercy, our treatment towards others is merciful.
    Some people have been in very traumatic experiences and are unable to see clearly.
    Support without judgement is what i find most helpful.
    Allah will guide whom he wills.

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