This is a time for fluttering hearts
August 2006, Al-Qalam
It is times like these that are most dangerous for human beings. It is when the powerful flex their muscles and commit the greatest forms of oppression and destruction against the weak and their property, with the rest of the world watching either helplessly or approvingly, that it is tempting to lose faith in all things human and in all things divine.
Over the past few weeks, I have heard, on numerous occasions, friends saying that they feel that they just want to take a break from the news for a few days – for the sake of their sanity. I too have said it to myself and to others. (Let us for a moment forget the fact that the Lebanese and Palestinians, who, in these weeks, have been bombed on a daily basis, do not have the luxury to “take a break from it all”.)
The need to “take a break”, the disillusionment and hopelessness that many of us wallow in at such times are understandable, but are also reflective of a deeper crisis that we face (I know that I certainly do). It is a crisis whose cause is the forgetting of Allah and whose manifestation is the false belief that we control our own destinies, that we human beings have the power to make things better (or worse). It is this crisis that causes us to feel helpless, frustrated, powerless, overwhelmed and wanting to “take a break from it all”.
Those who are conscious of the reality – the only reality – about who has the Real Power, will have no desire nor any need to take a break because they will not feel helpless or overwhelmed. It is a difficult consciousness to achieve, for it is like handing over one’s self to another, to The Only Other. Allah reminds us of the Only Reality on numerous occasions in the Qur’ān. Significantly, we are also reminded of it at the beginning of Surah Anfal (Spoils of War), the surah that deals with, in the main, wars and fighting.
“Believers are those who,” we are told in the second verse of this surah, “when Allah is mentioned, feel a tremor in their hearts, and when they hear His signs rehearsed, find their faith strengthened, and put their trust in their Lord.” It seems like a “soft” message at the beginning of a “hard” surah dealing with war. But it is, of course, completely appropriate.
For many of us, our relationship to Allah is about praying five times daily and lifting our hands in du’a. It is not enough! Being beggars to God’s beneficence cannot be sufficient. What is required, according to this verse, is, firstly, that the love for Allah is such that the mere mention of His name makes one’s heart flutter, makes one feel faint and almost swoon with love, adoration and an overwhelming physical, psychological, mental and spiritual acknowledgement that He is in charge of the world, that He is the only independent and that we are utterly dependent on Him.
Secondly, according to the verse, that when the signs of Allah (whether the verses of the Qur’an or His signs in Nature) are heard or observed, it strengthens our faith. And what is the nature of this faith? It is the faith not simply in the existence of the Divine. Rather, it is a faith that our lives and our futures are in His Hand, to dispose of as He wills, that we are from Him and to Him is our return, that it is only in Him that we can find succour and solace, that without Him we would not exist and without Him there is no help, no progress, no comfort, no liberty, no justice, no balance, no love.
Thirdly, that we put our trust in Allah. Easier said than done. Because putting one’s trust completely in another is not a matter of words; it is a matter of dependence, of enslavement even. And, in this case, it is a matter of acknowledging the nothingness of our selves and the absoluteness of Allah, an acknowledgement too that He is the only Disposer of our affairs. To put one’s trust in Allah is admitting that we have the responsibility over our efforts (our jihad) but that we have no control over its outcomes; that belongs only to Him.
It is such weakness of heart in the presence of Allah, such strengthening of faith and such utter trust that is rewarded by a certain kind of personal victory. Those who fought at Badr received that reward, as is described in that same surah: “Remember He covered you with a sort of drowsiness, to give you calm as from Himself, and He caused rain to descend on you from heaven, to clean you therewith, to remove from you the stain of Satan, to strengthen your hearts, and to plant your feet firmly therewith.”
The reward is a strength of heart, a firmness of feet, a purity of soul and a calmness of self that is, in the final analysis, invincible. For how can one not be invincible when one believes one is fighting not alone but with Allah’s hand carrying the flag, Allah’s finger squeezing the trigger, Allah’s feet carrying one towards the oppressive and unjust forces?
And when He is so integrally involved, how can we become disillusioned, feel helpless and feel frustrated? And if the outcomes are always His, can we ever be defeated?
Certainly, Hizbullah has shown that a healthy dose of the cause of justice, a dependence on Allah and the need to overcome oppression must always lead to victory. A small militant force, without a state or an army, held off the fourth most powerful army in the world for almost five weeks and, at the end of that period, was still standing. That, in anyone’s books, is a defeat for Israel. But that is not surprising. Of course it would be. For there is no match between, on the one side, arrogance, injustice, oppression and a fear of death and, on the other side, righteousness of one’s cause, defence of one’s people, trust in Allah and willingness to die for justice; the former – no matter what its military capability – will always lose.