By Abida Aura Mustafa
Whether through death, loss, or disagreement, when we lose someone or something dear to us, we become overwhelmed by the pangs of grief; the pain of loss feels overbearing as though it would never end. Having to face the consequences of detachment can be a traumatic experience. All we can think of is the pain enshrouding our hearts and consuming our minds. With tears streaming down our faces, our faces contorted with emotion and our hearts too feeling as though a heavy burden has landed—the misery takes a hold of us and, blinded by our tears, we fail to see the light.
But there is a light; a light to behold even in the darkest corner of the earth, even in the murkiest depths of the ocean. We don’t have to drown in the quicksand of trauma. Nothing and nobody by Allah’s Will subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) has the ability to overpower the underlying depth of:
Inna lilLahi wa inna ilayhi raji`oon.
Verily, unto God do we belong and, verily, unto Him we shall return.
When we actually give some time and thought to reflect upon the words which constitute this statement, we come to realise that there is an extremely powerful and truthful message behind it—an answer to all our questions, grief and emotions.
This profound phrase captures the essence of our entire existence; it encapsulates where we came from and also where we are headed:
Understanding the statement has the ability to eradicate regrets and past events. It holds the key to finding contentment during those times when we think, ‘Why did that have to happen?’ We can become immersed in questioning, and drown in the misery of relentless searching for the answer…Or we can discover patience by asserting that regardless of whatever has occurred, we will indeed return to Allah (swt).
When we truly understand the meaning of inna lilLahi wa inna ilayhi raji`oon, we find that no sadness will last forever, and that we shouldn’t destroy ourselves by holding even the slightest bitterness or anger within us. By understanding that Allah (swt) is the One, the only One to Whom we belong, we should be able to move on from painful moments in our life (which we should assert as not being able to occur except that Allah (swt) Willed for it to be) and strive for our goal of meeting Him.
There should be no space for bitterness or anger when one truly comprehends the deep truthfulness of this phrase, and we should be able to forgive those who have intentionally or unintentionally wronged us because we know that Allah (swt) alone holds all sovereignty and that even our emotions belong to Him. By forgiving ourselves and others, by showing sabr (patience) in the face of death or loss, and by aspiring for Allah’s Mercy and Judgement, we open ourselves to a whole new level of understanding ourselves in the context of space and time. We can understand by His Will that Allah (swt) is all that matters, and everything else in this dunya (current life, world) is a means for us to reach Him because we want to be able to See Him at the end, for without a doubt we will have to return to Him.
‘Inna’ meaning ‘verily’ tells us that with certainty we belong to Allah (swt), that is, He Created us and bestowed on us our beginning without a doubt. ‘Inna’ occurs twice in this phrase, providing an emphasis on the certainty of Allah’s Ever-Lasting existence, emphasising the certainty of our beginning AND our end. So Allah (swt) is Al-Awwal (the Beginning, the First) and Al-Akhir (the End, the Last). Al-Awwal ul Akhir (The Ever-Lasting) is the source of light in every single moment of despair, hardship, and difficulty where our tears and grief blind us. Instead of allowing or hearts and souls to become blinded by the darkness of sadness, we can train ourselves in times of positive feelings and negative feelings to find contentment in Allah’s Decree, for nothing happens without His Decreeing it.
Allah (swt) tells us in Surah Baqarah, verses 155-156:
And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sabirun (the patient). Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: “Verily! To Allah we belong and verily, to Him we shall return.” (Qur’an 2:155-156)
This is our Lord, the One Who Created us when we were nothing, telling us in His Divine Book—tanzil (sent down) to humans and jinn as a dhikr (reminder)—that He will definitely test us with trials, but that He has Promised reward for those who are patient.
And how do we be ‘patient’ in the face of turmoil?
Just as Allah (swt) has created tests involving struggle, risk and loss, Allah (swt) has also told us how to approach these tests; He has revealed to us that the patient are those who, when afflicted with calamity, say, “Inna lilLahi wa inna ilayhi raji`oon.” In His infinite Mercy, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala has allowed for relief to accompany difficulty. This also shows us that the losses and difficulties won’t last forever, and that everything which we regard as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in the dunya is of temporal nature.
No pain or grief or disagreement can last forever, but with certainty, Allah (swt) lasts forever and from Him we came to be and it is to Him we will with certainty return.
This means that the events which take place in this dunya are mere moments. We become so consumed by our grief that we fail to see that al-Qahhar (the Conqueror, the Ever-Dominating) has provided us with light and that even in the most difficult times, Allah (swt) provides ease with hardship.
Upon coming to terms with the truth and power imbued in inna lilLahi wa inna ilayhi raji`oon and proceeding to integrate this magnificent statement into each moment of your daily life, when you are faced with any minor or major losses, you will see a whole new world of contentment and serenity opened up to you, insha Allah (God willing).
The trials faced by Umm Salamah radi allahu `anha, may God be pleased with her, teach us important lessons about how to handle tests, loss and situations in which we do not get something we had hoped for. Her approach towards calamity shows us what it means to be patient in the face of adversity and to recognise that Allah (swt) will always restore what He takes away from a patient believer with something better.
All is NOT lost.
The beautiful way in which she approached her afflictions reminds us to rely on Allah (swt) and to never despair for He is Able to do anything at any moment; Allah (swt) is our Provider, and when we are struck by loss, and things don’t go the way we want them to, Allah (swt) is Ever-Watching and He is the Best of planners. Umm Salamah’s first husband was Abu Salamah radi allahu `anhu, may God be pleased with him, who returned to Allah (swt) during Jumada Al-Akhir in the fourth year after Hijra, after receiving wounds in the Battle of Uhud. His passing from this dunya resulted in grief for she had loved him sincerely; nonetheless, Umm Salamah (ra) did not fail to turn to Allah (swt). Heartbroken by his departure, she remained steadfast in her relationship with Allah (swt) and supplicated to Him for our Rabb (Lord) is Al Mughni—the Enricher, the One Who satisfies the necessities of His Creation. In her grief-stricken state as she wondered who could possibly be better than Abu Salamah, she supplicated:
inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji`oon; Allahumma ajirni fi musibati wa akhlif li khayran minha
‘Verily, we belong to Allah and verily, unto Him shall we return. O Allah! Reward me for the calamity that has befallen me and grant me better than it.’
Allah (swt) then answered her du`aa (supplication) by giving her the Messenger ﷺ (peace be upon him) himself! In Shawwal of the same year in which Abu Salamah (ra) returned to Allah (swt), the Messenger of Allah ﷺ married her. Thus, because of her patience and acknowledgement that we belong to Allah (swt) and unto him we return, Allah (swt) compensated her with reward and recompensed her loss. Allah (swt) alleviated her and answered her question, “Who is better than Abu Salamah?” by blessing her with our beloved Messenger ﷺ.
This legacy speaks volumes of the reward and relief Allah (swt) grants to those who are patient, and those who have tawwakul (reliance) on Allah (swt) to replace what is taken away from the believer who lives with patience. What we are provided with is His to give and take, and it is in acknowledging that He is the Owner of all that we are able to see through loss and hardship, and witness blessings.
If you are facing any trial in the present, know that Allah (swt) provides ease and that the cure is with you by Allah’s Will. Reflect on, and realise that none other than Allah (swt) Knows best about what adversity or struggle you are going through for Allah (swt) is the One Who tested you with such, and on no soul does He place more than that which it can bear—Allah (swt) is closer to you than your jugular vein, than your own self, and so He Knows what you are feeling. The next time you are faced with a grief or loss, or even happiness and blessing from Allah (swt), by uttering, comprehending and believing that our final destination is Allah (swt)—the end is essential for our eternal bliss—through making Allah the means to Him, glimpses of light make their way through your feeling of loss.
For each time that you submit to Allah (swt) alone by not only uttering inna lilLahi wa inna ilayhi raji`oon but by understanding it and feeling its essence in your heart and limbs through acknowledging Allah’s Power, you will not only be rewarded insha Allah but Allah (swt) will return His favours and blessings upon you for submitting to His Will with sabr (patience). Like Umm Salamah (ra), place your trust in Him to get you through any manifestation of loss, however slight or major you may consider it to be, and trust Allah (swt) to answer your supplications, for no du`aa is lost.
No distress or loss is too difficult to deal with when we know Allah (swt), and place our trust in Him to get us through everything, whether we consider the moments as good or bad. No distress or loss is too difficult to deal with when we acknowledge and apply that we certainly belong to Allah, and we certainly return to Him.