It just couldn’t be.
Rage, disbelief and anguish flooded through his veins.
‘He’s dead!’ he heard someone say.
No. That was impossible.
“DON’T YOU DARE SAY IT,” he raged, “IT’S A LIE! IF ANYONE DARES TO SAY HE DIED, I WILL CUT OFF HIS HEAD”
He was serious. Breathing heavily, he took his sword out of its sheath. He didn’t want to believe it. He refused to. He numbed whatever pain he felt in his throbbing chest.
“Umar!” He heard the stern yet gentle voice of his dear friend, Abu Bakr radi Allahu `anhu (may God be pleased with him) with the soft heart. Then he heard the recitation of the words that he himself had read numerous times, but it felt like he was hearing them for the first time.
“Muhammad is not but a messenger. [Other] messengers have passed on before him. So if he was to die or be killed, would you turn back on your heels [to unbelief]? And he who turns back on his heels will never harm Allah at all; but Allah will reward the grateful.” [Qur’an, 3:144]
In that moment, ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab – known for his strength and conviction – who only a moment ago was threatening to kill whoever dared to confirm that their beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him) had died, fell to his knees and wept like a child.
Love with all of your heart, but depend only on Allah.
Umar was reminded – the Prophet ﷺ was sent as a mercy and a guide, but he was human. The Qur’an asks a remarkable question, will you turn away? Meaning, is your faith dependent on the Messenger, or on the One who sent the Messenger?
There are many manifestations of this. We rely on the gift instead of the Gift-Giver. Our faith is weakened when we lose our wealth or someone close. But this incident with ‘Umar (ra), and the question asked in the Qur’an, speaks to many conditions when our faith becomes reliant not on God, but on His creation.1
We all have people we look up to. These people confirm and sometimes validate our faith. But what happens when the halaqa leader is leading a double life? Or even worse, when the Qur’an instructor molests a child? When the Imam is physically abusing his wife at home? When the pious community activist is caught soliciting a prostitute?
These things might anger us. They should. It should cause us to spring to action to protect those who are abused, to offer counseling, and to work on strategies so these things never happen again.
But do these things make us lose faith?
If they do, we need to change that. As Muslims, our primary relationship is with Allah.
People are not the Divine. Allah gifted us with free will. Some people make mistakes. Others are battling their own demons and still others are human demons. The Qur’an warns us of those people, so it should not come as a surprise. Remember Qarun who was of the people of Musa `alayhi salatu wa salaam (peace and blessings be upon him), yet he betrayed his own people for wealth and power. Bani Israel were mesmerized by what he was given. But because he transgressed, sold out, and abused his own people, he was destroyed. But he made the choice himself.
Some people are weak, some are sick. So many amazing people in history had their own transgressions because no human is perfect. Moreover, we know that many people who abuse were abused themselves. It doesn’t excuse it, but it also means that we as a community should deal with these things so that they do not happen again. The Prophet ﷺ taught us to search for cures for our illnesses, “because every disease has a cure” [Abu Dawud].
But our relationship with Allah should not be contingent on what people do or do not do. If the whole world were to betray their trust, that is their choice. That is what free will is for. Allah tells us, “so whoever wills – let him believe; and whoever wills – let him disbelieve.” It should not shake us permanently, because those people are not God.
So pray to Allah and pray for Him. Make yourself a better person by Him. Read about the seerah of the Prophet ﷺ. Love people, look up to them, be inspired by them – but depend only on Allah. Know that humans have flaws, so be forgiving. Make excuses for them. And some are criminals. Deal with them. Don’t be the masjid that harbors the unjust board member, or worse.
Remember, Allah does not change a people unless we change ourselves.
This isn’t to say that there won’t be tests. The Prophet ﷺ was pelted with stones at Taif. The Prophet’s ﷺ uncle passed away without accepting Islam. These things hurt. And we think to ourselves “but I did everything“. But that’s why this life isn’t simply about life. And even though it isn’t, Allah makes with every hardship at least two eases. So the Prophet ﷺ was attacked at Taif—but he got Madina. His uncle Abu Talib never accepted Islam, but his other uncles (Al-Abbas, Hamza) and cousins (Ali bin abi Talib, Jafar bin abi Talib) did.
Once, a cab driver in London asked me: “Where is God?” when a little girl is attacked and all sorts of horrible things are done to her by some sick man. “Where is God?” in that situation. And my answer was, “Where were you?” The bad in the world doesn’t make me lose faith in God because Allah tells us that the bad is because of what our own hands have wrought. And it’s true—why do some masajid protect pedophiles and perverts? How can someone with religious authority be so abusive to other people? Why do people rape and pillage? We are the ones that are not living according to the rules God set. Allah says in the Qur’an to protect ourselves from the fitna (trials and tribulations) that will not befall only the oppressive2 —the fitna will get us all because we allow it to continue. May Allah protect us!
Surat al-Kahf tells us about Musa’s (as) encounter with al-Khidr. Al-Khidr does things that baffle Musa (as). He damages the boat of people who were poor (who helped them no less!), he kills a child and then he restores a wall in a village where the people would not help them. From the outside, none of it makes sense. Musa (as) himself kept questioning and protesting the actions of al-Khidr. This is only natural on the part of Musa (as)—we must detest the evil around us. But al-Khidr shows Musa (as) that sometimes something seems bad but it actually averts a greater evil. Damaging the poor people’s boat for example, resulted in the oppressive king not seizing it since he would only confiscate boats that were in good condition.
So strive for justice. Strive for good. Be a source of light for people because God is Light and He gives His Light to whomever He wishes. The solution is to rely wholeheartedly on Allah. Learn about Allah. Beseech Him by His Names. We are human, and we have issues sometimes. But remember that there is so much beauty. Let that beauty remind you of God and the good He gives. There is some ugliness too. Let that move you to seek justice. At the very least detest the evil around you so that you do not become numb, but remember that it is higher to speak up about it and even higher to do something about it within the boundaries that are set.
Ask yourself what your faith is dependent upon. Then ask yourself, if there was a possibility that that were to be taken away, will you turn away?
May Allah make us firm.
- Of course, with ‘Umar (ra) it was momentary, and out of his love for the Prophet ﷺ. ‘Umar went on to be the second of the rightly guided caliphs. He spread justice as ruler and spread Islam. The important thing is the question that the ayah (verse) asks. [↩]
- “And fear a trial [fitna] which will not strike those who have wronged among you exclusively, and know that Allah is severe in penalty.” [Qur’an, 8:25] [↩]
A wonderful article. May Allah reward you for talking about this topic.
Lets suppose this little girl is a 6yr old. And her parents are drinkers, gamblers etc, that is, they engage in all sorts of bad things. I understand how this is a punishment to them. Now lets say this is a practicing Muslimah teenager, I understand how this is a purification test for her: will she blame Allah and turn away or become stronger in faith, which was the objective of this test.
Back to our first scenario, why is the child being punished? What for? Why did Allah let this happen to her? Is she paying for her parents’ sins? I thought we would not be made to bear the sin of others. I don’t mean adult Muslims who think they are perfectly innocent. I mean these kids that really ARE innocent. The innocent children suffering in muslim and non muslim countries alike.
I swear I do not mean to make Allah seem bad. These all are questions derived from “Why does Allah let injustice happen to innocent children?” I’ve never found a satisfying answer to that. I reprimand myself when these thoughts come, I try not to question Allah’s will, I blind myself from this question but with the recent state of the world and reading this article has brought it to surface and I was trying so hard to turn my face from the question but not Allah. Please, answer without saying ‘man has brought this upon himself’, I feel so bad for this individual child. Could she possibly have been paying for my sins too?
Dear Jinan, please answer yourself. I want an answer from someone who has deep rooted faith in Allah. I feel so ashamed to ask these questions, I feel so guilty for questioning Allah but I want to be firm in faith too. I want to believe Allah is the Most Just but its so hard with millions upon millions of examples of this 6yr old. Please give an answer to stop this dilemma in my heart. At the end of the day I want to really love Allah with ALL my heart but these feelings are getting in the way so much.
JazakiAllah khair for your question. I ask Allah to enable me to answer it in the best way.
Firstly, don’t feel guilty for having questions. Make du’a that Allah shows you His wisdom. Talk to Allah and tell Him exactly what you said above: that you want to be closer to Him, that this is something you don’t understand, that you have faith in Him but you want to feel reassured. Make your relationship personal with Him. Have patience.
Secondly, I hope I didn’t make it sound like Allah is punishing the child for the sins of society- that is not what I meant at all. May Allah forgive me. What I was saying is that Allah warns us: if we continually transgress and allow transgressions, sooner or later they will catch up to us and those who are innocent. It is completely logical.
For example: an imam at a masjid molests a young child, God forbid. The masjid board hears about this. They are afraid for their reputation and the reputation of the masjid. So they let the imam go without telling people why. Now what will the result be?
This person will go to other communities and do the same thing, may Allah protect us all. How is that God’s fault? He gave us the example of the Prophet (pbuh) who NEVER let injustices pass., especially against the innocent. Once a slavegirl was slapped so hard by her boss that she bled. So she complained to the Prophet (pbuh), and the Prophet (pbuh) said she had the right to do the same to her boss. People were shocked because it was an esteemed family. But she said that was the slavegirl’s right, because no one had the right to treat her that way. This then becomes a lesson to the community.
Back to the imam example: Why was this person not tried? Because we are afraid for our reputation? What if the child molested was one of masjid board’s children? Would they be so hesitant to press charges and send the criminal to prison, imam or not?
That is why commanding good and forbidding evil are so important in the religion. There are so many sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) where he stresses this issue; he even tells us that if we do not do that, tyrants will be given power over us. Because that’s what happens when we become apathetic, when we stop caring for the weak. So Allah is showing us how to create safe communities.
Allah (swt) put an order to the universe. It could have been random but He made the system of cause and effect. It works for almost everything, and we have no problem with it because that is the way we know how to function within this world. Then when something bad happens we say “O Allah how could you let this happen?” Allah will turn that questions on us “How could WE let this happen?” He has provided the formula. Follow the formula, inshAllah things should be ok. But deviate because you want the stuff of this dunya, then you have to deal with the effect.
I hope this helps. Please do not hesitate to respond with more questions if you have them 🙂
Thank you immensely for trying to clear my confusion.
I understand everything you just said. But what I’m asking is on an individual level. You’re looking at a community as a whole, I’m looking at only that individual child. What is her fault? What is her recompense? I understand us bringing about trouble on ourselves, but why doesn’t Allah punish us directly and us only? Why are these truly innocent ones used to teach us, the ones who really are wrong, lessons?
When I asked a friend this question(but I didn’t mention that I only meant children) she replied that Allah only tries those who He knows are strong enough to bear it. Its a very good answer but I can’t apply it to children.
These questions are from my lack of knowledge only. I just want to understand Allah’s justice for these innocents who couldn’t possibly have sins on them, especially infants and very young children.
Again, Jazakallahu Khair for trying to clear this doubt in my heart.
I think there is a misunderstanding. The lesson I was talking about was dealing with injustice. That’s not to say that the purpose of the event was the lesson. But the lesson should be a by-product so that it doesn’t happen again.
You asked “what is her fault?” But bad things don’t have to happen because it is someone’s fault. If I am driving recklessly and run someone over, that person is not at fault. I am. Allah is not necessarily punishing that person or anything like that. That is not how we interpret every bad thing that happens. Not every bad thing that happens is Allah’s punishment upon someone.
Allah tells us in the Qur’an “And when the girl [who was] buried alive is asked. For what sin she was killed” [Qur’an, 81:8-9]. So abuse of children is not new. Allah talks about it in His Holy Book. He gives severe punishment for those who do it. Like all innocent life that is shattered in this world, there is ultimate justice in the Hereafter.
But just because that is the case, that doesn’t remove the responsibility from us to do something in this world for justice. Again, if something bad happens to an innocent, it is wrong to say or even think that Allah did that to the child because it is the child’s fault. It is our fault for not living as we should be, and unfortunately the innocents pay the price. This is the order of the universe, and it is a logical order.
Allah warns us in the Qur’an so that we take heed. If there is a hole in the ground that I warn you about so that you don’t fall into it, but then you ignore me and fall into it anyway, would you say that I made you fall into it because I warned you? That doesn’t make sense. Allah is far above any analogy, but we apply that same thinking to God.
Finally, I firmly believe that there are some things we will never understand. That doesn’t mean that they don’t make sense. It just means that in our human capacity we do not understand. And thank God for a Hereafter where it will all be explained to us inshAllah.
I hope this helps 🙂
As Salamu Alaikum,
I also struggle with some of the questions that Sister Fatima had, and thank Sister Jinan greatly for tackling the issue.
I think the issue comes down to the fact that we have not only been given free will by Allah, but also vice-gerency. My understanding of this concept is that Allah made us His representatives on earth. This is a tremendous responsibility.
Thus, yes, Allah could have protected all the weak and the innocent – but instead, He gave us the responsibility to do so. This is what potentially makes us greater than even the angels. But again, its a tremendous responsibility whose ramification are incredibly great, and failure comes with horrible consequences for everyone, including the innocent (not just humans such as children, but animals, the planet, etc).
Unfortunately, it seems that we are not living up to the task (I include myself here first of all – what have I done to really help the weak and innocent suffering here on this earth? Not much…)
Another thing to always keep in mind is that while things may seem unfair and horribly cruel in this world, justice will take place for sure in the next. The 6 year old innocent child who died will go straight to Jannah. Her attacker will also face absolute justice.
I hope this helps a bit…May Allah continue to increase all of us in understanding…
Exactly 🙂 Thank you for your thoughts.
Jazaki Allahu Khair for clearing my confusions. Your last reply really hit home, my questions is finally at rest. May Allah reward you abundantly in this life and the next.
Ps:the reply button disappeared for the original thread of comments, so I’ll just post my comment here.
I can’t help you with why, because only Allah knows in His wisdom for each case and how He helps me understand may not be how He knows it is best for you to understand.
But I can offer perspective. Pleasant and hurtful things (perceived physically, including emotionally) are different from evil and good things (objectively related to turning one towards or away from Allah. And, pleasant and hurtful things happen in this universe to every creation – not just humans – regardless of innocence or guilt (or, if you like, “deserving” and “undeserving” – a distinction that only humans really make out of all creatures in this universe). This is a fitrah of this universe; its underlying laws of physics mean it cannot but be that way. Hardship and ease is thus never constant while this universe still exists and everything has its lot of both. But if the ease and relief that should be expected by a creature in hardship is contingent on man being a submissive creation the same as other creations that are *always* submissive, and he is instead defiant, thus prolonging another creation’s hardship, then this is where it is said that evil is wrought by our own hands. And only He can show you this understanding in your heart.
May Allah (swt) reward the writer. There is, however, the struggle of those whose faith is very weak to begin with. Some of these may be “born” Muslims (i.e., individuals born to at least nominally Muslim parents) who were never really developed well in Islamic faith and practice to begin with. Others may be converts who were seriously and honestly, sincerely attracted to Islam but whose faith was very weak and possibly even quite confused to begin with (just say these magic Arabic words) and who were never helped to straighten out their misunderstandings and even confusions. (I can speak from experience.)
These people, whether “born” Muslims or converts, seriously need the support of strong communities so that they can develop strong faith, but, sadly, often that support is lacking. I am not surprised that many of them just drift away into indifference or even into actual conversion (let’s be honest) to non-Islamic religions where they are accepted and consolidated in their new-found “faith.” However many may be the admonitions to be strong, because of the deplorable state of the ummah today (at least in North America), in fact weak people do turn away.
Mashallah, beautiful words. Jazakallahukhair
Ameen! As always, beautifully written and explained Sr. Jinan! Jazak’Allahu Khairan for the great reminder.
Love this.Jazakillah khair sister :))
Salam. May Allah shower His mercy on us. Having to come to term with real life issues while having absolute faith in Allah’s qada & qadr is a struggle that Muslims will continue to have till the end of time. To accept tat human has limited understanding in Allah’s scheme of things is a step towards sakeenah in your heart. Sis Fatima, do take Sis Jinan advise: talk to Allah, ask Him for help. I for one had similar experience – born a Muslim and my parents were devout Muslim (May Allah grant them jannah). I attended religious talks, read Quran. Still I qns almost everything. Time passes until i was in a state where i became afraid that i would stray so far that i would loose Allah, nauzubilla minzalik! The turning point was when i decided to do umrah & determine to change my relationship with Allah. Allah is my Lord and I need to accept whatever He decreed as a humble servant. Alhamdulillah sis, with much determination, i would say that Allah granted me my prayer and i am very happy to say that I am now able to accept, smile and see Allah’s greatness in a lot of things, be it good or bad! May you find sakeenah in your heart sister.
Love with all of ur heart but depend only on Allah.
Thanks alot Sr. Jinan, jazakillahu khayr
Thank you for this article! I was/am having something of a ‘crisis of faith’ and was on the very verge of turning away. In fact, I was deleting all my Muslim bookmarks and saw this one, “Will you turn away”? and I decided to read it. I’m glad I did. I will pray for help and I humbly ask for prayers as well. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail so I hope it will suffice to say that I am having some real problems right now and it is severely testing my faith.
[…] have explored the issue of calamities in these two articles: Why am I tested? And Will you turn away? So I will be brief […]