Surely, we will test you with something of fear, hunger, and loss of wealth, lives, and fruits. Give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere. Al-Qur’an 2:155
Two weeks ago, I was preparing to board a shuttle bus for a five minute ride from my hotel to the International Terminal at JFK Airport in New York. All of the preparations had been made to fly to Saudi Arabia to participate in the annual Rihla program. All of the books I needed for the various lessons I was to teach had been selected and placed in my large briefcase. Other books for personal readings had been added to the load. My computer was ready, programmed to record the various sessions. Most importantly, my passport and tickets, delivered a day earlier had been hastily crammed into one of the briefcase’s many pockets and compartments.
As my wife and I began loading our bags unto the shuttle, I suddenly noticed that the briefcase was missing. But how could that be? I had been watching over the small mountain of luggage, except for a brief jaunt to the hotel’s gift shop to purchase a few items for a makeshift breakfast. During that time my wife had been diligently standing guard. Still there was no sign of the bag. Bewildered, I sent my wife on to the terminal along with the remaining bags and began a futile search to find the missing article. After two hours of fervent searching, backtracking, and inquiries nothing had materialized.
As we sat despondently in the lobby of the hotel, we realized that the bag was gone, as was our opportunity to join the other teachers and students for the start of the Rihla program, as the flight we were to catch had already departed. Slowly a great sense of loss began to siege me. The computer contained many articles and other writings, some of which had not been saved elsewhere, along with almost two years of recorded lectures and sermons. A couple of the books were rare. One, an Arabic grammar text I had inherited from a recently deceased Afghani scholar, would probably be irreplaceable.
The gravity of the situation started to make me feel a little down. However, my little depression was short-lived. It dawned on me that my loss was very minor in reality. Other people, both here and abroad, were suffering far greater losses than mine. I thought about the many people in Iraq who have been forced to flee their homes, oftentimes in the dead of night, leaving behind not only personal possessions, of the type I had lost, but in many instances precious family mementos, clothing and other personal items. Due to the brutalities of the occupation and the ongoing sectarian violence, many of them will be unable to return home any time soon. I also though of the many Iraqis whose homes had been destroyed by one of the growing number of American air strikes (an unreported facet of the ongoing conflict)—in many instances their losses total, with no chance for any recovery or compensation.
I also thought of the people whose homes were recently flooded in parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, the irrepressible waters not only sweeping away their precious possessions, but in many cases their long-held dreams. One day they were living normal lives enjoying the fruits of their hard work, the next day everything was gone.
I saw that what I had loss in reality had been quite small, and what remained with me priceless. I still had my health, I had a home to return to, and I also had the necessary financial resources to begin the process of replacing most of what I had lost. May God be praised!
I came to see that my little tribulation was also a cause for pause and reflection. The losses we experience in this world, be they great or small, are reminders to us that one day both ourselves and everyone we know will depart this world, and we will lose everything in it. Not only will we lose books and computers, but we will also lose houses, apartments, clothes, cars, families, relatives, friends, neighbors, everything.
Awareness of this inescapable reality is only meaningful if it is translated into active preparation for that loss. The following prophetic tradition is related by Anas b. Malik:
A man asked the Prophet, peace and blessings upon him: “When will Doomsday occur, O Messenger of God!?” He replied: “What have you done to prepare for it?” The man responded: “I have neither prayed, nor fasted, nor given charity excessively. However, I do love God and His Messenger.” He said: “You will be with those you love.” Related by Bukhari (6171) and Muslim (2679)
Hopefully, my little loss will help me to get on with the preparation for the meeting with God. If it does then it was something good. Most of what we lose in this world can eventually be replaced, in one way or another. However, if we lose Paradise, and our opportunity to be in the company of the Prophets, peace upon them, the great supporters of truth, the true martyrs, and the righteous, then that is a great, irreplaceable loss. By adequately preparing ourselves for death, the great loss will become the great gain.
Amongst people is one who worships God with hesitancy and skepticism. If good befalls him he is content. However, if he is afflicted with tribulation he turns away disappointed [in God]. He loses this world and the next. That is truly the great loss. Al-Qur’an 22:11
P.S. Today, Wednesday, July 18, 2007, having belated obtained a new passport, I will fly over to Saudi Arabia for the last week of the Rihla. On the flight from Oakland to New York, I penned the following poem, which is the first I have ever written in iambic pentameter.
Her smile reflects the beauty of the sky.
Her benefits are there for passersby.
Her hair adorned sometimes with colors: gold,
and red, yellow, so splendid to behold.
Her life is spent measured as seasons pass.
The world adorned. Her gift? Her grace, her class.
The poet thought that he would never see,
a poem as lovely as a natural tree.
As-Salaam Alikum, Mashallah Thanx for the great Article. Subhanallah how allah tests the muslim. I'm a young muslim and if i loose my cell phone or anything like that i would cry for days. Then I would think about all the people in my country in Palestine and Thank Allah (Swt) for all the great blessings that he has given me a healthy family warm bed I can sleep at night and food to eat anytime. Then when i speak to my family in palestine they would cry just for the simple stuff we use in our everyday life that we take for granted sometimes. They wish they can have a warm meal or just clean water. I thank Allah All Mighty for this life he has given me. After reading this article it really made me realize that I should start Thanking Allah (swt) for the life hes given me and my health and the ability to pray and make sujood I think thats the best thing i can ask for in this life. Allah Bless All Our dear brothers and sisters in islam and grant us inshallah Janna Alfardose and never let us go astray Ameen. Thank you Imam Zaid Shakir for this great article
Dear Imam Zaid, I pray that a harm was taken away from you and Umm Hassan, by the forced change of plans. InshaAllah, whatever happens to us happens by the best plans of God. And inshaAllah, that whoever took your briefcase realizes that the contents are more valuable to you and your students than to them, and returns it. Thank you for your reminder to be grateful and patient in the face of all losses big and small. Omair
Jazak Allahu khayran Imam Zaid! insha' Allah I hope your trip goes well. I remember at last year's Rihla, some of us complained of having missed only 3 days because of passport issues! Of course, that doesn't really compare to your situation, but alhamdulillah. Everything turned out well, and we especially loved your classes :) May Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala compensate you with much better than what you have lost, and raise us amongst "those [we] love."
As Salaam Alaikum Imam Zaid and Umm Hassan, JazakAllahu khair for your writing. InshaAllah we can all learn from your experiences and also see this world and the hereafter the same way you do. Ummi Noreen
As Salamu 'alaykum Imam Zaid, thank you for this important reminder. Your wisdom is much needed in this materialistic plane of existence. We pray that we will continue to be in your presence in this plane and all levels of existence. May Allah s.w.t. keep you and your loved ones under His Divine Protection and Mercy. With love, Su and Mikael
Assalamualaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh, Alhamdulillah you made it and benefited us in Madinah. May ALLAH reward you and compansate whatever that you have lost with something better. Wassalam. Student of Rihla 2007
As-Salaam 'Alaikum Beloved Brothers and Sisters, Thank you all for your prayers and support. May Allah bless us all to be of greater benefit and support for each other. The material things of this world will be gone with our departure from this plane of existence. No matter how great our loses here, knowing that we can look forward to meeting our loved ones in Paradise makes any material loss seem small. May Allah bless us all to meet at the Fountain of the Messenger of Allah.
Salam "Amongst people is one who worships God with hesitancy and skepticism. If good befalls him he is content. However, if he is afflicted with tribulation he turns away disappointed [in God]. He loses this world and the next. That is truly the great loss. Al-Qur
As-Salaam 'Alaikum Sister Fatima, Perhaps it would help if you took the time to slow down and reflect on the blessings you enjoy. Sometimes we can become so overwhelmed by the challenges we encounter in our daily lives and routines that a lot of simple blessings pass us by. By stopping and consciously reminding ourselves of the blessings we oftentimes take for granted, we can become inspired to be more devoted to the bestower of those blessings. May Allah bless you with strength.
Asalamo Alikom Imam Zaid, I read this post a couple weeks ago and it reminded me of a poem by Imam Sa'adi Shirazi. The temporal life passed like the desert winds The bitter experiences, the joyful experiences, the ugly and the beautiful all passed The oppressor assumed he oppressed us It remained around his neck, and it passed us" "Dawran-e baqa cho badi sahra begozasht Talkhi-o khoshee-o zesht-o zeba begozasht Pendasht setamgar ki jafa bar ma kard Dar gardane ho bemand-o bar ma begozasht" Omar
As-Salaam 'Alaikum Omar, Thank you for sharing that poem with me. May Allah bless you and all of the brothers and sisters during these final days of Ramadan. Remember actions are judged based on their conclusion. May the last days of Ramadan be the best days. May Allah accept all of our worship and devotion during this month, and make it a source of positive reformation that will suffice us for the balance of our lives.
Alsalam Alyikom, Thank you Imam Zaid for this wonderful piece and Jazak Allah khayran, it meant a lot for me. A sense of loss is a hard feeling to accept easily in human life. Man always struggle and fight aggressively to gain; therefore he does not accept loss easily. As it is not the way he has been raised. He learned since he was a child that he had to preserve his stuff from loss and his parents punished him badly when he lost his stuff. As the time pass, the Man learn that if he loses anything he owns, then it is a big mistake and he is a looser, does not worth. That is why God test Human in loosing what he loves and has at life. And God does not test anybody except the one he loves, as he wants him to be closer to him to worth his paradise. Loss is a lesson From God to the man to teach him that there is nothing in life worthy "neither money, nor children, nor jewelries, etc" more that closeness to God. Fighting the feeling of loss and not accepting it will destroy the man eventually. If Man who loses gets mad, angry and sad then he will not change anything. He will not get what he lost back. His anger and stress is useless, will just destroy himself. Man has to understand that God is the Master and he is just a slave who has to obey God orders and destiny. There was a wise man who said that the man learn from his mistakes and losses at his life more than success, by accepting losses he will accept God want and realize that there in nothing worthy more than being closed to God, and therefore become less stress, in addition he will live with less fear of losing what he owns. Imam Zaid mentioned many examples as Iraqi people who lost their families, homes and security, and said that we have to take lessons from them by appreciating what we have, but unfortunately people do not learn from just watching others who got hurted Unless they experience the sense of loss to learn closeness for God and not grapping the life and making maximizing their prior goal. From my own experience loosing dignity and reputation is harder than losing any materiel stuff including money. I never appreciate the sense of security unless I lost it. And I learn that loosing my life away from God is the disaster, therefore I get closed to God and thanks God as even my family can not protect me as God do. In addition I remembered the time of death where there is no one with me except my deed. May God help me and others who lost anything they have. The most important lesson is not to lose hope and determination, which enable us to change for better, accept the sense of loss and feel gratitude for our creator.
As-Salaam 'Alaikum Nour, Thank you for your thoughtful words. May Allah bless us all to show greater appreciation for the blessings He has bestowed on us and may He bless us all to be more patient in the face of loss and the other tests we may be tried with. May He bless us to conquer both our ingrained nature and things acquired by nuture if they keep us from realizing our full human potential.
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