The human being was created from haste. I will show you my signs so do not be hasty! Surat Al-Anbiya (21:37)
Allah (SWT) advises us in the Qur’an about the nature of the human being. As an engineer, whenever anything breaks, my first instinct is to go to the manual. The Qur'an is the manual of life, the manual for society and of all existence. Currently, the world feels like it’s falling apart. So, I did what my instincts demanded and I checked the manual, the Qur’an. So much of the current crisis in Palestine was put into perspective for me, and while it still pained me a great deal to see my brothers and sisters suffering, I understood why the Palestinians themselves haven't lost hope yet. To try and understand the tenacity of the Palestinians there is an obvious solution: we check the Qur'an and the Seerah (Biography of the Prophet).
The Prophet (SAW) and his companions faced a very dark time during the Meccan da'wah(invitation to Islam) period. When the Quraysh realized that the monotheism that the Prophet (SAW) was calling for would force them to reform their corrupt lifestyles, they lashed out and persecuted any who dared follow his message. To protect their privilege, they tortured the weak amongst the companions of the Prophet (SAW). The Sahabah(companions of the Prophet (SAW))were resilient and they were the best of humanity; however they were still human. Khabab Ibn Arat (RA) was a slave blacksmith, a valuable resource to any slave-owner. His owner was a cruel woman, and when he (RA) embraced Islam, she tortured him using his own tools. He (RA) was beaten with the metal bars that he would forge. Coals from the blast furnace would be pressed against his back to the point where his skin would melt off. When, understandably, Khabab (RA) eventually complained to the Prophet (SAW), the Prophet responded: "Among the nations before you a (believing) man would be put in a ditch that was dug for him, and a saw would be put over his head and he would be cut into two pieces; yet that (torture) would not make him give up his religion. His body would be combed with iron combs that would remove his flesh from the bones and nerves, yet that would not make him abandon his religion. By Allah, this religion (i.e. Islam) will prevail till a traveler from Sana (in Yemen) to Hadramaut will fear none but Allah, or a wolf as regards his sheep, but you (people) are hasty." (Sahih al-Bukhari 3612)
There is a lot to unpack in this hadith. First, the Prophet (SAW) is implying that in the suffering there is benefit. Certainly, with hardship there is ease (94:6). When a human is tried and tested over and over again, they learn and become stronger. Bad times create strong humans. If there is no reason to get stronger, the human will not expend energy to become stronger. It's evolutionarily unwise to do so. He (SAW) also gave hope to the companions by telling them that their efforts are not in vain. Their success will be so great there will be peace in the entirety of the Arab lands. To put this statement into context, consider the following: at that point, Islam probably had fewer than 20 adherents and the Arabian peninsula was ravaged by raiders, thieves and tribal disputes. The success he (SAW) describes is unprecedented and seems unattainable. Finally, the Prophet (SAW) inspires them through examples of people who lived in the previous nations; he (SAW) reminds them that although that man had his flesh separated from his bones, he did not give up his religion, and thus attained Jannah (paradise). He (SAW) reframes the situation for them, and he clarifies the reality of what they are seeking. Worldly success is worth striving for, but the reward in the next life is better and everlasting.
The Prophet (SAW) also mentions a key component of the human being. He (SAW) tells the companions (RA) "but you are hasty.” Allah in the Qur'an mentions the verse, "the human being was created from haste, I will show you my signs so do not be hasty." (21:37) Being hasty is an ingredient in the creation of the human being. As human beings, we are intrinsically hasty. Think about the common statements of a child: "Are we there yet?" or "But I don't want to do my homework, I want ice cream now!" As we grow up, we learn to tame that impatience and as we tame it, we become more mature. We become capable of delaying gratification and of self-sacrifice. Allah (SWT) has promised us that He will show us his miracles, in this world and the next; we should strive to stay in a state where we are able to delay and sacrifice for the sake of Allah (SWT).
One of the best ways to get into the mindset of delaying our worldly pleasure for the hereafter is simply to remember the next world. Not a page of the Qur’an passes by without the mention of death or the next world. Ar-Rabee' Ibn Khuthaym was one of the Tabi'een, a member of the generation after the Sahabah. He was known to have dug a grave inside his own living room, and when he felt like he was too attached to the dunya (the world), he would sit in the grave in the dark and picture himself having just died. He would repeat the verse in the chapter of Surat al-Mu'iminoon, "My Lord take me back!" (23:99). This ayah(verse) describes the state of someone who dies in a state of heedlessness. What a chilling thought! To die without having prepared for the next life! It's the stomach churning feeling of walking into an exam completely unprepared, magnified a million times. How can we prefer the dunyawhen this is the reality? This is a test that we can't afford to procrastinate for.
Everything in this world is a test and every test is an opportunity to draw closer to Allah (SWT). Our brothers and sisters in Gaza are facing a grave trial and In Sha Allah, they are being accepted as martyrs and witnesses testifying that that there is no God but God. However, we always need to reflect on our own condition. Living our Western lifestyles, filled with decadence and luxuries, we are also being tested. Whilst our trial isn't as stark and brutal, it's insidious and has the ability to destroy us, both in this world and the next. When we are resurrected on the final day, we will be questioned, “why did you allow your brothers and sisters to be oppressed?” Can we truly say that we tried everything in our power to return safety and security back to the lands of the Muslims? Subhan’Allah, we go out on the streets, protest and yell for a few hours, then go home feeling that we have already liberated The Holy Land. We quickly forget that the occupation of Palestine isn't just a problem right now, it's been a problem that we have neglected as an Ummahfor decades. It's not enough to send thoughts and prayers. It's not enough to send relief and aid. It's not enough to advocate for our rights. All of these avenues should be taken, but they are not enough! If we are simply seeking to soothe our guilty conscience for living a life of luxury while our brothers and sisters suffer, then we can stop our action here. However, disciplined and consistent work needs to be done in our homes, communities and nations to develop ourselves and our institutions. In our current state, most Muslims study and work, and their highest aspiration is simply to fill their bellies. We need to be far more ambitious. We need to develop ourselves not just in religion, but in everything we do. As Muslims, we should be world leaders in science, politics, advocacy and business so as to claim our rights, not simply ask for them. Living in this land of freedom and security, we are given the opportunities to do that; we just need to overcome ourselves.
In the Qur'an, we see an example of how an oppressed nation was freed. The children of Israel had been enslaved by the Pharaoh. He kept them in humiliation and weakness, slaughtering their male newborns every second year to quell the demographic threat. Musa (AS) was not raised under the yoke of the Egyptian people, rather he was raised as a prince in the palace of the Pharaoh. He was educated, he was taught the arts of leadership, statecraft, and everything else that a prince might learn. Furthermore, he was raised by two amazing women: his biological mother, a woman who was so close to Allah (SWT) that she received inspiration from Him, and his adopted mother, the wife of the Pharaoh, a woman who was also divinely guided to the point where she is mentioned in the Qur'an (66:11). With this combination of worldly knowledge learned in the palace and spiritual knowledge acquired from his mothers, Musa (AS) challenged the Pharaoh. We as Muslims living in the West are like Musa (AS) living in the Pharaoh's palace. Musa (AS) understood that his luxurious lifestyle was built on the backs of his oppressed brothers and sisters. He (AS) always remained grateful and strove to give back to the community that enabled his success. He (AS) used the talents he developed in the Pharaoh's palace to eventually challenge the oppressor and free the oppressed.
It's natural to feel despair about what is happening in Palestine. However, we need to recognize that our despair comes from our hasty nature. There is hope even in this dark time, the narrative around the world is changing and the veil of propaganda is being pierced. As Muslims, we have the numbers, but we are weak because of our love of the dunya. This weakness allows foreign nations to help themselves to our nations the way people help themselves to food at a dinner table. To overcome this weakness, we must disconnect from worldly pleasures and constantly be in a state of remembrance of the Akhirah(afterlife). Always remember what is at stake; not just the land of Palestine, not just the lives and well-being of several million people, but our entire eternity in the hereafter. As Muslims, we need to follow the Qur'an and have a longer term vision for not just liberating Palestine, but for uplifting the entire Ummah. Every individual will be questioned according to their capacity and we need to get to a state where we are able to truly and sincerely tell Allah (SWT) on the last day "Yes Allah, I did everything I could."