THESE are troubling times: a debilitating sickness pervades the world. Many have recovered; others have succumbed to more severe attacks. Governments are scrambling to contain the spread of the virus, trying to restrain people’s movement and social interactions. Hospitals are full to capacity; many of the sick are being catered to at home. Amidst the pandemic, other malaises continue to wreak havoc on the human condition. Healthy individuals are suddenly diagnosed with deadly cancer and people meet with accidents on a daily basis.
How should believers handle themselves and their families when faced with such calamities? The answer lies in their understanding of why and who they are. Everything in this world is fleeting and temporary; happiness and sorrow; pain and joy; wealth and poverty; family, friends; health and sickness, all are limited to this earthly existence. Permanence will be achieved only after death, when whatever is awarded to humans will be for eternity.
Whatever happens in the world happens with God’s knowledge and command. We may often not comprehend the reasons behind His actions, but we must be certain that He wishes the best for us. He wants to purify us and cleanse us from our wrongs and the sins we have committed. According to the Prophet (PBUH), “no fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that God expiates some of his sins for that” (Bukhari, Muslim).
If we are firm in this belief, we must bear sickness that comes upon us or our loved ones with patience and gratitude. In times of illness, we must be mindful of the multitude of blessings God has provided us and we must bear our pain with submission and perseverance. Our pain should make us humble so that we may turn to Him for redress and redemption. Often though, we rebel when faced with such tribulation. Why us, we ask? What did we do to deserve this excruciating pain? When our loved ones become ill, we worry ourselves sick. This is where Muslims often misunderstand their standing before God.
When we are unwell, we must be mindful of God’s blessings.
He never decrees anything but good for His servants, provided the latter demonstrate patience. The Prophet said: “How wonderful the affair of the believer is! Indeed, all of his affairs are good for him. If something good happens to him, he is grateful to God, which is good for him. And if something bad happens to him, he has patience, which is good for him” (Muslim).
We exist so that we may become worthy of paradise as our eternal abode. This can happen only if we purify ourselves through constantly meeting the challenges of our lives with strength of spirit, patience and humility. Everything in our lives is a challenge: wealth, family, our relationships with others, illnesses. In sickness, if we moan, cry, curse our fate, complain and become a burden to others, we choose to lose the opportunity to win God’s approval and become purified, moving a step forward in our journey to paradise.
Our wailings, on the other hand, would succeed only in making the situation worse. If we bear illness with fortitude, prayer and dignity, we would fulfil God’s plans for us. We would come closer to Him and find serenity and calmness. We need to deal with the challenge of illness that confronts us with all the spiritual, emotional and intellectual strength we can muster. Indeed, the Prophet has told us that when God wants to do good to someone, He puts us in a situation of difficulty (Bukhari). There is always some good hidden in our sickness too.
Any illness, particularly of the serious type, must be treated with medical aid. Humans have made tremendous scientific advancements, including in the medical field. All efforts must be made to provide science-based treatment to address human illnesses. This, along with the aforementioned spiritual and religious approach would be the best combination to heal the illness that ails us.
An appropriate treatment, prescribed by authentic medical professionals has the potential to heal, with God’s will and command, for it is He who is the ultimate healer. The Quran quotes Hazrat Ibrahim: “And when I am ill, it is He Who cures me” (26:80). The Prophet tells us to seek medical help whenever possible, since for all diseases there is a cure, and to place our faith in God’s healing powers. The doctor who treats us and the treatment we will take are only the worldly means God utilises to cure us.
What we should not do is to approach quacks, soothsayers, pirs or anyone other than God; we should not take recourse to any superstitious means for curing illnesses.
The writer is a freelance contributor.
Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2021