FACED with what seem to be insurmountable problems, one becomes dejected and overcome with despair. The dearest person in this world is suddenly diagnosed with a most terrible illness and all statistics point towards the condition continuing to take a downward path. Only a miracle can help.
But miracles do not happen to ordinary people. Even as one prays for them, the sense of desperation is pervasive and facts and figures stare one in the eye. Logic and science say that the probability of the miracle could be low. And here is when the heart sinks and the world goes dark.
There is, however, a ray of hope. Miracles might be rare, but God’s mercy is abundant and available to all. Rather than seek a miracle, why should one not pray for God’s attention, His compassion and His power to change the circumstances of one’s life? God does not perform miracles: humans do. God listens to supplications from His servants and decides to accept them. Events that lift us out of pain and misery may appear to be out of the sphere of normal routine and we tend to call them miracles, but God’s answers to our prayers are plentiful.
Asking God for a miracle means that one accepts all odds being against our wishes. But making a request for His mercy and appealing to His complete knowledge about our situation means that one has placed total faith in Him and that one believes that He will accept one’s prayer. It is this belief that determines the acceptance of our prayer.
Miracles might be rare, but God’s mercy is abundant and available to all.
The Quran has many examples of prayers being granted to God’s servants when only miracles could have helped them. A beautiful example is one of Hazrat Zakariya, who, while expressing his vulnerability and physical frailty due to his great age, admitting that he was old and his wife was barren, asked God to grant him a child. He knew that his circumstances rendered his wish unreal and could be fulfilled only by a miracle. But he did not ask for one. Rather, he made an impassioned appeal to his Lord’s mercy, knowing that he had never been turned away from His door before and that he would never be disappointed. “(This is) a recital of the mercy of thy Lord to His servant Zakariya. Behold! he cried to his Lord in secret, praying: “O my Lord! Infirm indeed are my bones, and the hair of my head doth glisten with grey: but never am I unblessed, O my Lord, in my prayer to Thee! … but my wife is barren: so give me an heir as from Thyself, (one that) will (truly) represent me, and represent the posterity of Jacob; and make him, O my Lord! one with whom Thou art well-pleased!” (19:2-19:6) And God granted him a son: one of the purest of men, Hazrat Yahya.
Praying for miracles carries an underlying acceptance that the problem is unsolvable and that intervention of a divine agency is necessary. On the other hand, complete faith and belief in the mercy of the Lord transforms this despair into trust in Him by placing the problem in His hands, knowing that He will listen. When Hazrat Zakariya turned to Him privately in his most humble and vulnerable state, away from the rest of the world and presented his situation to Him, he knew that his condition belied the fulfilment of his wishes, but he was also aware of his Lord never ignoring his prayers. He had always been blessed when his prayers had been answered previously. So, why not now?
In recounting this incident, the Quran refers to God, not by His usual name of ‘Allah’ but by the word ‘Rabb’ (Lord). This word encompasses a host of meanings, including one who nourishes, protects and guides. This is how, God teaches us, we can draw His attention towards Him and ask for what seems to be the im-possible. He will listen and accept.
Another example is that of Hazrat Ayub when he faced some of the worst calamities that could happen to a man. He lost his entire family, his wealth was taken away and he became weak and was in pain due to a multitude of diseases. “… He cried to his Lord, “Truly distress has seized me, but Thou art the most merciful of those that are merciful” (21:83). There was no element of self-pity here, merely a plea for mercy, for the latter would be sufficient. Again, the word ‘Rabb’ is used, invoking the love and graciousness of the Creator.
Placing trust in the Lord also means that one makes all possible worldly efforts to address one’s situation. Trust and total faith in the Lord combined with human effort is the antidote for hopelessness. Hopelessness would mean loss of faith in God’s protection and love.
When are in danger of losing hope, we should pray for mercy and relief from God, not for a miracle.
The writer is an independent contributor with an interest in religion.
Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2021