My brothers and sisters, we live in calamitous times. True these are not as calamitous as other times in the history of the Ummah of Muhammadﷺ which we lived through and survived, becoming stronger. But we can only deal with what we are faced with, so these times are difficult enough for us and we ask Allahﷻ for His help and protection for all Muslims and all innocent people. It is therefore very important to understand why difficult times happen and what to do about them. You will find that many well-meaning people gather to conceptualize and think about strategies to deal with difficulties, but nothing seems to work. Let me illustrate with an example. Say you want to cook a special dish. You put all the ingredients into the pot and stir the mix very thoroughly, but nothing happens. The ingredients remain separate and as you stir them, they just go round and round in the pot but there is no sign of your dish being cooked. Then comes a chef into your kitchen and in one glance, he knows what’s missing and why your dish is not cooking. There is no fire under the pot. You have all the ingredients, but you didn’t light the fire. There is no energy to cook and so the dish remains raw and cold. This is our state. We have all our schemes, technology, money, expertise, and the desire to solve our problems. But we have not lighted the fire under the pot. The fire under our pot is our connection with Allahﷻ. Ramadan comes to help us to connect. To remove the copper oxide on the wire and ensure that it is ready to receive the current. The power of the Noor of Allahﷻ to illuminate our lives in both worlds.
We spent almost three weeks fasting, praying, and remembering Allahﷻ. We feel close to Him and want to know Him. He in His Mercy said:
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِى عَنِّى فَإِنِّى قَرِيبٌ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ ٱلدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا۟ لِى وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا۟ بِى لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ
Baqara 2: 186 And when My slaves ask you (O Muhammadﷺ) concerning Me, then (answer them), I am indeed near (by My Knowledge). I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me (without any mediator or intercessor). So let them obey Me and believe in Me, so that they may be guided.
I remind myself and you that all the promises of Allahﷻ in the Qur’an are conditional. Do something to get something. Nothing will happen if nothing is done. Actions must leave our hands for Allahﷻ’s decisions to descend. Allahﷻ says: Let them obey Me and believe in Me so that they may be guided. The key is to understand this truth; that Allahﷻ changes conditions. All our schemes will work only if Allahﷻ is on our side. Allahﷻ is on the side of those who obey Him. Not of those who disobey and anger Him.
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ مَعَ ٱلَّذِينَ ٱتَّقَوا۟ وَّٱلَّذِينَ هُم مُّحْسِنُونَ
Nahl 16: 128 Truly, Allah is with those who fear Him (have Taqwa), and those who are Muhsinun
If there is no Taqwa and Ihsaan, there will not be any help from Allahﷻ.
Before we go to solutions, let us see why difficulties happen. The same rule applies to personal or global problems. Let us reflect on this in our lives.
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا۟ مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ وَإِذَآ أَرَادَ ٱللَّهُ بِقَوْمٍ سُوٓءًا فَلَا مَرَدَّ لَهُۥ وَمَا لَهُم مِّن دُونِهِۦ مِن وَالٍ
Ra’ad 13: 11 Verily! Allah will not change the good condition of a people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves (by committing sins). But when Allah wills a people’s punishment, there can be no turning back of it, and they will find besides Him no protector.
We must understand that difficulties and calamities don’t happen randomly. In any difficulty the first thing to ask is, what did I do to bring this on myself?
ظَهَرَ ٱلْفَسَادُ فِى ٱلْبَرِّ وَٱلْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِى ٱلنَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ ٱلَّذِى عَمِلُوا۟ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ
Rum 30: 41 Evil (calamities) has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned (by oppression and sins), that Allah may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return (by repenting to Allah and begging His Pardon).
Two important points to note: That what we are seeing is the result of our own actions and that this is not punishment for them, but a taste of the real punishment, so that we can take heed and change our ways.
Our society is rife with disobedience of Allahﷻ in every possible way. It is not only our rich and powerful who do it. Every one of us oppresses the one below him and kowtows to the one above. Allahﷻ gave women rights that many so-called modern societies don’t to this day. But we Muslims deny those rights to our sisters. Allahﷻ made the pure Halaal and the impure and evil Haraam, but we indulge in all that Allahﷻ prohibited. Allahﷻ declared war on those dealing in interest. But we accept this war and then wonder why we are faced with calamities. Take only one matter, dealing in interest:
ٱلَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ ٱلرِّبَوٰا۟ لَا يَقُومُونَ إِلَّا كَمَا يَقُومُ ٱلَّذِى يَتَخَبَّطُهُ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنُ مِنَ ٱلْمَسِّ ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَالُوٓا۟ إِنَّمَا ٱلْبَيْعُ مِثْلُ ٱلرِّبَوٰا۟ وَأَحَلَّ ٱللَّهُ ٱلْبَيْعَ وَحَرَّمَ ٱلرِّبَوٰا۟ فَمَن جَآءَهُۥ مَوْعِظَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِۦ فَٱنتَهَىٰ فَلَهُۥ مَا سَلَفَ وَأَمْرُهُۥٓ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ وَمَنْ عَادَ فَأُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ أَصْحَـٰبُ ٱلنَّارِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَـٰلِدُونَ
يَمْحَقُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلرِّبَوٰا۟ وَيُرْبِى ٱلصَّدَقَـٰتِ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ كَفَّارٍ أَثِيمٍ
إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَعَمِلُوا۟ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ وَأَقَامُوا۟ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَءَاتَوُا۟ ٱلزَّكَوٰةَ لَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَذَرُوا۟ مَا بَقِىَ مِنَ ٱلرِّبَوٰٓا۟ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُوا۟ فَأْذَنُوا۟ بِحَرْبٍ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِۦ وَإِن تُبْتُمْ فَلَكُمْ رُءُوسُ أَمْوَٰلِكُمْ لَا تَظْلِمُونَ وَلَا تُظْلَمُونَ
Baqara 2: 275-279 Those who consume interest cannot stand [on the Day of Resurrection] except as one stands who is being beaten by Shaytaan into insanity. That is because they say, “Trade is [just] like interest.” But Allah has permitted trade and has forbidden interest. So, whoever heeds the warning from his Rabb and desists, may have what is past, and his affair rests with Allah. But whoever returns [to dealing in interest] – those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein. Allah will destroy Riba (interest) and will give increase for Sadaqat (charity) and Allah dislikes disbelievers and sinners. Truly those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and give Zakat, they will have their reward with their Rabb. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. O you who believe! Fear Allah and give up what remains (due to you) from Riba (interest) (from now onward), if you are (really) believers. And if you do not do it, then take a notice of war from Allah and His Messenger but if you repent, you shall have your capital sums. Deal not unjustly (by asking more than your capital sums), and you shall not be dealt with unjustly (by receiving less than your capital sums).
Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (R) reported: Rasoolullahﷺ said, “Allah has cursed the one who consumes interest, its client, its witness, and its recorder. Interest-based dealings and adultery do not become widespread among people but that they will become vulnerable to the punishment of Allah Almighty.” [Musnad Aḥmad]
Jaabir (R) said: Rasoolullahﷺ cursed the one who consumes Riba (interest) and the one who pays it, the one who writes it down and the two who witness it, and he said: they are all the same. [Sahih Muslim]
Ali bin Abi Talib and Ibn Mas’oud (RA) narrated that Rasoolullahﷺ said: “May Allahﷻ curse whoever consumes Riba, whoever pays Riba, the two who are witnesses to it, and the scribe who records it.”
We must ask, whether someone we are at war with, will help us? It is insanity to imagine that what caused the problem will also cure it. Each path leads to a destination. To go to another destination, we must change the path.
مَآ أَصَابَ مِن مُّصِيبَةٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ ٱللَّهِ وَمَن يُؤْمِنۢ بِٱللَّهِ يَهْدِ قَلْبَهُۥ وَٱللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَىْءٍ عَلِيمٌ
Taghabun 64: 11 No calamity befalls, but with the Leave of Allah, and whosoever believes in Allah, He guides his heart. And Allah is the All-Knower of everything.
This is the mercy of Allahﷻ we will be comforted in the midst of the difficulty that we may be facing. The difficulty is itself a sign of the mercy of Allahﷻ because it comes to save us from burning ourselves in the fire. It is an early warning for us to turn away from our path that leads to Jahannam.
وَلَنُذِيقَنَّهُم مِّنَ ٱلْعَذَابِ ٱلْأَدْنَىٰ دُونَ ٱلْعَذَابِ ٱلْأَكْبَرِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ
Sajda 32: 21 And verily, We will make them taste of the near torment (disasters, calamities) prior to the supreme torment (in the Hereafter), in order that they may (repent and) return (become obedient to Allahﷻ).
The Qur’an teaches us that the solution to all problems, is to repent.
وَيَـٰقَوْمِ ٱسْتَغْفِرُوا۟ رَبَّكُمْ ثُمَّ تُوبُوٓا۟ إِلَيْهِ يُرْسِلِ ٱلسَّمَآءَ عَلَيْكُم مِّدْرَارًا وَيَزِدْكُمْ قُوَّةً إِلَىٰ قُوَّتِكُمْ وَلَا تَتَوَلَّوْا۟ مُجْرِمِينَ
Hud 11: 52 And O my people! Ask forgiveness of your Rabb and then repent to Him, He will send you (from the sky) abundant rain, and add strength to your strength, so do not turn away as Mujrimun (criminals, disbelievers).
There are many Ayaat with this meaning in reference to many Anbiya which show us that everything good begins with repentance. Only when we accept our mistakes and crimes, can we hope for the anger of Allahﷻ to cool and for the difficulties to be removed. In our materialistic minds, we must accept that it is not our schemes which will help us but the Mercy of Allahﷻ. This we must invoke by Istighfaar (repentance) and Tawba (turning to Allahﷻ). But if we remain stubborn the suffering will remain no matter what we do.
Allahﷻ told us about two mistakes and the difference in approach which led to their endings being very different. Let us see how we behave.
Adam (AS) and Hawwa (AS) disobeyed Allahﷻ. But when they realized what they had done, they were immediately contrite. They accepted their mistake and sought forgiveness.
قَالَا رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَآ أَنفُسَنَا وَإِن لَّمْ تَغْفِرْ لَنَا وَتَرْحَمْنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ ٱلْخَـٰسِرِينَ
A’araf 7: 23 They said: Our Rabb! We have wronged ourselves. If You forgive us not, and bestow not upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be of the losers.
Allahﷻ forgave them and sent them down to the earth to remain here for a time and work according to the plan of Allahﷻ and then to return to their home i.e., Jannah. Iblees also disobeyed Allahﷻ. But see what he did.
قَالَ مَا مَنَعَكَ أَلَّا تَسْجُدَ إِذْ أَمَرْتُكَ قَالَ أَنَا۠ خَيْرٌ مِّنْهُ خَلَقْتَنِى مِن نَّارٍ وَخَلَقْتَهُۥ مِن طِينٍ
A’araf 7: 12 (Allah) said: What prevented you (O Iblis) that you did not prostrate, when I commanded you? Iblis said: I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay.
See the totally different attitude. Instead of accepting his mistake, he justified it, by implication casting blame that the fault was with the order, not with him. We need to ask ourselves who our attitude and actions resemble more, when we are warned about the displeasure of Allahﷻ for our ideas and actions. We must ask because all actions have consequences. That is why we must change now, because one day that exit door will shut. Allahﷻ said:
قَالَ فَٱهْبِطْ مِنْهَا فَمَا يَكُونُ لَكَ أَن تَتَكَبَّرَ فِيهَا فَٱخْرُجْ إِنَّكَ مِنَ ٱلصَّـٰغِرِينَ
قَالَ أَنظِرْنِىٓ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ
A’araf 7: 13-14 (Allah) said: (O Iblis) get down from this (Jannah), it is not for you to be arrogant here. Get out, for you are of those humiliated and disgraced. (Iblis) said: Allow me respite till the Day they are raised up (Day of Resurrection).
He dug himself into the hole until he was lost. Allahﷻ guides those who wish to be guided. Allahﷻ doesn’t compel or force anyone. We choose our own destiny. Ramadan comes to give us another chance to change our path and turn towards Allahﷻ. For those who do it, Allahﷻ said:
قُلْ يَـٰعِبَادِىَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا۟ عَلَىٰٓ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا۟ مِن رَّحْمَةِ ٱللَّهِ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ ٱلذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلْغَفُورُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ
Zumar 39: 54 Say: O ‘Ibadi (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah, verily Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
For those who repent, Allahﷻ’s forgiveness is boundless. The condition is repentance and change. Now, because tomorrow never comes. Ramadan is our change opportunity. Let us take it and chart a different path for ourselves