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My Son Doesn’t Understand the World

11 September, 2017
Q Dear counselor, I have a problem. My son came to me and said crying "Mum, I don't understand the world. How should I handle the world?" I looked at him and then thought he is only 20 years, he has money, a car, he studies medicine in one of the best universities, has a beautiful and religious wife, has kind parents, is good looking, has many friends, has good health, so what is his problem? So I asked him what problems does he have, why can't he understand the world. He answered with tears in his eyes, "It is all very complicated, I don't understand the world; evil wins, people who hate me congratulate me on my birthday, which I don't expect, and beloved ones don't congratulate me. Everything is running differently: The good lose and evil wins, etc." So how can I help him? Thank you.


In this counseling answer:

“First off, your son must understand that good never loses and evil never wins. Of course in this temporary world that may appear to be the case, but in Reality, in the world of Truth, only Allah exists and Allah is good. Evil, according to many erudite scholars and saints of Islam, only exists—is created by Allah—for the purpose of pointing mankind to good, to the all-pervading mercy of Allah.”

As-salamu `alaykum Dear sister,

Yes, we do live in a world that often seems upside down. Your son is very perceptive, in fact. Given that Allah has blessed him with so much, it is a refreshing sign to see someone who is so concerned with the state of the world. What your son is echoing, in my opinion, is what many people, particularly young people, are feeling today.

In many ways, it is a very dark time we are living in with so much ignorance, hatred, inequality, oppression, violence, and other things occurring in the world. This is what your son is picking up on and it is, indeed, very difficult to understand. Nevertheless, as Muslims, we must always seek understanding in our lives, for that is how we learn about Allah and His way of operating in the world.

First off, your son must understand that good never loses and evil never wins. Of course in this temporary world that may appear to be the case, but in Reality, in the world of Truth, only Allah exists and Allah is good. Evil, according to many erudite scholars and saints of Islam, only exists—is created by Allah—for the purpose of pointing mankind to good, to the all-pervading mercy of Allah. Remember the hadith qudsi: “My mercy overcomes My wrath.” According to those such as Jalaludin Rumi, evil only exists to point us human beings back to, and be grateful for the all-pervading mercy of Allah. The following is from my last article on this Web site. It might help to put this in perspective:

Everything is from Him. This was one of the first lessons I learned in Islam prior to my conversion six years ago. It is the peak of tawheed; simple, yet so important and powerful. Everything is from Allah. When we attempt to understand our lives in this way, through the eyes of tawheed, with Allah as the ultimate cause of everything (Such is Allah, your Lord, the Creator of all things” [Ghafir 40:62]), quite naturally we will seek understanding in our lives. We know Allah creates everything, we know Allah is the primary cause behind everything, and we know that Allah is the Most Merciful and the source of ultimate good. Thus, with everything that occurs in our lives, might we ask “what are we to learn, Lord, and how should we respond to that which You have willed?” From this vantage point, we will naturally yearn to know what Allah wants us to do, which in fact we already have the answer for: to know Him.

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If Allah wants us to know Him, does it not make sense that the manifestation of severity and rigor is Allah’s way of calling us back to Him and His all-pervading mercy and goodness? Could it be that the “whip” of severity is the Creator’s way of reminding us of our ultimate purpose here? The Qur’an teaches us that there are three ways to know Allah: through revelation (the Qur’an), through creation, and through the self.

One of the important roles that hardship plays in life is to facilitate introspection, to help us look toward the inside and better understand our innermost selves and hearts. When we experience tragedy or calamity, often the first thing we do is go inside ourselves, seeking understanding and solace. It is an important soulful activity that must be done in order to fully realize our humanness.

Part of the self-surrendering to Allah (al-Islam), therefore, must be to accept all of the Names of Allah, and to embrace all of the ways that He chooses to manifest Himself in our lives, including those perceived as severe or harsh. Not being appreciative of the mercy of Allah in our lives and merciful in our interactions with others will inevitably result in the experience of Allah’s wrath. For to be neglectful in our role as the community of the Mercy to All the Worlds (Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him) is deserving of a divine wake-up call.

The craziness in the world that your son has picked up on is the result of all these human decisions to live lives in opposition to the Divine Reality and Allah’s guidance for mankind. Islam means “peace” in that it is the way of life of unity—as a manifestation of tawheed, or the oneness of Allah. That is why the people of tawheed (i.e., the Muslims) should be the people showing the world how to live in unity and peace. Nevertheless, in too many cases, we are not. We are not exemplifying our way of life to bring peace. Allah says very simply in the Qur’an that He created us different for one reason: so that we can know one another.

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

Yet, we are not. Humanity as a whole is not. Therefore, we are shunning Allah’s mercy by turning away from His guidance and we are essentially getting what we have asked for, which is Allah’s wrath. What we can do from what we see happening around us is to get involved—even if it’s in a simple way like helping a loved one or a neighbor. Allah records all of our good deeds, no matter how seemingly mundane they are.

And the Book (of Deeds) will be placed (before you); and thou wilt see the sinful in great terror because of what is (recorded) therein; they will say, ‘Ah! woe to us! what a Book is this! It leaves out nothing small or great, but takes account thereof!’ They will find all that they did, placed before them: And not one will thy Lord treat with injustice.” (Al-Kahf 18:49)

The best way to respond to the craziness and negativity that we see around us is to transform it—by doing something good! Bring mercy, peace, love, and understanding to someone—anyone, for that matter.

The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo! he, between whom and thee there was enmity (will become) as though he was a bosom friend.” (Fussilat 41:34)

If we all were to focus on these small things, in time, in sha’ Allah, we would see things begin to transform for the better. We are all capable of doing good and bringing goodness into the world. We just have to do it. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering change either. Remember what the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) told us about the importance of small deeds:

`A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) did not observe fast in any month of the year more than in the month of Sha`ban, and used to say, “Do as many deeds as you are capable of doing, for Allah will not become weary (of giving you reward), but you would be tired (of doing good deeds).” And he also said,“The deed liked most by Allah is one to which the doer adheres constantly even if it is small.” (Muslim 6, #2582)

Narrated Abu Hurairah: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “A man never did a good deed but removed a thorny branch from the road; it was either in the tree and someone cut it and threw it on the road, or it was lying in it, he removed it. Allah accepted this good deed of his and brought him intoParadise.” (Abu Dawud 41, #5225)

I hope this helps your son in some small way.

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information that was provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, it’s volunteers, writers, scholars, counselors, or employees be held liable for any direct, indirect, exemplary, punitive, consequential or other damages whatsoever that may arise through your decision or action in the use of the services which our website provides. 

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About Dr. Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah
Dr. Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Science Study’s Community Education and Youth Studies Laboratory, Universiti Putra Malaysia. He received his B.A. from the University of Delaware (U.S.), his M.S. from Columbia University (U.S.) and his PhD from the Institute for Community & Peace Studies (PEKKA), Universiti Putra Malaysia in 2005 in the field of Youth Studies. Abd. Lateef is an American who has been living in Malaysia since 2001. He is married and has 2 children.