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Debilitating Grief

The following lament of a young man expresses how so many young people feel today:

“I am a young man who is trying to do my level best to serve my faith. However, I see that the holes in the fabric of our society are only getting larger and that concern for our religion is for most people but a momentary pastime. I can see that the generations that are coming up today have no one to convey to them the message of their Lord.

“When I was in high school, I had enough aptitude and ambition to be the head of my class in everything. I got the best grades, was best at the computer. I was the most popular kid in class. I was the best chess player in school and the best football player.

“My life changed when my eyes opened to the great truth of this religion. I channeled all of that energy into one noble cause. I devoted myself to conveying the message of Islam to people by every means at my disposal. I devoted to it my words, my money, my time. I distributed books and cassettes. I spoke about Islam in the mosque, on the streets, and everywhere I had the opportunity to do so.

“Do you think that I allowed the resulting alienation and the unending weariness of it all get the best of me and cause me to start looking for some Islamic justification to take an easier path?

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“Indeed I did.

“Finding another way besides the way of calling others took a great load off my shoulders. Did I become like the one the Quran describes who when afflicted with misfortune turns on his heels? Or did I become like one who fears other people with the fear that is due Allah? Or did I become like the one who worships Allah straddling the fence? Or did I become like the one who unravels his own tapestry?

“In short, was this change in me legitimate or was I just deceiving myself?

“I became disheartened and weary, a prisoner of my loneliness and alienation.

Such are the words of a self-reproaching soul. They articulate the concerns that plague so many sincere people.

I say to him and to all those who feel the way he does: My dear brother who is plagued with debilitating worries, may Allah strengthen you in your obedience to Him and bless you with a firm resolve. The troubles that beset your heart are, in our estimation, suffered in the path of Allah. These worries can elevate your status.

However, we have the following advice that we feel you must heed:

1. Do not despair. Do not allow this concern of yours to degenerate into debilitating grief. Do not let it make you listless and hesitant to speak and act. Likewise, do not let it have the opposite effect and make you severe in your approach. Islam likes neither laxity nor severity. Some people, when they begin to feel what you are feeling, are overwhelmed. They begin to focus only on being committed to their Lord and sincere in their faith and forget what it means to be patient in accepting Allah’s decrees and to be steadfast on His path.

You can see that the Muslims today are beset by problems the likes of which they have never encountered before in history. The Prophet (peace be upon him) spoke about this eventuality when he said:

“This nation of yours, Allah has placed its prosperity in its early years. In its later years, it will suffer from afflictions and from things that you will be wont to condemn.” (Sahih Muslim 1844)

Allah speaks harshly against disabling grief and goes so far as to prohibit it. He says:

{Do not grieve on account of them and do not distress yourself because of their scheming.} (27: 70)

{So do not lose heart or fall into despair, for you shall overcome if you are indeed believers.} (3: 139)

We must maintain our trust in Allah and continue to see the good that there is among the Muslims.

2. Though your concerns about yourself are noble and are a sign of being a God-fearing person, you must know that a preoccupation with such feelings does nothing to improve the state of the Muslims. No doubt, every Muslim, and especially one who calls others to Allah, needs to regard himself with a critical eye and keep a vigilant watch over his heart. We must be as the Quran would have us: {Verily my prayers, my sacrifices, my life, and my death are for Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.} (6: 162)

No doubt, one who calls others to learning, personal development, and reform must first endeavor to seek knowledge and reform himself. However, we must get beyond the stage of fretting and worrying and move on to the stage of doing something about it.

3. A Muslim whose concern is for Islam and the Muslims needs to be perceptive. He needs to understand and properly appreciate the actual condition that the Muslims are in. Even if we must admit that the Muslims are being effectively assaulted by their enemies with a concerted effort to alienate them from their religion, we must bear in mind that they are still “the best of nations brought forth for humanity”. There can always be found within Muslim society elements of good that can be nurtured and built upon and that can bring moral upliftment and to our societies. However this demands a considerable amount of patience on behalf of those who wish to work towards this goal. It also requires us to recognize that, despite how heedless and neglectful our societies have become, the potential for reform is still there and is waiting to be drawn out.


About Salman al-Ouda
Muslim scholar. Al-Ouda is a member of the International Union for Muslim Scholars and on its Board of Trustees. He is a director of the Arabic edition of the website Islam Today and appears on a number of TV shows and authors newspaper articles.