Four stations of faith and happiness
While pondering the events of these days and time, I chanced upon the categorisation of the different stations of believers in this world proposed by one of those imbued with discernment. The categorisation is instructive for many reasons. For example, it exemplifies the nothingness of human existence and brings into mind, once again, the meaning of faithfulness and faithlessness at a time when the faithful and faithless have become like two sides of a coin.
Brethren, sequel to his careful perusal of human life, it is suggested that humanity, particularly those of us who claim affiliation to either the cathedral of the faithful or the assemblage of the faithless into four. These include a) those who are obedient to the Almighty and happy in life; b) those who are obedient to the Almighty but unhappy in life; c) those who are disobedient to the Almighty but are happy with their lives and d) those who are disobedient to the Almighty and are unhappy with their lives.
To be obedient to the Almighty and be happy in life is to live a life of righteousness. The righteous in the Quranic episteme is not a station or matter of status. It is not a quality which is hinged on gender or race nor is it forged of accident of birth or social affiliation. In other words, while it is true that one could become a prince or princess by virtue of being born into a royal family, and whereas it is true that some are Muslims and Christians today simply because the loin and the womb that bore them are filiated to this faith or that, to be righteous on the other hand is not a given. Like “AIDS”, it has to be “acquired”; like classes of degree in our Universities, it has to be earned. Again, like earthly rewards and like medals often given to best sprinters and marathoners, the finishing line on the race to righteousness is not shrouded in secrecy; unlike the budget of the national assembly it is there in the open.
The Almighty informs us in the Quran about how to be righteous and consequently become happy in this life. He defines righteousness for us saying: Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle… it is those who are the righteous. (Q2: 177)
The above verse of the Quran is self explanatory; unlike logic in philosophy, it demands little exertion of the intellect before even the most intellectually challenged could make sense of this beautiful divine prescription. Brethren, you cannot claim to be righteous when your spiritual capital is invalid, when your moral currency is weak and when, in the social, your death would elicit neither grief nor mourning. Thus in order to belong to the highest and loftiest of the four stations of life and existence, ask yourself each passing day- what new value have you added both to your life and to the life of the other beside you. Should you expire today, would people not heave a sigh of relief and say “at last we are now free”.
However, human existence essays a situation where Sister Kafayat and Brother Dawud could be said to be righteous and yet find themselves in circumstances which raise questions about the value of the spiritual in the existential. In other words, sometimes we come across brethren in faith whose diligence and commitment in matters of worship and obedience to the Almighty enjoy no “validation” in their economic or social status. Or how else might we explain the statement “why me” uttered by that Sister of mine consequent upon her failure to achieve a life-long ambition? I would argue that the answer to the question “why me” is simple.
It is: “why not you”. In other words, whenever we indulge in the assumption that our obedience to the Almighty has become so enarmoured and strong as to serve as a shield for us against earthly tribulations and test, we must quickly retrace our steps back to Him and seek His forgiveness. The reason for this is simple: worship of the Almighty is one thing and the acceptance of same by His grace is another. It is partly in recognition of this reality that we have been counseled to pray to Him not to render our acts of worship a nullity. Remember Prophet Ibrahim’s supplication after he and his son, Ismail (a.s) have completed the construction of the Kaaba. He says: “…Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us. Verily! You are the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.” (Q2: 127)
But should this condition be available in the first instance? Should the believer be unhappy even in the presence of His Lord, the Cherisher of the world? I would “Yes” in order to say “No”. Yes because, like the small child in the care of his mother, we are subjects born of ignorance. Since we do not know, in most cases what is best for our destiny, we always complain of what we do not have out of ignorance of the fact that not to have them is best for our health and well-being here on earth and in the hereafter.
Thus, Sister, bear this in mind: whenever you feel unhappy even while fulfilling your duties to Him, it may be He is testing your patience in order to increase your rewards. He says: “And We shall surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient,”(Q2:155); it may be that there are errors in your worship, sins that you have committed unknowingly or sins that you have not repented from. Your state of unhappiness could therefore be an opportunity to make you realize your mistakes. (Q32: 21)
To belong to category (c) however, to be disobedient to the Almighty and happy with their lives is the worst station in life. It is worse than category (d) – those who are disobedient to the Almighty and are unhappy with their lives. Whereas lack of happiness could force the disobedient back to the Almighty, those who belong to category (c) usually think that it is their disobedience that leads to their happiness. The Almighty says in reference to the latter: “So when they forgot that by which they have been reminded, We opened to them the doors of every [good] thing until, when they rejoiced in that which they were given, We seized them suddenly, and they were [then] in despair.”(Q3: 44). Dear brother, which of these categorisations speak to your reality?
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