No fuel, no light, no water!: Patience and prayer-Part 2

In the Name of the Almighty,
the Beneficent, the Merciful.

Historically, however, nations that have clamoured for and wanted change are circumscribed by people who would prefer not to change. In other words, when viewed from a different perspective, the present situation in our nation should remind us of the circumstance of the Jews before the advent of Prophet Musa. Before he was commissioned as a Prophet for them, the sons of Israel had been in bondage. They had become underlings on the land of the Almighty. As individuals and groups of individuals, they had lost all hopes to live the full life again. They had become pawns in the chessboard of Pharaoh. No sooner had Prophet Musa been appointed to lead them out of the bondage than they began to complain .

They told their Prophet: “we were under oppression before your emergence and we have remained in oppression since then.” Their Prophet asked them to put their trust in the Almighty and to be patient, but the Jews were not ready to hearken to the Words of the Almighty. The Jews wanted to ‘receive’ but were not prepared to give; they wanted to harvest the best of fruits but were unprepared to plant even a seed .

Prophet Musa told them: “Come with me so that we can go out to fight our common enemy’. They rebelled and revolted. They told him: “You and your Lord should go ahead and fight; it is here we shall remain.” (Q5:24).

Brethren, are we ready to learn any lessons from the lives of those who came before us? I thought we all desire to harvest the best fruits in the farm last year. This explains why we took the right decision by “planting good seedlings’ in the farm; the farm of Nigeria. But it appears we are unwilling to exercise patience so that the seed may germinate. I remember telling members of the Press on that day in MUSON Centre that for the farmer to harvest the best product he has to plant the seed, exercise patience for the seed to germinate, sprout and eventually begin to yield the desired fruits. Not to exercise patience in the season of change is to indulge in some tomfoolery, to indulge in the insensate assumption that the day your wife conceives is the day she would put to bed. Not to keep this in mind is to forget that that setback, failures, and tragedy are a part of life. Whether we manage to find joy and success in the daily struggle of life is largely dependent on our ability to persevere through even the toughest adversity without ever giving up .

When Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) walked out of the fire kindled against him by the idolaters, he became a different man from the Ibrahim that went in. To weather the storm of life is to move higher in the ladder of life.

Brethren, it is my candid opinion that at least four basic elements are important for you to arrive your destination. Knowledge of where you are, knowledge of where you want to be, knowledge of how to get there and knowledge of who can or could get you there. Sister, I thought this is about the first time in the chequered history of our nation that we are positioned to get things right. We know where we are, we know where we want to be and we voted individuals we thought should assist us and lead us to that destination. What appears to be lacking now are two basic qualities: patience and prayer.

Known as al-Sabr in the Quranic lexicon, the word patience has been mentioned nothing less than 99 times in the Quran. But what is patience? Patience means its opposite: it is the opposite of lack of patience. Patience means its opposite: it is the opposite of haste, of despair, of anguish, of desperation, of feeling of wretchedness (Q3:139). Brother, patience is also a precondition for something else. It is a precondition for success. In other words, it is those who are patient in and through the storm of life that would succeed. Our Creator has made patience like a horse that never gets tired, an army that can never be defeated and a strong fortress that can never be breached. Patience and prayers are preconditions for victory; victory comes with patience, relief comes with distress and ease comes with hardship. Patience is of more help to the one who has it than men, as it helps without any need for equipment or numbers and its relationship to victory is like that of the head to the body .

Let me recall, once again, the story I once shared you with you in this column; the story of the butterfly. A man once found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it had and it could go no further. Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Thus Brethren, sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If our Creator allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. And we would never be able to fly.

It is my assumption that the events of the past weeks, that the life of want that the entire country has experienced during the past days were nothing but metaphors of where we do not want to be; that we cannot afford to go back to where we were before when this country sat on the precipice and was about to be declared a failed state. Every failed state, critics would argue, is capable of one thing and one thing only – the creation and mutation of new failed states.

Umar b. Khattab (d.612) once contemplated his suzerainty and his enormous responsibility as the head of state. He then said: “if a calf should break its legs in River Euphrates, I would be accountable to the Almighty for not paving the roads to ensure safety.” Such is the prescription that this season of change presents us with; it is to its effectuation that all lovers of change must be committed. But like the proverbial bird in the hands of the querulous kids, whether the season of change lasts or not is firmly in our hands.

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