والحمدلله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah
This Tarbiya – Hope in Allah – is intended to be as part I of a three-part tarbiya. The other parts, inshAllah, will follow as Fear of Allah and Love for Allah.
Imam Ghazali once said, “You only own that which will not be lost in a shipwreck.” And so we must ask ourselves, What would not be lost, what could we bring with us were our ship to sink today? If we reflect on these words, we can learn much about ourselves: our intentions, our good or bad deeds, our hope in Allah; for indeed, these are some of the only things we can truly ‘own’ – all else will be washed away. Whatever treasures we amass – whatever worldly things we try to collect or gather – it will avail us not when we meet our death.
When we think of hope, we don’t often think of our end. We do hope for a good end inshAllah, but more than this, we must always remember to hold onto hope in Allah’s Mercy that “Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him. Allah will grant after hardship, ease.” (At-Talaq: 7) And thus, like Prophet Nuh (as) as he persevered in his Ark with the help of his Lord, we must also trust in Allah and have patience with the difficulties in life because we have hope that Allah will grant us respite.
Thus, our voyage through this world, with all of its tests, is much like sailing a ship amidst the changing waters and winds of the ocean: all the elements, all the trials, all the peace preparing you for that final, inevitable storm…
We will encounter many a serene sea as well as harsh weather; but it is our end – the final storm – which will determine what we actually ‘own’. It is said that it will be asked of Prophet Nuh (as), ‘What was your time like upon the earth?’ and he will reply, ‘It was as though I entered through a door, passed through a room, and exited through another door’.
Though he lived for over 900 years and was even one of the five great prophets of Allah, Prophet Nuh’s memory of his life upon this earth is merely as passing through a room; the other significant events being birth and death. To be sure, it is passing through the latter door which represents our end, which represents the final shipwreck as we are called back to Allah. Somewhere upon this earth is a door to the unseen world; and when we go through that invisible door, we die.
This is why Ali (ra) has said, ‘When we die we wake up’. We so often concern ourselves with the things of this fleeting world that we forget about what we will actually be able to carry with us to the Hereafter. Of a dream, we can hold onto nothing except perhaps the memory and the meaning, which we only realize after the fact. Likewise, when we die, only then do we truly grasp the transience of the world, of our own selves, and awaken to the reality that we are not created in jest but to worship Allah.
After Allah instructs Nuh to build a ship, He (swt) says in the Qur’an:
“And when you have embarked on the ship, you and whoever is with you, then say: ‘All the praises and thanks are to Allah, Who has saved us from the people who are Zalimun (oppressors, evildoers).’
“And say: ‘My Lord! Cause me to land at a blessed landing-place, for You are the Best of those who bring to land.’
“Verily, in this there are indeed ayat, for We are ever putting (men) to the test.” (Al-Mu’minun: 28-30)
Such are the lessons, signs, evidences that Allah puts forth to test us. We can learn from these and from all of the blessings that Allah has given us the same way we can learn to sail by unfurling our sails, tying our ropes, and putting our trust in Allah – all the while taking the winds as they come our way…
* * * * *
You can learn a lot from the wind.
But some winds show you more than others ever could. Sometimes a wind will come from the right direction, different from most; it matters not if it is from the south or the east because it steers you toward that same goal. It helps you steady your ship through the waves and the tempests. And whilst that wind is with you the waters only become calmer and more tranquil; the skies only become more cerulean – the destination clearer, the purpose more distinct. So close does it come, so far does it bring you, that you feel it to be nothing less than a gift from God, carrying what must be the faint fragrance of Paradise.
But as with all things of this world, just when you yourself feel sure, just when you feel that it could not fall away, Allah asks you to let go. At first, you try, and for the slightest of moments you taste the sweetness of tawakkul. But then you fail. You turn back to your ship lest this feeling be stolen away; you batten down its hatches thinking that you might manage the helm and capture this bliss. But you were never in charge of that wind; still less of your self. Then, once more, Allah tells you to let go. Finally, you realize you must; and with your hands gripping the lanyards, you pray as you’ve never prayed before and then you close your eyes, and this time you do – you let go…
It’s difficult to journey with a purpose: sailing by day and night; navigating betwixt and between the shallow waters and the rocky shores; tacking to and fro as you try to harness the beauteous breeze… But you will learn these ropes yet: With patience and the help of your Lord, your ship shall maneuver the challenges of this world; and you will come to sail the waters with strength and with subtlety until that final storm when you have nothing to hold onto but Hope in Allah. Then you will have truly learned something of yourself.
So perhaps it will return, perhaps that wind will return because you will have finally realized what it means to trust in Allah… You will have finally understood in ways that you never had before that everything is in His Hands and He is the Lord of the worlds and He does as He pleases and shows you who is the ‘abd and Who is the Rabb.
If that wind does return therefore – if by the leave of your Lord, He brings it back to you – then surely it is only because He has willed it to be. Until then, you dare not waver. Nay, you keep your promise to God: The Protector, The Disposer of Affairs; and as you look out over that vast watery world you remember your purpose, you remember why you are doing this.
So when the seas are rough – and they will be rough – you will come to see that the sea is not soothed solely by that wondrous wind but by your Lord. And you must trust aplenty that He will guide you by His Grace and His Mercy the same way that He guided you with that wind.
You pray for that wind still: stilled by its grace, graced by its presence…
* * * * *
Indeed, our life in this duniya is as a ship sailing the ocean in search of the akhira: whether sailing with purpose or just drifting, we are nonetheless constantly moving; but someday our ship will be seized and we will be brought to account for the days we spent on the deck. How often did we thank Allah for the calm waters and gentle breezes? How often were we patient through the thrashes of thunder and lightning? How many times did we gaze upon Allah’s beautiful creation in awe and wonder and amazement?
And most importantly, how often did we ask Allah for help each time we encountered the calm waters as much as the turbulent seas? Because although we hoist our sails and spinnakers and try and harness that wind, we will only achieve anything when we realize that every moment of our existence is truly in the Hands of God. Hence, must we introspect and strive to hold onto the Rope of Allah; and hence must we reflect on the seas and the stars and the winds and all of Allah’s ayat, which are parables for Mankind.
And Allah knows best.