Islam

Friday Sermon: Letter to My Children

By Babatunde Jose

What is the life of this world but amusement and play? but verily the Home in the Hereafter, – that is life indeed, if they but knew – Quran 29:64

Our sojourn in this world is an ordained journey. At the time of creation, we were assigned our portion: The date we would arrive in the world, what role we would play, the composition of our body and its state of health, what we would be and most importantly, when we will die, the hour, place, and cause of death. These facts are metaphysical and spiritual and are never revealed to man. Hence, some would strive for riches and they would forever remain poor while the lame and the infirm would get rich and famous. It determines why some are ever healthy while others are perpetually sitting in front of doctors and herbalists and running from one hospital to the other. Today it is prostrate, tomorrow it is cancer of the breast and another day it is diabetes. Man is not equally endowed by the Creator.

Fortunately, the secret of our destiny is closely guarded by God. If man knows he is destined to be rich, he will not work a day in his life. If a man knows tomorrow, life would not be the same. It is the age-old quest to know what tomorrow would bring that drives men to the home of Shamans, fortune tellers and diviners. Onitiri is a popular Yoruba name derived from the antics of a popular diviner of old. In its etymological meaning, it is ‘What will today portend’, hence, ‘oni otiri.’ There are many things hidden from man and these are the origin of secret cults and quest for esoteric knowledge.

Taiwo and Kehinde are identical twins from the same womb but it does not mean the two would follow the same trajectory in life. Taiwo might turn out to be an engineer while Kehinde might become a school dropout. On the other hand, they might both turn out to be successful surgeons.

We have seen doctors dying of the dreaded Corona virus, Urologists dying of prostate cancer and caregivers dying before their patients.

Do not agonize over being ill or indisposed; they are signs telling us that we are vulnerable humans and not angels of God. Even prophets of God get afflicted with illness.

Information about the various prophets can be found throughout the 114 chapters of Quran. From a few short verses, to the long narrative concerning Prophet Joseph, that takes an entire chapter.

The Quran makes it quite clear that children and wealth are an adornment of this life and that we will be tested through our love for them.  (Quran 18:46).  But God declares repentance and patience to be the keys to eternal life therefore accepting trials and even thanking God for them, denotes a high level of faith.

The story of Job is exemplary.  Through his story, we can view humankind’s struggle on a more personal level.  God tells us about Job’s patience.  He praises Job by saying: “Truly!  We found him patient.  How excellent a slave!  Verily, he was ever oft returning in repentance to Us!” (Quran 38:44)

Christians often refer to the “patience of Job” and interestingly, Muslims refer to Job’s patience and try to emulate him in the face of relentless adversity.

Job was a descendant of Noah (Quran 6:84).  He loved God, worshipped Him alone, was patient, steadfast and sort forgiveness often.  Satan overheard a group of angels discussing that Job was the best man of his generation and Satan’s dark heart was filled with jealousy and silent rage.  He planned to tempt Job away from goodness and have him fall into disbelief and corruption, but Job remained steadfast.

This caused Satan’s rage to grow and he complained to God saying that Job was a devoted worshipper only because God had blessed him with wealth and possessions.  God allowed Satan and his helpers to destroy Jobs possessions, but Job remained true to his belief.  Satan became even more frustrated and returned to God saying that Job only hid his disappointment because of his large happy family.  Satan and his helpers destroyed Job’s home; the building came crashing down killing all of Job’s children.

Once again, Job turned to God for comfort and accepted this most heavy test without complaint.  Satan disguised himself and approached Job in the form of an old man.  The old man commiserated with Job and suggested that God was not rewarding Job for his devotion and prayers, but Job replied that God “sometimes gives and sometimes takes” and that he was well pleased with His Creator.  Satan’s silent but smoldering anger grew.  He returned to God saying that Job was fit and healthy and therefore had hopes of regaining his wealth and having more children.  Satan asked permission to destroy Job’s health.  God granted Satan’s third request excluding his ability to harm Job’s soul, heart, or intellect.

Satan and his helpers began to harm Job’s body, by the will of Allah.  He was reduced to skin and bone and suffered severe pain.  Job was also stricken with a disease that made people turn away from him with revulsion and his friends and relatives began to desert him.  Only his wife remained with him.  She cared for him and showered him with kindness even though they had become penniless and she had to work as a servant to provide them with a small morsel of food each day.

Throughout his ordeal, Job remained devoted to God.  His lips and tongue remained moist with the remembrance of God and he never despaired or complained.  He continued to thank God even for this great calamity that had befallen him.  Satan was at a loss; he did not know how to entice Job away from his devotion to God, so he decided to harass Job’s wife.  He came to her in the form of a man and reminded her of the old days and how easy their life had once been.  Job’s wife burst into tears and confronted Job saying, “ask your Lord to remove this suffering from us”.

Job was saddened and reminded his wife that God had blessed them with wealth, children, and health for 80 years and that this suffering had been upon them for a relatively short period of time.  Job’s loving wife was devastated, she turned away and sought shelter elsewhere.  Job felt helpless, he turned to God, not to complain but to beg for mercy.

“Verily!  distress has seized me, and You are the Most Merciful of all those who show mercy.”  So, We answered his call, and we removed the distress that was on him, and We restored his family to him (that he had lost), and the like thereof along with them as a mercy from Ourselves and a Reminder for all who worship Us.”  (Quran 21:83-84)

God restored Job’s health almost immediately.  Job’s wife could not bear to be parted from her beloved husband for long, so she returned and was amazed when she saw his recovery.  God also restored Job’s wealth.  God rewarded Job’s patience abundantly.  His health was restored, his family was returned to him and multiplied, and he once again became a wealthy man.

God tells us that Job’s story is a reminder for all those who worship God.  (Quran 21:84) When one truly worships God with full submission, it is necessary to have patience.  Prayer at night requires patience, fasting requires patience, living with tribulations and trials requires patience.  The life of this world is a test and to pass, and be rewarded with Paradise, we need to acquire the patience of Job.

On no soul doth Allah Place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns. (Pray:) “Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget or fall into error; Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden Like that which Thou didst lay on those before us; Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. Thou art our Protector; Help us against those who stand against faith.” (Quran 2:286)

Barka Juma’at and Happy Weekend

Lastline: To those we have lost to Covid-19 since the beginning of this year, we pray that Allah grant them Eternal Rest. May their souls rest in peace. For the rest of us, let us take responsibility. Covid-19 is real.

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