A God that Gives People Cancer?

>> Sunday, December 29, 2013

I have a really great friend from another religion whose mother was was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a few years ago. She told me the other day that although she's supposed to be a Christian,  she now has a hard time believing that there is a God .She said how could there be a god if there is cancer. Why did he take my mother away and let her leave 3 children and a husband? I want to help her but don't know what to tell her. Concerned Friend,

 Dear Concerned Friend,
It's great that you care sooo much about your friend and want to help her :)

Honestly, I can’t imagine how your friend is feeling like right now. Death is very hard to bear. For her to have seen her mother in so much pain must have been such an emotional roller coaster.

I know, though, that she isn’t alone. This is something that is reiterated in different ways a lot: I prayed and prayed but God still let my aunt/ mother/son/ etc die. I don’t think God is truly there anymore….

Here's what I have to say: …

God does exist. I know this with my heart because the universe is so perfectly balanced it could not have come out of nowhere. (Refer to my article http://dearlittleauntie.blogspot.com/2011/03/how-do-we-know-gods-really-there.html  for more reasons).  So, then, the question really is: Why does God let such things happen?

And the answer is ironically enough because God loves us.

See, this world is a test. That’s all it is….a test. It was never meant to be our house or where we put down our roots. Not at all….Instead, this world is simply the place where you and I have to struggle to put God above our desires.  It’s a stop  (just like death, too) in our road to our real home…

Jannah or paradise- where rivers crisscross beautiful, lush gardens, and everyone is happy…where everyone is just in a state of bliss….and all sorts of incredible things are waiting for us. And where we will never ever feel sorrow- not even for a single second.

And even, though, most of us claim that we know this….we lose sight of that fact, and find ourselves falling in love with the world here. We love it so much, we don't want to leave!

Just like a little baby who gets too comfortable inside his mummy's tummy. He/she has no idea that outside of his/her mummy’s tummy is a whole world out there, waiting for him/her to explore.  And so,this baby, a little scared, and unsure of where  he/she is going, comes out crying, right. Suddenly there are lights everywhere and sounds…a place completely different from what they were used to.

The same thing happens to us! We sometimes get a little too comfortable here on this earth. We forget that there’s something better for us waiting for us. Something much bigger and much more wonderful. We forget also what is expected of us and what it is that we should be doing. We get distracted by this dunya....


Because God knows us better than we know ourselves, He keeps us focused on the goal- keeps us in constant remembrance of Him and  He makes sure we’re not seduced by the temporary pleasures of this world…to make sure that we don’t forget our ultimate purpose…He tests us. For some people, it’s by taking away their money and prized possessions. For others, it’s by taking away their health.

Again, it’s not because He enjoys our suffering. God is so Merciful, so Loving…it’s because He wants us to pass this test so that we can win the real prize….eternal happiness. He doesn’t want us to trade a mirage (this world) for what is waiting for us. And so...sometimes, He uses "pain" to redirects us to our greater purpose of worshiping Him. Sometimes we need a wake up call to help us remember and re-prioritize our life. 

Let me give you another analogy…let’s say your science teacher tells your class you really need to study everyday so that you do well on the final (which will be given by the State). She notices no one is really preparing for class or studying…instead, everyone is just relying on cramming material the night before the exam. So what does she do? She makes a very difficult midterm…not because she wants everyone to fail. No, she does it so that she encourages her students to take the subject seriously and prepare properly. When the state exam comes at the end of the year- her students do really well, all because they got a real scare and some awful marks on their first test. Would you call this teacher mean or someone who really cares? 

"Were it not that Allah treats His slaves with the remedy of trials and calamities, they would transgress and overstep the mark. When Allah wills good for His slave, He gives him the medicine of calamities and trials according to his situation, so as to cure him from all fatal illnesses and diseases, until He purifies and cleanses him. And then (He) makes him qualified for the most honorable position in this world, which is that of being a true slave of Allah (‘uboodiyyah), and for the greatest reward in the Hereafter, which is that of seeing Him and being close to Him." -Ibn Al-Qayyim (rahimahullah)

And that brings us to another point- what God takes away from us, never belonged to us in the first place. See, the believer knows that with all his heart. He understands that “inna lilahee wa ina ilahyee la rajoon”..yes, everything about us- our health, money, children, etc, were all gifts from God…they never belonged to us, in the first place. They were things on loan…instead of thinking: God denied me this and that….we should be thinking….”Wow, God is so Merciful. He let me enjoy this or that for X amount of time. And if I try bear the fact that He took it away from me for SOME time, He’s going to give it back to me in the HereAfter FOREVER… ” Because whatever He took away here, we’re going to find in jannah, inshaAllah- whether it’s a loved one, money, or our health.  

Of course, as Muslims, we also understand that any sort of pain we feel here expiates our sins and elevates our status in heaven so long as we bear it patiently. The Prophet (sallah Allah alayee wa salaam) told us that even the prick of a needle removes sins…What about cancer?! Every single moment a believer feels pain, then, is actually an opportunity to move ahead in the race towards jannah.

And you know what’s really interesting? Even atheists should be able to see the silver lining in cancer. For one thing, when a loved one experiences any disease, it makes us more compassionate towards them and we see how much we took them for granted. Instead of worrying about silly things, families have the opportunity to get closer and to concentrate on what really matters: each other. That’s a blessing that many people miss out on.

Moreover, society, at large, actually benefits. I know- it sounds horrible. But here’s the thing: the threat of cancer is one of the major reasons people keep pushing themselves to exercise, to take care of their bodies, to eat healthily, to get active, and so on… So think how many lives are actually saved because of the disease?

I’m not belittling cancer. But what I am trying to explain is that as believers, we know that everything God does ultimately results in good- whether that is in this life or the next.

It might take your friend some time to reconcile this with her grief…but God willing, she will turn back towards God.

Please also take a look at this very well written article: http://muslimmatters.org/2013/05/15/why-we-are-tested-the-psychology-of-suffering-misfortune-part-1/


Can I have his hand in marriage? Asking for a proposal?

>> Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I really need ADVICE on some stuff and kind of think you might be the right one to give me all the advice i need :)There is someone I am really interested in marrying, but I am not sure that he is interested. I want to ask him but I'm scared he will judge me for taking the first step.

Assalam-o-alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu!

Your question made me smile as it reminded me of the dilemma of many a girl in our times-boys can be a bit too slow, can't they? ;)

I'll just reiterate what I've always thought about this. Since we're Muslims, everything we look at, reflect on, judge by, we do it through glasses coloured by the Quran and Sunnah. “Is this thing right? What do the Quran and Sunnah say about it?” (And of course, Fiqh and all that jazz, but for now, I'll stick to the basics). Luckily for us, we don't have to look too far for the answer. There is a story that each Muslim kid knows since his or her childhood-that of the marriage of Hazrat Khadija (radi Allahu anha) and Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alyhee wa sallam) and how Hazrat Khadija (radi Allahu anha) was the one who initiated the talk for their marriage and the Prophet (sal Allahu alyhee wa sallam) accepted :) Now you could say, but that was before Islam! Fortunately for us, we have many more examples where the Sahabiat or their families took the initiative, rather than a Sahabi, one of them being Hazrat Umar (radi Allahu anhu) going first to Hazrat Abu Bakr (radi Allahu anhu) and then to Hazrat Uthman (radi Allahu anhu) for Hazrat Hafsa's (radi Allahu anha) hand in marriage (the former didn't accept since he knew the Prophet's (sal Allahu alyhee wa sallam) intention of marrying her himself, and the latter since he was too distraught at the loss of Hazrat Ruqayyah (radi Allahu anha) not because they judged the girl’s family for sending the proposal!). You might be wondering why I'm talking about the validity of such an action, when your question was not strictly that. The thing is, I was just trying to highlight the fact, that according to our Shariah, it's completely okay for a marriage proposal to originate from the woman's side. Unfortunately, it's most cultures and societies which look down upon this, not our religion. Therefore, firstly we must change our mindsets, and realize, there is no 'judgment' for an action that is not wrong. YOU need to decide, do you want to be culturally sound, or do anything allowed within the bounds of our Shariah?

Having established the rightness of the action, let me tell you about a friend of mine. Sarah (the name has been changed to protect her privacy) became a sincerely practicing Muslimah after she went to the States for higher education. After getting her degree, she realized that she was no longer the feminist she once thought herself and wanted to get married. Now there were 2 ways for her to do it-sit back and wait for someone back home to send her a rishta (Urdu word for proposal), OR actively search for someone in the community she'd become a part of. Being a Pakistani, option number 2 was the culturally right choice, but she realized that left her a bit crippled. Not only is the men:women ratio already less, the number of properly practicing men is even lesser, especially in a non-Muslim country (in her case, but generally in Muslim countries too) therefore, being apathetic was not really a choice if she really wanted to get married to Mr. Right (btw, as an aside, it's Mr. Right, and not Mr. Perfect some girls keep waiting for ;) ) So she kept her eyes and ears open, and finally she realized that a boy whom she frequently saw volunteering at the masjid she went to regularly, was a good candidate. She approached the Imam, who told her that indeed, the boy was a practicing Muslim, a Hafiz and a regular at the Masjid, and gave her other background information. She talked to her parents and the Imam who then talked to the boy, who decided he did indeed want to consider my friend as a possible spouse.  Unfortunately, after some QA sessions, and family meetings, they decided to call it quits. However, the cause of that was something entirely different and not my friend’s initiating The Talk.  And even though it didn't work out, my friend did not have any regrets since at least she knew for sure that that candidate was a No. Had she not approached the Imam, or waited for the boy to notice her, she would've never known for sure. If you need to reach a destination and know of two paths that go there which one will you choose-one that you know without doubt, is straight, without any turns, is smooth riding and gets you to your destination in 15 minutes; or one about which you have no idea, and you're even unsure about the fact that it takes you to your destination. Anyone right in their mind would obviously choose the first one. Therefore even if you ask and get judged and the boy says no, the destination or the outcome will be the same as not asking, but at least you will know for certain!

Hopefully by now you're seeing the light-that is, are realizing that you have nothing to lose by asking, and more to lose by not asking, let’s make an action plan (because every important thing that we undertake
must have a clear action plan!)

1)      First of all, I need you to sit down, take a pen/pencil and paper and list down all the reasons you want to marry this person. This is a lifelong decision and should not be based on something as flimsy as how the other person looks or talks (no seriously, I had a thing for British accents-blame all the Mind Your Language I watched as a kid!-and my husband most definitely does NOT have one. I wonder if it’s too late to get him enrolled in some ‘Develop an Accent’ classes. Hmmm…But I digress). It helps, but really, in the long run, there are many more things that are humungous-ly more important!). Therefore what you need to do is something that most of us find difficult to do-be scrupulously honest with yourself (trust me, even though this is THE most important thing, most of us deceive ourselves easily on a day-to-day basis). Make a  checklist of your top priorities, make a pros and cons list, or whatever else you're comfortable with. Once you've done this and are still convinced this is the person you want to marry, move ahead to step 2.

2)      Have a chat. Not with yourself, that'd be too easy (though you could do that too as part of the first step!) but with someone you're close to in your family. Your father/mother/sister/brother. It could even be a friend but make sure it is the kind of friend who wouldn't lie to you or agree with everything you say, but in fact be honest with you and help you sincerely. Tell this person you've chosen about your choice and decision and seek their advice. This serves a two-fold purpose. Firstly, it gives further clarity to your decision and secondly, believers are meant to make decisions by asking other believers for advice. This is known as istisharah.

3)      If the person you chose in Step 2 was not your father (or Wali), then either yourself or via the person in Step 2, discuss this with him. He will then make inquiries about this person (if he does not know him already) and talk with you and decide. If he is satisfied (and it is your job to convince him) then he is the person who will talk to the guy or the guy’s family. One thing I have to make clear here (if not already clear!) is that you don't talk to the guy yourself but via your Wali.

4)      Before the process is set in motion, but everyone is agreed at your side (or even before if you wish), do istikhara :
Jabir (radi Allahu anhu) stated: “As the Prophet (sal Allahu alyhee wa sallam) taught us the Quran, so also he instructed us to observe Istikhara in every matter. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhee wa sallam) used to say, ‘When anyone among you is perplexed over an important matter, he should perform two Rakahs of supererogatory (nafl) prayer and then make this dua: O Allah, I ask You to show me what is best through Your knowledge, and bring it to pass through Your power, and I ask You of Your immense favour; for You are All-Powerful and I am not, You know and I do not, and You are the Knower of the Unseen. O Allah, if You know this matter to be better for me in my religion, livelihood, and final outcome, then bring it about and facilitate it for me, and bless me with abundance therein. And if You know this matter to be worse for me in my religion, livelihood, and final outcome, then keep it from me, and keep me from it, and bring about the good for me whatever it may be, and make me pleased with it.’”
[Sahih Bukhari]

5)      Make dua, and have tawakkal that whatever the outcome, it will be better for your akhira and dunya, and that Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) knows what is best for us, not me or you, but Him. So keep up that trust.
Anas (radi Allahu anhu) reported that a person asked Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alayhee wa sallam), “Should I tie my camel and have Tawakkul (trust in Allah for her protection) or should I leave her untied and have Tawakkul.” Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alayhee wa sallam) replied, “Tie her and have Tawakkul.” (Hasan) [Jami At-Tirmidhi] 

You've tied the camel, now wait for the result! I pray that whatever the outcome is, it's best for your Akhirah, Deen and Dunya.



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