As a Muslim living in Malaysia, it is common to observe elders instilling fear of God’s wrath in our children. While it is not entirely a fable, I call for fellow Muslims to think before speaking and scare our kids into submission. Fear may seem powerful to our limited understanding of the human psyche, but God is al-‘Alim, or all knowing. As al-Khaliq, the Creator, who knows everything in the heavens and below, God starts every surah of the Quran except for Surah at-Tawbah by reminding us of His compassion and mercy. How then can we still doubt God’s love for us when he is also al-Gafur and al-Wadud?
Lately Malaysia has been hit with what we like to call ‘tests’, and as is heard frequently, people began pointing fingers to those they believe to be responsible for these challenges. We have been taught since young that any obstacle we face is the result of some actions we commit that God disapproves of. We need to stop anthropomorphizing God. Regardless of our perception, God is not some 15 year old teenager sitting in His bedroom begrudging everyone who defies Him. He is not looking for ‘opportunities’ to put us is a difficult situation. Again, he reminds us all the time that he is the most merciful and the most compassionate.
It truly irks me when concerned elders try to help a sister or brother in distress by implicitly suggesting that they are themselves the cause of their hardship. Take for example sisters who are yet to find their perfect match in this temporary life, i.e. get married. An aunt told me about an ustazah, or learned female scholar, who posted on her Facebook page how unmarried sisters can’t get good Muslim men as their husbands because they themselves are not worthy enough. Do I need to remind this ustazah that Maryam never married, and God raise her rank as the best of all women, according to a Hadith which translates as “The leaders of the women of Jannah, after Maryam bint Imran will be Fatimah, Khadeejah and Aasiyah the wife of Pharaoh.” [Tabrani]
Personally, when I was trying to conceive in the last year, I’ve had people telling me maybe there’s something I did in the past that is preventing me from getting pregnant. I was not enraged by the suggestion because I know I’ve sinned many times, but I feel embarrassed for them because it demonstrates how these people fail to connect the stories of the Prophets in the Quran with God’s mercy. Nabi Zakaria had difficulty conceiving a child, but as a prophet, can we assume God withheld a child because he committed a grave sin? At an old age, God finally fulfills his prayers and his wife gave birth to Nabi Yahya, a prophet respected by the people of his time.
Furthermore, God does not find it a thrill in exposing your sins to the whole world. If challenges are a reflection of your action, we could easily segregate the good from the bad. But remember, as a human being, as an insan, none of us escape from sinning. In fact, if Muslims truly believe that challenges will befall those who have sinned more, than all non-Muslims would be in misery. Is that the case? All of us have sinned, and we will never stop sinning, but God is so merciful that he covers up most of our sins. All those scholars you look up to? Yeah, they’ve sinned. We continue to look up to them despite knowing this because of God’s mercy. Therefore, stop speculating on God’s actions and take God at His words, that He is the most compassionate and the most merciful.
Besides the danger in seeing tests and challenges as God’s retribution for a sin, there is a bigger danger in failing to recognize ease and pleasure also as tests from Almighty God. Again, running the danger of anthropomorphizing God, we accept pleasure as God’s reward to us. That is how we, simple-minded human beings, think. But God says in the Quran,
“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested.” [29:2]
A true believer would see every circumstance, good or bad, as tests from God, because that is God’s promise, and are we to doubt God’s words? If you are doing financially well, is that not a test by God to see how you manage your wealth to benefit you fellow brothers and sisters? If you are blessed with many children, is that not a test to see how you raise your kids to continue the struggle and pleasure to spread God’s words? Remember, the wife of Nabi Lut was married to a prophet, but she was punished for her arrogance. Never take the bliss in your life for granted as they are to test you just as much as any misery you may face.
I remember years ago there was a post on Facebook that went viral among Malaysians. The title was translated into English as “I don’t pray, yet I am fine…” An acquaintance pointed to me how arrogant that post was. I was ignorant then (and still am), so I could not understand arrogance in that post when it is basically telling Muslims who don’t pray to not be arrogant with all you have. But now, after years of contemplating Islam, I see clearly now how that post was arrogant in its tone. People were conflating level of piety with their life circumstances, as if they can read God’s mind. But they can’t. No one can. All we can do is try to find the goodness in others because that is what Islam actually is all about.
In conclusion, stop scaring people away from this beautiful religion. If only more people are made aware of God’s mercy and compassion I am sure there will be less incident of Islamophobia. Before you point your finger at others, remember four other fingers and pointed at you. Before we try to correct others, look in the mirror first.