Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|07/21/01 at 05:47:44|
|Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh|
Why do we suffer?
We often hear that anxiety is the disease of our modern age. People always complain about their terrible suffering from anxiety. We all dream of a life free of all anxiety, a life full of reassurance and inner peace. We consider such a life as one of pure enjoyment and infinite bliss. In the Qur'an, anxiety is described as hazan, a term which signifies sorrow and worry.
We are informed that people in heaven will not suffer any such feelings: "Gardens of perpetual bliss will they enter, where they are adorned with bracelets of gold and pearls, and are clad in raiments of silk; and they will say: 'All praise is due to God, who has caused all anxiety (hazan) to leave us, for indeed our Lord is much-forgiving, ever-responsive to gratitude. Out of His bounty, He has made us alight in this abode where no struggle can assail us, nor do we experience any weariness." (35: 33-35)
A question may be raised here about the purpose for which God has made us prone to anxiety. Is it to add to the difficulties we have to face in this life, so that we yearn to go to heaven where we experience no anxiety or worry? Or is there in anxiety something that contributes to our benefit? In order to try to answer such questions we need to reflect on an experience we all know, which is not dissimilar to anxiety. I am referring here to physical pain, which is so hateful to us that we always wish never to experience it. We only endure it patiently when we realize that it is impossible to remove. In such a case only, we resign ourselves to it. In some very rare cases, children are born without any apparent defect but they cannot feel pain. At first sight we may envy them their blessing which makes them free of pain at all times.
Our envy may be even greater if any of us has endured some terrible or intolerable pain. We may think that they enjoy a better situation than us. On reflection, however, we realize that they are at a disadvantage. Physical pain is necessary to human life. Pain gives a message sent from a body organ to the brain, alerting it to a danger or risk to which a certain part of the body is being exposed.
It is an urgent message that may not be overlooked. It is so irritating to the person feeling it, prompting such person to act in order to remove the cause of pain and protect the whole body.
Hence we realize that children with no sense of pain are exposed to great danger. They may have their hands or feet burnt without feeling the burning, or they may have a broken limb without realizing that they need to have it re-set in place and bandaged until it heals.
The same applies to countless situations which all show that physical pain, undesirable as it is, should be counted as a blessing. For without such pain, we would not be able to attain a real state of well-being.
However, physical pain does not play its role in alerting us to the need of treatment until something has actually happened to affect our bodies. Anxiety as well as the sensing and expectation of danger is something that we have before the event. It triggers a feeling of the need to act in order to repel a danger before it actually takes place. Anxiety urges us to do what is needed and to persevere in our purpose until we have dispelled any expected danger and ensured that the near future is free of risk and danger.
When we look at human life carefully we realize that man takes numerous measures in order to achieve peace and security, in the same way that he takes every action open to him in order to remove physical pain and recover from any ailment.
This shows that anxiety is essential for human beings so that they are aware of future risks, including abstract ones. They need to be careful about risks that may threaten the life or the well-being of their children. They also need to realize what risks they may face in this present life or in the life to come. Anxiety also provides the motivation to work, exert one's efforts and plan for one's future and the future of those under one's care and responsibility.
Should a person try to suppress anxiety by resorting to drinking or drugs, he or she will kill all motivation to work for their future happiness or for their families and loved ones. The same applies to the philosophy that abandons all life pleasures, as was the case with Indian mendicants who tried to get rid of all anxiety by seeking a life away from all pleasures, taking refuge in a forest where they subsist on minimum food and clothing.
Such extreme measures constitute a total negation of man's role as God's vicegerent on Earth. They deprive the community of some of its members in the same way as drugs. Yet drugs represent a greater problem, because drug addicts often resort to crime in order to procure their supplies of what they are addicted to, while such mendicants only harm themselves.
Praise and glory are certainly due to God who has created pain and anxiety so that we may make use of them in order to improve our situation in life. Only in experiencing these and the motivation they provide can we rise up to the fulfilment of our role and build a proper and happy human life on Earth.
[i]Author: Dr Muhammad Kamal Al-Shareef - Arab News - 27 Mar 2000[/i]
Wassalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh
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