I am sitting on my comfortable orange
reclining chair, in front of my computer screen, which is situated in my room.
The desk that holds the computer is covered with books, and all the luxuries one
can ask for. As a coffee mug continues to occupy a section of my desk for the
past few days, it stares at me as I begin to write this article about struggling
and the pain of such struggle. The irony is evident. But sometimes irony is the
best way to realize the importance of something.
We live in the age of popular culture, the age where being 'cool' (ex. Amer
Iqbal) or being a 'geek' (ex. Bill Gates) are both in. Even though the two sorts
of people are totally contradictory, they both hold the status of being 'in'.
The culture of immediate gratification, and immediate desire. Almost anything
material we want can be gained through the touch of a button. When we wish for
entertainment we can go to any screen, be it of a television or a computer, and
be satisfied. When we desire information, we can click our 'mouse' and receive
the information in a few seconds. If the information takes more than a few
seconds, then we immediately get angry at the speed of the computer, and we go
buy a new one. Books are becoming obsolete, because they follow a certain
sequence. We do not like anything that will take time, and sequences and the
methodical 'turning of a page' takes too much time. So we turn to images and
nice pictures for our information. We are consumers. When we want something we
get it, by going to the nearest shopping mall. The shops in the mall never seem
to run out of the product that we so desire and yearn for.
I have dragged on the introduction just to test your patience. Patience is just
my point. Above I have shown how we live in the culture of the immediate. The
immediate is the opposite to patience. There is no place for patience in the
times we live in. Everything is an 'Here' and 'Now' event. The present is
everything. The future is only tomorrow's present, nothing else. Thus, patience
as a virtue has been totally eliminated by our culture.
Information is gained immediately, and that is why its called information. If
information could be gained any faster, it would be called 'data'. If it was
gained through patience, with effort, and struggle, then it would be called
knowledge. This is the knowledge of our Prophet (saw), the companions and our
scholars. They had to struggle for knowledge. The highest level of such struggle
for knowledge is when you practice that knowledge, this level is called wisdom.
This is the hardest stage, for it is the level that requires the most patience,
simply because it is the level with the most tests and difficulties. But the
results of this level are tremendous and the most beautiful. It is this level
that makes a man and a woman. It is this level that makes a true believer, and
it is this stage where ideal possibilities are made real and actual. Thus did
the Prophet Ibrahim (as) ask Allah; "Our Lord! send among them a Messenger of
their own, who shall rehearse Thy signs to them and instruct them in Scripture
and Wisdom, and sanctify them: For Thou are the Exalted in might and The Wise"
(2:129). Imam Shafi'i says, that the scripture mentioned in this verse is
referred to the Qur'an and the Wisdom is reference to the Prophet Mohammad's
(saw) actions, sayings, struggles, methods, i.e., his Sunnah.
Further, computers can never gain knowledge and wisdom, but can only posses
and/or process information and data. So there should be no real worry, just
because the world chess champion, Kasparov, has lost against IBM's "Deeper
Blue", a super-computer that is able to compute two hundred million chess moves
a second. Or should we be worried? I am stubborn at times, and this is one of
those times. I will answer by saying that there is still no need to be worried.
For, the computer is not able to struggle and be caused any suffering and pain.
What makes the human being great is that it is capable of taking on burdens that
promise suffering and difficulties. Any rational agent, or creature, even a
computer that one day is able to 'think', would avoid suffering at all costs.
But the Muslim is special, he or she is much beyond such lowly notions of
existence. The Muslim has a secret, he knows that with suffering and pain for
the sake of Allah comes success and the True happiness, with a capital 'T'. Thus
did the Prophet say that those who suffer the most are the Prophets, and next to
them are those who are a degree lower than they, and so on. Although, it should
be noted, that I do not mean we should run out and suffer for the sake of
suffering. No! What I mean is that we should expect it when we work for the sake
of Allah. These sorts of things are only to test us. And there are two keys that
guarantee our success in these tests, they are our trust in Allah, and our
patience. Whatever Allah does for us or puts in our way, is always for the best.
This is beautifully expressed in the story of Moses in the Surah tul-Kahf (The
Cave) of the Qur'an. In this story we find Moses being tried by Allah through a
Wise man. The Wise man does things that seem immediately irrational. That is, if
one were to look at the things the man did, like kill a young boy, put a hole in
a boat that they were in, and so on, when taken in the immediate look foolish.
That is why Moses kept asking for reasons for the Wise man's actions, but only
found the reply, "did I not tell you that you cannot have any patience with me?"
(18:72). But when these events are taken in an eternal and holistic fashion, one
will see that Allah was justified in such cases, and that the only way to see
this would be to be patient and have trust in Allah. So we should not be stuck
in the immediate. Rather we should look beyond, where we will find that things
that happen to us may seem bad at the moment, but they are ultimately always for
the best. That is why the Prophet (saw) was always in total amazement of the
believer, because when pricked by a thorn, he would always say "Praise be to
Allah", and when put in a happy state of affairs, he still would cry "Praise be
We have in the Islamic history, many examples of those who have suffered for the
sake of Allah. We have the Prophet Mohammad (saw), we have the many Companions
who were tortured, but never flinched. We have the many scholars and leaders,
including Ahmed ibn Hanbal, Ibn Taymiyyah, 'Izudeen Abdul-Salam, Abdul Hamid al-Ghazali,
Hassan Al-Banna, Abu 'Ala Maududi, Syed Qutb, Isma'il al-Faruqi, and Zainab al-Ghazali,
to name just a few, may Allah have mercy upon them all. Who suffered for Truth
either physically, psychologically, intellectually, spiritually, collectively
and so on. This is nothing to shy away from, but it must be faced with patience
and courage, for it is the only true mold for our service and servitude to
Allah. It is what makes us believers and amongst the righteous. This finite pain
will be our sacrifice to Allah, for a happiness and joy that is eternal and
In addition, upon further thought, we find that immediacy in gratification of
low desires has no meaning and no purpose. The meaning is lost when the
immediate is expressed for its own sake. When the 'Here' and 'Now' are the only
things on people's minds, they do not care for meaning, because meaning can only
be found over time, and the passage of time requires some patience. That is why
now we find people trying to find meaning, but find none, and end up giving
meaning to the meaningless. Also purpose is lost in actions and thoughts.
Purpose is found only in consideration of the future. But when future is only an
immediate present waiting to happen 'now', then there is no purpose, but only
randomness and chaotic action and thought. This amounts to nothing but an
illusion. And that is exactly what the immediate is, an illusion, as the Qur'an
states it, "... for the life of this world is but goods and chattels of
deception." And it continues in the next verse, "You shall be certainly be tried
and tested, in your possessions and in your personal selves; and you shall hear
much that will grieve you, from those who received the Book before you and from
those who worship many gods. But if you persevere patiently and guard against
evil, then that will be a determining factor in all affairs." (3:185-186).
Hence we must sacrifice the immediate gratification of our desires, and find our
abode in patience. Once we take on the garb of patience, then we must become
prepared for trial. Trial's, when passed, only increase your faith, your
knowledge, your humanity, your love, your infinite desires, your closeness to
Reality, and it is what brings us closer to perfection. Again the irony is in my
writing, but the irony is tragic, and from the tragic one always builds and
learns. Thus the beauty.