Online dictionaries define hope as the feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen, or feeling that events will turn out for the best. Hope is something to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence. It is an ethereal quality that enables us to keep going in the direst of circumstances. We keep moving forward with optimism because hope allows us to envisage a better future or a good outcome.
Technically, Hope is that element in our lives, that we need, that energizes us, that propels us forward, so that we can achieve great things. In Islam, we find that the Noble Qur’an teaches us that Hope is the source of light for those who yearn to have the best in all things. The great thing is that Allah shows us how to create hope for lasting bliss both in this worldly life and the eternal Hereafter.
Never Give up Hope
In the hustle and bustle of the Twenty first century especially in this time of COVID – 19, hope often gives way to despair. Not because we no longer have reason to hope, but because we are so preoccupied and busy with affairs of this world and selfishness that we do not give hope the chance to blossom.
It is a known fact that life is full of highs and lows. Without exception, every person has a challenge or difficulty in their life. These difficulties and uncertainties can sometimes feel overwhelming to the point where one sees no way out and hence despairs.
The truth and reality is that Allah has supplied us with an unending supply of hope. Thus, whenever we begin to feel the pangs of hopelessness, we need to remember that Allah has given us every reason to rely on Him and to hope for His help, forgiveness and His mercy.
We should expect things to turn out for the best and we can look forward to tomorrow with confidence. Allah has promised us that following His guidance will lead us to the best outcome. It is easy to forget one of the most essential things pertaining to hope and that is Allah, the Creator of human kind, understands that at various times in our lives, we will feel like giving into despair.
Allah reminds us consistently that we should never ever despair. He encourages us to look forward with hope.
Why Do We Despair?
One of the reasons why we feel anxious is due to the fact that we have sinned. Sinning makes us feel bad, ashamed and disappointed in ourselves. When we have that feeling over and over, it can easily result in hopelessness.
We usually feel terrible when we thing that Allah will never forgive us or is angry with us. This is a dark and heavy feeling, and is one of Satan’s most useful weapons. Satan banks on our despair to push us further away from Allah. When a person thinks that he will not be forgiven, he responds by turning away from Allah. That is a catastrophe because turning towards Allah is the one thing that can restore hope.
Allah, Almighty and Exalted be He says: “I am just as My slave thinks I am, and I am with him if He remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I too, remember him in Myself; and if he remembers Me in a group of people, I remember him in a better and nobler gathering (i.e. of Angels); and if he comes one span nearer to Me, I go one cubit nearer to him; and if he comes one cubit nearer to Me, I go a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.” (Al-Bukhari, Tradition No. 7405 and Muslim, Tradition No. 6471)
Allah has an open door policy for there is NO sin big enough to make a person despair of His mercy and forgiveness. No matter how big the sin Allah’s mercy is far bigger.
Even after all the transgression and crimes Pharaoh committed against Allah and the Israelites, Allah still commanded Musa (Moses) [May Allah’s blessings and mercy be upon him] to speak kindly to him perchance he may seek for forgiveness. Whatever sin that causes your despair, it is insignificant to Pharaoh’s sins. As human beings we have been given the ability to make a choice. We can choose despair or we can heed Allah’s advises and choose hope.
Allah, the Almighty and Exalted be He says: “Say: ‘O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Qur’an, Chapter 39, verse 53)
Stress and anxiety seem to be the plagues of this new century especially during this period of the pandemic, COVID – 19 where the spread of fear is strife. Depression, fatigue and sorrow all try to strip hope away from us.
Hopelessness is becoming more common. This phenomenon is not a new trait; it has been with us since time immemorial. But Allah has not left us unattended, for He sent down Messengers and Prophets to urge us to be hopeful. Verily, they gave us guidance and encouragement.
The Messenger of Allah [peace be upon him] said: “Whoever persists in asking for pardon, Allah will grant him relief from every worry, and a way out from every hardship, and will grant him provision from (sources he could never imagine.” (Abu Dawud, Tradition No. 1518 and Ibn Majah, Tradition No. 3819)
Allah has informed us on numerous occasions to call on Him for assistance; and the last Prophet, Muhammad [peace be upon him] reminds us that relief is no more than a supplication away. “Make supplication to Allah Almighty and know that He will answer your Prayer.” (At-Tirmidhi)
He gave his companions advice on how to dispel feelings of anxiety and despair by reciting the following supplication: “O Allah! I seek refuge with You from worry and grief, from incapacity and laziness, from cowardice and miserliness, from being heavily in debt and from being overpowered by (other) men.” (Al-Bukhari, Tradition No. 6369 and Abu Dawud, Tradition No. 1541)
This certainly seems to cover all the stresses of our daily lives, just as it covered the stresses that afflicted Prophet Muhammad’s companions. Our burdens today are no greater than the burdens in the past and the cure is still the same, turn to Allah, beg His forgiveness and hope for relief. Allah, the Almighty and Exalted be He says: “After a difficulty, Allah will soon grant relief.” (Qur’an, Chapter 65, verse 7) And also: “So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief: Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.” (Qur’an, chapter 94, verses 5 – 6)
The life of a human being can be very difficult. This is what we are experiencing now in our contemporary world. Life’s tribulations and trials are part of our daily life. This is what Allah, the Almighty and Exalted be He prepared us for when He informed us: “And we will surely test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in wealth, lives and fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere.” (Qur’an, chapter 2, verse 155) thus, we MUST face tribulations with patience and hope. Hope that Allah will guide us to the best outcome. Hope will guide through darkness, but despair will only lengthen the journey. Those who lose all hope in life sometimes resort to taking their own life. That should not happen at all.
Result of Hope
The Qur’an teaches us that the result of hope is always excellent. One can regret if he/ she has this good attribute. This should always motivate us to have this excellent quality.
The story of Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) [peace be upon him] as described in the Qur’an should be vividly present in our minds. He was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of fornication and imprisoned. His father Ya‘qub (Jacob) [peace be upon him] was full of sorrow but never lost hope despite the fact that Yusuf [peace be upon him] was gone for decades. In fact, Prophet Ya‘qub [peace be upon him] was so sad even after decades that his sons thought he was going to perish in sorrow. Allah, the Almighty and Exalted be He informed us: “O my sons (said Prophet Ya‘qub)! Go and ascertain about Yusuf and his brother, and despair not of Allah’s comfort; verily none despair of the comfort of Allah except a people disbelieving.” (Qur’an, chapter 12, verse 87)
Not everyone will be remembered like Yusuf [peace be upon him], but the lesson is that Allah has a plan for each of us. We may not comprehend why things happen to us now, but down the line we may look back and recognize that those challenges were necessary to make us a better person.
Prophet Musa (Moses) [peace be upon him] had very high hopes in Allah even after the terrified Israelites lamented that they have been overtaken by their enemies. He calmly said: “No! Indeed, with me is my Lord; He will guide me.” (Qur’an, chapter 26, verse 62) This means Allah will save us all. That is what happened, “And We saved Musa and those with him, all together.” (Qur’an, chapter 26, verse 65) The hand of Allah stroked Pharaoh and his army and all of them were drowned in front of the weak fleeing Israelites.
Prophet Yunus (Jonah) [peace be upon him] did not lose hope while in the depth of darkness, the belly of the whale. He cried out loudly to His Creator saying: “There is no deity worthy of worship except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers.” (Qur’an, chapter 21, verse 87) Allah responded to his call immediately and relieved his distress.
Prophet Ayyub (Jonah) [peace be upon him] was afflicted with adversity of losing his wealth and progeny but did not despair. He called out to Allah: “Indeed, adversity has touched me, and you are the Most Merciful of the merciful.” (Qur’an, chapter 21, verse 83) The reply came from Allah: “So We responded to him and removed what afflicted him of adversity. And We gave him [back] his family and the like thereof with them as mercy from Us and a reminder for the worshippers [of Allah].” (Qur’an, chapter 21, verse 83)
We should these Noble Messengers (peace be upon them) as our role models so as to come out of every tribulation triumphant.
The pandemic being with us now does not at all signify the end of the world. Many plagues and epidemics did descend on this world and its population in history but those who survived constructed the earth another time.
We are aware of the result of the First World War, which concluded with 41 million casualties; 20 million dead and 21 million wounded. The Second World War ended with the death of 70 – 85 million people – 3% of the 1940 world population.
The Spanish flu – 1918 flu pandemic, which was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic, caused by H1N1 influenza A virus. It lasted from February 1918 to April 1920, infecting 500 million around the globe – around a 1/3 of the world’s population at the time in four successive waves. The death toll is typically estimated to be between 17 – 50 million people. But humanity survived and with the Grace of Allah we will survive.
The key of our survival are:
- Prayer: Allah, the Almighty and Exalted be He in the Noble Qur’an reminds us that He relieved the distress of Ayyub and Yunus (peace be upon them). He says: “So when you have finished, devote yourself to Allah’s worship.” (Qur’an, chapter 94, verse 7) This means when you have completed your worldly affairs and its tasks, and you’ve broken away from its routine then stand up to perform the Worship and stand for it with zeal, complete devotion and purify your intention and desire for your Sustainer.
- Hope: We are reminded by Allah (Exalted and Almighty be He) in the Noble Qur’an: “Indeed, with hardship (will be) relief and ease.” (Chapter 94, verse 6) Thus, HOPE is key and central to the survival of the human race when hardships and difficulties descend on them.
- Precaution: We should be cautious and adhere to the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health so as to stay safe. Thus, Allah the Almighty and Exalted be He reminds us: “O Believers! Take precaution.” (Chapter 4, verse 71) At the same breath, the Messenger of Allah (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Tie your camel and the put your trust in Allah.”
Sometimes stress and anxiety can turn into the type of hopelessness we nowadays call depression. If this is the case for you, or someone you know, it is essential that you seek medical advice and help. This is too is a mercy from Allah.
Have Hope and stay safe.
By Mohamed Abdalla Swaleh
The Muslim Chaplain