By Ameena Khan
In 2011 a dear member of my family died after a long struggle with cancer. She was a beautiful soul, and I felt devastated that she would not be around to see her children and grandchildren grow. That we would no longer be able to enjoy her presence or benefit from her guidance. The experience shook my spiritual core, bringing about questions of “why” and “what was the purpose?” I struggled with the weight of her death on my spirit for some time, tears readily falling whenever the thought of her or the experience came to mind. About a year after her death I happened to be in Orlando on a Saturday and was able to attend one of the workshops at the Nur Center; my first workshop there, in fact. Divinely, the topic of the discussion was related to why “bad things” happen. It was the reminder my heart had needed!
What I learned from the discussion is that the answer to “why” lays in perspective and perception. We can find peace and acceptance when we recognize that perceived afflictions are not punishments – because surely “bad” things happen to good people! Instead, hardships can be invitations to grow, to learn, to turn towards Allah, and to acknowledge Allah’s blessings. It is why we say “Alhamdulillah” for every experience, whether we are pleased or not.
By shifting my perspective, I could see how the illness and finally the passing of my loved one brought friends, family, and caregivers together in a circle of support and love. We learned from her graceful endurance, and she grew more spiritually resilient as she accepted that death was a stage of life. I cannot say that I do not miss her, or that I am not still saddened by her death, but the discussion at the Nur Center reminded me that beauty can even be found in heartbreaking situations, if I pay attention to where I am looking.
“According to the Qur’anic paradigm, all beings in the universe are letters/signs (ayahs). They are written and created to explain the meaning of God through their symbolic meaning. In other words, all beings make known the Attributes of the Creator. With sickness and health, we come to know The Healer. With hunger and food, we come to know The Sustainer. With afflictions, we come to know The Compassionate. With our wrong doings, we come to know The Forgiver. And with our weaknesses, we come to know The All-Powerful. When we look at everything around us from this perspective, life becomes an enjoyable and adventurous quest for The One. Everything and every occasion become special letters and gifts from Him whom we are created to know, love, and worship…” (Tatari, Surrendering to God. Pp 12-13)