Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dr. Jackson: On the Back-Breaking Jihad of Speaking Truth to Pain

The truth of the matter is that when God says, “We will try you with something of fear and hunger and depletion of money, souls and foodstuffs,” [2:156] this is real: some of us will be visited with these afflictions. Of course, our infatuation with modern utopias makes this extremely difficult to accept. For if we worship a God who is supposed to be all-powerful, we should be able to guarantee at least as much wellbeing as scientism, secularism or Marxism do. 
And many of us believe that we can, if only we are pious enough to keep God on our side. But the legacy of the Prophet teaches us that this is simply not the way things work: “Say, I control the ability to bring neither benefit nor harm to myself, except as God wills. And if I but knew the unseen I would augment nothing but good for myself and bad would never touch me…” [7:188] All of the Prophet’s children except Fāṭimah died before him! Yet, he remained the most certain of men. 
Such truths are hard to express in times of tragedy. For it is easy to mistake them for a fatalism that leaves us asking, “What’s the point?” But instead of fatalism what this should point us to is that life is a mysterious gift from God. And we worship God not as divine Santa Claus who gives us everything we want as long as we are “nice” but because we recognize the fundamental truth that God is the Gifter of Life. 
This fact alone, however, is not what gives life “meaning”: children, money, sex, our reputations and the Super Bowl give life meaning. This fact gives life urgency, hope, passion, value, fear and mystery beyond the pale of mere “meaning.” Tragedy, like good fortune, reminds us that life is ultimately not governed by fixed, unchangeable laws. It is governed by the irresistible will of God, who disposes as He pleases. And “We will show them our signs on the horizons and in their souls until it is clear to them that this is the truth.” [41:54]