The “Philosophy" of Pain

Contemplating the innumerable gifts of Allah (swt) is a way to discover aspects that should help in guiding the self to a better realm of understanding. Thinking, for example, of physical pains, and how unpleasant and abhorred they might be, but that they are at the same time a tremendous gift, as they are in reality a signal from the nervous system alerting the body that something is going wrong. The most devastating and fatal diseases known nowadays are those that do not show any signals (pains) until it is too late to treat them!


Unlike physical pains, which act independently from our will, the emotional ones are the product of our own choice. When one deliberately locks him/herself in a world of whims, he/she creates within this world a prison of pains, anxiety and worries. I once heard a client in an electronics store expressing to a vendor his concerns about his computer being slow and how it is giving him a hard time with his games! The vendor literally replied: “I understand your pain!” It shocked me and truly saddened me to hear such an expression of feelings attributed to such a futile event and realized how far down the world has gone. Feeling pain due to the disruption of the peace of gaming?! It is really strange! Or actually, the believer is the real stranger in the world of today! 


People nowadays are worrying, consumed with anxiety, filled with regret. They are sad, grouchy, mad about pointless things, things that do not relate to any virtues or any action that values the true life of a human being, its dignity and morality! You find some, anxious and sharing their grief all over the world through social media sites, for maybe a piece of clothes that does not look as it was shown in the ad! Another may be angry because the shipment of the toy ordered was canceled! Or others worried they might not get the desired seat at the game! And so on ... So many are trapped in a world of anxiety they constructed themselves, and then they cry for help to be delivered from their roller coaster of moods, disorder of emotions, and feelings of despair, worries and grief. I believe this is the life of “Dhan'k” (depression, narrowed down life) described in the Quran: “And whoever turns away from My remembrance - indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection, blind.  He will say, 'My Lord, why have you raised me blind while I was [once] seeing?' [ Allah ] will say, 'Thus did Our signs come to you, and you forgot them, and thus will you this Day be forgotten'" (20:124-126).


With wasted efforts and crooked purposes, disconnected from the real life of the world, one would then forget himself/ herself, and by forgetting himself/herself, he/she then forgets Allah (swt) and ends up being forgotten. 


It is not then the beliefs one passively believes that can deliver from worries and pains, it is indeed the way the beliefs are lived. If the purpose of life designed by the beliefs does not shape the dreams, the motivations and consequently, the pains, one will be lost in the world of today, excluded from the care of the Divine and trapped in a world of pains caused by made up worries, all despite being a follower of the way of Islam!


In the case of Ayyub (pbuh), pain transcended to become a virtue, as it was felt for the highest of the concerns to which is related the attainment of true peace and joy, which is to be in peace and in connection with Allah (swt). When he felt the threat to lose this connection, by losing the last part of his body providing him the delight of the remembrance of Allah (which was his tongue), he then cried for help: “And [remember] Ayyub, when he called to his Lord, 'Indeed, adversity has touched me, and you are the Most Merciful of the merciful'" (21:83). 


Ibrahim (pbuh) conceived what should be a deep hurting, a gift from Allah, which was the leaving of his spouse and son Ismail (pbut) in the plain desert, but near the place of the sacred house. He conceived being thrown into the fire as an honor to serve Allah, he considered the slaughtering of his son a great action of Ihsan. He, pbuh, truly understood what it means to be the servant of the Most Merciful, the servant of the  Most Great, Allah (swt). He understood the highest of the objectives, which is to serve Allah and the highest of the dreams, which is to please Allah. “Abraham was indeed a model, devoutly obedient to Allah, (and) true in Faith, and he joined not gods with Allah. And We gave him Good in this world, and he will be, in the Hereafter, in the ranks of the Righteous. So We have taught you the inspired (Message): 'Follow the ways of Abraham, the True in Faith, and he joined not gods with Allah'" (16:120-126).


When then transcended to its rightful level, inner pain becomes like the physical one, a sign of something going wrong, a gift indeed, guiding back to the way of Allah, through repentance, correction and reform.


Reflecting further on the notion of pain, one can see that the self-fabricated pains within the world of whims is causing a deepening of the gap between generations, and the division between members of the one Ummah. Everyone living his/her little dream unrelated to one’s rightful purpose of life finds himself/herself trapped in the fabricated prison of worries and anxiety. The solution is, however, simple. It lies in unifying dreams to be the dreams related to the highest of the objectives of life, valuing the righteous actions as a means to blessings and peace, and dreaming to be gathered with loved ones in the house of the mercy of Allah. The one family, parents and children, united, living in coherence and cohesion, if they all unify their dreams to the highest of dreams: helping each other’s serving Allah (swt). The following Ayah gives us the perspective of such unity resulting from the one concern, one dream, “And We have enjoined upon man, to his parents, good treatment. His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship, and his gestation and weaning [period] is thirty months. [He grows] until, when he reaches maturity and reaches [the age of] forty years, he says, 'My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to work righteousness of which You will approve and make righteous for me my offspring. Indeed, I have repented to You, and indeed, I am of the Muslims'" (46:15). 


The following Hadith describes the above reflection in the most eloquent of meanings: Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever is concerned about the Hereafter, Allah will place richness in his heart, bring his affairs together, and the world will come to him although he is reluctant for it. Whoever is concerned about the world, Allah will place poverty between his eyes, disorder his affairs, and he will get nothing of the world but what is decreed for him.”

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