Optimism in Times of Despair

by Muhammad al-Fateh

Khateeb: Sheikh Ibrahim Hindy

Masjid: Dar-al-Tawheed in Toronto 

The Sheikh starts by reminding us that Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala has sent Prophets and Messengers as examples to be followed in all situations of our lives. We find an excellent example in our beloved Prophet ﷺ, who was beautified with many wonderful characteristics and virtues. Whether in times of hunger, or times of war, or in times of difficulty and trials, there is one virtue that the Prophet ﷺ always displayed and always encouraged his companions to follow, and that is the virtue of optimism – having hope in Allah and thinking good about Allah.

We are given a beautiful example from the life of the Prophet Musa (‘alayi as-salaam). When he came upon the banks of the sea before him with Pharaoh and his army now far behind, determined to annihilate him and his people. Musa  (‘alayi as-salaam) heard one of his companions say, “Indeed we are doomed. We will be ruined”. Yet in this moment of despair, Musa (‘alayi as-salaam) reminded his people that this statement was (and is) not true; that indeed Allah will help them, show mercy and strength to their weakness, and deliver them from the grasps of their enemies.

This is a clear example that we can use in our lives. We need to remind ourselves that as long as we are standing upon the truth, as long as we whole heartedly support the path of Allah, then nothing but good will come from any situation, any trial and tribulations. That Allah will not abandon us in times of need. And this is the pattern that is followed in the Qur’an, wherein Allah reminds us never to despair. One such verse is, “Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” [Az-Zumar, 39:53]. Scholars have said that it is an act of disbelief to truly despair in Allah, and thus this act is expressly forbidden in our religion.

When Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala describes the disbelievers and the hypocrites, He uses their act of despair and pessimism to describe them. In Surah al-Ahzab, Allah tells us of the hypocrites when the armies of disbelievers were surrounding Madinah. He tells us that the hypocrites were looking for excuses to flee and encouraging their brethren to not go to war. For instance, they would say that there was no stability in Madinah. They behaved this way because they despaired in the mercy and support of Allah. Yet when describing the believers in the same situation, Allah states in the Qur’an, “And when the believers saw the companies, they said, “This is what Allah and His Messenger had promised us, and Allah and His Messenger spoke the truth.” And it increased them only in faith and acceptance” [al-Ahzab, 33:22]. Allah highlights the believers optimism in the face of threat and says that it increased them in faith. The armies of the disbelievers had innumerable weapons, horses, and soldiers, determined to exterminate the Muslims of Madina. Yet whereas the hypocrites saw defeat in the face of this immense threat, the true believers saw nothing but the victory of Allah and His promise being fulfilled.

The Sheikh says we see this same element among Muslims of today and we see the same responses from the hypocrites of today. When we see Muslims being slaughtered in Syria, being massacred in Central African Republic, being burned alive in Burma among many other tragedies, there are those that despair. These people say that that the Muslims are ruined, we have no helper, we are defeated, that no Muslim has helped us and so we should accept the demands of our tormentors. But they fail to observe the signs that Allah has placed amongst them. They fail to see the Muslims helping their brothers and sisters as well as the misguided ones returning in droves to Islam. And they fail to realize that perhaps we will be able to change our situation, if not now, definitely in the future, with the help of Allah.

The Sheikh mentions an interesting phenomenon that we know of but often forget, called the Placebo effect. Scientists have shown that when you actually believe that you are being cured, when you are absolutely optimistic, by the will and might of Allah, you often become cured.

In summary, we should always feel optimistic and positive. We should think good about Allah and have utmost trust upon Him. We should internalize that no matter how difficult the situation or trial is, victory is for us by Allah’s leave. And that nothing but good will come out of it, whether through a direct good result or through sins being forgiven while enduring hardship patiently. Allah says, “…To help believers is ever incumbent upon Us (Allah) to help them” [ar-Room, 30:47]. And Allah knows best.

(Contents of Khutbah may have been edited to make them readable)

What is your outlook on life in the face of trials and tribulations?

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