Posted by: Dawud Israel | January 6, 2010

The Miracles that come with Grief

Bismillah, alhamdulillah, wa salat wa salam ala Rasulullah

If you pay close attention you can notice miracles occurring, that have resonance in the Quran. Over the past few days, some relatives of mine passed away, and I had to undergo a surgery. This was a bit of a hard time but alhamdulillah, over the course of a week and a half, family friends have dropped off about 10 13 big dishes of food.

This isn’t the first time. My auntie and uncle teach Quran to a number of children in their neighborhood and apartment building. The both of them had a stroke and we’re sick at home, unable to cook or teach as they recovered. I still recall my auntie saying, “I swear by Allah, I haven’t had to touch the stove for cooking anything, we’ve had food delivered to us people in the mahala, for one month.” Now this is Canada by the way, where Muslims are still relatively few, yet somehow Allah sends his bounty to those who are afflicted and bear with patience.

In the Quran, you see this in the story of Maryam.

So she conceived him and withdrew with him to a remote place. Labor pains drove her to the trunk of a palmtree. She said, “O would that I had died before this, and had been completely forgotten.” But the one that was below her called to her, “Do not grieve, your Lord has placed a brook below you. Shake the trunk of the palmtree towards you and fresh dates will fall down to you.” (Quran 19:22–25)

Notice how close the connection and association is between her pain and grief and the food God is consoling her with. They are inextricably linked within the same verses and moreover it is repeated twice!

But al-Maybudī would have us know that this “pain of petitioning” is itself a blessing:

Maryam rose up in her weakness and seized the dry tree. When her hand touched the dry tree, it turned green, moist and fresh, bearing fruit, and in its freshness bent towards her. A divine voice came saying, “We had the power so that even without your touching the tree it would have become green and bent towards you, but We wanted by your shaking it to bring forth two miracles; first was that in childbirth, weakness and illness, We gave you power to shake the tree, which was to verify the miracle for you. The other was that We wanted the blessing of your hand to reach the tree so that it would bear fruit. Then the people of the world would understand that whoever is sad and grieved for Us, their hand is a remedy for pains.42

The theme of human longing and supplication is further developed in commentary that compares Maryam’s contemplative prayer in the to the prayer she makes in the pain and distress of childbirth.

When Maryam received the food in her it was a miracle of pure grace occurring without any effort on her part. The dates she is provided with here are also considered to be a miracle, since the tree is said to have been dried up and without fruit until she shook its trunk.38 Several commentators point out that in this second miracle, Maryam is required to act. Al-Qushayrī writes,

It is said that when she was isolated (mujarrad) and without attachment Zakariyyā would find her with food without her having been instructed to exert herself. When the attachment to the child occurred, she was instructed to shake the dried palmtree and this was in her weakest state as the time of the birth of the child became closer, in order to know that attachment necessitates pain and hardship.39

-Sufi Commentaries on the Quran, Kristin Zahra Sands, pg. 105

I find it of importance and contemplate on this often when I undergo difficulty. Something distressing will have occurred and yet at those times I find fruit to taste the sweetest. And as my personal stories and the tafsir of these ayahs show, when a person bears patiently with trials somehow sustenance appears miraculously. It may require a little work, as in the case of Maryam having to shake the tree, but that also has the benefit of making you realize, in your weakness you still have strength and much to be grateful for. Recovering these past few days, I find when you are weak and suffering, you begin to realize how minuscule that pain is in relation to the vastness of everything Allah has given you and your eman increases and rises. When Ayyub alayhi salam was afflicted with the death of his 14 children, and 7 years of leprosy, his wife asked him to make dua and he said: “Amma astahi an atlu minallahi rafa balahi wa ma qadaytu fihi mu dat-tarathahi; I feel ashamed when my Allah has given me 80 years prosperity, and only tested me for 7 years. I don’t have the guts to ask Allah- I feel ashamed to ask Allah.”

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

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