The central teaching of Islam revolves around declaring the Oneness of God. An important point to make here is when we speak ofOneness, it is not just a theoretical concept. For the people who have come to know and trust their Lord, Oneness doesn't just mean that there is numerically one God. At a deeper level, it means God is in control of everything at all times. If we understand this, we will put all our trust in God in every instance. So in a sense, if we are unhappy with the circumstance we find ourselves in, it says something about our opinion of God. But what God asks it that we respond to the difficult situations with grace. So the test is not the actual circumstance, but how we use our free will to respond to those challenges.
The 13th century Islamic Saint and Scholar Imam Abu Abbas al Mursi summarized all of life's possibilities into four scenarios:
You can be in a state of obedience to God.
You can be in a state of disobedience to God.
You can be in a state of ease.
You can be in a state of hardship.
For each of these states, there is a corresponding response of the spiritual heart. If you are obedient to God, you must exhibit awareness of God's favor upon you, having guided you to obey Him. If you are disobedient to Him, you must remorsefully repent to Him for your transgressions. If you are in a time of ease, you must sense deep gratitude to God for His gifts. If you are challenged by adversity, you must endure God's decree with patience.
For many of us, we may place our current situation in the last category, the category of hardship. If we look at the physical world through a metaphysical lens, we might sense a deeper meaning. As believers, we know God may remove a blessing not as a punishment, but as a reminder that we should have gratitude when times are good. Sometimes we are temporarily deprived so that we appreciate life when it gets back to 'normal.'
Making use of this timeless wisdom requires a level of awareness and introspection regarding the states we are in. Too often, we live our lives at so fast a pace that we do not reflect upon ourselves. With reflection and introspection, we will be more able to engender the appropriate virtuous response of the heart.
May the blessings of God rest upon you,
May God's peace abide with you,
May God's presence illuminate your hearts,
Now and forevermore.
Imam Shane Atkinson spent twenty years caring for patients as a Board Certified Orthotic and Prosthetic Practitioner. In 2011 he was awarded an Ijaza (Masters level traditional degree) to teach Islamic theology, law, and spirituality. He entered the Clinical Pastoral Education program at UNC Medical Center in 2015 as the first Muslim in their Chaplains Department. He completed a rigorous four units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), and now teaches in UNC’s CPE program as well as serving on their Professional Advisory Group. Since 2015, Shane has served as Associate Imam at As Salaam Islamic Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was named the recipient of the 2019 Muhammad Ali Spiritual Leadership Full-Tuition Scholarship to support his graduate studies in the Master of Divinity program at the Chicago Theological Seminary.