Friday Sermon: The Lessons In Crisis, Calamities And Natural Disasters By Imam Murtadha Gusau
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
All praise is for Allah. We praise Him, we seek His aid and we ask for His forgiveness. We seek Allah’s refuge from the evils of ourselves and from our evil actions. Whosoever Allah guides, there is no one who can misguide him; and whosoever Allah misguides, there is no one who can guide him.
I testify that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah, alone, who has no partner; and I testify that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is His servant and Messenger.
Dear brothers and sisters! If there is anything significant to be learned by natural disasters, it is that life is short and unpredictable. No matter where we go, and no matter what we do, there is a disaster that can strike us. There is always a power greater than us. Danger is always lurking behind us. If we go to the mountains, fire can threaten us. In some areas, cold weather can surprise us. In other places, strong winds and tornadoes can wipe us out. In other places, ethno-religious crisis or terrorism can destroy us. Life has many dangers, but natural disasters get our attention the most and cause the greatest damage. They not only speak to us directly but those from far away.
Sometimes a natural disaster is needed to wake us up and motivate us to get going and do good. Some of us may have been living a passive life for too long. Our positive contribution to society has been minimal. Our actions may have been fruitless motivated by personal gain. Our humanity has died. Instead of integrating into society and helping our neighbours regardless of their skin colour, tribe, state, region, or religion, we have been living in ignorance and intolerance. We may have been preoccupied with our careers focused in making money, racial movements, political parties, or involved with movements in spreading hate and intolerance. Instead of doing good, we have been hurting others. We are greatly in need of spiritual guidance and transformation, and change may just come through natural disasters.
Respected brothers and sisters! When disasters strike, we may either become a victim of a catastrophe, in which case we are on the receiving end of help, or we may be a spectator and have an opportunity to help. It is during these times that we can apply ourselves or learn by the actions of others. It is during these times that we can grow and develop spiritually and emotionally.
I believe that crisis, calamities and natural disasters are Allah’s warning, punishment, and a blessing to many people. They serve many purposes and each person or community receives it differently. Natural disasters and crisis may be Allah’s-send to guide us and redirect our paths. They may strike us to test our faith or punish us for our harmful actions. Their purpose may be to bring our communities together and break gender, cultural, and racial stereotypes. Natural disasters, calamities and crisis may also offer an opportunity to reveal the best of humanity and allow us to help and love our neighbours. In any disaster, we have an opportunity to make a difference and earn good deeds.
Natural disasters can encourage social cohesion and better relationships. When disasters strike, humans have a tendency to get together and show their traits and put them to work. It is during these times that we may work together and realise that all people are the same and have the same basic needs. Friendships may be formed and new things may come to life.A natural disaster can be thought of as a megaphone from Allah to get the attention of those affected by the natural disasters as well as those from far away who may be watching from their comfort zones of their homes. Sometimes a loud message is only delivered by big speakers. Sometimes a lesson can only be learned by extreme measures. Whether there is a message of warning, hope or a punishment from Allah, people will contemplate and understand its purpose in due time.
My respected people! All of us need guidance. All of us are motivated differently. For many of us, natural disasters may easily get our attention and give us an opportunity to contemplate about life and change. Many of us may be doing so much for our bodies but nothing for our souls. We may be consumed with the glamour of life and the pursuit of materialistic things. We may be living large and in sin. We may be living in deception depriving our souls. We may be building strong foundations for Earthly objects, yet the foundation of true life is being abandoned. We may be fulfilling our earthly goals but neglecting our spiritual needs. We may be preoccupied with unimportant things and in the process, we forget our purpose in life. We are not preparing for our destination in the life hereafter. As a favour, the Most-Merciful is shaking our foundation to get our attention. He wants us to start building a new foundation with gratitude and appreciation. Allah is giving us a second chance to true life by showing us His power and our weakness at the same time.
We need a pause from our daily activities and just mediate. Instead of thinking and preparing for tomorrow, we need to embrace today. Through this calamity, crisis and disaster, Allah is making that decision for us. He is forcing us into a timeout to be more receptive of our current blessings and be thankful for everything we have been given. Allah wants us to recognise Time as our greatest blessing and our families and friends as our greatest assets. It is very important that we recognise the lesson that has been pre-packaged for us.
Take heed. This crisis and disaster are not random. There is a big message for everybody. Allah is calling His people back to true life and you are among them. Allah is reminding us why we exist. He is showing us who is in control and reminding us of our limitations. Allah wants us to abandon our fruitless deeds and enjoy the blessings that we have been given while we can. We are rapidly accumulating wealth yet we are not enjoying most of it. We are trading all our time for a goal that we have deemed important. We are short changing ourselves. Instead of socialising with Allah’s creation, we are isolating ourselves.
Allah is being merciful and is calling us loudly through a megaphone. He want us to change for good and earn good deeds. He wants us to get to know His creation better and appreciate life more. Allah wants us to know Him because where we are going, He is well known by His righteous servants, and He wants us to be there. He wants us to seek His guidance and do His works.
Allah did not create us to be consumed by the world, instead, He created us to consume the world and feed the spirit. Our spirits have been yearning for Allah’s love for too long and need our attention. Our hearts have died without spirituality. Instead of praising Allah and loving our fellow human beings, we have been praising money. It is because of our own doing that Allah allowed this disaster and crisis to happen. Our spirits sounded the alarm and Allah answered in the best way we would understand. Much good will come because the greatest change happens when we hit the lowest point in our lives.
Dear brothers and sisters! We all face difficulties in life. Sometimes they are small and annoying difficulties that we have to deal with. They tend to bother us temporary. It may be an issue that we cannot deal with or figure out at the time, but it’s not a deal breaker. We are living the moment and aren’t bothered much by these small difficulties. It may just feel like bad luck. Eventually we go on with our lives and forget we ever had these difficulties. They were like I said, small announces that did not affect us much. However, from time to time for whatever reason not known to us at the time, some difficulties visit us unexpectedly and knock us out. We don’t know what hit us. We are blinded by strong storms from each direction. These are not annoyances but real difficulties that stay with us for a long, long time and change our core permanently. If our foundation was weak to begin with, they will crack it wide open and expose our true colours.
I’m sure you can relate. We all have been through difficult unpleasant times that test and expose us of what we are made out of. Truly, no human being is exempt from difficulties. They are part of life. The very first breath we take into this world, we face difficulties; we have to learn to deal with this world on our own. But what about when it gets really tough. I’m talking really, really tough. What about when our prayers to Allah become specific about issues we cannot fix on our own. In the past we may have prayed with general prayers but not anymore. We need specific help with what’s in front of us. What about when we hit a big fat wall with our abilities and see the impossible stamp in front of us. We are hopeless and cannot rely on anyone. Our efforts are fruitless. What about when we have to accept things for what they are, having no control of the situation. We have to learn to live with it, or so it appears. What about when we are dealing with multiple difficulties at the same time. We have to change our lifestyle. We have to make sacrifices. We have to make difficult unpleasant decisions.
That is crisis we are dealing with. We have many issues happening at once that we cannot address on our own. We have reached the human limits. No doctors can help us with what we have. No authority can change things for us. No wisdom can solve our problems. We are at the mercy of life. The easy life we had got detoured. Unless we are deeply rooted spiritually with Allah at the center of our life, these crisis can send us deep into depression and scar us permanently. Depending on how we react, these difficulties can either soften our hearts or harden them like rock.
How we deal with the crisis is very important. It will determine how we will turn out to be. If we resort to alcohol and drugs, violence, aggression and other temporary unrealistic and unhealthy ways to cope with all the stress around us, we will not change and learn to deal with these problems in the future. In fact, we will cause more harm. We will be in a perpetual crisis because we are not changing, or learning to cope with changes. That is why we will be bombarded with the same crisis over and over again, until we understand why things are happening to us. There is a lesson in each of our crisis for us and we need to learn from them. We need to decipher each difficulty and find the hidden message that is there specifically for us.
My beloved people! Crisis may include being diagnosed with a serious untreatable health condition that may be only manageable, having to deal with lots of pain daily. It can be dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster, witnessing in front of us, our life savings disappear and memories vanish forever. Being personally affected by a human tragedy such as a loss of a loved one whom we grew up with. Or dealing with other crisis that send shockwaves through our psyche, sending us into an unfamiliar and worrisome territory.
I’m sure each one of us in the midst of a similar crisis will be overwhelmed with fear, sorrow or grief. We will not know how to deal with these situations. We haven’t experienced something similar in the past. We are not prepared to deal with what is in front of us. We will be confused and not know what to do. We will be uncertain of our future. We will be hopeless and full of fear. Stress will be rampant. Our physical and emotional well being will be out of control. Nobody may be able to help us. In fact, nobody may understand us. We may be stigmatised by other people for things out of our control. Regardless of everything that is happening around us, we need to never lose sense of ourselves, of who we are and what we stand for. In these difficult times, we need to put our energy in Allah and not the crisis. We need to remind ourselves how big our Allah is, not how big our crisis is.
The crisis we are in may or may not be very big but to someone who is living the moment and is oblivious of Allah, this can appear like the greatest Earthquake to have ever happened. To someone who has no sense of identity and purpose this crisis can appear like the end of life. Having to change our life drastically is not easy by any means. Being unable to do the things we were once able to is a prison sentence. Feeling small and hopeless may be a new feeling. We are not used to being overpowered by things. All this difficulty can make us bitter, hate life altogether, lead to depression, suicide, and worst of all, taking the anger on other people. We need to exercise patience and realise that we are in a crisis season. When the rain has soften the ground, the new season will begin with sunshine, growth, opportunity, and peace. Joy is just around the corner, for no season is permanent.
I know promises, optimism, and hope may not mean much to you now, but I promise you nothing lasts forever in this world. All good and bad things will end. It’s perfectly normal to be overwhelmed with difficulties and feel hopeless and Small. Being human is being at the mercy of our bodies, mother nature, and our efforts whom Allah controls all. We truly don’t realise how much control we don’t have. We may think we can change our future and control our circumstances. We may feel like we hold the keys to our destiny, but it’s truly far from that. We can only control our efforts, motives, dreams, and desires. We are in control only of small things. Allah is in charge of it all. What Allah has destined will happen. We cannot change destiny. Its already been written. Your sustenance, your life span, your intelligence, your place of birth, and your parents, you had no control over any of that. Similarly, many of the things that happen to us we have no control. What we control is our emotions, our patience and our actions.
That is not to say that our choices don’t have negative consequences. What we do and how we live will affect us. Each choice will have an effect in our lives; both positive and negative. But my point is, we cannot change destiny based on our actions. We cannot change the outcome of our affairs because that is linked to destiny. We can only change or influence the way things happen, but what Allah has willed will prevail. Understanding Allah’s will, our abilities and purpose in life is crucial in dealing with any of life’s crisis. It allows us to align our efforts with Allah’s will and become more accepting of things happening to and around us.
In the midst of any of your crisis, whatever you’re afraid of, whatever your mind is thinking, maybe it’s anxiety attacks. Maybe you fear your marriage will never get better. Maybe it’s a fear about what’s happening with one of your kids. Maybe you have a deadly disease such as cancer and are uncertain of your future. Maybe you fear your own death is near and you have people that depend on you. Who will take care of them? I don’t know what it is but wherever your crisis is, wherever the darkness of your valley is, here’s the promise: Allah’s presence will never leave you. He will be there helping you with each step. He will never forsake you. Learn to let go of control and let Allah steer the ship of life for you. He won’t let you down.
Know that Allah will allow crisis to visit us for our own good. There are a lot of blessings in disguise and Allah often uses crisis to shape and bless us. To prepare us for what’s yet to come. He knows what’s best and when, and He is in control of it all. What Allah allows to happen nobody can stop it from visiting us. In the other hand, what Allah stops from reaching us, nobody can bring it forth. Trust that your lord is in charge directing your affairs for your best benefit. Honour and respect Him in the midst of crisis. Don’t lose hope. Don’t become bitter. Lean not on your understanding and Trust Allah that He knows best and has your best interest.
Even knowing that Allah is in charge will not take away our fear. We can struggle, that’s human. But we shouldn’t be paralysed by fear because Allah will protect us. Allah will guide us. He will give us strength with each crisis we face. He will never give us more than we can handle as it is specifically stated in the Qur’an:
“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear…” [Qur’an, 2:286]
Knowing that Allah is with us and for us, we can pray for help with certainty that He will answer us in the best possible way. We can attain peace with any crisis through prayer. But we must be patient with Allah. His ways are not our ways. We need to be prepared for all answers. We may pray hard for Allah to take away many of our afflictions and hear nothing but silence. We may feel abandoned or rejected for being flat out ignored by Allah. We may repeat our prayers with the deepest faith we can muster only to hear a Big NO again. But don’t despair. Allah is in charge of everything. His No’s are often his answers for us. He has allowed this adversity to come our way. If He has allowed it, He knows we can handle it, and He will bring forth much good.
Dear brothers and sisters! Often times, we are put through hard times to be tested and see how we cope with each difficulty. To learn about ourselves, our weaknesses and strengths, our attitude in life, our morals, our patience, our hope, and our trust in Allah. Allah reminds us of the testing we will undergo:
“And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits…” [Qur’an, 2:155]
We are put through tests to be molded and learn from them. To have our efforts tested and to be taught by our efforts. To increase our trust in Allah. To see if we will turn towards the Straight Path, or away from it. Do we become bitter or better. We need this crisis in our life because of Allah’s plan for our life. He has a plan and a programme for us.
Every bit of pain we endure, both emotional and physical, alleviates us from our punishments in the hereafter. Its the ways of Allah to reward and forgive us. Everything that happens has a purpose and Allah will always use difficulties for our own Good. As it narrated by Aisha: The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said:
“No calamity befalls a Muslim but that Allah expiates some of his sins because of it, even though it were the prick he receives from a thorn.”
Respected brothers and sisters! Remember, crisis is part of life. Each one of us must go through our own difficulties to grow and develop as Allah’s people. To endure pain and suffering is normal for we were not created in Heaven but planet Earth where perfection does not exist. Earth is not a place where we get everything and live happily ever after. No! Allah created us so He may test us which one of us is best in deeds [Qur’an, 67:2]. And He will reward us in Heaven, the place of perfection with eternal bliss. That’s where our hopes should be, not this vanishing world.
Keeping pushing forward and know that each step is closer to victory. Do your best on your own and pray to Allah for help. The impossible will happen because we have an all powerful Allah who can do all things. No problem is too big for Him. If it’s in His plan for your life, at the right time, Allah will move mountains to bless you with what’s destined for you.
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, the Ever-Living, Who does not die, and Peace and Blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his family and Companions.
This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today Friday, Rajab 22, 1440 AH (March 29, 2019), by Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org or +2348038289761.