Jul 12, 2010

What prayers do

Dr A Q Khan

Most of us face illness and/or mental worries at some point in our lives, causing us to seek medical treatment or benediction. While medical treatment and medicines can cure a disease, benediction is neither visible nor can it be purchased. It can only be felt. People tend to pray for deliverance from serious, chronic or incurable diseases. And when they are under severe anxiety and mental agony, especially when they cannot find solace or relief from other sources. But solace lies not only in intercession by others, but in large part on self-help.

If one can afford to do so, the best available specialists may be consulted in the case of illness, but when in mental stress and anxiety, religion is often the only way to seek relief. Added to this may be other techniques such as relaxation, contemplation and exercise. When all is going well, human nature is such that we easily forget to pray to and thank the Almighty for all we have. It is when we are under duress or in need that we call for help. This has been so aptly described by Allah in the following verse: “When a trouble touches a man, he cries unto Us (in all postures)–lying down, on his side, sitting or standing. But when We have solved his trouble, he passes on his way as if he had never cried to Us for a trouble that touched him. Thus do the deeds of transgressors seem fair in their eyes.” (10:12.) Human nature is also referred to in the following way: “Man does not weary of asking for good things, but if ill touches him he gives up all hope and is lost in despair. (41:49.) In other words, we give up too easily and don’t continue struggling for a solution and exploring all options.

Most people, when in trouble, search for religious personalities to pray for them, but in doing so often end up falling victim to exploitation by fake “pirs.” The prayers of such hypocrites (if they actually pray) are never listened to by Allah and those concerned end up losing their money, and the problems they are already facing remain unresolved. Those who are genuinely pious usually advise people to pray directly to Almighty Allah as He is kind to people in distress and will listen to his/her heartfelt prayers.

Even in the Quran we are warned of fake pirs and ulema. “O you who believe! There are indeed many among the priests, hermits and monks who in falsehood devour the substance of human beings and hinder them from the way of Allah. (9:34.)

It is not for nothing that so many of these so-called pirs and saints or heads of religious parties have a bad reputation. Nobody would be willing to swear for their honesty and integrity. Unlike the religious personalities of yesteryear who lived most humbly and honestly and showed no interest in worldly comfort and luxuries, present-day pirs lead a luxurious life, living in large bungalows with all amenities and the services of their acolytes. They drive expensive four-wheel drives, own shopping plazas, mills, factories, etc., and even manage to become senators, members of the National and Provincial Assemblies, ministers and advisors. In the past, humble, God-fearing religious-minded people were highly respected, both by the public and by the rulers, and everyone sought their advice and guidance. At times of natural calamities–floods, earthquakes, droughts–they were requested to pray for salvation as it was believed that their prayers were of great value. Very often their prayers were answered by the Almighty.

The point I would like to make here is that behaviour and mental attitudes have totally changed over time. Honesty has been replaced by dishonesty and truth by hypocrisy, without general condemnation from those around. It is not uncommon to find quacks replacing doctors and to find that the market is full of spurious medicines instead of only proper ones. Unfortunately, we have nothing to blame for this but human nature and our own actions.

The only way we can save ourselves from this curse is by becoming honest and God-fearing and then struggling to improve our own lot and that of our fellow human beings. History is full of examples of nations which were poor and backward but, by working hard, struggling, bearing their suffering with patience and gratitude, managed to turn themselves into advanced, industrialised, prosperous countries.

Unfortunately the spirit required for this kind of action is scarce and hard to find in our country. Everyone wants to be rich and live a good life today, not tomorrow. We suffer from a defeatist personality and expect everything to be taken care of by the Almighty without the willingness to make any sacrifices ourselves for betterment in the long run. Admittedly, there are many things about which we, the common people, can do nothing but we should, nonetheless, look around us and learn from examples.

After the Second World War, Korea, Germany and Japan were totally destroyed and bankrupt. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of their people, they became world economic powers within the span of one generation, almost before our very eyes. And look at the miraculous transition made by our Chinese friends. Hardly 30 years ago they were still underdeveloped, struggling to feed and clothe their people and bravely facing vicious and mischievous economic blockades and isolation. Now they are an economic world power and even their onetime vocal enemy, the USA, is having to borrow from them and begging them not to take any economic measure that would hurt its economy. It is amazing to see how China has transformed from a poor, underdeveloped country into a rich, highly developed world power in every sense of the word. Those of us who visited the old China and had the opportunity of visiting after its development are truly amazed by the transformation.

How have these countries managed to achieve this stability and prosperity? By sheer hard work, honesty, dedication and sacrifices in their initial stages of recovery/development. Add to that the edicts of Almighty Allah which we, as Muslims, have been clearly told to follow, and you have a solution. We have been told in unambiguous terms:

1. Verily, never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves. (13:11.)

2. That man can have nothing but what he strives for. (53:39.)

All this leads but to one conclusion–while bodily ailments can be cured by proper medical care, mental/psychological conditions require both medicines and/or benediction. Furthermore, it also clearly denounces a defeatist attitude. The national ailment of poverty and backwardness can only be tackled by following the commands of our Creator to struggle, to work hard and to be sincere and honest.

No comments:

Post a Comment