The Uhuds of Our Lives

The Battle of Uhud is a sign for all times because we are all likely to experience our own Uhud.

Women in particular seem to suffer the most from Uhuds, and there is hardly a woman I know who is not in the midst of one. (Is it any wonder that we know a lot about the role of women fighters and medical personnel from that battle?) In our modern Uhuds, on one side women are abandoned by those who pledge to support them and on the other side we watch helplessly as those we are trying to love and protect rush headlong into dunya and disobedience and catastrophe. And the consequences fall disproportionately upon women as well.

What have we prepared that will get us through our own Uhuds?

In Surat Aal Imraan, verse 154, Allah says of the two parties at Uhud:

After sorrow, He caused calm to descend upon you, a sleep that overtook some of you. Another group, caring only for themselves, entertained false thoughts about God, thoughts more appropriate to pagan ignorance, and said, ‘Do we get a say in any of this?’ [Prophet], tell them, ‘Everything to do with this affair is in God’s hands.’ They conceal in their hearts things they will not reveal to you. They say, ‘If we had had our say in this, none of us would have been killed here.’ Tell them, ‘Even if you had resolved to stay at home, those who were destined to be killed would still have gone out to meet their deaths.’ God did this in order to test everything within you and in order to prove what is in your hearts. God knows your innermost thoughts very well.

(Read 152-154 for the complete picture.)

Look at the difference between the three parties involved:

The believers, in defeat and exhaustion and thirst so great that it caused the Prophet (S) to collapse to the ground and lead a congregational prayer sitting that way were nonetheless filled with a sleep and a sense of sakeenah from Allah.

The Quraysh, victorious but suffering heavy losses, nevertheless were filled with agitation. Their slaughter of the believers did nothing to extinguish the flame of hatred and discontent in their hearts. Victory on the battlefield wasn’t enough, they had to proceed to mutilation and cannibalism. And they attempted an attack on Madinah on their way home.

The Hypocrites felt a similar agitation. They fell into a sense of the ugly “dhann”, the negative thoughts about Allah, the “dhann of jaahiliyyah” of the time of ignorance before Islam. “If only we had control of the situation we would have done X Y and Z differently and we wouldn’t have suffered this defeat”.

When our Uhud comes, who will we be?

Will we be like the believers, searching for, finding, and even being granted rest and reassurance from Allah? As He says in 65:2-3 “Whoever has taqwa of Allah He will provide for them a way out and provide for them from places they would never have expected”. Will we pray, even from our position of collapse on the ground? Will we make the effort to pray that prayer in community, with the others who are also broken like the Prophet (S) did? When we are told that all looks hopeless, will we continue pushing forward in hope and reliance on Allah alone and trusting in the promise of the Akhira?

Will we be like the disbelievers, for whom Uhud was an act of revenge for their losses at Badr, who can’t think of anything except rage and revenge and more and more destruction?

Will we be like the hypocrites, those who are only in this as long as we feel like we are “winning” in the dunya? When hypocrites stop “winning” they start questioning their commitment. Their only concern is for themselves and they only see power and direction as emanating from themselves, rather than coming from Allah. They disbelieve in the Divine story written for each of our lives, that everything is brought about by Allah in order to teach us something and to purify us. The word translated as “prove what is in your hearts” is the word HmS which means to purify gold by heating it, until it is free from defect. If we don’t look for the ways we are meant to learn and grow from even the worst of catastrophes, and instead berate ourselves for what we could have or should have done, we are acting in similarity to the hypocrites.

As women we so often feel the crushing burdens of responsibility and of grief when things go wrong. We tend to fall into self-blame and despair. We tend to say “if only I had done…” We tend to isolate ourselves. The cure for what is in our hearts is prayer and remembrance. To seek companionship and community. To look forward to the future. To sharpen our skills of self-compassion and compassion for others.

Wisdom is always gained through hardship. I have long believed that this is the meaning of the second “inna ma`a l-usri yusra” (“With hardship comes ease,” 94:7-8.) The first one pertains to what we are granted of often unappreciated blessings and help in the thick of hardship. The second one pertains to the wisdom, empathy, and personal purification we earn and learn which we can then bring forward into the world for the future.

When catastrophes come, Allah has given us the duaa that will bring His presence and HIs help. In Surat al-Baqarah 155-157 He says:

“We shall certainly test you with fear and hunger, and loss of property, lives, and crops. But [Prophet], give good news to those who are steadfast,

Those who say, when afflicted with a calamity, ‘We belong to God and to Him we shall return.’

These will be given blessings (Salawat) and mercy (raHmah) from their Lord, and it is they who are rightly guided.”

May Allah help us and strengthen us through our personal Uhuds. May He grant us the discernment and the strength to find our way through them according to the example of the Best of Mankind (S) and those who believed with him. May He grant us both stages of “yusr” and help and grant us all that we will see our true reward in the Hereafter.

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