We are well acquainted with the toil and tug of this earthly life. Women especially, know the intimate relationship between joy and pain. The believers are well aware that both have an intrinsic connection to Allah’s Mercy. He directs mankind to choose patience when confronted with adversity.
“And be steadfast in patience, for verily Allah will not suffer the reward of the righteous to perish” Surah Hud v.115
By the time we reach adulthood, we learn how to manoeuvre through the discomforts of womanhood like elegant warriors. We cannot stop for it, we have careers, families to care for, those that need to lean on, and feed off of us. Clenched hands cannot nurture, so we unfold our hands, steady ourselves, and carry our loads with dedicated balance.
We understand that we were not placed in our bodies, and on this earth to merely suffer. The same pain receptors that test our physical resilience, activate sublime pleasures. Is it not through the gift of childbirth that we witness the most extraordinary miracle beneath heaven? The exhaustion and trauma all made worthwhile at the glimpse of Allah’s most precious creation, a collection of monthly tribulation transformed into a splendid favour right before our eyes. This miracle is a reminder of the complexities of Allah’s majesty. We are tested, and our tests yield unimaginable rewards. It was through my own personal experience with physical trauma, that I gained some insight about the nexus of pain and mercy.
It caught me off guard. I moved through my day at a normal pace despite a tiny gnawing at my side. Barely negligible, I did my shopping, every so often stopping to try and locate the cause. I pushed through my day, dropping off ‘this’, driving to ‘that’, not slowing to nurse the tingle that eventually grew to a persistent throb. Was it something I ate? I hadn’t eaten, so I blamed my empty stomach. The throb continued through dinner, and into my post-dinner routine. Reaching to put a dried dish in place, I pressed my side. Bending to return a pot, I pressed. I pressed and prodded until I succumbed to the idea of pain reliever, a remedy I rarely sought, and so I had no supply. Deciding it wise to rest it away; sleep would be my medicine of choice. Placing one hand over my abdomen, I remained in that position, hoping to not wake until it passed.
At 3 am, I awaken. The drowsiness vanishes immediately. I am wide-eyed, jolted upright in my dimly-lit room. Both hands pressed at my side, not searching for the pain, but for relief. If I lie in a different position, perhaps I could alleviate it, so I exhaust myself in attempts to reposition into comfort. This sort of pain, so foreign to me in severity, involuntarily contorts the body and the mind. My thoughts veer to childbirth, something I’ve yet to experience, and so I think of those valiant heroines we call ‘mothers’. I begin to perceive perhaps, an inkling of what they conquer. “Is this what they speak of?” I shudder even now as I remember. I wander to the living room, reaching for the sofa in the dark, desperate for a new soft place to deliver me from agony. My efforts were futile. The pain stalked me into daybreak and so I lay still, in utter shock, sweating profusely, and nearing delirium. That is when it happened. Not relief, but my desperation for it led me to one familiar phrase:
‘La illaha illallah’
How many times I repeated it, I could not know. I only paused to whisper Alhumdulillah, grateful for the seconds when it waned. I struggled to find my phone and earbuds and eagerly searched for a Quranic recitation to lull me back to sleep.
The final awakening, this time on the hardwood floor. Exhausted, blanket askew, the soothing recitation still drifting from my headphones. Readying myself now for what would be a long day in hospital examination rooms, a succession of questions, scans, an attempt at rest in a flimsy hospital gown until nightfall. The source of my suffering was no longer a mystery. The cyst discovered on my right ovary a month prior, burst, and produced the most excruciating, unrelenting pain I have ever experienced.
In the quiet moments behind the curtains of the exam room, between the steady stream of hospital staff, I pondered a single question, “What does Allah intend by this test?”
My physical body, my soul, my very nerve endings all belong to Him, and all submit to His will. Whatever I survive it is only that Allah has decided that it will not break me. At the height of my suffering, there was only submission. Not one word could fit between my lips, and the remembrance of Allah. Never was I more conscious of my reliance on Him, except in the moments when I was most desperate for His mercy. What I ultimately found was solace in my plight and the answer to my query. Left to our volition we would never suffer. We would have only ease, but we would diminish our opportunity for spiritual potential, and bounty. Allah’s wisdom is boundless. He promises an everlasting, and unrivalled recompense for whatever we endure. I do not welcome suffering, I simply embrace the inevitability of it. In the trials that threaten to break our balance, throw us on our backs, and tighten our fists, I pray that we do not fatigue in our struggle or our faith. I pray that we seek Allah’s mercy and experience the spiritual enlightenment that lies within them.
“Nothing befalls a believer, a (prick of a) thorn or more than that but Allah will raise him one degree in status thereby, or erase a bad deed.”
Narrated by al-Bukhari (5641) and Muslim (2573)
By Shaheda Richardson