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With Difficulty and Ease & Recalling the Favors of Our Lord – A Reflection on Gratitude

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Posted on Nov 29, 2019
Dilshad Ali

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You may or may not be a thanksgiving-celebrating person, given it's historical, colonizer roots of stealing land from indigenous tribes across North America. But certainly the concept of gratitude and giving thanks is one that is very much a part of our Islamic faith not to mention a basic underpinning of humanity. So all this has got me thinking, as my purview on life – deen and dunya – comes from an autism lens.

I've written several times here on the blog and all over my personal blog about my eldest son, who is profoundly autistic and nonverbal, but not non-communicative. Mothering him and my other two children has been the single-most life altering, challenging and uplifting thing in my life. Being their mother has drove me to my knees in despair, beseeching Allah (S) for guidance, answers, for the ending of pain and mitigating of challenges. It has also brought me immense joy, fulfillment and awe – that I am entrusted to raise these children.

D in the woods, autism

With nearly 20 years of parenting under my proverbial belt, I realize that the years of their infancy, toddler years, childhood and critical teen years (which we are still in, puberty and all), were singularly captured by this ayat of the Quran:

Fa inna mal usri yusra. Inna mal usri Yusra. For verily with difficulty there is ease. Verily with difficulty there is ease. (Surah Al-Inshirah, 94:5-6)

There was always gratitude. How could there not be gratitude? We have always had a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, clean water, grandparents and family who were the pillars of love and support for my husband, the children and me. But, with ongoing heartaches and challenges for our eldest son, the likes of which broke my heart with an ongoing grief that I've struggled to carry, admittedly I've struggled to fully submit, to accept Allah (S)'s plan for my son and our family with full faith and love.

But maybe it's the passage of time, the acceptance of certain things and shifting the fight to other things, the realization that without submitting, without fighting to hold onto that faith that there is something in all of this that is beyond my capability of understanding, that has brought me to a shift. Lately, while I still hold on to Surah Al-Inshirah, I find myself turning more to Surah Rahman and it's resounding ayat:

Fabi ayyi alai rabbikuma tuzazziban. Then which favors of your Lord would you deny? (Surah Rahman)

It's like a mantra on my tongue, an ayat I remind myself to repeat on endless loop and hold close as a protection against my own weaknesses and heart's failings.

Last week I headed to my parents, who hold an annual milad, a gathering honoring the Prophet Muhammad (saw) in his birth month. Milad's are held and attended by many Muslims the world over, but others stay away from them, saying they are bid'ah, or an innovation. This is a discussion for a different post. The point is, this gathering is an annual tradition for my parents, since the time we were children in North Dakota, and we would host a milad with just our own family, and my Daddy would send salaams to the Prophet Muhammad (saw). 

For the past several years my parents have organized a large-ish gathering – with different people reciting nasheeds, giving talks and sharing stories about the Prophet – followed by a dinner. There are usually upwards of 50 or more friends and family who come.

The past several years it's been a struggle for me to attend with my entire family. The entirety of such a gathering is overwhelming for D. My parents also live 2.5 hours away, so there's the drive there and back. I would never willingly take him a gathering with so many people there, given the sensory overload and the potential landmines. Every year I come thiiiiiiiiiiis close to bowing out, but we all rally and go, and we make it work. I tell myself that I'll regret not going, with my parents growing older year by year. It's very hard for D, and I have mad appreciation for him that he acquiesces to come.

This year, heading into the weekend of the milad, D was fighting a cold and struggling. We had some meltdowns the week before that didn't portend well for the weekend. And so, we fractured our family, with D and his Baba staying home and me taking other other two kids and my in-laws to my parents.

I sat in my parents' basement and listened to my Daddy's warbly voice recite the salaams to our Prophet. And, I wished, as I have countless times before, that it didn't have to be so hard. But, we had roofs over our heads, food in our bellies, warmth and clean water. We had our families. 

Sometimes, oftentimes, it doesn't make sense, this life. The horrors, the difficulties, the struggles, wars, occupations, genocides, corrupt leadership, the loss of life, those suffering from chronic illnesses and debilitating medical issues. Disability isn't a burden, but to deny what can be hard is to ignore difficult truths. 

For me it's these two ayah that carry me through: "Verily with difficulty there is ease, verily with difficulty there is ease," and "Then which favors of  your Lord would you deny?"

That's what I'm thinking about this Thanksgiving weekend.

 


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