By Soumaya Sebkhaoui
She understood sickness all too well. For years now, for as long as she can remember being a mother to her youngest son, who is now a college student, she had battled a disease that can seem ever so merciless. As a result, her older children learned to fear its diagnosis as it continuously paid visits to their mother. She, on the other hand, seemed to acknowledge its presence with increasing serenity and contentment.
She had decided to keep the first time she was diagnosed with cancer a hidden fact from her children, who were still in grade and high school. She felt it would be best not to burden them with this knowledge, though not knowing what was fully happening to their mother was more worrisome and stressful. In reality, she was afraid to even utter this word, cancer, as it seemed to be a filthy death sentence that was never to be brought up in conversation. Little did she and her family know, and had come to realize over the years, that it was actually easier to deal with its effects if she allowed herself to voice her fears and concerns.
As time went on, and as she progressively gained strength from her treatments, she came to think she had conquered this disease. And she had. She was and is a survivor. Not once, but many times over, a survivor. And with each time she was diagnosed yet again, after years of repose and perhaps even forgetting some of the times she felt too sick to move out of bed, something other than resolve to defeat it was growing deep within her.
Her children began to realize, with ever increasing admiration and respect for her, that she was not afraid with each subsequent diagnosis and treatment plan. With each test from Allah (swt), she was becoming strengthened with perfect contentment (rida) of her current state. This is a level beyond patience (sabr) and smiling through the pain. This is a state where ripples within your heart’s waters are not created as new pebbles of trials are thrown your way.
There are times when we attempt to help a loved one through pain and struggle by reminding them that Allah (swt) tries those whom He loves more frequently or with more difficult tests. Prophet Muhammed (sallalahu ‘alaihi wasallam) has eloquently taught this when he mentioned, “When Allah desires good for someone, He tries him with hardships” (Bukhari). Sometimes, however, Allah (swt) continues to test that servant, even after they have shown sabr, but for a different reason.
Now, and only He (swt) knows best, these trials have become a means of elevation for that servant as they accept the news of a test with contentment and peace. It is almost as if there is a sense of hidden and beautiful satisfaction that accompanies this contentment that grounds that servant as they hope Allah (swt) has chosen them to become closer and more beloved to Him. We should never wish that we are afflicted in any way by a trial or disease, but these special people rejoice in the possibility that Allah (swt) may have chosen them! And how do you know the difference between a test and a means of elevation? You gauge your reaction throughout the time you are dealing with it. Over time, and with the tawfeeq of Allah (swt), we eventually move to a state where we are more content with whatever He (swt) has planned for us.
And this is exactly what seemed to be happening over the years to this special mother. When her children reacted with shock or fear masked with some semblance of strength at their mother’s new medical challenge, she responded with a smile and reassurance that she was not scared at all and that all that came from Allah (swt) was beautiful. This type of strength emanating from her, was, in actuality, fortifying for the entire family. She had realized, now, that she did not need to rely on her family to constantly keep her spirits and morale high. She had Allah (swt), the sender of all things beautiful to her, to turn to in times of weakness and gratitude.
Allah (swt) continuously sends us times in our lives where we are faced with some of our worst fears. Only when we realize that we have to resign to His will and what He (swt) wants for us, that we will gain real strength. I’m talking about that type of strength reserved for overcoming the scariest moments, when we think we cannot do it alone. May Allah (swt) grant us that strength without having to try us at all. However, if we are faced with difficulties, may we come to the point where our outward submission becomes inward submission and our heart fills with love and even gratitude to Allah (swt).