Thought for the Day – Dr. Amanullah De Sondy, Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Islam
University College Cork – Republic of Ireland – Friday 27th July 2018
The prime minister of Greece has declared three days of mourning as the country tries to take in the scale of death and devastation caused by the wildfires. I read a heart-breaking story yesterday about a mother who has lost her infant grandson, two of her cousins, their children and all of her worldly possessions. Her daughter is in intensive care. ‘God doesn’t give us the words to describe such things,’ her mother said.
Her words go to the heart of pain, suffering and death. I’m all too familiar with the pat religious response that it’s “God’s will”, but I’m also aware that such a philosophical response is very hard to accept in the face of physical and mental adversity. The challenge is, as the Greek Mother said, finding the words to understand and console a broken heart. Words are important, but sometimes no words can help us understand.
I recently met with a group of trainee hospital chaplains in Cork in Ireland, who wanted to know about the Islamic responses to illness and death. There are Islamic traditions which talk about illness being a blessing from God, that God does not burden a soul more than it can bear. These are difficult words that push faith. It was refreshing to hear that these hospital chaplains were not in the business of saying ‘God wills it’.
We all deal with crisis and pain differently and find peace through different actions. I learnt this first hand when my Dad passed away a few years ago, and each one of us in our family dealt with it differently. It’s these real life situations that, for me, complicate what’s written down in Islam.
The young boys who were trapped in a cave in Thailand are said to have used meditation to get them through, and now they’re spending time in a monastery to reflect further on what happened to them. Reading about difficult experiences like these, make me think, that people often move forward with this tension: that God may will it, but more so because God gives strength.