“If you live, live free or die like the trees, standing up.” – Mahmoud Darwish
The quote above was written by the Palestinian national poet, Mahmoud Darwish. Seventy-three years have passed since the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, and to this day, the death toll of Palestinians continues to rise. Most recently, more than 200 palestinian civilians have died at the hands of Israeli airstrikes, and passed on from this life onto the next. On May 18, 2021, I carefully flipped through social media and watched countless videos of Palestinian children suffering. I engaged in direct message debates to no avail, and as I did so, a horrific thought kept circulating in my mind — that no matter what I wrote, I could not ease the pain of the Palestinian families grieving the loss of their family members, in addition to the loss of their homes and belongings. But alas, Allah never fails to remind us that when we worship him, pain can remold into peace. A taste of fate landed into my instagram feed that day: a video of a Palestinian young man had lost his beloved fiancé, but was smiling and laughing peacefully, for he was so grateful that God had lifted her into a better life. This man reminded me that the terrors of existence we experience can be hidden blessings, when we perceive them through the lens of God’s greatness.
This blog post will not delve into my personal opinions regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as I believe my own social media platforms have clarified my thoughts on the matter. This blog post will only focus on how Islamic principles can bring about greater peace of mind for everyone struggling to connect to their spirituality and/or inner peace in the midst of so much sadness. The rise in Islamaphobia and Anti-Semitism in recent weeks have disrupted the spiritual peace of mind of many Jews and Muslims, and led them to fear for their own life or the lives of their loved ones. Here are a few tips on how you can look after your emotional and mental well-being right now, while maintaining the fire inside you so that you can continue your moral obligation to advocate for greater human rights. Since I am a Muslim, I will be using quotations from the Quran and Hadith. However, I will not favor any sect of Islam, and people of all backgrounds and faiths are welcome to adapt these Islamic principles into their own life, however they choose to do so.
“If you are grateful, I will surely give you more.” Quran, 14:7
The best way to connect to God during politically draining times is by practicing gratitude. In Islam, the term Alhamdullilah (which can be translated to both “Praise be to Allah” and “Thank you, Allah”) is used to practice gratitude. One way you can rid yourself of fatigue is by thanking God every morning for specificities in your life, even when you feel as though sadness has
plagued your day. There is always something to be grateful for. In English, a gratitude prayer list would look something like this:
- 1) Allah, thank you for surrounding me with unconditional love.
- 2) Allah, thank you for blessing me with kind friends and supportive family.
When we practice gratitude, we also learn to practice humility, which can assist us in surrendering ourselves to God. Such surrender brings us closer to the divine, and can allow peacefulness and clarity to blossom from our anger and sadness. For example, the Palestinian man in the video above never ceased to stop thanking God. Rather than choose to perceive the death of his fiancé as wicked, he chose to perceive it as a blessing. By doing this, he knew his beloved was no longer suffering. By doing this, he drastically reduced his own suffering by surrendering to the power and grace of God. Surrendering to the power and grace of God helps to make us stronger, and gives us the energy to ask God to prevent more lives from passing, and to bring about grace to those disproportionately affected by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The Greater Jihad
In the words of poet and writer A. Helwa, the greater jihad is “against the invisible enemy of the ego’s desires of greed, lust, arrogance, ignorance, pride, envy, anger, and other vices.” For example, writing this blog post is a jihad, with the aim of reducing my anger and pride. Previously today, I found myself crying and feeling overwhelmed with rage and sadness as a result of Middle Eastern politics. By writing this blog post, I am engaging in an act of jihad against my anger. Any action with the aim of combatting the vices listed above is an act of jihad. The Quran states,
“Fight in God’s cause against those who fight you, but do not overstep the limits. God does not love those who overstep the limits.”
Acts of jihad are extremely beneficial because they strengthen our ability to remain calm and collected in emotionally draining situations. This feeling of calmness prevents us from overstepping our limits in times of conflict and assists us in defeating our ego, which is the reason for our fatigue. In addition to this, acts of jihad bring about greater peace and light within us, which are not only helpful to ourselves, but are also helpful to the world surrounding us. When we are blinded by traits such as anger, envy, hate, greed, etc., we become fatigued and irresponsible, and cannot be trusted to do good for the world anymore. Islam emphasizes that we have a moral obligation to stand up for the oppressed, and we cannot properly fulfill that duty if we allow properties of the ego to exhaust our bodies and mind. The Quran states,
“And why should you not fight in the cause of Allah and for those weak, ill-treated and oppressed among men, women, and children, whose cry is: ‘Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from You one who will protect; and raise for us from You one who will help!’”
We must practice gratitude and humility in order to help the oppressed live a more just and fulfilling life. It is our moral obligation and responsibility to honor the wishes of those who have unjustly passed, and bring about greater freedom for their family and friends.
“An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab… except by piety and good action.”
The hadith reminds us that all human beings deserve to have their needs respected and honored. No life is more valuable than another. Furthermore, it is a very serious sin to wrongfully strip someone of the life that Allah provided for them. Allah perceives us all as worthy of love and respect. No one person is inherently better than another in the eyes of God. However, sometimes we don’t personally perceive ourselves as worthy or capable of God’s love. Affirmations are an excellent way to boost your self-esteem and form a more intimate relationship with God, so that you can fulfill your purpose and help others through their troubles. You can find affirmations that are non-spiritual, that are biblical, that are based on Islam, and other faiths as well. Here I have hyperlinked a list of Islamic affirmations, but please feel free to use any affirmations that make you feel loved and meet your personal needs.
Affirmations can make us feel more capable of dealing with difficult circumstances, saddening images, and tough debates. Religious and spiritual affirmations do something even greater. They remind us habitually that the creator of the Universe is always on our side, and that we are never left alone by God, the most merciful. Remember that it is your duty to take care of yourself, so that you can attain the strength to fight for greater human rights, and call out oppression in all its forms. Lastly, remember the wise words of Mahmoud Darwish, “If you live, live free or die like the trees, standing up.”
“Al-Qur’an Al-Kareem.” Al-Qur’an Al-Kareem. quran.com. https://www.jubileeusa.org/islamic_quotes_responding_to_poverty https://quranacademy.io/blog/26-positive-islamic-affirmations/ Secrets of Divine Love by A. Helwa