A R C H I V E S
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Illness preventing good action|
|03/23/02 at 06:29:43|
Illness preventing good action
[i]Edited by Adil Salahi, Arab News Staff[/i]
God has pointed out to us a great variety of ways and practices through which we may earn reward from Him. To a Muslim, this is of great importance. Our destiny in the life to come depends on what we do in this life. On the Day of Judgment our good actions are put in the balance against our sinful ones. If good actions are preponderant, God fulfills His promise to us and admits us into heaven. If, God forbid, the reverse is true, we have then incurred a punishment which is certain to be exacted unless God is pleased to bestow His grace on us and He favors us with His forgiveness.
This provides the motive for every Muslim to do well in this life, so that he may have enough reward on the Day of Judgment to outweigh his errors and sins. Needless to say, every one of us errs from time to time. The more frequently we err, the greater the reward we need in order to offset our errors.
It is true that what God requires of us is to fulfill the duties He has imposed on us. We have in the past quoted a Hadith which states that a bedouin came to the Prophet and asked him about Islamic duties, such as prayers, zakah, fasting, etc. He wanted to know exactly what he was duty bound to fulfill of each one of them. The Prophet specified in detail what is obligatory to every Muslim of prayer, fasting and other Islamic duties. At the same time, the Prophet pointed out that there could be a voluntary supplement which could earn more reward. The bedouin told the Prophet that he was going to do only what was obligatory and he would volunteer nothing. When he left, the Prophet said to those of his companions who were present that the bedouin would prosper if he kept his word. God is also quoted by the Prophet as saying in a sacred, i.e. Qudsi Hadith: “Nothing draws My servant near to Me more than his fulfillment of what I have imposed on him of duty.”
While the fulfillment of duty is the essential part without which no great reward can be earned, voluntary good actions can enhance the position of any Muslim on the Day of Judgment. Some people may prefer to concentrate on prayer, offering as much voluntarily as they can. You will find them offering all the regular Sunnah, or voluntary prayers which the Prophet used to offer along with the obligatory five daily prayers. Moreover, they may stand up in prayer in the middle of the night when other people are asleep.
Some Muslims may concentrate on fasting, and some may establish a certain habit such as fasting every Monday and Thursday, or fasting the three middle days of every lunar month. Others still may give in charity, or sadaqah, as much as they can. They help every good cause and try to support the poor as much as possible. Other people may offer the pilgrimage every two or three years. There are other ways of earning reward and improving one’s position on the Day of Judgment.
If a person is in the habit of doing any one of these good actions, or indeed any other, and then he falls ill for a long or short period what happens to his voluntary good actions? If he is in the habit of fasting or attending congregational prayers in the mosque regularly, his illness may prevent him from continuing with his habit. Indeed, he may not be able to stand up for prayer.
There are detailed rulings on how an ill person should pray, but we do not intend to go into these at this particular time. Sufficient for us to say that obligatory prayers are not waived for any reason. They should be offered on time at all times. When a person is too ill to stand up for prayer, he may pray in a seated position or in his bed. Even when he cannot move any part of his body, he can still pray, signaling each movement of prayer with his eyelids. He is obviously not expected to offer any voluntary prayer, since voluntary prayer is exactly what it means, i.e. voluntary.
But does illness deprive a person of the chance of increasing his reward? The answer is no. If he is in the habit of doing something good, and his illness prevents him from continuing with it, God credits him with the reward for that habitual good action as if he had performed it. The Prophet says: “Whoever falls ill will be credited with what he used to do when healthy.” (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Ahmad and Al-Hakim). Anas ibn Malik quotes the Prophet as saying: “Any Muslim who is tried with physical illness will be credited with what he used to do when healthy, as long as he is ill. If God grants him good health, he gives him more comfort, and if he dies, he is forgiven his sins.” (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad and Ahmad).
This is certainly an aspect of grace which only God can bestow. Human beings may be kind enough to understand that an ill person cannot fulfill his obligations and they may grant him a period of grace to catch up with what he has to do after recovery. To credit him with the reward of what he used to do before his illness is something much greater which only God, whose grace is limitless, will grant.
But God gives us much more for illness than that. When a Muslim falls ill and he accepts his ordeal with contentment, realizing that illness is a test to which he is subjected by God, he is granted reward for his patience. Indeed, any sort of physical harm he may suffer could be a source of reward to him. Consider this Hadith related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad. Abu Hurairah reports: “Fever came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said: “Send me to your favorite people. He sent it to the Ansar. It thrust itself on them for six days and nights, causing much suffering. He went to visit them in their homes and they complained to him. The Prophet entered every single home of theirs and prayed for their good health. As he was going back, a woman from among them caught up with him and said: ‘By Him who sent you with the truth, I belong to the Ansar and my father belonged to the Ansar. Pray for me as you have prayed for the Ansar.’ The Prophet said: ‘As you wish. However, if you like, I will pray God to give you good health. But if you wish to endure it with patient perseverance, you will be in heaven.’ The woman said: ‘I will endure it, because I do not wish to risk losing heaven’.” Perhaps the first thing to point out is that we do not know how exactly fever came to the Prophet and spoke to him, but we accept this without question because God is able to make fever present itself to the Prophet in person, as it were. How His ability works is not for us to discuss, having believed that God is able to do everything.
When fever asked the Prophet to send it to his favorite followers, she meant that as a means of earning reward. If they suffered an illness, they would earn reward from God. Indeed, the Prophet tells us that even when a person is pricked by a thorn, this gives him reward from God if he endures it patiently. The report also tells us that to pray God for good health when ill does not contradict patient endurance or being contented with what God has given one. The Prophet prayed for his followers to have their illness removed.
The choice the Prophet gave to that woman is meant as offering one of two certainties. Had the Prophet prayed God to remove her illness, she would certainly have recovered. God answered every supplication the Prophet said at any time. However, the Prophet pointed out to that woman something greater than good health in this life. That was patient perseverance when tested because such perseverance earns the greatest reward of all, namely, heaven. The woman realized that and she wanted to have the certainty of being admitted into heaven.
Perhaps it should be pointed out also that if one complains to God of what befalls him, that does not detract from the fact that he endures his test with patience. Prophet Job was the one to suffer a very serious and painful illness. He complained to God and God described him as a patient and contented believer. Nor is it objectionable to explain one’s situation to fellow human beings, provided that one does not believe that they can remove his suffering by themselves. He should only pray God to grant him recovery. He may certainly seek the best medical treatment available. The Prophet tells us to seek medical treatment because, as he says, “God has created a cure for every illness.”
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board