The Islamic faith is not unfamiliar with tests and tribulations. This is the eleventh in a series of articles on depression according to Islam. It is from the On Demand Course: Mental Health Workshop – An Islamic Guide to Dealing with Depression.
It is very simple. Think about people who are absent. Observe the people with whom you are present.
One of the beautiful characteristics of our master Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) is that he would look for his friends when they were not there. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) would look to see who had come to the masjid, and who had not come. He would go around, he would listen for their voices reciting Quran. He would make himself aware. This is our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), who would be informed of these things by revelation.
He would go out and he would think about those who were absent. He would observe those who were present. When you are with people, take a step back and ask some simple questions in your mind, you do not have to say anything to them, “Are they okay? Is everything alright? Have they changed in any way?”
A Beautiful Story
There is a beautiful story about Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani with his first spiritual master, Ali ibn Mubarak al-Makhzumi. The disciples used to meet sometimes in the Khanqa in Baghdad. Sometimes they would go out into the wilderness around Baghdad. They would pray through the night.
The master would retire to his room and the disciples would hear this noise coming out of the cell. Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani comes along. He is sitting there, he hears this, what is going on?
Some though he had gone to sleep. Shaykh Abu Qadir Jilani is shocked by this. The next morning he asks the master, “Master, during the night everyone was praying, you retired to your room, I heard this noise coming from your room, it sounded like you were snoring.”
The Master smiles at him and he reportedly says, “You know my son, you were the first person to ask me this question. I know what everyone thinks. I do not really care.”
The master explained, “I have 10,000 disciples, and I spend the entire night making dua for each one of them by name and the sound that you heard coming from my room was my mentioning each one of them by name and making dua for them individually.”
This is something that stuck with Shaykh Abdul Qadir. Much later on in life, he reportedly said, “Even if my disciples were to number from east to the west, I would remember each one of them in my dua with Allah.”
When you are supplicating, who do you think about? As you start to think about them, you will start to think about specific things in their life. One teacher used to carry a little notebook around with him and people would come to him and ask for supplication. He would say, “Stop,” and he would take out his little notebook, enquire about, and write the name down as well as the dua requested.
Every night, he takes out his little notebook and just goes through it. This instills mercy. This is about awareness. It is about thinking of others. Thinking of them when they are present by observing them. Thinking of them in their absence.
How Does One Manifest Mercy? Be aware of those around you. Your journey is a journey to Allah. It is a journey you undertake by yourself. Allah says:
وَلَقَدۡ جِئۡتُمُونَا فُرَ ٰدَىٰ
“You have come to Us bereft and alone” [Quran, 6:94; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]
Each one of us has our individual journey. However, when we walk the path, we ask Allah to guide us. Allah says:
إِیَّاكَ نَعۡبُدُ وَإِیَّاكَ نَسۡتَعِینُ
ٱهۡدِنَا ٱلصِّرَ ٰطَ ٱلۡمُسۡتَقِیمَ
“You alone we humbly adore and in You alone we seek help. Guide us the Straight Way” [Quran 1:5-6; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]
We are undertaking this together so it is important to have a sense of those around us.