Lessons for Living: Expressing Grief

Sometimes in our life we come across valleys that we feel are too deep for our grief-stricken self to find relief. It seems, at that point, there is no reason for us to go on. We face uphill tasks at work, encounter difficult individuals, or face life’s big and tough questions, or experience traumatic loss of our family members and friends; these are just some of the situations, and how so often we feel that we run out of places to look to find relief. It’s then that our thoughts play tricks on us, leading us to believe that not even God cares. The following story, compiled from “In the Footsteps of the Prophet” by Tariq Ramadan (pp. 191, 192), shows us how this is not true. The story serves as a meaningful lesson on Prophet Muhammad’s exemplary character in expressing grief.

During the tenth year of Hijrah, Prophet’s young son Ibrahim, who was then about a year and a half old, fell seriously ill. At the very time when the religion of the One God was being established all over the Peninsula, with adversity constantly diminishing and the number of conversions continuing to grow, the Prophet, peace be upon him, saw his only son about to leave life and leave him. When the child eventually breathed his last, the Prophet took him in his arms and held him against his breast, tears streaming down his face, so deep was his sorrow.

The Prophet was intimately affected, and he did not hesitate to show and express his grief. He added: “The eye sheds tears, O Ibrahim, the heart is infinitely sad, and one must only utter what satisfies God.” God had once more tested him through his humanity and his mission. He had lost so many loved ones – Companions, his wife Khadijah, three of his daughters, and his three sons. His life had been crossed with tears, but he remained both gentle with his heart and firm in his mission. It was this chemistry of gentleness and firmness that satisfied the Most Near. At the time when the world seemed to open up to the Prophet’s mission, Muhammad’s human fate seemed reduced to that tiny grave where Ibrahim’s body was laid, and over which he then led the funeral prayer.

The Prophet was one of the elect; the Prophet remained a human being.

The above comments are narrated in Tariq Ramadan’s book, yet they may well speak for all of us. The Prophet (s.a.w.) understood 1430 years ago what modern psychologists have only recently learned, that GRIEF MUST OUT. There is absolutely NO “manhood” in suppressing our tears of grief for a lost loved one, whether through death, divorce, or other disappearance. In fact, the medical truth is that grief is a “quantum” within us, and it will never go away until it has been felt and expressed, until, in short, we freely shed those tears of loss.

In passing, Tariq Ramadan has also mentioned another salient factor of the incredible HUMANITY of our Prophet (s.a.w.) and his Companions (r.a.). That factor is the complete integration of GENTLENESS and FIRMNESS in one human breast. If we pray to participate, in our feelings at least, in WHAT IT WAS LIKE to be a Muslim brother in those magnificent yet tortuous early days, we may possibly feel it for ourselves. We may possibly feel how indomitable firmness may co-exist within us, along with the gentlest tenderness.

Indeed, as Dr. Fritz Perls, the formulator of modern Gestalt Therapy has taught, the real sign of spiritual maturity is the ability to integrate opposites of this type into one, whole personality structure.

Perhaps our spouses would be happier with us should we indeed succeed in balancing these two characteristics equally within our own deepest selves.

And Allah knows best.

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