Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Submitted by Guest Blogger Lena Khan

I was sending out today's Qur'anic word of the day, and found it particularly meaningful. I hope not to bore...

The word is "kabad." (كَبَد ). The ayah we most know it from is:

"La qad khalaqna al-insana fi kabad". It means, 'verily, we have created man in toil and struggle."

I have always used this ayah for my general life theory (which unfortunately I do not follow well enough) that we should all be working just as hard as people who are struggling for their daily food or lives or whatever, even though we are blessed with more comfort. But then I saw the word "kabad" comes from the verb "kabada" which means "to wound in the liver, affect anyone painfully, to purpose a thing, and from "kabida" which means "to face difficulty, struggle, reach in the middle."

And among those, it seems that what this verse is really telling us, is that man is not only meant to struggle here--but it is a struggle that hits at the heart of you--that really pierces the inside (middle) of you, and can pain you (aka wound in the liver).

So I thought, if we are rich, we should give not just a comfortable amount, but in real struggle, one that makes us feel what it's like to not have the world on our plate. If we are working hard, we work till we feel what it is like to not have the time or energy to play 4 hours of Guitar Hero at the end. And if I am wrong in the actual effort part, at the least perhaps it means we should struggle to such an extent, that the fruits of our labor pierce the insides of us--sometimes with painful truths, perhaps about the sad state of our internal affairs--with the realities that inevitably such spiritual endeavors bring.

There is actually an urdu poetry couplet about this. It goes:
"Tundiye bade mukhalif se na ghabra ay uqab/
ye to chultihe tuje uche urranakaliye"

It means:
"Oh hawk, do not be afraid of the harsh opposing wind/
it runs only to make you rise above."

It seems so many of the things we are told to do, are for a beautiful purpose. One who properly follows Islam, and what it really means and asks for -- is allowed to reach the real beauty that is part of the human potential. In Surah Mulk, Allah tells us, he has created life and death, to test "those who are best in conduct." Life, and what He asks of us, is meant for those who will be best in conduct, and they are the ones who will actually take hold of what miracles a life of Islam can do to a person. What is more beautiful than a person who has reached the level of the Prophet (peace be upon him)? And that is what Islam allows through this struggle. The Prophet got to where he was not just by reading some Qur'an everyday...but because Allah made him struggle in such a way that it affected every part of his soul. He was orphaned so that He grew up realizing the only one he could rely on in this world was Allah, He endured the harshness of the Quraysh, He was made to endure more trials than we ever will...so that he could get to where he did. But I think the verse is telling us that to reach that...the deeds you do, have to reach you, and that is only through real struggle.

Just giving in charity does not give you enough compassion...you have to know what it feels like to not be sure if you will have just the right amount of rizq the next day. It isn't enough that we go out once in a while to make some peanut butter sandwiches for the homeless, but rather we should be working so hard to help the less fortunate around us all week, that through our works we only increase in helping them because we realize--wow, as much as I am struggling right now, these unfortunate people are struggling ten times more than me every day. And we aren't working on yourself properly, till one mistake we make can so hurt us that we realize the magnitude of our frailty before other/better people, and Allah. Anyway, perhaps we can try to really struggle this Ramadan, and not just read Qur'an/help people/work on our goals for work or life when we feel the comfort to do so.

To this end, some little known resources:

-To join the Qur'anic word of the day mailing list, where you will receive one Qur'anic word and its definition every weekday, send an email to QWOTD-subscribe@yahoogroups.com .

-To find a place to volunteer, perhaps go to volunteermatch.com , which offers plenty of local opportunities to directly help the homeless, the disabled, the underprivileged, and more.

-Find something better to do with your time, and your heart.