Sickness and Disability

Sickness is a reminder that man was not created into this world to settle in a life of ease; it is a journey toward the permanent and everlasting home. But the traveler has been provided with certain materials and resources to use along the way, and with capital to purchase all his heart desires in the eternal home.  Among these assets, though often disguised, is illness, an honest advisor.  It says, “Your body, your energy and abilities are not yours; they are on lease to you as long as their Creator permits, so use them well while you can.”

The capital provided by Allah for this journey is time, which steadily decreases.  Trials of illness and injury serve to slow its departure and multiply its benefit.  Just as time passed in pleasure is perceived by human con­sciousness as brief and fleeting, pain and discomfort retard its passing, enabling one to profit through reflection, additional wor­ship and fervent supplication, which is pleasing to Allah and earns reward.  Illness or disability can be seen as opportunity – first, to remove sins, which would otherwise cause far greater distress in the Hereafter, and second, to elevate the soul through pure worship – honest evaluation, sincere repentance, suppli­cation and constant remembrance of Allah.  Supplication (du`aa’) is an important part of treatment, since it is Allah who permits the cure or withholds it according to His wisdom.

Maladies should not always be seen in a negative light.  On the contrary, when they occur or persist despite all lawful measures taken against them, one can conclude that Allah meant it to be. The knowledge that His decree cannot be anything but good alleviates much anxiety and stress and enables a Muslim to submit to the will of his Lord, and even to understand that he has been chosen for this particular test.

Trusting in Allah and in the benefit of whatever He decrees brings relief to the soul and reduction of bodily discomfort.  As He has stated in the Qur’an, “Perhaps you dislike something and it is good for you and perhaps you like something and it is bad for you; and Allah knows while you know not.” (2:216)  If not for infirmity and pain, no one could appreciate the blessing of good health.  And if suffering had no benefit, Allah would have spared those He loves most, but His Messengerr disclosed that people are tested according to the firmness of their religion… “the prophets (most), then the righteous and those following them in degree.[1]  Patient endurance will rank the believer among them, and he can expect compensation for every instant of suffering – in fact, a reward of such magnitude as to expose the great blessing in that experience and obliterate all memory of the affliction.

One need not feel grief and deprivation at inability to do all his usual deeds of worship and charity.  Obligatory prayers will always be required on time as long as mental faculties are intact, but are performed according to ability, possibly while sitting, reclining or even by merely signaling with the eyes.  When purification is no longer possible one must pray without it, and in cases of extreme difficulty, thuhr and `asr prayers may be joined, as well as maghrib and `ishaa’.  As for supplementary worship, the Prophetr informed his ummah that when a Muslim sustains a temporary or permanent disability, Allah commands His recording angels, saying, “Register for My servant during every day and night whatever good he used to do for as long as he is confined in My restriction.[2] Thus, his usual reward is not diminished, and in fact, is increased by the additional reward for his patience during illness or disability.

Heightened sensitivity at such times allows one to appreciate those who serve him sincerely, to feel pleasure at the concern of his visitors and to love them in return. Their supplications for him are felt with immediate effect, and bonds of brotherhood are strengthened through Allah’s blessing. How often has love and admiration concealed within the heart been disclosed and treasured at such a time. And when a believer experiences the compassion of his family and his brothers in Islam, he is reminded of his generous Creator who provided that for him, whose care for him is absolute, and whose mercy toward him will be manifested in full on the Day of Meeting.


والحمد لله رب العالمين

[1] Narrated by at-Tirmidhi, who graded the hadith as hasan-saheeh.

[2] Hadith saheeh narrated by al-Hakim.

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