Throwback post: Learning to Look Below, October 2013

“Look upon one who is below you in status. In this way you will not look down upon the grace of that God bestowed upon you.” 

(Bukhari and Muslim)

In the course of our difficulties with the marriage permission process, my husband (may Allah reward him) has often reminded me of these wise words of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Despite always having recognised its truth, I never really ‘got’ it to the point that I put it into practice. To me it was no different to that common refrain of ‘first world’ parents – “There are children in Africa who are starving and you refuse to eat your food?!” If I am honest with myself I not only took the many comforts I enjoyed in my life for granted but I felt entitled to these rights and more. As a result, when my ‘right’ to freely live with my husband and start a family was infringed upon, I felt a sense of betrayal, as if I had been cheated out of something which was due to me. This is the problem when we look up or even sideways to those who we deem to have more or a similar (‘normal’) level of blessings as us.      It denies us the ability to appreciate the many blessings we already have in our lives and instead leaves us ungrateful and unhappy.

This lesson is one that I have only just begun to internalise. My recent interest in Muslims wrongfully imprisoned under anti-terrorism laws really brought this hadith home for me. Reading about the desperate plight of those imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, I was surprised to find a number of parallels between my situation and theirs. I saw the sense of overwhelming hopelessness in their dealings with a system which refused to see logic. I saw the depression caused by not knowing when they will see their loved ones again. I saw the soul-destroying disappointment of being told progress was made and then seeing none. I saw the frustration which rose to the point where even the calmest among them lost their sense of control, even to the point of committing suicide. And I saw the guilt when their iman faltered in the face of so much injustice. The difference of course was that their situations were a million times worse than anything I have ever faced in my life thus far. These were men and women who, on top of these feelings, weren’t even sure if they would see their loved ones again and in some cases they had never even met them to begin with (as with British detainee Moazzam Begg who didn’t met his youngest son until he was about 3 years old). These were people who were humiliated, tortured and treated worse than animals for years on end without any hope of release. Indeed they had never been charged with a crime to begin with.

I speak in past tense yet Guantanamo Bay remains open despite Obama’s promises to close it. One well-known detainee who remains in Guantanamo Bay is a Saudi named Shaker Aamer. Incidentally, he is a British resident married to a British woman with whom he has 4 young children. Aamer has never been tried nor has he been convicted. In fact, he was cleared for release by the Bush Administration back in 2007 and then again by the Obama administration in 2010. Yet he remains in Guantanamo Bay, having not seen his family for nearly 12 years as he is not allowed visits except from his lawyers. He is yet to meet the youngest of his 4 young children, a son who was born after his imprisonment. His wife has suffered severe bouts of depression for which she has been hospitalised on numerous occasions. Aamer’s father in law is quoted as saying that “When he was captured, Shaker offered to let my daughter divorce him, but she said, ‘No, I will wait for you.’ She is still waiting.”

From looking at the details of his story we see that there is no rhyme or reason to his situation. It is simply Allah’s will that he remain there. It only follows that for Allah to keep him there a lot of good must be in it whether or not anyone can see it now. Perhaps he and his family will only reap the benefits on the day of Judgment when inshaAllah they are rewarded heavily for bearing this enormous test with sabr. When we view these situations solely through the lens of deen we feel almost jealous of this amazing opportunity these people have to earn such an incredible reward with Allah.

When I see the situations of some of my struggling brothers and sisters in Islam such as these, I have a huge level of respect for them because compared to their trials, mine is nothing but a mere inconvenience. Yet it is common to find that their trials only increased them in iman and taqwa, moulding them into truly amazing, admirable people who are an inspiration to us all.

Further Reading


Enemy Combatant by Moazzam Begg

For God and country by James Yee

The Guantanamo Lawyers edited by Mark Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz



Helping Households under great stress


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