world council of churches

Turn to God -- Rejoice in Hope
Reflections from the Muslim tradition

A. Rashied Omar

There are many Qur'anic passages that exhort humankind to turn to God and rejoice in hope. Let us briefly reflect on two of these passages. The first verse comes from Surah al-Zumar, chapter 39, verse 54, in which God, the Sublime declares: "Do not ever despair of God's Mercy."

The second set of verses comes from Surah Al-Inshirah, chapter 94, verses 5:8; a Surah from which we can derive great spiritual comfort and solace:

Verily after difficulty there is ease.
After difficulty there is ease.
And when the difficulty is over still strive;
and make your Lord the object of your striving.
It is interesting to note that these Qur'anic exhortations link faith in God with hope.

Every good action the believer tries to perform, such as prayer, fasting and alms-giving, is an endeavour in the search of God. It enables the believer to perceive the good that exists in our world, and it is the fruit and mark of divine action in human hearts.

The Glorious Qur'an commends Muslims to work towards giving increased hope to humanity. Hope is the most indispensable virtue in the state of being alive. If life is to be sustained, hope must remain, even when confidence is wounded and trust impaired. Without hope, there can only be despair. Despair takes root so easily that small amounts of hope must be nurtured.

In difficult times in our world's history, it has been hope that has encouraged people to continue to fight for what they believed in, despite oppression, and it is hope that helps us rebuild broken trust and motivates us to continue working for change.

Someone has once said that: "Men and women are limited not by the place of their birth, nor by the colour of their skin, but by the size of their hope."

However, when improving one's situation, betterment does not come with merely hoping. People of faith and hope, are at the same time realists, who do not close their eyes to reality with all its positive and negative aspects. Social transformation and moral elevation does not come about merely by hoping. In the Islamic tradition hope has to be accompanied by three other qualities:

  1. Sabr' -- spiritual perseverance
  2. Islah' -- social reform
  3. Tajdid -- intellectual renewal
Hope can only be sustained by the three elements of mind, body and spirit, or intellectual renewal, reform and spirituality.

Notwithstanding the despondency which abounds in our world, it is the responsibility and duty of the conscientious believer to keep alive the lamp of hope, showing the pathways leading humanity to safety and felicity, both in this world and the next (falah). We need to keep the spirit of hope alive in our communities. We need to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit against all odds.

A. Rashied Omar is an Imam of a Muslim community in Maitland, Cape Town, South Africa.

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