Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On a Wing and a Prayer

I learned hope from an elderly woman who's been praying for a grandson for more than a quarter century and continues to do so though none of her daughters-in-law are spring chicks any more.

While she loves and adores her slew of granddaughters (Praise be to God), she emphatically remains hopeful that, well, one of these days she'll finally be buying blue, God willing.

Despite the odds, hope can take her a long way.

"Whatever hope you attach to God," says scholar Abbas Ayleya, "God will do according to your hopes, God willing."

To illustrate the power of hope, God shares the sincere and secret supplication of Prophet Zachariah, the 99-year-old uncle of Maryam (one of the four perfect women):

"My Lord! Surely, my bones are weakened and my head flares with hoariness and my Lord! I have never been unsuccessful in my prayer to thee: And surely I fear my cousins after me, and my wife is barren, therefore grant me from Thyself an heir who would inherit me and inherit from the children of Jacob, and make him, my Lord, one in whom Thou art well-pleased.'" (Quran 19:4)

God responds: "O Zachariah! We give you good news of a boy whose name shall be Yahya (John in English). We have not made before anyone his equal." (19:7)

Likened to the two wings of a bird, hope in God's Mercy must be balanced in our hearts with equal fear of His displeasure and punishment if we want to soar to nearness to Him. Too much hope invites false security and continued disobedience while excess fear leads to despair, which scholars say is the second greatest sin after shirk (associating others with God).

"Surely, none despairs of God's mercy except the unbelieving people." (12:87)

After tolerating decades of brutal oppression, people around the world are waking up to renewed hope in a peaceful and just future. Indeed, their great expectation of God's promised deliverance inspires many to struggle onwards.

Later this month, for example, an American boat carrying thousands of letters of friendship with Palestinians is set to sail to Gaza to protest Israel's siege and blockade. The boat is aptly named "Audacity of Hope."

To the young Bahraini protestors facing horrific suppression, Sami Yusuf's ditty "I am Your Hope" gives much encouragement.

You are the hope for our globe,
Don't give up nor despair,
There's nothing you can't repair,
You can change this world to a better world 
With your souls, with your souls,

Do not harm me, I am your truth,
Don't kill me for I'm your youth,
I am your hope, I am your truth,
I'm your faith, I'm your youth

"We cannot live without hope because hope is intrinsic to human nature," said Roy Berkenbosch of King's University College at a conference on Islamophobia and the Politics of Fear last month. "It is life lived leaning into the future. It is life tilted toward tomorrow, expecting what is today is not equal to what is tomorrow."

I wonder if the elderly lady has heard the latest news: a distant relative of hers is expecting a baby in her granny years!! That's sure to keep her hope alive!  

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