Coping with Cancer
From the Islamic point of view, man is created for eternity in hereafter, and death is not annihilation; rather, it is a bridge from here to a more advanced stage of life. The example of here and hereafter is similar to the world of a womb for a fetus and the outer world. This world and the hereafter are but two interconnected stages like those of sowing and harvest, for one reaps what one sows.
Cancer is a highly charged word in our culture, because we link it so closely with death. The word strikes fear into our hearts and immediately turns life into turmoil.
Firstly, let me share with you the three main Islamic principles related to the topic: 1) monotheism 2) meaningful life 3) conception of death.
- Monotheistic conception means the realization of the fact that the world is “mono-axis” and “mono-orbit”. This means that the world has come out of a wise will, and that its system is founded on mercy and all that is good.
- Meaningful life aims at leading the existing things to a perfection befitting them. Nothing has been created in vain or without purpose. There is no chaos in cosmos. All the existing things of the world are harmonious, and their evolution proceeds towards the same center. The fuel of this harmonious procedure is love, which is the direct fruit of Faith. “He said to heaven and to earth, ‘come both willingly or unwillingly.’ They both replied: ‘We come in willing obedience.'” (41:11)
- Conception of death: Many think that talking openly about death is a sign of giving up the desire to live. Nothing could be further from the truth. Thinking and speaking about death simply reckons with a real responsibility, and it can very well coexist with a struggle for life.
We all find in ourselves a desire or wish to live forever. Hence, death is treated as a disastrous end. As such we tend to see it, if at all, in the distant future. From the Islamic point of view, man is created for eternity in hereafter, and death is not annihilation; rather, it is a bridge from here to a more advanced stage of life. The example of here and hereafter is similar to the world of a womb for a fetus and the outer world. This world and the hereafter are but two interconnected stages like those of sowing and harvest, for one reaps what one sows.
How Would a Faithful Muslim Cope with Cancer?
Based on the above principles, for one who has faith in God, when his specialist informs him of being diagnosed with a serious illness such as cancer, instead of blaming God of being unfair to him, and questioning God as to why it has happened, he realizes that behind the dark shadow of any disaster lies mercy. Hence, optimistically considers the following inspirations:
Mindfulness to the Soul: Cancer or any other disease makes one more mindful and aware of oneself. The power of youth, health, and wealth, though temporary, usually misleads us to forget about ourselves and our souls. When a severe illness such as cancer strikes us, only then do we realize how weak and needy we are. Illness would bridge the gap between our world of everyday selves and the spiritual world, and give more meaning and awareness to the recognition of the real self. By then, an inner voice calls us to an Omnipotent Power who is the Source of all happiness and joy, which results in God-consciousness and His presence. As a result, at night, when the effects of chemotherapy keep one awake, he considers that seemingly painful call as a private invitation to a secret and sacred whispering with God, far away from the eyes of strangers.
Launch of Ascension: Since we believe in a meaningful life, any disease is a wakeup call for the faithful. The more severe it is, the more effective the call would be. We know that pain and disease can launch us on a journey that could change our entire lives. Thus, getting better is not all that one should expect out of being ill, or else one has missed a lot.
Gratefulness to the Blessings of Life: An Arabic expression goes: “The blessing is known when it is taken away.” For a believing person, cancer can enhance one’s appreciation of life. We realizes the fact that a call from one of our children, a hug from our spouses, a thoughtful inquiry from our friends, every leaf on the tree in our backyard, and truly every moment of life that we have received is a gift from the Merciful God, and then we appreciates it more.
Death, a Platform of Eternity: Finally, if we finds that our cancer is fatal, we realizes the fact that firstly, cancer is only one out of more than a million ways of passing from this world to the next, not the only one. And secondly, death is fearful if it means annihilation and total destruction. For a faithful man, death is but a platform to an eternal joy and happiness in Paradise, and as such it does not strike us as dislikeable.
To Cure and to Prevent Death!
All human beings endeavor to fight for life, and intense fear of death is in its sense of annihilation. Here are two glasses of the Divine Wine for those who wish to be eternal. I will just describe them to you, but should you take a sip, then I assure you that you would confidently leave Endostatin and Angiostatin to the mice!
- Name yourself “Good”, and act accordingly. You will be eternal. Instead of being depressed by cancer, which results in isolation and lack of motivation, make sure every day you are a cause of good for others. Regardless of how you’ll be treated, if you cause a smile on another’s face, you’ll be happy. Remember! We enjoy happiness when we create joy and happiness for others. This is the law of cause and effect.
- Love God, and He will make you eternal. Love is the music of life. Lovers have no fear of death, nor do they have any room for sorrow. As Emily Bronte expressed in her last poem, lovers in God have no cowardly soul. (No coward soul is mine.) When you love God, you love His creation and creatures, and He makes you be loved forever. Love is beyond the reach of death. As Hafez, an Iranian poet of the 14th century says: “Never dies he whose heart is living by love. Thus, our name is engraved eternally in the world.”
Shakespeare and Hafez never die. Emily Bronte, though she physically left this world early, never dies. Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (peace be upon them all) – none of the Prophets ever die, for they joined the eternal ocean of Divine Love. They were satisfied by the eternal water of life – love.
And at last but not least, a priceless message from the Abrahamic faiths as quoted in the Holy Qur’an: “And the same did Abraham enjoin on his sons and Jacob, ‘O my sons! Surely God has chosen for you faith, thereforem die not unless you Submit yourselves to God.'” [2:132]
O Lord! Bestow Your Mercy and healing to all the patients of this world, both physically and spiritually, and in Your Presence leave us with no room for sorrow.