As the blessed month of Ramadan is nearing its end, I would like to share a story that is encountered in the Qur’an which has a profound message for those who are experiencing sadness, disappointment, and frustration in life. It is about Prophet Jacob (peace be upon him) and what he felt when he lost his dearest son, Joseph.
When we lose something or fail at an endeavor that we are working hard to achieve, the pain can oftentimes be too much that it is beyond our control. We may attempt to hide it to others, try to dismiss it or turn to distractions, or those around us would snap us and say, ‘just move on with it’. But failing to acknowledge the loss and the pain that it brings only artificially covers it. It will manifest on other forms because it remained unacknowledged.
When Prophet Jacob lost his son, he fell in a state of immense grief. He was told that his son was killed but he knew that it was a lie, and by Divine revelation, firmly believed that Joseph is still alive. He cried day and night, life almost stopped for the old man. It was by being a father and a human being that he felt this need to grieve and be sad. He did not fight it back, or erase it on his memory just to move with the ebb of life. The mere fact that he knew that his son is alive but not knowing how he is, when will he be coming back or will he be still reunited with him only added to the difficulty that he felt.
It was all too much for him that he lost his eyesight. Sadness, year after year passed. But there is still no news for Joseph. The father waited and waited, with grief and hope that he will still be reunited with his son. Until one day, when it was almost over – that the shirt of his long-awaited was cast on his face and his sight returned. And eventually the vision of the dream was fulfilled and so was the truth and his family reunited.
Denying someone the time to grieve is like refusing to give air to a suffocating person. Not acknowledging the reality of loss and sadness and trying to cover it up with something else is like setting a time bomb that will explode anyway.
Prophet Jacob mourned because he loved his son dearly, and his disappearance meant that his love seems to have been thrown out of nowhere. Gone is the son who is the object of his affection. He cannot express it anymore, and that loss of the beloved cannot be replaced anymore because of its unique place in the heart of the father. There is no closure. It will not let go, and will not forget because of the certainty that his son is still alive, that the vision that was relayed to him was not yet fulfilled.
This is the case with many of us. The reason why we experience this almost endless pain is that we continue to hold on to what is dear to us. We are hoping that there is still a chance that we will regain what we lost or overcome the disappointments that occurred which happened beyond our control. And so we take the time to grieve, to reflect how it might have been, to acknowledge, to find meaning and to gain once more the will to move forward despite the pain.
Prophet Jacob never lost hope despite his grief, nor did he turned his back on life. He remained firm in his faith, he constantly turned to Allah, and to him he relayed his condition. He did not pretend to be strong by denying his sadness. He showed it to his family and those around him how he missed his son so much, and how he is waiting for the day that he will return. He remained authentic and true to his feelings and to his condition, there was no need to pretend or hide his weakness. Despite his lofty standing as a Prophet of Allah, he did not manipulate what he felt within himself and his vulnerability out of fear of people’s judgment. It was his genuineness as a human being that he exemplified, staying true to ones present condition, of not caring the insult or malice of others.
There was no need to put on a mask to display a facade of false strength. It was this acknowledgment of grief, sadness and the presence of pain that Prophet Jacob exemplified whenever I as a person think about when I lose something or someone that is dear to me, or when frustrations and disappointments come almost on a daily basis. It reminds me of a trait that humanity in these approval and fame seeking times are compromising – authenticity. There is always a time and a need to grieve and be sad, to be true to oneself and to others, to acknowledge the existence of pain and loss, and yet in the midst of what seems to be the impossible – to never lose hope.