Islam: Day 6 – Islamic Stoics?

Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as trial; and to Us you will be returned. – Qur’an 21:35

I’m beginning to think that all religions have elements of Stoicism in their teachings.

Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam teaches that God is all-knowing, and knows past present and future.

Also like Judaism and Christianity, Islam teaches that just because God knows the future, it does not mean we do not have free will.

As a result, people can choose how they handle the circumstances that befall them, whether or good or bad. Islam views these positive or negative events or circumstances as opportunities to demonstrate your faith in God and to act righteously.

“Even though we often have no control over what happens to us, we do have control over how we fell and respond. When a tragedy strikes, do we blame God? When we see a diamond, does covetous well up within us? When someone does evil to us, do we reciprocate or forgive? When we are alone, do we fell lonely or jubilant? Islam says we have control over our feelings, emotions, and personal actions. Our test lies in how we respond to what happens around us.” – Yahiha Emerick

Now consider these words from Epictetus:

“With every accident, ask yourself what abilities you have for making a proper use of it. If you see an attractive person, you will find that self-restraint is the ability you have against your desire. If you are in pain, you will find fortitude. If you hear unpleasant language, you will find patience. And thus habituated, the appearances of things will not hurry you away along with them.”

Though Islam teaches that one should act righteously for God and Epictetus teaches that one should act virtuously to avoid discontent, the point is the same: success is determined by how you behave when faced with circumstances outside of your control.

Rumi, the great poet and Sufi mystic, wrote, “Suffering is a gift. In it is hidden mercy.”

“Islam teaches that suffering is a special form of grace, because if we never experienced suffering, we would never feel the need to call out to Allah for mercy.” – Timothy Freke, The Heart of Islam

Turning to God is act of humility that acknowledges that you don’t control everything. Suffering is a nudge towards that realization. When everything is going great, you feel like the world belongs to you, that you can accomplish anything. Suffering is a way to bring you back to reality and gain an understanding of the true nature of things.

The more I study religion and philosophy, the more I feel they are all variations on some core, fundamental truths.

They also differ in many ways, but there must be something to the fact that a 1st century Greek slave turned philosopher and a 6th century Arab prophet say the same the thing in wildly different times and context.