My wisdom tooth and the Queen

INsights 023, Friday 9th September 2022

Peace be upon you.

Last Friday I had a coronectomy. Yesterday, Queen Elizabeth II passed away.

Here are some brief reflections on each of these events:

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Wisdom from a wisdom tooth

A coronectomy involves the removal of the crown of a lower wisdom tooth, whilst keeping the roots in place. My lower right wisdom tooth had been troubling me for a long time and so finally I arranged to get it treated. 

The last week of recovery has been a lot tougher than expected. I’ve had a lot of swelling and pain. My cheek and jaw have been really stiff. I haven’t been able to open my mouth fully to eat properly. Ibuprofen, paracetamol and antibiotics have all been consumed together more than I can remember at any other time in my life. As a result of all this, my mood and productivity haven’t been particularly good!

My point here is not to elicit sympathy, although your prayers are of course very welcome. And I know that what I’ve been through is nothing compared to the many and often much more debilitating health problems that people face, often for years on end. 

But this experience has left me reflecting a lot further on a few verses from the Qur’an that I presented during the last session of Club Revelation. The topic we were discussing was associating partners with God (shirk) and I had a section of verses laid out to answer the following question:

“When are we at greatest risk of association?”

If we are to avoid shirk, we need to be aware of the times when we are most likely to fall into it. 

Consider the following very similar passages:

Whatever good things you possess come from God, and when hardship afflicts you, it is to Him alone you cry out for help, yet when He has relieved you of your hardship — lo and behold! — some of you attribute partners to your Lord. Let them show ingratitude for the favours We have shown them; ‘Enjoy your brief time — soon you will know.’ - Chapter 16, The Bee, Verses 53-5

When something bad happens to people, they cry to their Lord and turn to Him for help, but no sooner does He let them taste His blessing then — lo and behold! — some of them ascribe partners to their Lord, showing no gratitude for what We have given them. ‘Take your pleasure! You will come to know.’ - Chapter 30, The Byzantines, Verses 33-4

It seems the risk of forgetfulness and ascribing partners to God is highest soon after He replaces hardship with ease.

Given that I have indeed been turning to God more during the past week to ask Him to relieve me, I’ve been thinking a lot about two things:

1) I was probably never sufficiently grateful before the surgery for the ability to easily open my mouth to eat nor for the general absence of discomfort in my mouth, cheek and jaw.

2) Once I am fully healed, will I forget what He will have done for me? Will I subconsciously attribute my recovery to other factors in a way that’s disconnected from God altogether and take things for granted once again?

As believers, I think these are the things we need to look out for when we go through trouble. Whilst we know for sure that the difficulty will eventually pass, it’s a chance to think about how we were with God beforehand, as well as the purity of our connection to the Lord who presents us with challenges and is the only one who can relieve us of our pain. 

In order to remind me to keep being grateful for the seemingly small but significant blessing of being able to talk and eat without discomfort, I’m going to keep the little box with the two parts of the removed tooth on my desk for a little while! 

A physical reminder of what we’ve been through can help us keep being grateful for hardship we no longer have to endure.

The Everliving King

The passing of Queen Elizabeth II reminds us of the simple fact that we all die in the end. Royals, peasants, and everyone in between all meet the same inevitable demise.

No matter what their rank, a person’s demonstration of God-consciousness, as measured by Him, is all that counts in the end. 

This occurrence also got me thinking about the names of God, The Everliving (al-Hayy) and The King (al-Malik). I leave you with some verses that may help put the passing of human kings and queens in some context, finishing with the greatest verse of them all: 

Did you think We had created you in vain, and that you would not be brought back to Us? Exalted be God, the true King, there is no god but Him, the Lord of the Glorious Throne! - Chapter 23, The Believers, Verses 115-6

Put your trust in the Everliving God who never dies, and celebrate His praise. He knows the sins of His servants well enough: it is He who created the heavens and earth and what is between them in six periods, and then established Himself on the throne. He is the Lord of mercy, He is the best informed. - Chapter 25, The Criterion, Verses 57-8

God: there is no god but Him, the Everliving, the Everlasting. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. All that is in the heavens and in the earth belongs to Him. Who is there that can intercede with Him except by His leave? He knows what is before them and what is behind them, but they do not comprehend any of His knowledge except what He wills. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth; it does not tire Him to preserve them both. He is the Most High, the Tremendous. - Chapter 2, The Cow, Verse 255

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