In mythological stories, the hero sometimes has to battle a great beast in order to survive, or rescue someone, or get his hands on some magnificent treasure. Three headed beasts, or fire-breathing dragons, or shape shifters who represent the character’s greatest fear. Usually, these characters are taken to the brink of failure and stare into the gaping mouth of the beast before they try one last blow, and finally succeed.
We will all stare into into the open mouth of a beast at some point in our lives. Sometimes many times.
I was reading the story of Prophet Musa (as) the other day and something interesting struck me. His mother feared for his life because Pharaoh had sent his army to kill all the infant boys of bani Israel. So she put him in a basket or chest and pushed him into the river, away from the danger that was nearing their doorstep.
Except he didn’t drift away into some quiet, distant place of safety. He floated right into the home of Pharaoh himself – right into the home of the very person who wanted him dead. He was inside the mouth of the beast – a beast who had the potential to snap his jaws shut and devour Musa whole.
Except he didn’t because the beast was tamed and quieted by Allah (swt).
It was because of his entry into the home of Pharaoh that Musa (as) was able to grow into adulthood. Aasiya (ra) convinced Pharaoh to take the child in, and consider him their son. And then, even after Musa was saved from being killed, he didn’t just live his life in the palace. He was able to return to his mother so that “she might be content and not grieve and that she would know that the promise of Allah is true” (28:13).
As an infant he went to the most dangerous place he could possibly go, and then emerged safely, landing back in the arms of his mother.
“…perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good” (4:19).
You know what’s strange? We often spend our lives running away from what we consider to be our greatest fears. We build walls to separate us from the possibility of running into them. We hide away, afraid of what these fears, these “beasts” might do to us.
My greatest fear was losing my husband. I would worry if he was 15 minutes late. I would worry if his phone died and I couldn’t get a hold of him. If he had a night shift at his pharmacy, I would sleep fitfully until he returned. I knew losing him was my greatest fear.
And then it happened. It happened, and I stared into the dark mouth of my grief. I was taken to the place I most feared. My grief said to me, “I will devour you whole, crunching and grinding and destroying you, until there is nothing left.” And there were times I believed it.
But Allah (swt) tamed this beast for me. And He made me able to stand over it, victorious, treasure chest in hand.
Sometimes in your life, you’re going to be taken right to the mouth of the beast. It’s going to snarl at you. It’s going to gnash its sharp, jagged teeth at you. It’s going to taunt you by showing you its other victims. Except those beasts, those fears, those tests have no power except the power you give them.
And you know what? In the places you most fear, you’ll often find the greatest benefit.
In Surat Taha when Allah (swt) is speaking to Musa, He reminds him that his mother cast him into the river and Musa drifted into the place that was most feared, but was brought out unscathed. Not only unscathed, but protected – with the love of Aasiya, in addition to the love of his mother.
“And I bestowed upon you love from Me that you would be brought up under My eye” (20:39).
And then He says, “And I have prepared thee for Myself (for service).” Allah (swt) was preparing Musa for his task or prophethood from the moment he was born – guiding him, protecting him, strengthening him.
So next time you’re standing in front of one of your greatest fears, say to it: Allah is preparing me, through you, for my task too.