Do you ever find yourself resting your head on the window of a moving vehicle, taking a deep breath as you take the sight in looking at the sky, and you magically feel better after? Nature is engrossing – staring into it is secretively relieving with no thought – so what if we give it thought?
Personally, I find no greater solace than in nature; its enormity often leaves me in ponder, and its cyclic precision leaves me in awe and wonder. But nothing spiritually transcends me the way the sky does. Perhaps it is something about its vastness that transports me elsewhere, or the fact it is constantly there; what I do know for sure is that a few moments of skygazing can get me through a lot of distress.
Looking Up, Looking In
[And] who created seven heavens in layers. You do not see in the creation of the Most Merciful any inconsistency. So return [your] vision [to the sky]; do you see any breaks?” [Qur’an 67:3] (1)
Something about looking at the sky puts one into a much larger context. In a sense, you perceive that there is so much under the sky’s ceiling and how, amazingly, small and insignificant what you are worried about is – how amazingly small and insignificant you are in a way that is comforting rather than bittering or belittling.
There is the realization that the world is full of wonders – there is the moon, the stars, the ongoing cycle of day and night – and there is you. Every other creature is orbiting in consistency; you look up at the sky every day, and even though it gets dark and sometimes gloomy, even though it rains, it is in a constant state of precision. You look in – why would your cycle, as a much more substantial creature, be any less precise?
Do they not see that Allah, who created the heavens and earth and did not fail in their creation, is able to give life to the dead? Yes. Indeed, He is over all things competent.” [Qur’an 46:33] (2)
The classic saying suggests that ‘the sky is your limit’, but I say, looking at the sky brings proof that all possibilities are limitless. Maybe it is about its vastness – or how it seems like nothing stops up there. Everything about the sky just speaks about God’s greatness and ability. And there is more to think about in the notion of the human being a relatively less significant creation. God the Almighty says:
The creation of the heavens and earth is greater than the creation of mankind, but most of the people do not know.” [Qur’an 40:57] (3)
The mere thought is awing – if such an immense creation was made with no fail, if my creation is much smaller, how is it that whatever I seek is not within reach if God wills for it to be?
Weakness (and Submission)
Whoever should hope for the meeting with Allah – indeed, the term [decreed by] Allah is coming. And He is the Hearing, the Knowing.” [Qur’an 29:5] (4)
Perhaps the conversation about strength lacks nuance in our materialistic world but being weak can be quite empowering when you realize that your affairs go beyond you. God the Almighty says:
And Allah wants to lighten for you [your difficulties]; and mankind was created weak.” [Qur’an 29:5] (5)
Accepting that your weakness is inherent and that you innately lack patience in face of temptation, in knowledge and in will, and in resolving your overwhelming emotions will help you submit.
Maybe the sky helps with this because it makes you realize how little you know. Apparently, there is outer space, there are over 125 billion galaxies in the observable universe, the smallest stars are actually 20 to 40 km in diameter, but when you stare out your window on any given night, do you see anything but absolute darkness adorned with some light? How much do you actually know?
Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding.” [Qur’an 3:190] (5)
To conclude, in a published diary about struggle, I read a quote that resonates with me years later: “The stars are always there but we miss them in the dirt and clouds. We miss them in the storms. Tell them to remember hope. We have hope”. But I do not think it is about remembering that there is hope; hope is stagnant, it has no power or will. But the signs in the stars, in the sky, in the lands, they are a means to something much greater.
Tell them to remember God. We have God.