Life is struggle. Qur’anic verse 90:4 confirms that this is the natural order of things, saying, “We have created humankind into toil and difficulty.” The trouble is not evenly distributed – some of us endure relatively minor discomforts while others are made to bear the unbearable. The difficulties of each are unique and yet we share together in the struggle to overcome or resign ourselves to physical or psychological challenges, oppressive circumstances, or even just the daily grind. What does it mean when the Qur’an says that we are created into this? And what are we to do? The point of this talk and conversation will not be to try and figure anything out, but rather to look to Qur’anic verses and Sufi stories in order to imagine how the inevitable struggle might become a beautiful struggle.
Kristin Zahra Sands is a Professor of Islamic Studies at Sarah Lawrence College and the author of Sufi Commentaries on the Qur’an in Classical Islam. She is currently working on an English translation of Abu’l Qasim al-Qushayri’s Lata’if al-Isharat for the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought’s tafsir project.