Tragedy Begets Resilience

By Suhaib Webb 04-14-2014 | Series:
via TED Conference /

Dancers Christian Lightner and Adrianne Haslet-Davis at TED2014 - The Next Chapter, via TED Conference /

Among the many images of the marathon victims that emerged shortly after the attack, I remember being most struck by the photographs of the injured victims, missing their once sturdy limbs, lying in hospital beds. For me, those images perfectly conveyed how our city was feeling at that moment. We had just had something ripped away from us. We were assaulted, grieving for our loss, and outraged that any human being could dare do this to us.

How would our injured victims respond? Within days, the answer was clear. They would remain resilient. Adrianne Haslet-Davis would dance again, now with a prosthetic limb. Never a runner before, Celeste Corcoran pledged to run a marathon, now on her two prosthetic limbs. And, shaken by the tragedy, Amanda North would quit her job and launch the dream of her own artisan business.

In the noble Quran, God says, "We shall certainly test you with fear and hunger, and loss of property, lives, and crops. But [Prophet], give good news to those who patiently persevere, those who say, when afflicted with a calamity, ‘We belong to God and to Him we shall return.’ These will be given blessings and mercy from their Lord, and it is they who are rightly guided” (2:155 - 157).

Though born and raised in Oklahoma, from 2004 - 2011 I received the opportunity to go to Egypt to complete my Arabic and Islamic Studies. Egypt gave me a lot. I studied under esteemed scholars who challenged me with a mission – to develop a theology and practice of Islam that engaged the best of American life. They understood that Islam as practiced in Egypt would be inadequate for our American reality.

Having grown up in America, the everyday tragedy of Egypt deeply troubled me: children starving in the streets, the rich unabashedly flaunting their wealth, and the state bureaucracy corrupting everyone’s lives. The little solace my friends in Egypt had were the verses above. They turned to God and patiently persevered to live their lives morally and ethically.

Then, in 2011 my friends’ prayers and perseverance were rewarded. In the Egyptian revolution, leaders from all layers of society – liberals, Islamists, conservative Muslims, and Coptic Christians – united to begin the work of renewing Egypt and ending oppression. Hope sprung eternal and dreams were born.

But soon, that spirit of hope and unity began to be tested over and over again until a year later the leaders of Egypt descended into division and violence. Many people in Egypt began to despair. I was heartbroken. While I still remain confident that those who persevere and turn to God will be rewarded with a better Egypt, I learned anew that the spirit of perseverance, hope, and unity is extraordinarily precious.

It is for this reason that our injured victims inspired me so much. They patiently persevered and held on to hope for a better future. And they were just one emblematic example of that spirit. Our faith leaders stood by each other’s congregations and prayed together for the healing of our city. Our medical professionals immediately responded to help the victims. Every person alive at the scene of the tragedy remained alive in the days and weeks after. Our law enforcement officials speedily and professionally apprehended the younger suspect to bring him to justice. Our public officials declared a state of emergency to keep us safe. Our civic institutions became emergency shelters to care for our marathon runners. The city of Boston, my city, rose to address this horrid act. It flexed its muscle, it wrinkled its brow and united. It dug deeper and pronounced. Boston Strong.

As the anniversary of the marathon tragedy approaches, I continue to remain amazed by Boston Strong. If you have not seen Adrianne Haslet-Davis dance, you must. It will bring you to tears. I pray to God that he continues to bless us with this precious spirit of Boston Strong … for now and forever.

Suhaib Webb is an American Muslim Imam, thought leader and educator. In 2009 his website won the Brass Crescent’s best “Blog of the Year” award and he was named by the British Government as a “Moderate Muslim leader” and was named as one of the top 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center 2010 and 2013. He currently resides in Boston, where he serves as the Imam of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center and is the founder and an instructor at Ella Collins Institute of Islamic and Cultural studies. Imam Webb was the face of the American Muslim response to Boston last year and has seasoned experience giving interviews having been on Face the Nation and CNN over the course of the past year.

This post was published in partnership with Shoulder to Shoulder.

Photo: Dancers Christian Lightner and Adrianne Haslet-Davis at TED2014 - The Next Chapter, March 17-21, 2014, Session 6 - Wired, Vancouver Convention Center, Vancouver, Canada. Photo: Ryan Lash, via TED Conference /


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