The liver is one of the most important laboratories in the body – an incredibly vital organ – that we often take for granted even though it performs key functions. Without it, the body would refuse to function. Everything that we put in our mouth – whether its garbage or otherwise – must go through the liver before it does anything useful elsewhere in the body.
In the Qur’an, there is one particular term – a hapax legomena– that caught my attention and that is the term ‘kabad’. Allaah says: ‘Verily, we have created al-insaan (humankind) in a state of kabad’ (4:90). The word kabad (to mean: affliction, distress, toil and trial) shares the same root with kabid (to mean: liver).
The liver is in a state of constant suffering in its bid to purify the body’s blood. Its duty is to toil uninterruptedly and graciously – to process the useful and reject the harmful. It’s a resilient organ that’s easy to ignore – until something goes wrong. Just like the liver, mankind is born to struggle and strive; and since we are born to struggle, we are also born to conquer. In a continual state of struggle, humans survive and evolve facing challenges so that their choices have meaning and purpose.
The liver is the only organ in the body that, if chopped down to a fraction of its initial size, will rapidly regenerate and perform as if brand-new. It can withstand 80% to 90% loss in function before symptoms occur. Similarly, the human spirit is remarkably resilient, adjusting to seemingly unbearable circumstances, when fortitude and patience are exercised. Suffering of all kinds is necessary for the cultivation and expression of the strength of character. It’s a requisite to navigate through life and accomplish much of significance.
The liver has to taste (process) the harmful substances that we ingest before it can commence the detoxification method. Similarly, we have to go through tough times in order to appreciate the change and develop resilience. Without ever tasting any adversity or any knowledge of what it may mean, would the feeling of respite and comfort become meaningless? Without misery, would joy and happiness lose meaning? How would one know how to truly appreciate happiness if they had never felt sadness? Trials are meant to test our resolve, to assess our mettle, to enable us to make the best decisions and compound it with perseverance or reactively wince it with impatience and sprinkling doubt on the certainty (i.e. relief after every hardship). The selfless liver doesn’t complain when faced with an infection, it will proactively fight the good fight until it succeeds or its functions are hampered and even then, it still refuses to complain until it throws in the final towel.
We were all born crying whilst our loved ones laughed in happiness for our arrival. We navigate through life’s uncertainties, oscillating between the calm before the storm and the actual storm and in the process build character and establish our authentic self through struggle. We aim to leave this world laughing and feeling content whilst our loved ones will cry at our departure.
To the human condition: to joy and loss, happiness and despair, passion and tears, bliss and remorse. Struggle is inevitable so strive beautifully.