What should you say to a girl who feels guilty about her father's death?
Chapter 1

يْنَمَا تَكُونُواْ يُدْرِككُّمُ الْمَوْتُ وَلَوْ كُنتُمَْ فِي بُرُوجٍ مُّشَيَّدَةٍ وَإِن تُصِبْهُمْ حَسَنَةٌ يَقُولُواْ هَذِهِ مِنْ عِندِ اللّهِ وَإِن تُصِبْهُمْ سَيِّئَةٌ يَقُولُواْ هَذِهِ مِنْ عِندِكَ قُلْ كُلًّ مِّنْ عِندِ اللّهِ فَمَالِ هَؤُلاء الْقَوْمِ لاَ يَكَادُونَ يَفْقَهُونَ حَدِيثًا (سورۃ النساء, آيۃ 78)

Wherever you are, death will catch up with you, even if you live in formidable castles. When something good happens to them, they say, "This is from GOD," and when something bad afflicts them, they blame you. Say, "Everything comes from GOD." Why do these people misunderstand almost everything? (Sura Women, Verse 78)

Samira, a fourth-grade pupil, excelled in her studies and everything else at school until about five months ago when her father took her for tests to a nearby hospital. A vehicle traveling in the opposite lane crossed into their lane and crashed head on into them. Her father was killed instantly, and she, who was sitting in the back, sustained only light injuries. When Samira returned to school a month later, both her personality and her behavior seemed to have changed significantly. She had become a very quiet child, participating neither in the lessons nor the school activities, and her grades fell drastically. When an announcement is made about a parents' meeting or when the pupils are requested to obtain their parents' permission for an activity outside the school, she bursts into tears. When anyone tries to calm her down she is reminded of her father and blames herself for causing his death. "Because of me we went for tests that day," she keeps repeating. "There's no happiness, no point in living and no hope without my father who I killed," she sobs bitterly. The teacher began to worry that Samira might harm herself, and decided to refer her to the school counselor.

Samira went to meet the counselor and told her story. When she started crying, the counselor opened the Quran at Verse 78 of the Sura 'Women' and asked Samira to read aloud slowly and clearly: "Wherever you are, death will catch up with you, even if you live in formidable castles." How do you understand this verse?, the counselor asked. "That it is God who decides about life and death, and no one can run away from what God decides." That's good, said the counselor. What does it say about you? "That I'm not to blame," said Samira with a slight smile as she dries her tears. "That it's God's will and I'm not to blame," she repeated. The counselor smiled back at her.

Explanation: Children (girls possibly more than boys) often feel guilty for something that they were not responsible for and that was out of their control. Samira thinks that she killed her father, because according to her logic she was responsible for the fact that they went for tests that day. It is difficult for her to think that what happened was out of her control, and what is out of her control is also not her responsibility. Of course this can be explained to her in various ways. She can be told that her father could have been involved in a road accident at another time and place. She can be told that children always ask their parents to take them places, but this doesn't mean that the child is responsible for the road and for the driving. Maybe she could be told how much she would like things to be dependent on her, because in that case she could have saved her father. However, there is no stronger and more calming statement than the verse in the Quran which emphasizes that it is God who determines people's fates and not the girl Samira. From now on she will no longer have to carry around the terrible burden of guilt.

It should be pointed out that we will not use this sentence in all instances of manslaughter, and certainly not in cases of murder. In a situation of negligence, for example when a driver kills someone while under the influence of alcohol, and certainly in the case of premeditated murder, we will not make use of this sentence that places the responsibility on God. In these cases we will refer to verses in the Quran that talk about a person's responsibility for his actions and his fate.