What should you say to a girl who feels guilty about the death of her brother?
Chapter 1

الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُواْ إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ أُولَـئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ وَأُولَـئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ (سورۃ البقرة, آيۃ 156-157)

When an affliction befalls them, they say, "We belong to GOD, and to Him we are returning." These have deserved blessings from their Lord and mercy. These are the guided ones. (Surah, The Cow, Verses 156-157)

Bushra is a seventh-grade pupil, an attractive, pampered girl, whose school grades are mediocre. During the spring recess, the family went for a weeks' vacation to a hotel at the sea. This was a real vacation, a different atmosphere of sea and sun, and everyone in the family was having a wonderful time.

One afternoon they were playing in the sea, making up various competitive games. As it got darker, Bushra suggested to her brothers a race to see who could get out of the water and reach the beach first. Bushra put all her energy into the race and didn't look behind her. When she reached the shore panting, she saw her brothers running behind her. She was happy to have beaten them. Suddenly she heard a loud scream. Her younger brother shouted that one of her brothers was missing. Bushra dashed along the beach, screaming to her parents and the lifesaver. When they finally got the brother out of the water, he was dead.

Bushra blamed herself for the terrible tragedy. Had she not suggested a race to her brothers, she said, she wouldn't have left them and her brother would not have drowned. Bushra felt that the loss was driving her crazy. I didn't know it was a "game of death", she said.

At the end of the school vacation, all the children returned to school, but Bushra refused. "How can I go back without my brother?" she said. "I'm embarrassed to meet everyone," she added, "and to hear them say that I killed my brother." Bushra remembered how she used to help her brother with his homework, and really believed there was no reason to continue learning, because she had no one to help.

The school counselor and the teacher decided to take action. They spoke to Bushra and her family and tried to cheer them up. They said that it was God's will and that everyone returns to Him, that he is responsible for death and Bushra was not to blame. The counselor asked Bushra to read aloud Verse 156 from the Sura, 'The Cow': "When an affliction befalls them, they say, 'We belong to GOD, and to Him we are returning.' These have deserved blessings from their Lord and mercy. These are the guided ones."

Maybe it really wasn't my fault, Bushra murmured for the first time. After all, we were playing and how could I have known that the sea would suddenly pull him down. Mom and Dad also didn't know. It seems that it really was God's will.

Explanation: In life, people are liable to encounter various tragedies, some they are responsible for, others they are not responsible for, and sometimes those they are partially responsible for. The Quran consistently exhorts people to be responsible for their actions and not to impose blame on others. This verse deals with tragedies that are not our fault and that we are incapable of preventing. In these cases there is no need for a person to punish himself with unnecessary guilt feelings and feelings of depression. Rather, the person needs to understand that it is God's will. This is the case with Bushra. A small child, only in seventh grade, who was given the responsibility of looking after her brothers, without being aware of the vagaries of the sea, and its unpredictable and dangerous way of behaving. Does she have to blame herself all her life? Possibly her parents are responsible for what happened. Small children should not be allowed to go far into the sea without adult supervision. It is reasonable to assume that had the parents looked after their children better, the tragedy would not have happened. The parents thus cannot say the verse from the Quran, but Bushra can and should say it, because she is not responsible.