Tests of Life; Road to paradise


Why do many people, despite being good and pious, or apparently innocent, suffer severe tribulations in this worldly life? What wrong could a child or an infant, for example, commit so that he or she should have to suffer a fatal disease or even be murdered? Why do we see many good people suffering severe afflictions and calamities that they apparently do not deserve? These questions often plague the mind of people who have had to go through some difficult and trying moments in their lives. However, there is yet another question that everyone going through a difficult situation in his life ought to ask as well- is there a reality behind my apparent difficult situation?

The Qur’an mentions an interesting story about prophet Musa (alayhi salaam) in chapter 18 (surat al –Kahf) beginning from verse 60. In this story, Musa (alayhi salaam) met a person named Kidr, whom Allah had given “special knowledge”, at a place where “two rivers me”. Musa asked him for permission to accompany him in travel. Kidr replied, “you will surely not be able to bear with me. For how can you patiently bear with something you cannot encompassing in your knowledge?” After Musa (alayhis salam) insisted that he would be patient. Kidr allowed him to come with him on condition that he must not question him about anything unless he himself explains it to him.

They came to a place and found a boat. Kidr damaged the boat by making a hole in it. Musa immediately objected saying

“have you made a hole in it so as to drown the people in the boat? You have certainly done an awful thing!'

Khidr replied,

"Did I not tell you that you will not be able to patiently bear with me?"

Musa pleaded with him, saying that he forgot the promise. Moving on, they got to a place where they met a boy, and Khidr killed him. Utterly shocked, Musa (alayhi salaam) exclaimed:

 "What! Have you slain an innocent person without his having slain anyone? Surely you have done a horrible thing."

Khidr replied:

 "Did I not tell 'you that you will not be able to patiently bear with me?"

Musa pleaded again, saying that if he ever questioned him again about anything, then he would be Fully justified in discarding him.

Moving further on, they came to a town where they met hostility but _where they found a wall that was broken and falling apart. Khidr repaired the wall to prevent it from disintegrating. Unable to hold his curiosity, Musa told Khidr that if he wished, he could have gotten a payment for it. Perhaps he was hoping that Khidr would explain the matter to him without him asking a question.

That final comment made Khidr part with Musa:

"This brings me and you to parting of ways",

he said:

"Now I shall explain to you the true meaning of things about which you could not remain patient."

About the boat, he explained, it belonged to some poor people who earned their livelihood from the river. Nearby, there was an oppressive king who was seizing all boats by force. He damaged the boat so that the king will ignore it.

About the boy, his parents were righteous whereas this boy was growing up to be a violent man who would have oppressed them. It was hoped - that Allaah would now provide them with a righteous son. Lastly, about the wall, there was some buried treasure in there for two orphan boys left behind by their righteous father. By fixing the wall and preventing it from falling apart and thus exposing the treasure, he gained time for the boys to grow up and recover their property.

Before leaving, Khidr made his final comment that none of these was done by his own wish, meaning that he was simply executing Allaah's commands.

This story brings out a fact that is central to understanding the Islamic perspectives on trials and tribulations, and that is: Trials and tribulations is not an end on itself. Trials are a painful but temporary part of a process beyond which lies the reality of something good and desirable. Unlike Musa (alayhi salaam) for whom the curtain was briefly lifted a believer cannot see that reality immediately with his mortal eyes, but his faith and knowledge make him fully confident of that reality. With that understanding borne in mind, we will now discuss some of the aspects of trials and tribulations from an Islamic perspective.

Allaah is in Full Control of the Universe and Fully Aware of All Events

Nothing happens in this world except through the leave of Allaah. Therefore, a person who has been suffering from distress should know that Allaah is fully aware of all that has happened or been happening to him. It is not a chaotic world where pain and suffering happens at random, nor is it a lawless universe without a ruler and watcher where the strong - be that a person or a nation - can do whatever it wishes to the weak without a consequence.

The believer should know that Allaah is aware of every little details of everything that happens, so much so that not even a leaf falls from a tree without Allaah being aware of it:

"And with Him are the keys of the Ghaib (all that is hidden), none knows them but He. And He knows whatever there is in (or on) the earth and in the sea; not a leaf falls, but he knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth' nor anything fresh or dry, but is written in a Clear Record." (Q6[An'am]:59)

Therefore, the believer should take relief and comfort from the fact that Allaah is fully and intimately aware of his situations.

Goodness is From Allaah, Evil is From Ourselves A believer must have firm conviction that any good that happens to us comes from Allaah and any calamity that befalls us is the result of our own making:

'And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned, And He pardons much." (Q42[Shuura]:30)

And Allaah's Messenger (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said:

"No affliction great or small afflicts a man but for a sin. But there are more which Allaah forgives." (Tirmidhi)

This does not mean that one will suffer. in the form of calamities in this world, the consequences of every sin or mistake he commits. As the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, Allaah forgives much more sins than the ones from which one suffers or will suffer in the Hereafter. But the important point to understand is that Allaah does not cause injustice to anyone by putting him or her to undue suffering. Our own experience and observations often point to this fact.

When an individuals sits down and reflects upon his difficulties and makes an objective analysis of the events and actions leading to his situations, he will almost always identify some things he did that he should not have done or he did not that he should have done, which led to that situation. For example, for parents who suffer from their rebellious and disobedient teenaged child, it will be found, almost without exception, that they did not arrange his proper Islamic education and agood environment, and did not give it an enough priority to engage themselves with his upbringing. Indifference or inaction can be as serious as committing a sin or making a bad decision, which can lead to grave consequences.

Now, a righteous believer who has been afflicted with a terrible calamity or injustice may wonder: "So what have I done for which I have to suffer as such?" First and foremost, let us be reminded about the fundamental lesson learned from the story of Musa (alayhi salaam) above, which is: there is a reality behind the apparent which can be far different, if not the opposite, from what we observe on the surface. .

Secondly, even when a righteous believer finds no apparent reason for his calamity, self-scrutiny and objective analysis can point out some mistakes or some incorrect decisions made in the past leading to the situation. If, for example, a righteous and pious person with a very high moral character and conduct marries a person without looking for proper Islamic character and conduct in him or her, and subsequently suffers from a bad marriage and from the actions of that unrighteous spouse, then who else should be blamed other than that pious individual himself/herself?

It is the Righteous Believers Who are Tested With Calamities

Achieving Paradise will not be easy. It will come only with unshakable faith and trust in Allaah. A1laah, may He be glorified, says:

“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: "We believe.” and will not be tested.” (Q29[Ankabut]:2)

'and certainly. We shall test you with something at fear, hunger, loss at wealth lives and fruits but give glad tidings to As-Sabirin (the patient ones. etc.)." (Q2[Baqarah]:155)

To how many believers these verses come out as relief and solace! How many hearts of believers, with wild storms and waves in there, have calm down when remembering these verses! Day in and day out, these verses have brought the believers to tranquility and provided them with strength. Their souls then speak out: "Yes, we are tested because we are righteous believers. "  

To have that feeling of being a righteous believer is very comforting indeed. Do our eyes not always witness the fact that it is the righteous people who always suffer with pain, loss, and calamities one after another while the unrighteous always seem to prosper?

Trials are a Sign of Love By Allaah

There are people who maintain the incorrect understanding that whenever they see a believer suffering from some calamity or disease, then it is a reflection of Allaah's wrath on him. Not by any chance! Such people should remember about the Companions of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) who were severely persecuted or even killed after becoming Muslim, an event that wipes out all past sins.

Even the prophets of A1laah, the best of all people who ever. Walked on the face of the earth, were persecuted by their community without exception. Was Yusuf not thrown into a well, sold as a slave, and then thrown back into a prison? Did Ayyub (alayhi salaam) not face severest of trials one after another, and was eventually abandoned by all except his wife? In fact, the Qur'an tells us that many prophets were brutally ki lied by the unbelievers.

These examples should establish the fact that trials and tribulations are not a sign of Allaah's displeasure on someone. Quite the contrary, it is rather a sign of Allaah's love on someone. The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said:

"When Allaah who is Great and Glorious loves people He afflicts them [with trials]." (Tirmidhi)

He also said:  

'Anyone for whom AIlaah intends good, He makes ' (Bukhari)

Therefore, when AIIah loves someone and intends for him or her to go to Paradise, He wipes out his sins and, mistakes and rewards him highly by putting him to afflictions in this world.

Allaah Never Gives a Trial That is Too Great to Bear

Human beings are created weak (04:28).- When a sudden calamity or distress befalls us, we easily become overwhelmed and often cry out, "0 Allaah! This is too much for me to bear!" It never is. The believer should know it for fact that A1laahnever puts any burden on a soul that is beyond its ability to bear:

Perhaps because we often lose sight of this fact that Allaah mentions this in several places In the Qur'an:

"Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope." (Q2[Baqarah]:286)

and He says:

"And We tax not any person except according to his capacity and with Us is a Record which speaks the truth, and they will not be wronged.” (Q23 [Ankabut]:62)

Therefore, no matter how difficult one's situation is or how severe his sufferings, he should have absolutely no doubt in his mind he has the ability to deal with the trial. Allaah is Just, and every affliction that He tests his faithful servant with, there is always two viable outcome for him: passing the test with success and thus earning Allaah's good pleasure, or failing it.

The Stronger the Faith, the Harder the Test, and the Greater the Reward

A believer afflicted with a severe calamity should take comfort from the fact that those who have strong faith are given the harder trials. This is established by the Prophet (salallaahu alayhi wa sal/am). When asked about who suffers the greatest afflictions, he replied:

"The prophets, then those who come next to them, then those who come next to them. A man is afflicted in keeping his religion. If he is firm in his religion his trial is severe, but if there is weakness in his religion it is made light for him, and it continues like that till he walks on the earth having no sin." (Tirmidhi)

Why is it, one may ask, that people who are faithful and righteous should have to suffer? To get an answer, we should ask ourselves: is there any achievement without an effort or any fruit without labour? The obvious pattern that we see in our human experience is that those who work hard and go through the process of struggle are rewarded with success in this materialistic world.

The greatest reward of everything that one can imagine is Paradise. In fact, the bliss and happiness in Paradise is so great that one cannot even imagine it (Q32: 17). How can then one expect that he will achieve this greatest success without him being thoroughly tested to see if he qualifies for it? One should not think that following the rituals, such as making salat five times a day, is enough test for him. The external rituals that we do and the laws of the shari'a that we observe returns immediate benefit to us as they bring peace and happiness to our families and provide us With a healthy social and moral society in which to live and prosper.

Thus, one should not expect that observing Allaah's commandments and reaping these benefits in turn is the only tests. The real test is the test of the heart where faith lives and that is tested with affliction and hardship to check if the faith and trust in Allaah is firm and wellrooted or is it weak and superficial:

"Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: "We believe," and will not be tested. And We indeed tested those who were before them. and Allah will certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars, (although Allah knows all that before putting them to test.)" (Q29[Ankabut]:2-3)

Each believer, therefore, must expect to be tested. The stronger his faith, the harder will be the test, and the greater his reward will be if lie remains patient having unshakable faith and trust in Allaah. The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said:

"The magnitude of 'the reward goes along with the magnitude of the affliction. " (Tirmidhi)

No matter how small the trial or how insignificant the discomfort, Allaah will reward him for that and eliminate some sins. Said the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam):

"No calamity befalls a Muslim but that Allaah expiates some of his sins because of it, even though it were the prick he receives from a thorn." (Bukhari)

The question one should ask himself is: "What is my reflex when I do get a prick of a thorn, or stumble on the street and hurt my toe, or my computer suddenly crashes making me loose some work? Does some uncomely word slips through the mouth to release anger and frustration, or do I stay in control and remain calm, patient, and thankful to Allaah?"

Believers Must Always Be Prepared to Face Trials

The above discussions should make it clear that believers will be tried with calamities, afflictions, and distress, and these trials will continue to occur during their lifetime until they meet their Lord That being the reality, a believer should remain mentally prepared to face any calamity or affliction, although he or she should never seek one. If he is not mentally prepared to face any difficulties in life and then suddenly is afflicted with one, then he may not be able to deal with it properly as he should.

It is, therefore, wise that a believer solidify himself with knowledge from the Qur'an and the Sunnah regarding how to deal with trials and tribulations and then be prepared to face difficulties of life, but without seeking or hoping for any trial. This will help him remain calm and patient and pass the test when it comes, insha Allaah.

This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited

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