By Ekram Haque
If you think Muslims are being tried, you have company. Millions of Muslims are thinking likewise. In fact, even non-Muslims are wondering about the downward spiral of the once-dominant Islamic civilization.
No doubt we are in a prolonged period of trial, prolonged from our standard, as Allah’s measurement of time is different. The Quran says:
He arranges (every) matter from the heavens to the earth, then it (the matter) will go up to Him, in one Day, the space whereof is a thousand years of your reckoning. [Sûrat Al-Sajdah, 32:5]
It is clear from the Quran that a couple of centuries of our suffering translate to less than a day for the Creator of time. Yet, our hasty nature makes us complain. Many of us just cannot fathom why people with the best Book of Guidance, the Quran, should be in the worst situation. From the Middle East to Central Asia and Africa to Asia, Muslim lands are ruled, with few exceptions, by tyrants who are enemies of spiritual, material, and technological progress.
Muslim lives in general are caught up in an ongoing cycle of violence, fear, stagnation and despair. A United Nations report on the Arab world a few years ago highlighted the shocking backwardness of the Arab societies. For example, it said that for all the books published in the Arab world in a year, Spain alone published more! It’s hard to imagine a worse tribute for Muslims whose religion began with word “iqra,” read! Through the tyranny of Muslim leaders and decadence of our societies we are being tried, and there seems to be no end in sight.
Who Is To Blame?
People often take trials to be a bad thing. Yes, trials can be a form of punishment from Allah for our transgressions, but they may also be a means of cleansing our sins and elevating our status in Paradise, provided we patiently endure them. One thing is certain: there is no escaping the trials. In some of the most lucid verses of the Quran, Allah says:
And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to the patient ones, who, when afflicted with calamity, say: “Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.” They are those on whom are the blessings from their Lord, and (they are the ones who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are guided. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:155-157]
A ḥadîth of Prophet Muhammad œ further elaborates these verses. He said:
The affairs of a believer are amazing. If he is in good times he thanks Allah, and that is good for him. If he is afflicted with trial, he is patient, and that is good for him. (Muslim)
The same message is reiterated in the following two aḥadîth:
Hardships continue to befall a believing man and woman in their body, family and property, until they meet Allah burdened with no sins.” (Bukhâri) And:
Whenever Allah intends good for a person, He subjects him to adversity. (Aḥmad)
In fact when a person has everything good going for him—robust health, obedient and successful children, and plenty of wealth—that may become a bigger trial, as he may forget to thank Allah for His bounties. But whether good times or bad, all are part of Allah’s decree. Our life, in essence, is a combination of easy and difficult times for a Divine purpose.
When Muslims suffered big losses in the Battle of Uḥud, Allah reminded them in these words:
If a wound (and killing) has touched you, be sure a similar wound (and killing) has touched the others. And so are the days (good and not so good), We give to men by turns, that Allah may test those who believe, and that He may take martyrs from among you. [Sûrat Al ʿImrân, 3:140]
And in another ayah, Allah challenges the believers:
Do you think that you will enter Paradise before Allah tests those of you who fought (in His Cause) and (also) those who are patient? [Sûrat Âl ʿImrân 3:142]
Looking around today we find that a lot of Muslims are mishandling the bad events of our time; they are complaining and blaming others. Faced with the turmoil in their societies, some of them are selling and betraying fellow-Muslims for power, money or to save themselves and their families from harm. In some cases they have become enemies of their brethren, raiding mosques, arresting scholars or killing them for taking a stand for the truth.
All of this seems utterly senseless, and the Prophet œ had prophesied about this in words similar to these:
There will come a time when the killer will not know why he killed and the one killed will not know why he was killed. (Muslim)
Sound familiar in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria?
The Muslim disunity and betrayal of each other is a big part of our current trial. It’s not just others who are bent upon our destruction; our own actions are aiding and abetting the enemy.
What Is To Be Done?
Firstly, we should unite and persevere in the path of Truth no matter how intense the trials are.
If we think that the persecution of Muslims by their own hands and the draconian laws being devised against them around the world are water over the bridge, we are mistaken. Other nations have been tested more intensely, as the Quran records:
Do you think that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with severe poverty and ailments and were so shaken that even the Messenger and those who believed along with him said, “When (will come) the help of Allah? ” Yes! Certainly, the help of Allah is near! [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:214]
This was the reason why the Prophet œ became upset when a Companion came complaining to him about the severity of persecution in Makkah. He told him about the hardships the followers of other prophets underwent.
Muslims enjoyed centuries of progress and prosperity, but when they forsook the Straight Path and began building palaces and going after desires they debased themselves and invited the same fate as befell others before them.
Allah had warned them:
And be not like those who forgot Allah and He caused them to forget their own selves. [Sûrat Al-Ḥashr, 59:19]
Allah called such people rebels against Him and made clear that the punishment is directly linked to our own wrong doing as He wills no injustice to the worlds. [Sûrat Âl ʿImrân, 3:108]
However, there is a timeless promise from Him, a promise of victory for those who honor their covenant with Allah, as recorded in the Quran:
Allah has promised those among you who believe, and do righteous good deeds, that He will certainly grant them succession to (the present rulers) in the earth, as He granted it to those before them, and that He will grant them the authority to practice their religion, that which He has chosen for them (i.e. Islam). And he will surely give them in exchange a safe security after their fear. [Sûrat Al-Nûr, 24:55]
Secondly, realizing that Muslims are being tried is a good start. It honestly reflects the reality of our situation. The next logical step is to examine its causes and make amends. Trials are from Allah’s decree, and our actions are a part of that decree. More than anything else, trials are a cleansing process, an expiation of our sins, and a factor behind the raising of our status, only if we understand and persevere through them patiently.
However, despite the inherent benefits of trials, we should never stop working to reform ourselves. In so doing we will not contradict the decree of Allah. Muslims should remember and firmly believe that Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change what is within them.
While the ordinary Muslims struggle, there is a big responsibility on the observant Muslims to move beyond personal piety and become muṣliḥûn (reformers of their societies).
Even though the picture of the Muslim Ummah seems all too gloomy today, we need to seek solace in Allah’s promise that with every difficulty there is ease. [Sûrat Al-Sharḥ, 94:6]