Translation from Ibn Al-Jawzi’s Sayd Al-Khatir (Quarry of the Mind) | Strength During Times of Hardship

 Strength During Times of Hardship

THE BELIEVER’S FAITH is demonstrated during hardships. He fervently supplicates to His Lord, and does not see any signs of Him answering his pleas, yet his hopes and anticipation do not change, and even if the reasons for disappointment become stronger, he knows that for sure, the True One is more knowledgeable of the wisdom behind every happenstance (in his life).

It may be that what Allah wants from the believer is a display of patience or faith, for indeed He does not send upon him these hardships except that He wants from his heart submission to His will, so that He may see how the patience of His slave is, or He wants from His slave lots and lots of pleading and supplication.

As for those who want their supplications to be answered quickly, and start complaining if there is a delay, then this points towards a weakness in faith. Such a person feels that he has a right to have his supplications answered, and it is as if he is demanding a payment for his acts [of obedience].

This brings to the mind the story of Ya¢qûb, whose trial lasted for eighty years, yet his hope [in Allah’s Mercy and eminent aid] did not falter and even when he was faced with the added loss of his son Benjamin (Bin Yâmîn), after having suffered the loss of Joseph (Yûsuf). Still, his hopefulness remained firm, as we see from his words: ‘It may be that Allah will return to me all of them![1]

This meaning is also made apparent through the following words of Allah:

Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such [trial] has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until [even their] messenger and those who believed with him said, “When is the help of Allah [going to come]?” Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:214]

It should also be known here that even this [cry of desperation] does not come forth from the prophets and believers until and unless their trial has become so protracted that they start feeling nearer to hopelessness than to relief.

And of this category are the words of Prophet Muhammad œ:

Goodness remains with the slave as long as he does not become impatient.’ He was asked:  ‘Impatient about what?’ He œ replied: ‘He says: ‘I prayed, but my prayers were not answered.’[2]

Hence, I beseech you, do not lose faith when a hardship appears to linger longer than you expect it to be. Do not tire of making supplication after supplication. For indeed the one who is tested with hardships worships Allah through patience and prayers. So do not despair of the Mercy of Allah, even if when a scourge appears to be endless.

 

Sources of Error

I CONSIDERED THE [affairs of] creation, and saw that men were in a very strange state, which was almost destroying their minds [or intellects].

A human being, for instance, listens to admonitions, and when he is reminded of the hereafter, he knows that the speaker is speaking the truth, hence he cries and regrets his negligence and heedlessness and resolves to make amends, but then his actions falter and weaken and fails to make good on his resolutions.

Then, when it is said to him: ‘Do you doubt what you have been promised?’ He replies, ‘No, by Allah!’ Then it is said to him: ‘Then do [what Allah has required of you],’ and he resolves to do them, but then stops doing them [later on].’

And it may be that he becomes inclined to knowingly partake of that which is forbidden.

In this category, belong the three Companions[3], who remained behind without any valid excuse [for not setting forth with the Prophet to fight the Romans]. In fact, all of the sinners and transgressors come under this category.

Then I considered the reason why sometimes a believer fails to act although he possessed sound belief, and realized that this is caused by three things.

The first is when a person keeps his eyes on fleeting desires, as focusing on such desires keeps one from thinking about their consequences.

The second is to put off repentance, for if the mind were present and aware, it would most surely warn against the evils of procrastination–such as death, which may come upon the person even before he gets a chance to repent.

It is strange how a person could have his soul snatched away in a second and yet does not take life seriously. Indeed, vain desires make a person feel like he has a lot of time. The Prophet œ said: Offer salah as if it is the last one.[4] This, indeed, is the ultimate cure for the disease of procrastination in religious duties. For if one thinks that he may not remain until his next prayer, he will take it seriously and make an effort [to perfect it].

The third is [negative] hope in [Allah’s] mercy. Thus the sinner is seen to be saying: ‘My Lord is Merciful,’ whilst he forgets that He is also stern in His Punishment.[5]

If only such a person knew that His Mercy is not  lax (a sign of weakness)! For if it were, neither would He [allow] the slaughter of a bird, nor would He ever (allow) a child to be hurt, for He has prescribed cutting off the hands, for stealing even a mere amount of five dirhams. [6]

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[1] This is part of verse 83 of Sûrat Yûsuf (Chapter 12).

[2] Reported by Imam Aḥmad in his Musnad.

[3] Ibn Al-Jawzi is referring here to the story of the three Companions (K¢ab ibn Mâlik, Hilâl ibn ¢Umayyah, and Murarah ibn Al-Rabî¢), who failed, without a valid excuse, to join the Prophet and the rest of the Muslims in a military expedition against the Romans. The Prophet ordered Muslims to ostracize them. For fifty days the three Companions languished under a severe boycott. Then at the end of those fifty days Allah accepted their tawba and the Prophet lifted the boycott decision against them. For more details of this instructive story see commentaries on âyah 118 of Sûrat Al-Tawbah.

[4] Part of a ḥadîth reported by Imam Aḥmad in his Musnad.

[5] There are a several Qur’anic passages in which Allah couples His mercy with His punishment, e.g., verse 167 of Sûrat Al-A¢râf (Chapter 7).

[6] On the authority of ¢Âishah who said, “The Prophet said, ‘A hand is cut off when the stolen object is worth a gram of gold or more.’” (Bukhâri and Muslim)

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