(When problems stretch for long, whether it is a serious illness, long-term poverty or suppression and oppression by atrocious governments, many Muslims lose their hope and their faith begins to fade. This is because of their lack of understanding of the concept of suffering in an Islamic context. Not all sufferings are punishments, and neither does Allah become happy to punish a person. This article directs towards the reasons for the sufferings and the way out.)

Allah is Not a Sadist God

“Allah intends easiness upon you, He does not want to put you into difficulties.” [Surah Al Baqarah, 2:185]

There are two types of trials, tribulations and difficulties in life. Most of us fail to distinguish between the two and end up in confusion or more difficulties; many even risk their hereafter by becoming impatient and losing hope. Whenever Allah makes His worshiper and believer pass through some sickness, fear or loss, His intention is not to cause him punishment, but to test him. Such difficulties and trials distinguish between a true and a fake believer. It is better for society if true believers are identified and placed at the forefront than picking a ‘pretending to be pious’ and causing societal confusion and division. Allah is not a sadist God, but the worshipers are impatient.

The Test of Faith is a Must for Entry into Jannah

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There are three essential steps for Imaan (faith) to be acceptable to Allah:

  1. Accepting and submitting with the heart without having any doubts. Even a little doubt can completely finish your Imaan and land you in the Hellfire forever.
  2. Confessing your faith with your tongue is proof that you are a Muslim, and merely agreeing to it in your heart is not enough. The people of Ibrahim knew well that it was the truth that the idols could not be gods but did not declare it. So they remained on Kufr.

    “So they came back to their senses, saying to one another, “You yourselves are truly the wrongdoers!” [Surah Al Anbiya, 21:64]

  1. Acting upon the Belief is proof that you believe in what you utter. It means that you must shun all types of shirk and doubts concerning the pillars of Imaan and perform the obligatory acts punctually.

To sort out the real Muslim from a merely ritual Muslim, Allah always makes those claimants of Islam undergo a test, as announced in the Qur’an,

“Do people think once they say, ‘We believe,’ that they will be left without being put to the test? We certainly tested those before them. In this way, Allah will clearly distinguish between those who are truthful and those who are liars.” [Surah Al Ankabut, 21:2]

There are three lessons to be noted in the above verse:

  1. Just admitting that ‘we believe’ is not enough, but to pass the test of belief is a natural routine.
  2. Such tests of Faith are always for everyone, even those who came before us.
  3. Tests are meant to identify the truthful ones from the fake faithful. These tests are not a punishment or the wrath of Allah.

The Stronger the Imaan, the Harder and Longer the Difficulties

Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas (may Allah be pleased with him) said,

“I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, which of the people are most sorely tested?’ He said, ‘The Prophets, then the next best and the next best. A man will be tested by his level of religious commitment. If his religious commitment is strong, he will be tested more severely, and if his religious commitment is weak, he will be tested by his religious commitment. Calamity will befall a person until he walks on the earth with no sin on him.’” (Classed as Saheeh by al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 143)

The above Hadith has very encouraging lessons:

  1. Even Prophets are not exempted from tests; rather, they undergo the heaviest and most difficult tests, hence the higher the status in the sight of Allah. Prophet Nuh had to endure for 950 years. Zakariya and Yahya were killed, and Yusuf and Isa were plotted to be killed. Prophet Ayub had to undergo severe sickness for around 18 years.
  2. The harder the test (sickness, poverty, fear, insecurity, etc.) the more secure Imaan you have. Every companion underwent difficult times. Abu Bakr Siddique (Allah be pleased with him) underwent the most difficulty among all the believers and therefore he has the highest status after the Prophets. Abu Bakr received a serious beaten for rescuing the Prophet (). The Quraish beat him violently, and his face was so battered that his nose was indistinguishable from his face. Ammar bin Yaser, Bilal, Uthman bin Affan, and Musaib bin Umair all had to undergo a horrific boycott and torture, which, in today’s time, would cause an international uproar if repeated. (The Sealed Nectar: The Early Persecutions)
  3. Allah does not place more difficult tests upon the weak believers in order to safeguard their Imaan. People with weak faith undergo easier tests.
  4. Calamities fall upon the faithful to wipe out their sins.

Then How Long Does Suffering Continue Before the Help of Allah Arrives?

“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 Allāh?’ Indeed the Help of Allah is near.” [Al Baqarah, 2:214]

There is very crucial information and conditions of the arrival of Allah’s help in the above verse. Firstly, poverty and difficulties will descend to an extent that it will seem that they are beyond tolerable. It helps the believers strengthen their faith. Even the prophets cried out along with their supporters, seeking the Help of Allah, it was very near because of their patience and steadfastness.

The early converts to Islam were tested by hunger and boycotts. Utbah bin Ghazwan delivered a sermon on the pulpit and said,

“I saw myself as the seventh of seven with the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), but in early days we did not have any food to eat except the leaves of trees until our gums hurt.” ( Ibn Majah: 4157)

But soon Allah eased their problems and there came a time when the Prophet and his Companions had so much wealth to distribute. Even then they never gave up distributing what they had and neither did they let greed overwhelm them.

In the ayat of Al Baqarah, 177 there are 14 characteristics of the Muttaqeen, and one of them is to endure and remain steadfast during a severe crisis. Allah declares such people to be truthful and pious believers at the end of the verse. This verse is popularly known as the verse of Imaan.

The terms Ba’saee and Dharra’ee wa Heenal Ba’s are noteworthy: Scholars have said that recession in the economy, famine, flood, and food shortages are all such examples of Ba’asaee and Dharra’ee meaning sickness, warfare, death in family etc. Heenal Ba’as is the dominance of enemies during war or after losing a battle.

Glorious Examples of Patience in the Qur’an

Prophet Ayub was severely sick for 18 years and underwent severe hardships. When he was deserted by his entire family only his wife stood by him. She looked after him for his entire sick period and bathed him and dressed his wounds. Once a week two of his brothers used to visit him and stood far and returned. One day one of them said, “ His long illness means he may have committed severe sins.” Upon hearing it, Ayub invoked his Lord,

“‘Harm has afflicted me and You are the Most Merciful.’ So We answered him and removed his affliction and We gave him his family and the like of them with them, as a mercy from Us and a reminder to Worshippers.” [Surah Al Anbiya, 21:83-84]

In Surah Sa’ad, Allah mentions that Ayub endured patiently the sickness that befell him. He kept on saying, “Since Allah bestowed on me for 70 years a life of luxury and goodness, so what if I have to be sick for a few years?”

“Truly, We found him patient. How excellent a slave. Verily, he was ever oft-returning in repentance.” (Surah Sa’d, 38:41-44)

Sabr is a Part of the Process

Prophet Yaqub had to wait patiently for decades until he got his son, Yusuf, back. His famous quote from the Qur’an is echoed in every lecture on sabr by Muslim scholars,

As Sabroon Jamiloon (Patience is beautiful),” [Surah Yusuf, 12:18]

Bani Israel underwent years-long prosecution under Pharoah. They were instructed to cling to sabr and the result was,

“The best promise of your Lord was fulfilled to the Children of Israel because of their patience, and We destroyed what Pharaoh and his people had built and erected.” [Surah Al Araf, 7:137]

Sins Also Invite Sufferings

“Whatever affliction befalls you is because of what your own hands have committed. And He pardons much.” [Surah Shura, 42:30]

“Corruption has spread on land and sea as a result of what people’s hands have done.” [Surah Rum, 30:40]

Many calamities befall because of their disobedience to Allah. We undergo Financial forgery, domestic violence, the spoiling of children, and dominating enemies in recent times because of our very own sins. People who have not committed sins also suffer during such times of calamities. Allah has already cautioned us to be aware of such calamities and sufferings. He says,

“And fear tumult or oppression, which affecteth not in particular (only) those of you who do wrong: and know that Allah is strict in punishment.” [Surah Anfal, 8:25]

The Solution

Command that which is good and stop people from evil, and of course do not exclude yourself from it. This prevents the punishment of Allah from descending upon the people. The Messenger of Allah () said,

“Indeed when people see an oppressor but do not prevent him from (doing evil), Allah will likely punish them all.” (Tafseer ibn Kathir: Al Maidah:105)

Repent and Seek Forgiveness From Allah

The people of Yunus rushed to the jungle and sought forgiveness once they realized that the punishment of Allah was near. Allah forgave them and saved them.

“And We tried them with good (blessings) and evil (calamities) so that they might turn (to Allah’s Obedience).” [Surah Al Araf, 7:168]

Every Prophet asked their people to perform Tawbah. The rule for the situation to improve remains the same even today.

“And O my people, ask forgiveness of your Lord and then repent to Him. He will send [rain from] the sky upon you in showers and increase you in strength [added] to your strength. And do not turn away, [being] criminals.” [Surah Hud, 11:52]

The above verse encourages us to repent for our sins and informs us about the benefits of Tawbah, which has an effect of increasing one’s provisions and gives strength to the weak community, who would have otherwise kept away from Toubah. The Prophet has cautioned that if people do not repent, Allah will not even respond to the supplications of good people among them.

Thus, our suffering can be our expiation of sins, a test of Imaan or a punishment for our deeds. The solution is simple: Have patience, perform Istaghfar, and adopt amr bin maroof wa nahi anil munkar (commanding the good and forbidding the evil).

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Nisaar Nadiadwala

Previously a visiting university faculty member in both Malaysia and Tanzania, Nisaar Nadiadwala is presently based in the UAE as a trainer in Public Speaking and Communication Skills. As a consultant and a coach in the field of Public Speaking, panel discussions, news debates, and in anchoring Radio-TV-Podcast shows, he has helped people to build their careers through polishing their skills in making presentations. Besides being an award-winning speech maker, he has received the honorable title of Top Writer on Quora in 2018 and continues to retain that position: https://www.quora.com/search?q=Nisaar+Nadiadwala In regard to his socio-religious contributions, Nisaar focuses on family issues from an Islamic perspective, trying to cover every segment of the family. His special attention remains the tarbiyah of teenagers, for which he is invited to many Islamic Schools as a consultant and as a speaker on the teenage period of life. He relates his work to the grooming of adolescents, motivating them to adopt the Islamic way of life through his TV series, articles and workshops in community schools. His latest release is an E-book Teen's Deen - a collection of short stories for teenagers - published by www.themuslimfamily.net He has hosted his Pre-Marriage Preparatory Workshop in many cities of India and abroad. His book, I want to marry, but …, is the talk of the community in the desi crowd. Mr. Nadiadwala trains both online and in person through his course packages. He can be contacted at: Nisaar Nadiadwala [mnisaar@gmail.com].

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