|Those afflicted with calamities and distress should remember the story of Prophet Job (Qur’an calls him Aiyub). Ah! What a heart-melting story of pain and suffering, of patience and forbearance, of faith and gratitude, and ultimately of reward and success! Ibn Kathir, a ninth century scholar, mentioned this story in detail in his Qisas al-Anbia (“Stories of the Prophets”). We reproduce the story below with some abridgment since no discussion on trials and tribulations can be considered completed without drawing lessons from this servant of Allah, who was truly a paragon of patience and faith.
Prophet Job (p) was a very wealthy man having many animals, lands, slaves, and children. He was a very patient man and was never arrogant or selfish. He worshipped Allah and was always humble and grateful to him. From his riches, he would help the poor and the needy with food and clothes. He would buy slaves and set them free. When he helped people, he made them feel as if they are favoring him by accepting his gifts. Such a noble person was he that one day the angels were discussing about him and praising him as a model servant of Allah.
Satan overheard their comments and became annoyed. He tried to seduce him with evil thoughts and distract him from prayers and worshipping Allah. But Job was firm in his faith and did not let the whispers of Satan tempt him.
Failing in his attempts to seduce Job, Satan complained to Allah about Job saying that although he was continuously glorifying Allah, he was not doing so out of his sincerity but to satisfy Allah so that his wealth should not be taken away. It was all a show, all out of greed. “If You remove his wealth then You will find that his tongue will no longer mention Your name and his praying will stop.”
Allah told Satan that Job was one of His most sincere devotees, and to prove this to him, Allah allowed him to do whatever he and his helpers wished with Job’s wealth. Happy with this authority, Satan gathered his helpers and set about destroying Job’s cattle, servants, and farms until he was left with no possessions. He then appeared before Job in the guise of a wise old man and said to him:
All your wealth is lost. Some people say that it is because you gave too much charity and that you are wasting your time with your continuous prayers to Allah. Others say that Allah has bought this upon you in order to please your enemies. If Allah had the capacity to prevent harm, then He would have protected your wealth.
True to his belief, Job replied:
What Allah has taken away from me belongs to Him. I was only its trustee for a while. He gives to whom He wills and withholds from whom He wills.
With these words, Job went to prostration out of his humbleness and gratitude to Allah (swt).
Seeing this, Satan was frustrated. He again complained to Allah:
I have stripped Job of all his possessions, but he still remains grateful to You. However, he is only hiding his disappointments, for he places great store by his many children. The real test of a parent is through his children. You will then see how Job will reject You.
Allah granted Satan authority, but warned him that it would not reduce Job’s faith in his Lord nor his patience.
Satan gathered his helpers and shook the foundation of the house in which Job’s children were living and sent the building crashing, killing all of them. Then he went to Job disguised as a man who had come to sympathize with him. In a comforting tone he said to Job:
The circumstances under which your children died were sad. Surely, your Lord is not rewarding you properly for all your prayers.
Job, firm in his faith, replied:
Allah sometimes gives and sometimes takes. He is sometimes pleased and sometimes displeased with our deeds. Whether a thing is beneficial or harmful to me, I will remain firm in my belief and remain thankful to my Creator.
He then prostrated again to his Lord.
At this Satan was extremely vexed. He again called on Allah:
O my Lord, Job’s wealth is gone, his children are dead, but he is still healthy in body, and as long as he enjoys good health he will continue to worship You in the hope of regaining his wealth and producing more children. Grant me authority over his body so that I may weaken it. He will surely neglect worshipping You and thus become disobedient.
Allah wanted to teach Satan a lesson that Job was a devoted servant of Him, and so He granted Satan his third request but placed a condition:
I give you authority over his body but not over his soul, intellect, or heart, for in these places reside the knowledge of Me and My religion.
Armed with this new authority, Satan began to take revenge on Job’s body and filled it with disease until it was reduced to mere skin and bone, making him suffer severe pain. But through all the suffering Job remained strong in his faith, patiently bearing all the hardships without complaining. He did not despair, nor did he turn to others for help but remained hopeful of Allah’s Mercy. Even close relatives and friends deserted him. Only his kind loving wife stayed with him who remained his sole companion and comforter through many years of his suffering.
In desperation, Satan went to Job’s wife in the form of a man, and asked, “Where is your husband?”
She pointed to an almost lifeless form crumpled on the bed and said: “There he is, suspended between life and death.”
Satan reminded her of the days when Job had good health, wealth and children. Suddenly, the painful memory of yeas of hardship overcame her, and she burst into tears. She said to Job:
How long are you going to bear this torture from our Lord? Are we to remain without wealth, children or friends forever? Why don’t you call upon Allah to remove this suffering?
Job sighed, and in a soft voice replied, “Satan must have whispered to you and made you dissatisfied. Tell me, how long did I enjoy good health and riches?”
She replied, “For eighty years.”
Then Job asked, “How long am I suffering like this?”
She said, “For seven years.”
Then Job told her, “In that case I am ashamed to call on my Lord to remove the hardship, for I have not suffered longer than the years of good health and plenty. It seems that your faith has weakened and you are dissatisfied with the fate of Allah. If I ever regain health, I swear I will punish you with a hundred strokes! From this day onward, I forbid myself to eat or drink anything from your hand. Leave me alone and let my Lord do with me as He pleases.”
Crying bitterly and with a heavy heart, she had no choice but to leave him and seek shelter elsewhere. In his helpless state, Job turned to Allah, not to complain but to seek His mercy:
Verily, distress has seized me, and You are the Most Merciful of all those who show Mercy. (21:83)
What a man of patience, faith, and self-respect! Even in this miserable condition, he did not ask Allah to remove his affliction but merely stated that He is the Most Merciful of all who have mercy!
Can there be any trial more difficult and painful then what Job went through one after another? He lost all his wealth and property, all of his children were killed when the roof collapsed, his friends and people left him, and he suffered from a sever skin disorder for years. Yet, he did not complained to Allah nor was he dissatisfied with Him throughout these extremely difficult trials. The result of his patience and faith in Allah was this: he came out of all these trials with superb success. He asked for Allah’s Mercy, and rushing down
So We answered his call, and We removed the distress that was on him, and We restored his family to him (that he had lost) and the like thereof along with them – as a mercy from Ourselves and a Reminder for all who worship Us. (21:84)
Allah (swt) praised him in the Qur’an, saying:
Truly We found him full of patience and constancy, how excellent in Our service! Ever did he turn (to Us)! (38:44)
And He rewarded him with more than what he had:
And We gave him (back) his people and doubled their number as a Grace from Ourselves and a thing for commemoration for all who have understanding. (38:43)
The verse above significantly ends with “for all who have understanding.” Indeed, for people of understanding, there are lessons to be learned from the example of Job, a mortal human being who left behind immortal lessons for patience, forbearance, and faith in Allah (swt) that will continue to inspire believer’s generations after generations.