As we mentioned earlier, all people are tested throughout their lives in various ways. The Qur’an tells us that these trials may be by means of good or evil:
We did not give any human being before you immortality. And if you die, will they then be immortal? Every person will taste death. We test you with both good and evil as a trial. And you will be returned to Us. (Surat al-Anbiya’, 34-35)
People may be tested by all sorts of things. For example, while enjoying the blessings of abundant wealth, they must be careful to practice the kind of morality that earns His good pleasure, turn toward Him in all of their intentions and actions, obey His commands, and follow His advice. If they become caught up in the world’s transitory pleasures, wealth can make them oblivious to reality. But believers, no matter how many blessings they may enjoy, remain forever grateful to Allah.
People may also be tested by illness, disaster, pressures from the unbelievers, hurtful words, slander, entrapment, and cruel ridicule. But Muslims realize that all of these things are part of their testing, and so hold on to patience which ultimately leads to good.
As we said earlier, these individuals have made a good trade in exchanging the life of this world for the life of the Hereafter. According to the Qur’an, “Know that your wealth and children are a trial, and that there is an immense reward with Allah” (Surat al-Anfal, 28), they are aware that their lives and possessions all belong to Allah, and so any gain or loss never alters their moral character, their worldview, or their faithfulness to our Lord. Many verses describe this quality, among them the following:
But the Messenger and those who believe along with him have striven with their wealth and with themselves. They are the people who will have the good things. They are the ones who are successful. Allah has prepared Gardens for them with rivers flowing under them, remaining in them timelessly, forever. That is the great victory. (Surat at-Tawba, 88-89)
The believers are only those who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, then have had no doubt and have striven with their wealth and themselves in the Way of Allah. They are the ones who are true to their word. (Surat al-Hujurat, 15)
We see in these verses that for Muslims, this world is a place where they must strive in the way of Allah to earn His good pleasure. Bediuzzaman tells us that this world is only a place of service, that people will pass through it being tried with difficulties and enjoyments, and that the reward for those who patiently endure frustration and disaster will be great.
This worldly realm is the field of testing, the abode of service. It is not the place of pleasure, reward, and requital. Considering, then, that it is the abode of service and place of worship, sicknesses and misfortunes—as long as they do not affect belief and are patiently endured—conform fully to service and worship, and even strengthen it. Since they make each hour’s worship equivalent to that of a day, one should offer thanks instead of complaining. Worship consists in fact of two kinds, positive and negative. What is meant by the positive is obvious. As for negative worship, this is when one afflicted with misfortune or sickness perceives his own weakness and helplessness, and turning to his Compassionate Sustainer, seeks refuge in Him, meditates upon Him, petitions Him, and thus offers a pure form of worship that no hypocrisy can penetrate. If he endures patiently, thinks of the reward attendant on misfortune and offers thanks, then each hour that he passes will count as a whole day spent in worship. His brief life becomes very long. There are even cases where a single minute is counted as equal to a whole day’s worship. 6
It is very important to ponder these wise words. As we said earlier, people are responsible for serving Allah and for submitting and remaining attached to Him in all circumstances. One way to show this attachment is to be patient in all difficulties and frustrations in this world. Moreover, such times may come along when least expected and last, or seem to last, for a long time. For example, a rich person may become poor, a successful person may encounter sudden failure, and another person may lose a loved one, become ill, or handicapped. But regardless of the test, Allah promises endless good things to those of His servants who patiently endure them.
For this reason, people must make the best use of every moment of time allotted to them in this world. Before doing any act or saying any word, they must ask if what they are about to do is the best way to earn Allah’s good pleasure. But most importantly, they must avoid getting caught up in this world and forgetting that there is an Afterlife, and must not trade eternity for the sake of some transitory enjoyment. The way to attain endless good things is to turn to Allah:
Everyone will taste death. You will be paid your wages in full on the Day of Resurrection. Anyone who is distanced from the Fire and admitted to the Garden has triumphed. The life of this world is just the enjoyment of delusion. You will be tested in your wealth and in yourselves, and you will hear many abusive words from those given the Book before you and from those who are idolaters. But if you are steadfast and guard against evil, that is the most resolute course to take. (Surah Al `Imran, 185-86)