The above discussions should make it clear that believers will be tried with calamities, afflictions, and distress and these trials will continue to occur during their lifetime until they meet their Lord.
That being the reality, a believer should remain mentally prepared to face any calamity or affliction, although he or she should never seek one. If he is not mentally prepared to face any difficulties in life and then suddenly is afflicted with one, then he may not be able to deal with it properly as he should. It is, therefore, wise that a believer solidify himself with knowledge from the Qur’an and the Sunnah regarding how to deal with trials and tribulations and then be prepared to face difficulties of life, but without seeking or hoping for any trial. This will help him remain calm and patient and pass the test when it comes, insha Allah.
Below, we discuss some of the common forms of trials and tribulations:
All living creatures will die to pass the inheritance of this world to the next generations, and with the exception of a few cases, death will come through one sickness or another. This is a reality that all have to accept. No matter how virtuous one is, he is not exempted form sickens and disease. We know the examples of many Prophets who suffered from sickness, such as Prophet Job who suffered from severe skin disorder for years. Prophet Muhammad (p) himself suffered from sickness. ‘Aisha, one of his wives, said: “I never saw anybody suffering so much from sickness as Allah’s Apostle.”
For a believer, suffering from sickness is not just a reality but also a philosophy that comes with blessings. He knows that Allah (swt) in His mercy will expiate some of his sins if he remains patient through it. The Prophet (p) said:
No Muslim is afflicted with harm because of sickness or some other inconvenience, but that Allah will remove his sins for him as a tree sheds its leaves. (Bukhari)
When afflicted with illness and pain, the believer should remind himself, like Prophet Job did, of all the years when Allah (swt) blessed him with good health. He should remain patient and ask Allah (swt) for his Mercy, and that can earn him Paradise. One day, a woman who was suffering from epilepsy came to the Prophet and asked him to make supplication for her. The Prophet (p) replied, “Do you wish that you may endure it and be rewarded with Paradise, or do you wish that I shall make supplication to Allah to cure you?” She said, “I shall endure it.” This woman later became known as one from the people of Paradise.
In a hadith qudsi, Allah (swt) says:
When I affect my slave in his two dear things (i.e., his eyes), and he endures patiently, I shall compensate him for that with Paradise. (Bukhari)
When one suffers through a serious disease which brings prolonged physical pain and discomfort or even the prospect of death, only he (or she) can feel the full extent of the pain and distress. No one else can possibly come close to appreciating what he goes through physically and mentally. Yet, let him be reminded that it is perhaps through this sickness and suffering that Allah (swt) intends to bless him with Paradise. There cannot be any reward or success greater than that. So let his or her heart continue to beat with zikr (remembrance) of Allah through this suffering, and his face become radiant with His love. Let the visitors who come to see him be blazed with his unshakable faith and spirit. Let him teach others, even through his sickness, faith and trust in Allah!
Aminah Assilmi, a convert to Islam, mentioned about a person who died of cancer. He was only 20 years old, and yet she was dazzled by this young man’s faith and love of Allah in the midst of suffering. She wrote:
Shortly before he died, he told me that Allah was truly Merciful. This man was in unbelievable anguish and was radiating with Allah’s love. He said: “Allah intends that I should enter heaven with a clean book.” His death experience gave me something to think about. He taught me of Allah’s love and mercy.
Death of Beloved Ones
If one suffers death of someone whom he dearly loved, then he should remember that our children, spouses, parents, friends, and other family members are but trusts from Allah (swt). A wife is a trust to her husband while her husband is a trust to her. A child is a trust to his/her parents while the parents are a trust to the child. As these trusts provide us with comfort and support, Allah (swt) tests us to see how we deal with them and how we take care of these trusts. He reserves the right to take back these trusts, and He does so when the term He sets for a trust expires. The Prophet (p) consoled his daughter when her baby was sick as saying:
Whatever Allah takes away or gives, belongs to Him, and everything has a fixed term (in this world). (Bukhari and Muslim)
Therefore, one should not show despair or displeasure at Allah (swt) but remain calm and patient even at the death of his or her dearest one.
Imam Muslim narrates a hadith about a female Companion of the Prophet that is a paramount example of patience and faith. To reproduce the hadith briefly, her name was Umm Sulaim. One of her sons was very sick while her husband, Abu Talha, was away in business. The son eventually died, and she told her family members not to tell this to her husband when he returns until she breaks this to him herself. When Abu Talha returned, she presented the supper before him and he ate.
After that she told him, “O Abu Talha! If some people borrow something from another family who then ask for that to be returned, should they refuse to give it back?”
He replied, “No”.
“Then”, she said, “hope reward for your son”.
Abu Talha immediately understood that their son was dead.
When a mother suffers the death of her child, there is no one in this world who can come close to feeling her grief and sorrow. And yet, this otherwise unknown Companion of the Prophet (p) remained patient with Allah as she correctly understood the philosophy of life and death.
The reward for such patience with Allah (swt) at the death of a beloved one is Paradise. Allah (swt) says in a hadith qudsi:
I have no reward other than paradise for a believing slave of mine who remains patient for My sake when I take away his beloved one from among the inhabitants of the world. (Bukhari)
Loss of Wealth and Property
In many places in the Qur’an, Allah (swt) uses the phrase “out of what we have given” when He asks the believers to spend in the way of Allah, such as:
Those who rehearse the Book of Allah, establish regular Prayer and spend (in Charity) out of what We have provided for them secretly and openly hope for a Commerce that will never fail. (35:29)
Those … who spend out of what We bestow on them for Sustenance. (42:38)
They spend (in charity) out of the sustenance which We have bestowed on them. (32:16)
As Allah (swt) asks the believers to pay zakat and charity, He reminds them that all the wealth and property that they have actually belongs to Allah (swt) anyway. All righteous believers are cognizant of this simple and obvious truth. For even if we set aside the fact that everything in this universe are created by and therefore belongs to Allah, there is no wealth or property that one can claim that it is the result of his own exclusive effort. In this context, we wrote:
If one thinks that his wealth and fortune is a result of his own labor and talent, then that reflects a serious lack of understanding and insight on his or her part. While there is no denial that one should put efforts towards achieving his goal as Islam requires and as the Prophet (p) himself did, but to think that utilization of one’s talent and exerting his labor alone earned him his wealth is to deny both facts as well as to betray common sense observation. There are many around us who with grater talents and more efforts fail to “succeed” in life and reach “financial security”. And there are those who within moments loose their vast fortunes, or suddenly become rich, due to market fluctuation, calamity, unforeseen business deals, or otherwise. And finally, there are always these basic questions to ask: Who is the One Who provided him with his talents and abilities? Who has provided him with that particular set of resources that he successfully utilized and which others were not provided with? Who controls the events that occur in our day to day life and Who provided those particular chances and deals that contributed to his fortune? Wise people know the answers to these questions and, consequently, humble themselves and thank Allah (swt) for His favor.
About such people who think that it is because of their talent or enterprise that they had become wealthy, Allah (swt) says:
… When We bestow a favor upon him as from Ourselves he says, “This has been given to me because of a certain knowledge (I have)!” Nay, this is but a trial. But most of them understand not. (39:49)
Righteous believers, therefore, are always conscious about this true ownership of wealth and property that is at their disposal. Therefore, when a calamity befalls those results in the loss of that property or wealth, they do not break down but remind themselves with this: “This property and wealth belonged to Allah and He has taken it back”.
Suffering Wrong and Injustice
For a believer who has been a victim of wrong or injustice by others, the greatest comfort is that a day will come when he will receive full justice from Allah (swt). No matter how insignificant or how grievous the harm is, the offending parties will be called to account for their actions. No matter to whom an injustice was done, and no matter how long ago that aggression was committed, the matter will be kept on records until it is addressed. Even if everyone forgets the incident, Allah (swt) will not. For example, the infants who were buried alive during Jahiliyyah (Age of Darkness before Islam) will not be forgotten. Allah (swt) will ask them about what their crime was for which they were buried alive:
When the female (infant) buried alive is questioned: for what crime she was killed; when the Scrolls are laid open; when the World on High is unveiled: when the Blazing Fire is kindled to fierce heat; and when the Garden is brought near; (Then) shall each soul know what it has put forward. (81:8-14)
In Islam, injustice is not necessarily limited to physical and material harm. Violating a person’s honor and dignity is also an act of injustice. Therefore, a Muslim should not speak ill of another person or make any negative comment about any individual in his absence regardless of whether that person has done something wrong or not. This is called gibah, which Islam forbids except only in a few cases. A person who has done any injustice against another, be that even a negative comment made about him in his absence, will have to pay back to the victim in the Hereafter out of his own good deeds (unless the victim forgives him before he dies). If he runs out of his good deeds and still owes him, then he must take over equivalent amount of bad deeds from the victim. The Prophet (p) said:
He who has done a wrong affecting his brother’s honor or anything else, must ask his forgiveness for it today before the time (i.e., the Day of Judgment) when he will have neither a dinar nor a dirham. If he has done some good deeds, a portion equal to his wrong doings will be subtracted from them; but if he has no good deeds, he will be burdened with the evil deeds of the one he had wronged in the same proportion. (Bukhari)
This is so far as compensating the victim is concerned. He will still be liable to face punishment from Allah (swt) for committing the act of injustice and thus violating Allah’s commandments, unless both Allah (swt) and the victim forgive him. The believer, therefore, should be patient having full assurance that Allah (swt) watches everything and will deliver justice:
We have made some of you as a trial for others: will ye have patience? For Allah is One Who sees (all things). (25:20)
Truly the reward of the Hereafter will be greater if they only realize (this)! (They are) those who persevere in patience and put their trust on their Lord. (16:41-42)
That is the ultimate comfort that a believer can have who has been wronged or oppressed by others. For there is a Judge higher than all other judges and an Authority above all other authorities. Unlike the judges in this world, this Judge never makes a mistake. For He is intimately aware of all things that occur and renders justice based on actual facts, and not on the presentation and performance of lawyers.
This discussion points out a theme that is at the core of Islam, namely justice. In fact, Islam is considered to be synonymous with justice (adl). The purpose of the shari`a (Divine Law) is justice and welfare of the people. In this religion, injustice, no matter how small, is completely forbidden. Allah (swt) says in a hadith qudsi:
O My servants, I have forbidden injustice for myself and have made it forbidden amongst you, so do not commit acts of injustice against one another.