Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Wisdom of Allāh's Trials

Understanding the Wisdom of Allāh's Trials
Dr. Feryad Hussain

As-Salamu ‘alaikum, May Allāh bless the dedicated writers and staff of On Islam. The website provides many e answers in relation to many of my trials in life.  It has helped me strengthen my Imān. I pray that this website continues to grow to reach more audience and make a difference in their lives, ameen. My question is: how do I look forward to another day in this Dunya and be happy when some sort of problem and trial is going to come soon and take all the happiness away? If this life wasn’t important and we were created only to worship God, then why did Allāh created so many things that need to be accomplished? Like education, marriage, children, societal ties, etc? Why is it so hard? I am asking because I am patiently waits for my parents to find me a spouse and I feel that when I finally do find one something bad is going to happen. That Allāh is going to punish me for wanting something in this Dunya. (Aminah)

In the name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All the praise and thanks is due to Allāh. Peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Wa’alaikumus-Salām wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

The issue raised is indeed a very common one and often arises when we are entering early adulthood and preparing to increase our independence and responsibilities in life and are a time when our knowledge must be passed on or shared in a wider public forum with some confidence while others may also have similar questions to you.

In understanding the issue  one need to consider all aspects of being a Muslim, i.e  the Shahādah, a testification of one’s Islam, the six pillars of Iman (faith) which means belief in Allāh, the Angels, the Messengers (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam), the Books of revelation, the Resurrection and the Last day and Qadā’ (pre-destination) or Qadar (destiny)   as well as the concept of Ihsan (to worship Allāh sincerely as though you see Him, knowing he sees you) and the practical implications of what they all actually mean in terms of our daily lives and attitudes.

These aspects of beliefs enables us to understand life’s predicaments which also the keys to the Mu’min’s (believer) personality and actualization of these beliefs empowers us to get through all manner of circumstances, insya Allah (God willing).

Firstly, why there are so many things need to be accomplished if we were only created to worship?

One possible answer is mankind has been given free will to exercise choice in faith and all other matters. We are told this is because the Creator knows this will be the biggest excuse made by man on the last day for not fulfilling the covenant such as,  ”We had no choice – it was all predestined for us and we gave in to fate or It is not our fault we were doing the wrong thing - it was pre written” etc.  So at the outset we are given a choice: ‘There is no compulsion in religion “[Surah Al-Baqarah, 256].

In conjunction with this, mankind needs a purpose and we cannot live without it, so the Creator creates the external facilities we need in order to use all the personal faculties Allah has given us – our minds; bodies; senses etc. If we don’t use these senses, it would be meaningless, simply due to lack of stimulation, since it is due to our senses and minds and bodies that we experience living and being alive. Consider what we mean when we feel we have ‘no life’ – it is usually reflective of a life without stimulation or use of our senses and abilities to achieve.

In this situation we would not be able to utilize the free will we have or enjoy any of the experiences we attain through their usage and we would need to be commanded in our every move. But Allāh has the angels for this – they have no free will and do as He wishes and nothing else - so what would be the need for man to have the same life as this?

Therefore, there must necessarily be a ‘world’ for us to function successfully and feel fulfilled in, where we are using and applying all these abilities. This is the point of education, marriage, life goals etc. We need them all to feel alive and no one knows more the details of what the creation needs than the Creator.

The dilemmas we face come as a consequence of this ‘world structure’ and everyone in it having free will (in spite of manmade laws). This allows for differences in the way we think and feel and this means there are differences in living that automatically affect those around us. So life is usually about negotiating with and managing other people’s views whilst attempting to maintain our own sense of reality.

As regards the relationship to humankind being created to worship, remember also that in addition to the basic tenets of faith, accomplishments in the dunya if useful and helpful to others and halal are also a part of worship if the niyyah (intention) is for Allāh so nothing of what we do is wasted as Allāh Himself tells us in Qur’ān.

There must be a means to attain reward; otherwise, there is no reinforcement for living. This is the means and it is the use we make of these senses and faculties that determines our reward in this life and the next. We all would suffer if there were only one way to live and we could not exercise our free-will beyond that so it is Allāh’s mercy that allows us to live with such diverse ways of fulfilling our needs as well as those of the commands of the Creator, Alhamdulillah.

Why life is sometime may be hard.
There is no reason except that it is because of the above. The way to Jannah is not easy as we are reminded in hadith. Specifically, there are many reasons, and the answers are given in Qur’ān itself. Sometimes, that is because our circumstances are difficult:

“We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sabirun (the patient).” (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:155)
“Or do you think that you will enter Paradise before Allāh tests those of you who fought (in His Cause) and (also) tests those who are As-Sabirun (the patient)?” (Surah Al-Imran, 3: 142).
“You shall certainly be tried and tested in your wealth and properties and in your personal selves.” (Surah Al- Imran, 3: 186)
“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: ‘We believe,’ and will not be tested. And We indeed tested those who were before them…” (Surah al-Ankabut, 29:2-4)

So, when we face trials, as Muslims we should not be surprised as we are forewarned in Qur’ān and insha Allāh should be prepared mentally and physically. The solution is also given in the first ayah – Sabr. That does not mean to ‘lie down and take whatever comes without reacting’ as is commonly thought. Rather Sabr has many, many meanings some of which include striving, persistence, forgiving; being active when one faces a tragedy, not giving up hope, making duā’ etc.

This is easy to say from a theoretical point of view but the deen is a disciplined guide to life and we must take lessons from it if we have taqwa as we are told in Qur’ān at the very start of Surah al-Baqarah, 2:2– “It is guidance for those who are Allāh conscious.” Each ayah gives a clear message if we read carefully and is a guide for us to live by if we choose.

Another reason may be simply because of age and the struggles each age group may bring. When we are younger we do not deal with life as philosophically as we do when we are older because we are not able to create the emotional distance from life events and so can easily lose our sense of direction and begin to ask these soul searching questions.

“Verily, We have created man in toil.” (Surah al-Balad, 90: 4)
“By al-`Asr (the time)..Verily, man is in loss.” (Surah al-Asr, 103:1-2)

Sometimes, it is clearly because we prefer an easy life and cannot or do we don’t want to deal with difficulties, but as I said in answer to the first question ‘being alive’ involves facing life and all its associated dilemmas:

“Verily man was created very impatient; irritable (discontented) when evil touches him; and niggardly when good touches him.” (Surah al Ma’arij, 70:19-21)

At other times, it may just be a combination of these things as well as general lifestyle and routine – which may leave you with more meaningful questions about life. It is quite common and not a problem but can lead to difficulties if you have nowhere to air these thoughts and feelings.

Try and find some friends you can share your fears and feeling with insha Allāh. You will find many people who may feel the same or can give you solutions to manage life without feeling overwhelmed by these questions.

Perhaps, insha Allāh you could start a halaqah with friends under the guidance of a teacher - qualified in the deen - who can guide you to some answers and help you to understand how such questions can improve your iman and live your life  in a fulfilling manner bi idh nillah. (Insha Allāh, make sure that the teacher has a sound and correct knowledge of the deen if you take this option).

You say that you expect that when you get married something bad will happen.

You do not give details but I wonder if, perhaps, your experience of life events is that good experiences are followed by bad ones – but the past is not a predictor to the future.

Often the things we fear are only in our minds but we repeat the thought and mull over it -considering how we would react and feel etc., so much so that we end up treating it as if it is real. This makes all those feelings in our imagination come alive and they need then to be discharged as they can be hard to ignore once we are in a pattern of thinking the same thing – in the way you describe.

We can then sometimes bring about a situation where the problem is created from our own fears and proves us right simply by our own doing and nothing else. (This is called the self- fulfilling prophesy and comes in many sophisticated forms.)

Such types of waswas (negative thoughts) are from Shaytān (Satan) and are designed to make you lose faith in Allāh’s mercy – since when one loses hope in this, they can lose iman very easily.

So at this point you should say ta’awudz (A’ūdzubillahi Minasshaitanirrajīm)  or the duā’  advised by Allāh Himself to Prophet Mohammad in Surah al Mu’minun, 23:97-98 “And pray, Lord I seek refuge in You from the promptings of  the shaytāns, more than that, I seek refuge in You , my Lord, even from their coming near me.”

You are allowed to ask for good in the dunya – that is not being materialistic and we are not encouraged to ask for poverty and hardship. So Allāh will not punish you for this.

Indeed one common duā’ read in salāh (Prayer) from Qur’ān is asking Allāh to “..give us the good of the dunya and of the akhirat …”     (Surah al Baqarah,2:201); so, it is not wrong to ask for this. It is what you do with the good of the dunya that determines the outcome and even then, as one great scholar put it, it is not on our deeds but Allāh’s mercy that we must rely on.

It is said that which does not kill us makes us stronger; and these trials, as you have experienced masha  Allāh, do increase and strengthen your Iman (faith) bi idh nillah as long as you stick with it!

We are told in Qur’ān and hadith as follows:

“Who has created death and life that He may test which of you is best in deed. And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving.” (Surat al Mulk, 67:2)
Abu Hurairah (radiyallahu`anhu) reported: Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said, ‘If Allāh wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him with trials.’ (Bukhari, B68, C1, 1951)

Strive to be the best in spite of how hard it seems as these words suggest. Allāh tells us in Qur’ān, if you ask of Him, He will answer.

I hope this answers your questions; should you have further inquiry, please do not hesitate to contact us with specific details and we will do our best to clarify it, Insha’ Allāh. May Allāh al Karim continuously increase your Imān and reward your struggle in His way with ease, protection and security from life’s trials.

And Allah Knows Best

[Via On Islam (Ask About Islam) November 11, 2010]

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