(Adapted from Sajid Hameed's 'Hum Par Mushkalayn Kiyun Aati Hayn' by Jhangeer Hanif)
As this life is a trial for man, he has to face circumstances of varying nature designed to test the veracity of his claim that he believes in God and also to cleanse him of undesirable immoral characteristics. The meticulous details of this trial for each person are undeniably prefigured. This should ensure us that the trial in question would be carried out in the most appropriate and befitting manner. In other words, since the scheme of this trial is designed by the Most Wise, it can never be unfair. Being engulfed by adversities—an essential element of this trial—man is, however, prone to forget this indisputable reality i.e. the trial of life is fair no matter how tremendous the adversities that befall us. He needs to know that this trial presupposes certain immutable facts that conform to sense and reason and accord with perfect justice. Losing sight of these facts means to lose strength and courage to fight trying circumstances. What follows is a brief note meant to elucidate these facts so that we refresh our knowledge in this respect and thus consolidate our faith in order to combat adverse circumstances.
Allah is not our Enemy
The foremost thing we must bear in mind is that Allah does not harbor hostility against us. He does not raise obstacles in our way because—May Allah forgive me—He bears grudges or strong resentment to us nor is it that He despises our very existence so much as to do away with it.
He has presented Himself as a friend of mankind; and as good friends usually do, He warns us of our foremost enemy, Satan, lest we should let ourselves be carried away by his illusive promises. Similarly, it is evidently clear that Allah does not take any step without giving respite to His servants. He has asserted the fact that if He were to catch everyone guilty of committing sins right on the spot, none from the progeny of Adam (sws) would remain protected. He has indeed devised the law of giving respite to the sinners. He in fact awards reprieve to each wrong doer in order to allow him to repent for his sins and mend his ways. If it were not for this allowance, we would have been punished as soon as we erred.
Allah is our well-wisher and great friend too. However, He should not be taken as a friend who maintains unprincipled friendship and continues to support His friends even when they do mischief. On the contrary, He is a sincere friend; instead of helping us transgress moral limits, He is always there to guide us to the right path. In addition to sending us various Prophets and awarding us Divine Books, He has designed a world of comfort and difficulty to teach us and help us remain steadfast on the right path.
We must also know that Allah is not how the Jews endeavored to portray Him. They suffered from the illusions that since they were the descendents of the righteous Prophets of Allah; they were entitled to cross the threshold of Paradise no matter how immoral life they would lead. And if, in all probability, they were cast into Hell, they would not stay there but for a few days. The Almighty has rebutted their misconception and has termed this: Al-Had FiAl-sifat(denying the essential attributes of the Lord)—a term which implies that this is as heinous a crime as associating partners with Him.
Allah does not burden us beyond our Capacity
The second fact we ought to always keep in view is that Allah burdens us with only those responsibilities that we can easily discharge; they are never of such high intensity as to make us lose our faith. The Holy Qur'an has elucidated this fact in the words that follow:
We task not any soul beyond its capacity. (7:152)
Obviously, if this sublime principle had been overlooked, the entire scheme of test and trial would have become an act of tyranny and oppression. Keeping this premise in mind about the Shari'ah, we can safely conclude that Allah will adhere to this principle regarding other tests of life as well. His attributes definitely negate the very notion that He overburdens us just to shake our strength and shatter our hopes. Therefore, the underlying purpose behind every seemingly astronomical adversity is to test us; the Almighty never aims at exasperating us through adversities.
Adversities are not meant to deprive us of our Faith
As an offshoot of the principle delineated above, what comes to light is that Allah does not create troubles for us in order to divest us of our faith. The Holy Qur'an has also shed light on this principle: it was put forth before the Muslims and the Jews, at the time when the directive regarding change of Qiblah (i.e. the direction toward which Muslims stand and offer prayer) was given, that Allah did not want that their faith should go in vain.
And it was not Allah's purpose to divest you of your faith. He is full of pity, merciful toward mankind. (2:143)
Kindness is hidden under the Veil of Troubles
The fourth fact that we must be very clear about is that hardships indeed bring to our life many promising opportunities as well. Sometimes, we encounter these opportunities along with the hardships; and sometimes, after the tough period of trial is over.
Allah, on the basis of His all embracing wisdom and sagacity, has fashioned this world in pairs. We may observe this phenomenon in everything that we come across. Without night, the mere idea of daylight is not only inconceivable but meaningless as well. Similarly, many potential opportunities come to our way only after we face various hardships. For instance, a woman has to endure excruciating labor before she is blessed with a beautiful baby; a student acquires his degree after working hard for a considerably long period of time; an exhorter to the path of truth only succeeds after investing his best efforts in his mission for a long period of time.
Likewise, a person only becomes eligible to enter Paradise after facing full-blown adversities and troubles. The Holy Qur'an says:
You think that you will enter Paradise while there has not yet come to you the like of [that which came to] those who passed away before you? Affliction and adversity befell them; they were shaken as with earthquake, till the Messenger [of Allah] and those who believed along with him said: 'when comes Allah's help?' Now surely Allah's help is near. (2:214)
In short, it is the established practice of the Almighty that He, before blessing a person with another bounty or instilling within him new ability and skill, tries him by testing him with hardships and adversities. However, the implied objective evidently is to make him eligible to receive divine favors.
Allah helps us during Hardships
The fifth fact which should be deep-rooted within our heart and soul is that Allah does not forget His servants after they are engulfed by troubles. On the contrary, He keeps watching over them and comes forward to help them with all His armies when they call upon Him. When Zulaykha tried to captivate Joseph (sws) by her ravishing beauty, the Almighty hastened to help him. Similarly, the Ever Merciful helps His servants whenever troubles envelop them. However, the provision of this help hinges upon one divinely ordained clause: a believer must try his utmost and spend his last particle of energy to fight tough circumstances, then the help of Allah will descend down upon him and he will be sifted out of the tough situation.
The Holy Qur'an has unveiled the emotions of the Prophet Moses' (sws) mother when she cast him into the river. If she had failed to compose herself and then refused to undertake the great task, it would have been eventually disclosed that Moses (sws) was among the slaves of Israelites. Consequently, he would have been put to death. But Allah helped his mother demonstrate perseverance. He, in addition, consoled her that His help was meant to fortify her heart so that she might be of the believers. (28:10)
Allah is Merciful
One after the other, a series of egregious mistakes emanates from us but He, the Merciful, keeps ignoring them. Like a true mentor, He reprimands us such that He creates some hardships for us in order to save us from going completely astray. He, sometimes, reveals our mistakes to others as well. The objective is to teach us that we had better mend our ways. This retribution continues to take place; if the person pays heed to the calls of his conscience, he feels contrite and seeks the forgiveness of the Almighty, which is readily granted by the Ever Merciful. In case, the person neither feels remorseful nor does he turn to His Lord for forgiveness; then his reins in the realm of evil are let loose. He is given a further period of respite. This respite provides him with two opportunities: he may of his own volition turn back to His Lord or may prefer to move further ahead on the evil route that he has selected for himself. For the extent of his transgression, Allah however has marked a manifest line. In case, he becomes as daring as to touch the borderline, he is deprived of the essence of his hearing, seeing and reasoning faculties; so no admonition would now make way to his heart.
This does not happen in a day or two. Allah decides this matter adhering to the virtues of tolerance. The decision is actually arrived at after taking into account the special circumstances of the criminal, his capabilities, the contribution of the society toward his character building etc. In short, everything that can be done under the head 'justice' is taken properly into consideration. Hence, the criminal is not declared an outlaw after he has overruled just one instruction of the Shari'ah.
Tests are an Integral Part of this Life
Allah has created this world so that we could enter Heaven by following the path of truth. This is why the present life will never be devoid of tests. The very purpose behind the trials is to take us to Paradise. This world is analogous to an examination hall where lack of seriousness will cause the candidates to meet a drastic failure.
No inhabitant of this world should suffer from the illusion that he will not be tested since this is against the very objective of his creation. The entire scheme of the Almighty is that He will undoubtedly try His servants here in order to select those who will dwell in the blissful place called Heaven. Any attempt to escape from this trial would also culminate in complete failure.
Are Blessings/Adversities the Criteria to judge People?
Such criteria have somehow found general acceptance just like in the days of ignorance. It is perceived that Allah is pleased with those who are blessed with a comfortable life and displeased with those who are living in penury. Under this concept, some criminals involved in bribery and smuggling business choose to have the following phrase inscribed on the facade of their palaces Hadha Min Fadal-i-Rabi (it is a blessing upon me from my Lord). Such perception is nothing but a mere fallacy.
Poverty and affluence are two aspects of the test and trial that we are put through. Allah tests some people by showering them with His bounties and some by straitening their means; Allah is however not displeased with either of them. It is very likely that the affluent person, who is not burdened with troubles—like the owner of grand treasures, Karun (Korah)—is disliked by the Almighty. The comfort of the present world may be the result of what Allah decided for him—he would be given everything in this world and deprived of everything in the Hereafter. Likewise, if the period of difficulty prolongs for a servant, it is not improbable at any rate that the victim be the handpicked selection of the Almighty. Perhaps, Allah wants that this servant should be rid of all his sins in order to become eligible to enter Paradise.
With thanks to Monthly Renaissance
Written/Published: July 2004