Reward from Adversity
Source: MAHJUBA Vol. 14 No.4(131), Apr.1995 | by: Maryam Tabatabaee

Islam has much in common with the other monotheistic faiths of Christianity and Judaism, particularly with regard to belief in one Allah and in the basic qualities that are cultivated by a morally upright, righteous man. One of the aspects of Islam that distinguishes it from these other faiths is the emphasis Islam puts on man's personal responsibility to demonstrate the sincerity and depth of his faith in Allah.

The Holy Qur'an states: "O ye who believe' Shall I lead you to a bargain that will save you from a grievous penalty? (It is) that ye believe in Allah and His Apostle and that Ye strive (your utmost) in the cause of Allah. With your property and your persons. That will be the best for you, if ye but knew!" (61:10- 11). It is not enough for a Muslim to profess his faith in Allah and His prophets, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) being the last of His prophets. A Muslim must demonstrate that his words are not mere lip-service. In order to save himself from the fire, he must live a life that exemplifies his profession of faith. It may be said that a Muslim must earn salvation, for the Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) frequently emphasize that sound faith and good deeds will blot out the minor sins committed out of weakness or error. The believer whose good deeds weigh heavy in the balance in comparison to his bad deeds is the one who will attain Paradise.

Inherent in man's struggle to serve Allah is the concept of patience and perseverance in the face of adversity. This quality, which is known as saber in Arabic, means the ability to remain calm and level headed when faced with crisis so that wise decisions can be made. It means knowing when to act on a problem and when to wait patiently or proceed slowly until a proper solution comes within grasp and not acting hastily out of anger, fear or the desire for revenge. In a major sense it also means maintaining a strong faith in the wisdom of Allah's actions and reliance in Him in situations where man can have no effect.

Allah tests man in all of these areas throughout his life on earth. Problems face believers that challenge their wits, their patience and sense of community and unity. But the test of a Muslim's strength and reliance on Allah comes hardest when pain and suffering over which he has no control afflicts his loved ones, himself or innocent people who seem to suffer regardless of their faith in Allah It is a time when even the strongest person may question the motives of Allah.

The sayings of the, Prophet (pbuh) indicate that, indeed, it is the strong believer who is loved by Allah who is most harshly tried by calamity. This is so that he may earn a greater reward in the next life through demonstration of his faith in this world. Conversely, the unbeliever is tested with ease and wealth and the pleasures of this world. When he fails to use these gifts Allah for the sake of Allah, he builds up an account which will weigh against him on the Day of of Judgement.

The Prophet said, "When you see a man engrossed in sins and yet he gets his cherished objects, know then that (Allah) is delaying his Punishment." He also said, "There is no good in one whose wealth is not gone and whose body is not diseased. When Allah loves a servant, he examines him with a calamity." This is a lesson which has been preached by all the prophets of Allah. The Prophet Luqman, who is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an, once advised his son, "O dear son, a religious man is tried by calamities, just as gold is tried by fire. When Allah loves a party of men, He sends them trials. He becomes pleased with those who remain satisfied with (their trials) and he becomes displeased with those who become displeased."

There are many things that occur in this life which cannot be reversed. Disease or an accident may cripple or blind us, death may take someone who is dear to us. These are personal calamities with which virtually every being must deal. What we learn from these calamities, how we accept and deal with them is the test. The loss of an arm or leg can make us lament our misfortune or it can remind us that a limb is the property of Allah, just as everything else is. It is not our inherent right to have one, but it is our duty to use all the gifts of Allah in His service and to remember that there are many, many people on this earth who are much less fortunate than we are.

Similary, when death comes to a person who we know to be a strong believer or who is innocent and immature, we know that person has gone to a better place and that his or her pain and suffering on this earth is over. The pain we feel is for our own loss and the test is how we overcome our feelings. We can learn not to take for granted the ones we love and we should learn that our time on this earth is limited and only Allah knows when we will be called to account. We must make the best of the time we have, to use the gift of time to our utmost advantage.

Perhaps the greatest difference between the righteous believer and the selfish unbeliever is that the former uses all the blessings Allah has given him, even the blessings of adversity, in the service of Allah. The latter may have all the riches and means to do good works within his grasp, yet he does nothing with them except to further his own cause. Also, in a situation where a Muslim knows he is helpless, as in all dilemmas in life, remembers that only Allah has the power to bring about relief. Imam Ghazzali, the great Muslim sage, once said that Allah revealed this statement to the Prophet Ezra: "When any calamity befalls you do not complain of it to My created beings, but tell Me of your complaint, just as I do not complain of you to My angels."