You went out of the house and you missed the bus. In the bus, you stood for an hour because it was too full. At the supermarket, you couldn’t find the things you needed to buy. People are starting to hoard all the essentials. Neighbouring countries start to fall under lockdown yet work continues to pile up. You feel the anxiety and stress building up and you ask yourself: “why must I go through all these?”
It has become part of our faith to acknowledge that life can never be separated from its trials. Not just that, generally everyone would acknowledge that life comes with its challenges; like how we always say “when life gives you lemons”. However, to really understand this concept of what a challenge is in Islam, the Prophet s.a.w. explained it to the companions when they asked him on who will suffer the severest of trials. The Prophet s.a.w. answered:
يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ , أَيُّ النَّاسِ أَشَدُّ بَلاءً ؟ قَالَ : الأَنْبِيَاءُ , ثُمَّ الأَمْثَلُ فَالأَمْثَلُ , فَيُبْتَلَى الرَّجُلُ عَلَى حَسَبِ دِينِهِ , فَإِنْ كَانَ دِينُهُ صُلْبًا اشْتَدَّ بَلاؤُهُ , وَإِنْ كَانَ فِي دِينِهِ رِقَّةٌ ابْتُلِيَ عَلَى حَسَبِ دِينِهِ , فَمَا يَبْرَحُ الْبَلاءُ بِالْعَبْدِ حَتَّى يَتْرُكَهُ يَمْشِي عَلَى الأَرْضِ مَا عَلَيْهِ خَطِيئَةٌ
"The Prophets, then those close to them, then those close to them. A man is tried according to his religion; if he is firm in his religion, then his trials are more severe, and if he is frail in his religion, then he is tried according to the strength of his religion. The servant shall continue to be tried until he is left walking upon the earth without any sins."
(Hadith by Imam At-Tirmizi)
When faced with times of distress, a person can choose to embrace this as part of the trials of life, or he or she may reject and possibly affect the circle of people around him or her. It does not mean that when we accept the harsh realities of being anxious, sorrowful and in pain that we are not entitled to these feelings. This is a misconception. It is natural to have these feelings when in distress, but try not to be consumed by these emotions.
Once consumed, the individual tumbles down a slippery slope and if no one swoops in to prevent the individual from falling further, what then? Who else is there to rely on?
Who else if not Allah?
In the Quran, it is mentioned that there are people who would ride their ships into the sea. They would be overwhelmed by a storm and when all seemed lost, they would turn to Allah as the Creator of worlds to aid them. Allah s.w.t. mentioned:
أَلَم تَرَ أَنَّ الفُلكَ تَجري فِي البَحرِ بِنِعمَتِ اللَّهِ لِيُرِيَكُم مِن آياتِهِ ۚ إِنَّ في ذٰلِكَ لَآياتٍ لِكُلِّ صَبّارٍ شَكورٍ. وَإِذا غَشِيَهُم مَوجٌ كَالظُّلَلِ دَعَوُا اللَّهَ مُخلِصينَ لَهُ الدّينَ فَلَمّا نَجّاهُم إِلَى البَرِّ فَمِنهُم مُقتَصِدٌ ۚ وَما يَجحَدُ بِآياتِنا إِلّا كُلُّ خَتّارٍ كَفورٍ
“Do you not see that the ships sail (smoothly) through the sea by the grace of Allah so that He may show you some of His signs? Surely in this are signs for whoever is steadfast, grateful. And as soon as they are overwhelmed by waves like mountains, they cry out to Allah (alone) in sincere devotion. But when He delivers them (safely) to shore, only some become relatively grateful. And none rejects Our signs except whoever is deceitful, ungrateful.”
(Surah Luqman 31: 31-32)
Such is the attitude of human beings. We are often referred to as weak creatures and we depend on a higher power when there seems to be no solution for a problem. It would be a beautiful thing if we took a more proactive step. Knowing that Allah is The One to aid us ultimately, why not align ourselves spiritually from the beginning?
As mentioned in Imam An-Nawawi’s Compilation of 40 hadiths (Prophetic Sayings):
تَعَرَّفْ إلَى اللَّهِ فِي الرَّخَاءِ يَعْرِفُك فِي الشِّدَّةِ
“Recognize and acknowledge Allah in times of ease and prosperity, and He will remember you in times of adversity.”
Be it in times of crises or times of ease, Allah is forever present.
Photo credit: Wardah Books
In this modern day, most of us might not man vessels or traverse the lands in search of a living. We also might not risk our lives to earn our monthly salary. However, we still trudge through the mental and emotional storm that surrounds our daily lives. All the problems that we face could one day even take control of us if we do not take control of them first. To do this, one of the most effective ways is to learn from those who have succeeded before us. Be it a motivational speaker, an influencer or even your personal role model. They could be the anchor that you need to manoeuvre through life.
As far as obstacles in life go, not many can compare with Prophet Ayyub A.S. He went through a sickness that affected him physically, which had him literally wasting away. He was a person with immense wealth but suddenly, this was taken away and he did not have anyone or anything to help with his sickness. Even after being blessed with many children, each passed away one by one. For 18 years, he suffered this malady with only the companionship of two men and his wife.
Unfortunately, some people out there would likely become mad and push away their own faith and principles when faced with such trials: the physical pain coupled with the emotional instability of losing one’s children as well as the mental blows of asking ‘why me’ that were haunting throughout the years. Yet, the Prophet Ayyub A.S persevered with patience, while supplicating and seeking aid from Allah s.w.t.
There are many ways to tackle a problem and there are definitely necessary steps to ensure that a problem is solved. Most importantly, one should never take lightly in relying on Allah and having Him together with you throughout the journey. Oftentimes we forget that seeking Allah’s help is key and to know that it is He who has power over everything.
After all this mention of believing in Allah and relying on Him, one might get this niggling feeling that those actions alone are not enough. Must it be hard to attain Allah’s favour? The answer: It can be easy.
Having faith in Allah and having trust in Him are acts of worship that come from the heart. The only uncertain part of this kind of worship is the stability of the heart itself. Is the heart pure? Are we saying one thing but doubting what we say? Are we sure the trust our heart has is strong enough to please Allah? Hence to ensure that we approach Allah with the fullest of our capabilities, we are advised to always offer supplications and prayers and to make ‘zikir’.
The supplications or ‘dua’ made during times of ‘istijabah’ (special time where prayers/wishes are more likely to be granted) are those that should be sought after. Times like between the azan and iqamah, the last third of the night and the final hour before dusk every Friday are times when the dua is most likely to be answered. It is also important to note that one should ask Allah from the bottom of the heart (not just a matter of saying ‘amin’). If we were to ask a favour from a king, we would do so with such humility and lowliness. Allah, the Lord of the worlds, deserves better.
One can also offer supplication in prayer. We often hear of Solat Hajat (Prayer of Need), the Solat Taubat (Prayer for Repentance) and more which are usually offered in predicament. More importantly, one can also find Allah in the five daily prayers. Our basic prayers should never be underestimated and they represent a connection between us and The Divine. The ‘sunnah’ or supererogatory prayers also can be considered a bonus when strengthening our bond with Allah. Make dua in the last ‘sujud’ in every prayer and make it longer when we pray alone.
Remembering Allah s.w.t. should happen and can happen at any time. Like aforementioned, remembering Allah in times of peace will bring Allah to acknowledge us in our times of distress. This can be done through Zikir which is the articulation of words taught to us by the Prophet s.a.w. in exalting Allah s.w.t. It can be as brief and easy as saying Subhanallah, Alhamdulillah and Allahu Akbar. One can also make salutations to the Prophet s.a.w. at any point of the day as part of Zikir.
At the end of the day, we try to remember Allah not only in our worship but in all that we do. The idea of manners in Islam is highly looked up to and part of being a better individual is to always be ethical in all that we do. This is done by following the Prophet’s s.a.w. guidelines, be it in our daily routines or in times of pandemic and distress.
The Prophet s.a.w. looked out for everyone and was responsible for his family’s safety and the safety of the people. He advocated for his companions to always be socially responsible and to always think of the others, ensuring that they were in a good state of living by checking on them and by supplicating for them.
Be it on the bus, at the supermarket or overseas with panic flooding the society, we should try to seek Allah. You might ask yourself, "Why must I go through all these?". Eventually, you will realise that you should have asked yourself, "Why must I go through all these alone, without Allah?"
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