By: Hamza Saleem
Tests, trials, tribulations and calamities are all a part of life, but it is our status as believers and our relationship with the divine reality that will determine how we deal with them. Different calamities bring about different reactions from different people. For some, it causes them to detach themselves from Islām and they turn away from Allāh, but a select few with humility and īmān find a sense of comfort. This calm and collected reaction should be celebrated amidst the roar of complaining many people dish out about their tasks and endeavours, for the affliction of calamities is a certainty of life.
Allāh said in the Qur’ān:
Unfortunately, we fail to comprehend this reality. The human mind and the restricted experience of humanity is limited in its capacity to understand the wisdom behind such tests and trials, even if they may be few. It is an arrogant presumption that we have adopted that everything must be rationalised and that nothing can divert away from our goals and our plans, especially if we aim to bring goodness to ourselves and to others. For how can any good arise, from what we perceive as a “bad” situation?
Al-Hasan Al-Basri said:
“Do not resent the calamities that come and the disasters that occur for perhaps in something you dislike will be your salvation, and perhaps in something that you prefer will be your doom.”
Accept that whether it is physical, mental, financial or emotional, your life is a life of trials and tribulations. Maybe it was a failed exam that prevented you from getting into the university of your dreams, a public presentation where you forgot your script or mumbled your lines, a divorce, or even a marital relationship that breaks down shortly before an announcement was going to be made. Perhaps your home was burgled, or you fell prey to a scam business transaction causing you to lose a portion of your savings. You may have been fired or humiliated at work in front of your colleagues or witnessed a calamity befall someone you love and felt helpless in the process.
These are all modern-day calamities many of us may have experienced but few have bounced back with their īmān in Allāh unscathed and intact. Allāh did not rationalise the existence of evil, even for us, His creation. Consider the following benefits calamities can have:
- Bring us closer to Allāh
This is the purpose of calamities. Every tribulation can either turn you back to Allāh or turn you away from Allāh, the calamity is just the catalyst.
If a worldly trial brings you closer to the eternal Being, then it was a blessing in disguise. In addition, it will release you from the reliance of people and turn you to the reliance of Allāh. No doubt, people who are not facing the suffering will help you, but ultimately it is Allāh who placed you in that situation and it is Him, and only Him, who can remove it.
- Place us in a humbled state
Humility is the essence of īmān, and calamities prevent us from displaying evils such as pride, tyranny and arrogance.
The Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) said:
Humility can be generated through accepting setbacks calamities bring. These calamities are sent by the Almighty, so no one has the right to challenge Allāh. You realise there is an all-powerful entity demonstrating His lordship over you, causing you to fall into a complete state of brokenness before His will and power. Calamities bring about this forgotten act of worship; humility, which ultimately allows you to fulfil your abject servanthood unto your Creator.
- Sign of Allāh’s love
The Prophet Muḥammad (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) said:
When someone else loves you, you become desperate to reciprocate it. When Allāh loves you, you suddenly become fervent seeking the desire of your Lord.
As Ibn Al-Qayyim said:
“Calamities, trials and tests are signs of love from Allāh for the believers. They are comparable to a cure; although it may be bitter, you accept it because it is from the one you love; and to Allāh belongs the best example.”
Celebrate that your test may be indicative of being from among the believers! You are being gifted the cure at the expense of a re-shuffle or abrogation of the sequence of events in your life. All we must do is remain gratified.
The Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) said:
“The magnitude of the reward is proportional to the magnitude of the affliction. When Allāh loves some people, He tests them. He who is content (with Allāh’s decree) will receive the Pleasure (of Allāh); and he who is discontent will attain the wrath (of Allāh).” 
- Expiation of our sins
Consider a diamond that only forms its final state having performed well under pressure and being stripped of its impurities. And as Muslims evolving throughout the duration of our lives, our final state can only be realised having surpassed the trials and calamities thrown at us, also resulting in the loss of our sins, our equivalent of impurities.
How does it relate? Allāh wants to purify and make invaluable the character and the īmān of a Muslim and the only way to accomplish this is to wipe away our sins in preparation for the day we meet Him.
‘Ā’isha (radiy Allāhu ʿanhā) narrated that the Prophet Muḥammad (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) said:
Even for those living in lesser developed countries, made up of families caught in the crossfire of war or suffering of starvation, every drop of spilled blood and every moment of hunger will be rewarded.
- Elevate our status in the Ākhira
When Saʿd b. Abī Waqqās asked: “O Messenger of Allāh, which of the people are most sorely tested?” He said: “The Prophets, then the next best, and the next best. One is afflicted in accordance with his īmān. If his īmān is firm, his affliction is harsh, and if his īmān is weak, his affliction is light”. The Prophets and Messengers went through the most hardships in life and yet they are the most loved by Allāh and adored by Muslims today.
The Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) alone endured the loss of all but one of his children in his lifetime, he was outcast and ridiculed by his family, but one of the many manifestations of tribulation he experienced was in the Battle of Uḥud; one of the most difficult instances in his life. He witnessed the demise of his uncle Hamza (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu), and was left defeated and severely wounded. It would not be wrong to interpret his life as a life of calamities, yet he was the most beloved to Allāh.
This series of supposed unfortunate events, in addition to those before them and those extending to his death were not without reason. He was tested with calamities to raise his status in paradise. Likewise, if we have īmān to cope with a trial, then it will raise our level as believers in the hereafter. This world is not considered the end goal and final destination; as Muslims, we know this is reserved for the hereafter.
- Teaches patience during and after the calamity
While our hands may be metaphorically full at the time, we are never afflicted with anything that we cannot handle.
How many times has a person complained and publicly protested about their calamity, only for it to reform their lives? Most of us, I am sure; for what we become in the process is more important than the calamity itself.
Ibn Al-Qayyim said:
“Panicking does not make the calamity go away. In fact, panicking makes the calamity more difficult.”
If we were just to reflect and remain calm to see how things unfold after the test strikes, we will soon come to realise that those moments of despair and confusion would have made the whole chapter bearable. No doubt, it is hard when we’re going through it and it takes time to keep our head above water but going through tribulations with contentment and composure is a great sign that Allāh loves you.
The Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) said:
“Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affair is good, and this is for no one except the believer. If something of good/happiness befalls him he is grateful and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him he is patient and that is good for him.”
Uthaymīn (may Allāh have mercy upon him) stated:
“If the person faces the calamities (that befall him) with patience without seeking the reward (for being patient), it becomes an expiation for his sins. If he is patient along with seeking the reward (for being patient), then it becomes a reward along with it being an expiation of the sins. The meaning of seeking the reward is that the person believes within himself that he will be rewarded for this patience, therefore having a good thought about Allāh. So Allāh gives him (the good) which he thought about Him.”
- Show gratitude and thanks to Allāh
Always remember the value of Allāh’s blessings during times of difficulty and show gratitude. Be a thankful slave and Allāh will increase you.
Allāh’s timing is perfect in every matter. We do not always understand the wisdom behind them, but we must learn to trust Allāh. Ignorant is the one who thinks they can make better choices for themself than Allāh can. It is He who created you, so aim to internalise that it is He who knows what is best for you. As Imām al-Ghazālī reflected:
“As I look back on my life, I realise that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better. You must convince your heart that whatever Allah has decreed is most appropriate and most beneficial for you.”
Those who are hit with trials and tribulations will be the envy of others on the Day of Judgement. Others will ask Allāh to send them back to the dunyā and throw test after test at them, so they can gain more reward. No one wants to be in pain but when people see how much Allāh has rewarded them in the ākhira, they will want more extreme challenges in this world than they had previously lived through.
When things are too hard to handle, retreat and count your blessings instead. The solution to every problem is in patience and seeking forgiveness. A du’ā that should be uttered for those who have been struck with a calamity:
إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ اللَّهُمَّ أْجُرْنِي فِي مُصِيبَتِي وَأَخْلِفْ لِي خَيْرًا مِنْهَا
You may feel like your life is a museum of disappointments and calamities, but they are not accidents from Allāh. They were designed to come to us at the right time in the right place, so accept that whatever has come your way or is yet to come, was only ever meant for you.
Even when the calamity passes, and you are building a new pathway from the wreckage left behind, there is another reason to rejoice at your calamities.
The Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) said that remembering past trials can earn reward:
“If any Muslim man or woman suffers a calamity and keeps it in his memory, even if it happened a long time ago, saying each time it is remembered, ‘We belong to Allāh and to Him do we return,’ Allāh, who is Blessed and Exalted will give a fresh reward each time it is said, equivalent to the reward of when it happened.”
Whether it is a failed exam, the loss of property and wealth, the deterioration of health, or a difficult family situation; consider how blessed we are to have calamities so small it can fit on the tips of our tongues.
We conclude with another of al-Hasan al-Basri’s sayings on the topic:
Posted by: Hamza Saleem