Meaning Behind Life’s Trials, Tragedies & Pitiless Storms:

Surkheel Abu Aaliyah writes on Facebook:


‘We will surely test you with fear and hunger, and loss of property and lives and trade. But give glad-tidings to the patient who, when struck by some misfortune, say: “We belong to God, and to Him shall we return.” On those shall be blessings from their Lord and mercy; and such are the rightly-guided.“‘ [Q.2:155-57]

Patience (sabr) is seen as an antidote to the earthly struggles or sufferings we must endure. Unbelievers must endure, as must the believers. Suffering is intrinsic to the human drama. By patience I mean: restraining one’s soul in times of difficulty or discomfort, and enduring adversity without complaint.

Those who choose to lose sight of God, when struck by misfortune, tend to suffer on two levels. First, there is the calamity itself with its pain and anguish. Second, there is the belief that it should not have happened and that its happening says something bitter and dark about the world (or if they bring God into it, then about God’s nature).

A believer, by contrast, lives under the awareness that whatever we have and enjoy is ultimately a gift on loan to us from God, upon an acceptance of the destiny willed by God. “We belong to God, and to Him shall we return.”

Patience amidst adversity and suffering – without hearts becoming resentful, bitter or hard – exists only if there is a sense of proportion. Which is to say, suffering is bearable only if it is understood; even when such understanding is unformulated or hazy. The fact that I’m grieving, doesn’t mean the world is out of sync. The fact that I have been done injury to, does not mean that God is unjust. The fact that my life is now darkened by tradegy, doesn’t mean that no sun shines on creation. No! It is when grief is taken out of its proper sphere that we get the “problem of suffering”.

A believer endures precisely because adversity or suffering aren’t seen as meaningless. Instead, he sees them as invested with purpose. In one hadith, we read: ‘No Muslim is afflicted with hardship, pain, anxiety, grief or injury – even to the extent of being pricked by a thorn – without God causing it to be an atonement for his sins.’ [Al-Bukhari, no.5641] There is the following hadith, too, that offers great comfort and healing amidst what may seem like the pelting of life’s pitiless storms: ‘When God loves a person, He tries them.’ [Al-Bukhari, no.5645]

All this helps to comfort the believer and assures him that his suffering is not without meaning; although it is unlikely to satisfy the profane mind, or the armchair critics of God.

Here, as is often the case, the believer inhabits a different world from others. For his ambition is to grow in faith and to mature spiritually. He knows this worldly life is a preparation for what comes after. So he views trials as being, not something negative, but part of his life education where the divine intent is to nurture his latent potential in order to bring out the best in him; or refine and raise his rank with God; or prune and purify him from sins; or to simply humble him and bring home to him how powerless he is in the face of affliction and how in need he is of God’s grace.

Moreover, the believer is less concerned with why he faces trials and ordeals – which he is content to leave to a Wisdom much greater than his – than with the appropriate response he should offer God in such situations.

In this, let believers take comfort, let hearts hold out hope, and let souls be soothed.

Categories: Islam

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