The Islamic Approach to Calamity
Are you a believer having faith in Allah and the Hereafter? Then prepare yourself for trials and tribulations with knowledge from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, for the believer’s heart and soul will for sure be put to test to check the level of faith and trust he/she has in Allah (swt).
We are all faced with calamities in life, whether it be financial, ill health, loss of a loved one. Whether we are believers or non believers, this is true. The difference between the two is that the believers will not lose hope or faith and will draw nearer to Allah T’ala in these moments.
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "The example of a believer is that of a fresh tender plant; from whatever direction the wind comes, it bends it, but when the wind becomes quiet, it becomes straight again. Similarly, a believer is afflicted with Calamities (but he remains patient till Allah removes his difficulties.) And an impious wicked person is like a pine tree which keeps hard and straight till Allah cuts (breaks) it down when He wishes." Bukhari
I want in this class to how we should look at these times in our life, as everyone one of us in this room will have and will continue to have trials and tribulations until the day in which Allah T’ala takes our soul.
No misfortune can happen on earth or in your souls but is recorded in a decree before We bring it into existence: that is truly easy for Allah: in order that ye may not despair over matters that pass you by … (57:22-23)
No Calamity befalls, but with the Leave (i.e. decision and Qadar (Divine Preordainments)) of Allah, and whosoever believes in Allah, He guides his heart (to the true Faith with certainty, i.e. what has befallen him was already written for him by Allah from the Qadar (Divine Preordainments)), and Allah is the All-Knower of everything. (Chapter #64, Verse #11)
Therefore, the believer should take relief and comfort from the fact that Allah (swt) is fully and intimately aware of his situations. Any harm or injustice that he has been subjected to by anyone, will not go without a consequence. Or if he is suffering from distress and difficulties, then his suffering is constantly being watched by One who is the Most Kind, the Most Merciful.
We should also be aware of the fact that…
A believer must have firm conviction that any good that happens to us comes from Allah (swt) and any calamity that befalls us is the result of our own making:
Whatever misfortune happens to you is because of the things your hands have wrought and for many (of them) He grants forgiveness. (42:30)
No affliction great or small afflicts a man but for a sin, but there are more which Allah forgives. (Tirmidhi)
Often in retrospect we can look back at some hardship we faced and realise that there was great wisdom and lessons learned from that experience. And that often the hard times are what makes us realise where we are going wrong and what we need to repent to Allah T’ala for. And we make corrections in ourselves and grow stronger in faith.
It is the Righteous Believers Who are Tested With Calamities
This world, the journey to the Hereafter, is but a test for us. If we pass our final abode is in
Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves. (3:186)
Do men think that they will be left alone on saying “We believe” and that they will not be tested? (29:2)
“And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to the patient. Who, when afflicted with calamity, say:
“Truly, to Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return. They are those on whom are blessings from their Lord and (they are those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided ones.” (Al-Baqarah: 155-157)
“Or think you that you will enter
Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who
passed away before you? They were afflicted with severe poverty and ailments
and were so shaken that even the Messenger and those who believed along with
him said, ‘When (will come) the Help of Allaah?’ Yes! Certainly, the Help of
Allaah is near!” [al-Baqarah 2:214]
Anas b. Malik reported: The Paradise is surrounded by Hardships and the Hell-Fire is surrounded by temptations. Muslim
So to the believer the disasters that befall them come as no surprise and they spiritually embrace them as their test and Praise Allah, as he is deserving of Praise.
This doesn’t mean we don’t have a moment where we are emotional about the issue, we are human, but we don’t let this take us away, overwhelm us and drive us to behaviour that is unbecoming of a true believer. We hold fast to our Deen and draw ourselves closer to Allah T’ala and seek his assistance in all matters.
It is pleasing to know that…..
They should remember about the Companions of the Prophet (p) who were severely persecuted or even killed after becoming Muslim, an event that wipes out all past sins. Even the prophets of Allah, the best of all people who ever walked on the face of the earth, were persecuted by their community without exception. Was Joseph not thrown into a well, sold as a slave, and then thrown back into a prison? Did Job not face severest of trials one after another, and was eventually left out by all except his wife? In fact, the Qur’an tells us that many prophets were brutally killed by the unbelievers.
These examples should establish the fact that trials and tribulations are not a sign of Allah’s displeasure on someone. Quite the contrary, it is rather a sign of Allah’s love on someone. The Prophet (p) said:
When Allah who is Great and Glorious loves people He afflicts them [with trials]. (Tirmidhi)
Anyone for whom Allah intends good, He makes him suffer from some affliction. (Bukhari)
When Allah intends good for His slave, He punishes him in this world, but when He intends an evil for His slave, He does not hasten to take him to task but calls him to account on the Day of Resurrection. (Tirmidhi)
The punishment in the Hereafter is much severe – in fact unimaginable from our worldly perspective – than any affliction one can face in this world. Therefore, when Allah (swt) loves someone and intends for him or her to go to
He wipes out his sins and mistakes and rewards him highly by putting him to
afflictions in this world.
According to a saheeh hadeeth: “The greatest reward comes from the greatest trial. When Allaah loves people, He tests them, and whoever accepts it gains the pleasure of Allaah and whoever complains earns His wrath. (Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)
For calamities to befall the believer is better than punishments being stored up for him in the Hereafter. How can it be otherwise when he is raised in status and his bad deeds are erased thereby? The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “When Allaah wills good for His slave, He hastens his punishment in this world, and when He wills bad for His slave, He withholds his sins until he comes with them on the Day of Resurrection.” (Tirmidhi)
It is also important to remember
Human beings are created weak (4:28). When a sudden calamity or distress befalls us, we easily become overwhelmed and often cry out, “O Allah! This is too much for me to bear!”
It never is. The believers should know it for fact that Allah (swt) never puts any burden on a soul that is beyond its ability to bear. Perhaps because we often lose sight of this fact that Allah (swt) mentions this in several places in the Qur’an:
On no soul doth Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. (2:286)
On no soul do We place a burden greater than it can bear: before Us is a record which clearly shows the truth: they will never be wronged. (23:62)
No burden do We place on any soul but that which it can bear. (6:152)
And those who believe and do good – We do not impose upon any of them a burden beyond his capacity. (7:42)
Therefore, no matter how difficult one’s situation is or how sever his sufferings, he should have absolutely no doubt in his mind he has the ability to deal with the trial. Allah (swt) is Just, and every affliction that He tests his faithful servant with, there is always two viable outcome for him: passing the test with success and thus earning Allah’s good pleasure, or failing it.
And when the trials and tests are great we must also remember that…
Do you think that the Medical Board would instate a surgeon to the top ranks of surgery just like that, without severe tests to make sure they were competent?? What about the believer?
Do men think that they will be left alone on saying “We believe” and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false. (29:2-3)
Each believer, therefore, must expect to be tested. The stronger his faith, the harder will be the test, and the greater his reward will be if he remains patient having unshakable faith and trust in Allah (swt). The Prophet (p) said:
The magnitude of the reward goes along with the magnitude of the affliction. (Tirmidhi)
No calamity befalls a Muslim but that Allah expiates some of his sins because of it, even though it were the prick he receives from a thorn. (Bukhari)
So we must be expecting to be tests, not seek to be tested or ask to be tested, but we should always expect that we will face trials and tribulations in this life.
Believers Must Always Be Prepared to Face Trials
The above discussions should make it clear that believers will be tried with calamities, afflictions, and distress, and these trials will continue to occur during their lifetime until they meet their Lord.
'Aisha, one of his wives, said: “I never saw anybody suffering so much from sickness as Allah's Apostle.” Bukhari
For a believer, suffering from sickness is not just a reality but also a philosophy that comes with blessings. He knows that Allah (swt) in His mercy will expiate some of his sins if he remains patient through it. The Prophet (p) said:
No Muslim is afflicted with harm because of sickness or some other inconvenience, but that Allah will remove his sins for him as a tree sheds its leaves. (Bukhari)
The Prophet (p) replied, “Do you wish that you may endure it and be rewarded with
Paradise, or do you wish
that I shall make supplication to Allah to cure you?” She said, “I shall endure
it.” This woman later became known as one from the people of Paradise.[Full
hadeeth in Bukhari and Muslim]
And it was narrated that Jaabir said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “On the Day of Resurrection, when people who had suffered affliction are given their reward, those who were healthy will wish their skins had been cut to pieces with scissors when they were in the world.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 2402. See al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, no. 2206.
Imam Muslim narrates a hadith about a female Companion of the Prophet that is a paramount example of patience and faith. To reproduce the hadith briefly, her name was Umm Sulaim. One of her sons was very sick while her husband, Abu Talha, was away in business. The son eventually died, and she told her family members not to tell this to her husband when he returns until she breaks this to him herself. When Abu Talha returned, she presented the supper before him and he ate. She then beautified herself in the best way like she never did before.
After they had intercourse and Abu Talha was satisfied, she told him, “O Abu Talha! If some people borrow something from another family who then ask for that to be returned, should they refuse to give it back?”
He replied, “No”.
“Then”, she said, “hope reward for your son”.
Abu Talha immediately understood that their son was dead.
After burring his son in the morning, he went to the Prophet and told him the matter. The Prophet (p) said, “May Allah bless the night you spent together.” It turned out that she conceived that night. When the child was born, the Prophet (p) blessed him and named him “Abdullah”. Bukhari’s version of the hadith says that Abdullah had nine sons, each of whom memorized the entire Qur’an.
When a mother suffers the death of her child, there is no one in this world who can come close to feeling her grief and sorrow. And yet, this otherwise unknown Companion of the Prophet (p) remained patient with Allah as she correctly understood the philosophy of life and death.
Umm Salama, the wife of the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him), reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: If any servant (of Allah) who suffers a Calamity says:" We belong to Allah and to Him shall we return; O Allah, reward me for my affliction and give me something better than it in exchange for it," ' Allah will give him reward for affliction, and would give him something better than it in exchange. She (Umm Salama) said: When Abu Salama died. I uttered (these very words) as I was commanded (to do) by the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him). So Allah gave me better in exchange than him. i. e. (I was taken as the wife of) the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him). (Book #004, Hadith #2000) Muslim
Loss of Wealth and Property
About such people who think that it is because of their talent or enterprise that they had become wealthy, Allah (swt) says:
… When We bestow a favor upon him as from Ourselves he says, “This has been given to me because of a certain knowledge (I have)!” Nay, this is but a trial. But most of them understand not. (39:49)
Righteous believers, therefore, are always conscious about this true ownership of wealth and property that is at their disposal. Therefore, when a calamity befalls that results in the loss of that property or wealth, they do not break down but remind themselves with this: “This property and wealth belonged to Allah and He has taken it back”.
We have made some of you as a trial for others: will ye have patience? For Allah is One Who sees (all things). (25:20)
Truly the reward of the Hereafter will be greater if they only realize (this)! (They are) those who persevere in patience and put their trust on their Lord. (16:41-42)
That is the ultimate comfort that a believer can have who has been wronged or oppressed by others. For there is a Judge higher than all other judges and an Authority above all other authorities. Unlike the judges in this world, this Judge never makes a mistake. For He is intimately aware of all things that occur and renders justice based on actual facts, and not on the presentation and performance of lawyers.
There is great reward in remembrance and worship of Allah T’ala in times of calamity.
It was narrated from Ma’qil ibn Yasaar that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Worshipping at times of tribulation and confusion is like migrating to join me.” Narrated by Muslim
We should also check ourselves that we do not fall into the category of those ungrateful ones who forget Allah T’ala, as is described in the Quran:
Truly man was created very impatient: fretful when evil touches him, and niggardly when good reaches him. (70:19-21)
Allah (swt) says:
When trouble touches a man he cries unto Us (in all postures) lying down on his side or sitting or standing. But when We have solved his trouble he passes on his way as if he had never cried to Us for a trouble that touched him! Thus do the deeds of transgressors seem fair in their eyes! (10:12)
This is the person who only remembers Allah in times of difficulty and forgets in times of ease. And the other:
About them, says Allah (swt):
Among men is he who worships Allah, while remaining on the borderline; if any good befalls him, he is satisfied; but if a trial afflicts him, he utterly turns away. He will incur loss both of this world and the Hereafter. That indeed is a clear loss. (22:11)
This is a person who is pleased with Allah T’ala in good times but turns away in the difficult times, both of these types of people are those who will punished in the Hereafter for their disbelief and trust in Allah. We are a balanced people and we remember Allah in the good and bad times remaining steadfast in doing as he commanded and avoiding what he forbids.
And what I always try to remember in the hard times:
Verily with every difficulty, there is relief. (94:6)
For a believer in affliction, that is the ultimate success that awaits him. Says Allah (swt): Verily, the Hereafter will be better for thee than the present. (93:4)
And if you honestly consider your times of hardship you will see this is so true. And how much is the sense of relief when it is over?
Learning from the Example of Prophet Job
Those afflicted with calamities and distress should remember the story of Prophet Job (Qur’an calls him Aiyub). Ah! What a heart-melting story of pain and suffering, of patience and forbearance, of faith and gratitude, and ultimately of reward and success!
Prophet Job (p) was a very wealthy man having many animals, lands, slaves, and children. He was a very patient man and was never arrogant or selfish. He worshipped Allah and was always humble and grateful to him. From his riches, he would help the poor and the needy with food and clothes. He would buy slaves and set them free. When he helped people, he made them feel as if they are favoring him by accepting his gifts. Such a noble person was he that one day the angels were discussing about him and praising him as a model servant of Allah.
Satan overheard their comments and became annoyed. He tried to seduce him with evil thoughts and distract him from prayers and worshipping Allah. But Job was firm in his faith and did not let the whispers of Satan tempt him.
Failing in his attempts to seduce Job, Satan complained to Allah about Job saying that although he was continuously glorifying Allah, he was not doing so out of his sincerity but to satisfy Allah so that his wealth should not be taken away. It was all a show, all out of greed. “If You remove his wealth then You will find that his tongue will no longer mention Your name and his praying will stop.”
Allah told Satan that Job was one of His most sincere devotees, and to prove this to him, Allah allowed him to do whatever he and his helpers wished with Job's wealth. Happy with this authority, Satan gathered his helpers and set about destroying Job's cattle, servants, and farms until he was left with no possessions. He then appeared before Job in the guise of a wise old man and said to him:
“All your wealth is lost. Some people say that it is because you gave too much charity and that you are wasting your time with your continuous prayers to Allah. Others say that Allah has bought this upon you in order to please your enemies. If Allah had the capacity to prevent harm, then He would have protected your wealth.”
True to his belief, Job replied:
“What Allah has taken away from me belongs to Him. I was only its trustee for a while. He gives to whom He wills and withholds from whom He wills.”
With these words, Job went to prostration out of his humbleness and gratitude to Allah (swt).
Seeing this, Satan was frustrated. He again complained to Allah:
“I have stripped Job of all his possessions, but he still remains grateful to You. However, he is only hiding his disappointments, for he places great store by his many children. The real test of a parent is through his children. You will then see how Job will reject You.”
Allah granted Satan authority, but warned him that it would not reduce Job's faith in his Lord nor his patience.
Satan gathered his helpers and shook the foundation of the house in which Job's children were living and sent the building crashing, killing all of them. Then he went to Job disguised as a man who had come to sympathize with him. In a comforting tone he said to Job:
“The circumstances under which your children died were sad. Surely, your Lord is not rewarding you properly for all your prayers.”
Job, firm in his faith, replied:
“Allah sometimes gives and sometimes takes. He is sometimes pleased and sometimes displeased with our deeds. Whether a thing is beneficial or harmful to me, I will remain firm in my belief and remain thankful to my Creator.”
He then prostrated again to his Lord.
At this Satan was extremely vexed. He again called on Allah:
“O my Lord, Job's wealth is gone, his children are dead, but he is still healthy in body, and as long as he enjoys good health he will continue to worship You in the hope of regaining his wealth and producing more children. Grant me authority over his body so that I may weaken it. He will surely neglect worshipping You and thus become disobedient.”
Allah wanted to teach Satan a lesson that Job was a devoted servant of Him, and so He granted Satan his third request but placed a condition:
“I give you authority over his body but not over his soul, intellect, or heart, for in these places reside the knowledge of Me and My religion.”
Armed with this new authority, Satan began to take revenge on Job's body and filled it with disease until it was reduced to mere skin and bone, making him suffer severe pain. But through all the suffering Job remained strong in his faith, patiently bearing all the hardships without complaining. He did not despair, nor did he turn to others for help but remained hopeful of Allah's Mercy. Even close relatives and friends deserted him. Only his kind loving wife stayed with him who remained his sole companion and comforter through many years of his suffering.
In desperation, Satan went to Job's wife in the form of a man, and asked, “Where is your husband?”
She pointed to an almost lifeless form crumpled on the bed and said: “There he is, suspended between life and death.”
Satan reminded her of the days when Job had good health, wealth and children. Suddenly, the painful memory of yeas of hardship overcame her, and she burst into tears. She said to Job:
“How long are you going to bear this torture from our Lord? Are we to remain without wealth, children or friends forever? Why don't you call upon Allah to remove this suffering?”
Job sighed, and in a soft voice replied, “Satan must have whispered to you and made you dissatisfied. Tell me, how long did I enjoy good health and riches?”
She replied, “For eighty years.”
Then Job asked, “How long am I suffering like this?”
She said, “For seven years.”
Then Job told her, “In that case I am ashamed to call on my Lord to remove the hardship, for I have not suffered longer than the years of good health and plenty. It seems that your faith has weakened and you are dissatisfied with the fate of Allah. If I ever regain health, I swear I will punish you with a hundred strokes! From this day onward, I forbid myself to eat or drink anything from your hand. Leave me alone and let my Lord do with me as He pleases.”
Crying bitterly and with a heavy heart, she had no choice but to leave him and seek shelter elsewhere. In his helpless state, Job turned to Allah, not to complain but to seek His mercy:
Verily, distress has seized me, and You are the Most Merciful of all those who show Mercy. (21:83)
What a man of patience, faith, and self-respect! Even in this miserable condition, he did not ask Allah to remove his affliction but merely stated that He is the Most Merciful of all who have mercy!
Can there be any trial more difficult and painful then what Job went through one after another? He lost all his wealth and property, all of his children were killed when the roof collapsed, his friends and people left him, and he suffered from a sever skin disorder for years. Yet, he did not complained to Allah nor was he dissatisfied with Him throughout these extremely difficult trials. The result of his patience and faith in Allah was this: he came out of all these trials with superb success. He asked for Allah’s Mercy, and rushing down it came:
So We answered his call, and We removed the distress that was on him, and We restored his family to him (that he had lost) and the like thereof along with them - as a mercy from Ourselves and a Reminder for all who worship Us. (21:84)
Allah (swt) praised him in the Qur’an, saying:
Truly We found him full of patience and constancy, how excellent in Our service! Ever did he turn (to Us)! (38:44)
And He rewarded him with more than what he had:
And We gave him (back) his people and doubled their number as a Grace from Ourselves and a thing for commemoration for all who have understanding. (38:43)