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18. Misfortunes

Allah, the Wise, has said:

فَاَمَّا الْاِنْساَن اِذاَ ماَ ابْتَلاَهُ رَبُّهُ فَاَكْرَمَهُ وَ نَعَّمَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي اَكرَمَنِ

(And as for man, when his Lord tries him, then treats him with honor and makes him lead an easy life, he says: My Lord has honoured me.)1

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) has said:

اِنَّ الْبَلاَءَ لِلظَّالِم اَدَبٌ وَ لِلْمُؤمِنِ اِمْتِحاَن

(Surely, misfortune for an oppressor is a (corrective) chastisement and for a Mu'min, a trial)2

Short Explanation

For someone possessing intellect, misfortunes are a means of ornamentation and esteem. Exercising forbearance when faced with misfortune and being steadfast during trials, strengthens one’s faith.

One who bears hardship with patience, shall acquire the Grace of God and, as dictated by the Divine Wisdom, shall attain salvation and comfort, either in this world or in the hereafter.

From within the flames of misfortune and calamity, emerge the esoteric lights. A person who regards misfortune and calamity as a trial, and combats it successfully, will become that much wiser as a result of the extra knowledge and perception acquired. It is not good practice to constantly complain of worldly misfortunes like poverty, illness, family problems, and so on.

1) In the Company of Angels

One of the patient Muslims, uncomplaining in the face of misfortunes, was a person by the name of I’mraan. He had come to suffer from dropsy3 and no amount of treatment proved productive.

For thirty years he lay upon his stomach, unable to rise, sit or stand and so, a pit had been dug near his place of rest for his urine and excrement.

Once, his brother A’laa, paid him a visit and observing his pitiful state, burst out in tears. I’mraan asked, “Why do you weep?”

His brother replied, “It is because I see that for years you have been suffering in this pathetic condition.”

I'mraan said, “Weep not and do not be disturbed because this state, which God has ordained for me, is dearer to me than anything else; I desire to remain in this condition, which God desires for me, for as long as I am alive. I shall now inform you of a secret, which you must not divulge to anyone for as long as I am alive: I am in the company of the angels; they greet me and I reply to their greetings, and enjoy a great intimacy with them.” 4

2) Ali A’abid in Prison

Ali A’bid (Ali Ibn Hasan Al-Muthallath) was one of the children of Imam Hasan (a.s.) who had been imprisoned by Mansur Dawaaniqi and had died while still in prison. Ali A’bid was unsurpassed in his patience, worship and remembrance of God.

When Mansur arrested the descendants of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and the children of Imam Hasan (a.s.), he placed them in a prison that was so dark that day could not be differentiated from night, except by means of the recitations and acts of worship of Ali A’abid. These acts were disciplined, orderly and continuous, and therefore made the others aware of the time for prayers.

One day, due to the hardships of captivity and the weight of his fetters, A'bdullah Ibn Hasan Al-Muthanna lost patience and in a state of great agitation, said to Ali A’abid:

“Do you not witness our misfortunes and adversities? Do you not pray to God to grant us relief from this suffering of ours?”

Ali A’abid remained silent for a while after which he said, “O’ Uncle! There exists for us a (lofty) rank in Paradise, which we can never achieve except by exhibiting patience over theseor even more severe adversities, and there exists for Mansur a dreadful place within Hell, which he shall never reach except by subjecting us to such persecution. If we are patient, we shall soon find ourselves in ease and comfort, for death is not very far from us. But if you desire, I shall pray for our deliverance, but in that case, Mansur shall not reach that stage of wretchedness, which has been ordained for him, within Hell.”

Hearing this, A'bdullah immediately said, “We shall be patient.”

Hardly three days had passed when, Ali A’abid passed away while in a state of prostration. A'bdullah thought him to be asleep and said, “Wake up my nephew.”

As they attempted to move him, they found that he would not wake up and it was then they realized that he had died.5

3) An Enemy Ordained for a Mu’min

Prophet Hud (a.s.) used to farm. Once, a group of people came to his house to meet him. His wife came to the door and asked:

“Who is it?”

They replied, “We have come from such and such city, which has been afflicted with famine and we are on the verge of destruction. We have come to Prophet Hud (a.s.) to request him to pray for the rains.”

The wife of Hud (a.s.) remarked, “If his prayers had been answered, he would have prayed for himself; his own crops are withering away due to lack of water.”

They persisted, “Where is he at present?”

She informed them of his whereabouts whereupon the group approached him and placed their request before him. Prophet Hud (a.s.) offered prayers and then supplicated, after which he turned to them and said, “ You may return for it has rained over your city.”

But as they sought to take his leave, they asked him, “When we approached your house we had come across a lady, who said: ‘If the prayers of Hud were to have been answered, would he not have prayed for himself?’

Prophet Hud (a.s.) said, “That woman is my wife and I pray to God to grant her a long life.” “Why do you pray so?” asked the people.

He replied, “God has not created a Mu'min except that He has also ordained an enemy for him to trouble him. This woman is my enemy and an enemy of whom I am the master, is better than an enemy, who happens to be my master.” 6

4) Muhammad Ibn Abi U’mair Served Three Imams

Muhammad Ibn Abi U'mair had the opportunity of serving Imam Kadhim, Imam Ridha and Imam Jawad (a.s.) and both, the Sunnites and the Shiites, have attested to his trustworthiness and uprightness.

He was a cloth-merchant by profession and financially very well off. He wrote ninety-four books on traditions and jurisprudence. Due to his stateliness, and his knowledge of the names of the Shiites, he used to be greatly troubled during the period of Haroon Al-Rashid and Mamun; he would be abused, imprisoned and his property would be seized. He was asked to become a judge, but he declined the offer; since he was familiar with the Shiites of Iraq, he was asked to reveal their names, but he refused to comply so they flung him into prison and, on numerous occasions, he was whipped so severely that he was barely left alive. Once, upon the orders of Haroon Al-Rashid, Sindi Ibn Shaahak subjected him to a hundred and twenty lashes and he had to purchase his freedom by paying one thousand dirhams. Financially, he suffered a loss of a hundred thousand dirhams and his captivity extended for a period of four years.

His sister (Sa’eedah or Minnah) gathered all his books and concealed them, but it so happened that one day it rained and all his books were ruined. Later, the traditions that he used to narrate were either from the sharp memory, which he possessed, or from copies, which others had transcribed from his original books before their destruction.7

5) A Long Life is Associated with Misfortunes

It has been reported that once Jibraeel (peace be upon him) approached Prophet Sulaiman (a.s.), bringing with him a bowl containing the Water of Life and said to him: Your Lord has given you the choice that if you so choose, you can drink this water and remain alive till the Day of Judgment.

Sulaiman (a.s.) placing this issue before a group of men, jinn and animals, consulted them and all of them recommended him to consume the water so that he could become eternal.

Sulaiman, after some reflection realized that he had not conferred with the porcupine and so sent a horse to call him, but the porcupine did not arrive. He then sent a dog after him, whereupon he arrived immediately!

Sulaiman (a.s.) said to him, “Before I confer with you about my issue, I would like to know why, when I sent the horse, the most honorable of all animals after man, you did not arrive, but when I sent the dog, the most vile of all the animals, you presented yourself immediately?”

The porcupine replied, “The horse, in spite of being an honorable animal, does not possess loyalty, whereas the dog, despite being the most despicable, possesses it; if it receives a loaf of bread from someone, it would remain loyal to him all throughout its life.”

Sulaiman (a.s.) then said, “A bowl containing the Water of Life has been sent to me and I have been given the choice of either accepting it or refusing it. All the others have advised me to drink it in order that I become eternal.”

The porcupine said, “Is this Water of Life only for you or are your children, family and friends permitted to consume it too?”

He said, “No! It is solely for me.”

The porcupine then advised, “It is advisable that you do not accept it, for when you acquire a long life, all your children, relatives and friends shall depart before you, every passing day bringing you face to face with misfortune and sorrow thereby making your life miserable for you.Sulaiman (a.s.) approved of this advice and heeding it, returned the Water of Life.8

  • 1. Holy Qur'an, ch. Al-Fajr (89), vs. 15.
  • 2. Jaame’ al-Akhbaar, pg. 113.
  • 3. A sickness, in which a person suffers swelling of the stomach, consumes an inordinate quantity of water and experiences extraordinary thirst. (Farhang-e-A’meed).
  • 4. Daastaan-ha Wa Pand-ha, vol. 7, pg. 148; La-aali al-Akhbaar, vol. 1, pg. 346.
  • 5. Pand-e-Taareekh, vol. 2, pg. 172; Maqtal-e-Khwaarzami, vol. 2, pg. 108.
  • 6. Namunah-e-Ma’arif, vol. 2, pg. 612.
  • 7. Muntahal Aa’maal, vol. 2, pg. 358.
  • 8. Jawaame’ al-Hikaayaat, pg. 95.

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