Going Through Tough & Hard Time - The Islamic Perspective

Allah is All-Wise. He does not act without purpose, He created humans for a purpose. The purpose was for humans to know Him. In order to know Him, the soul needs to attain maturity. This knowing does not happen with the mind, but it happens through consciousness of Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala, and knowing Him and feeling His presence and being fully conscious of Him which leads us to submission. And this explains why Allah did not simply create us and plant us in Jannah, because we need to have those interactions in this world that help us to build the attributes that help us to have these realizations, and maturity that bring us to this levels of consciousness.

Now, how do we build these traits? We build these traits in ourselves through one thing, and that one thing is suffering.

Suffering happens in two ways - one way that suffering happens is through Shariah. Shariah imposes certain things on us in a very gentle manner, expose us to some hardship that builds these traits in us. For example, Shariah tells us to wake up at dawn and pray Salat-ul-Fajr. When we get up in that morning, we struggle against our souls and in doing so we build certain attributes and qualities that will help us to attain that God consciousness. Fasting, now that we are at the doorstep of the month of Ramadan - fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you. Why? la allakum tattaqun - so that you may attain taqwa(2:183). What is taqwa? Taqwa is God consciousness. It brings us back to the same thing, that fasting also is to help you to become more conscious of Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala. Parting with your wealth is a hardship. Going for jihad is a hardship. These are all different forms of Shariah that give you some form of suffering but help nurturing the soul.

The other way in which we encounter suffering is when we have to deal with other souls that are less mature than we are, at our level. They may be our family members, parents, children, siblings, relatives, or they may be friends or people at work. As we encounter and deal with them, opportunities arise for us to build these qualities in our souls. We can choose to be patient or impatient. We can choose to be selfless or selfish. We can choose to be arrogant and angry or be humble, so we can choose to be courageous or we can be cowardly.

There are constant challenges from the person who annoys you in the traffic jam to the person at work, to the person who says something hurtful at home. There is constant challenges, but that is why Islam does not permit you to go live in a cave or be a monk living in a monastery. Islam wants you to live in society because that is where the soul is forged in the fire of suffering and tribulation, where it attains these qualities.

Ask yourself - when do we become patient? When we have to hold ourselves back from something we want or something we have lost. When do we have to be selfless? When we have to prefer something for others over ourselves? When do we need to be humble, when we are angry, and when there is an opportunity to be arrogant? When do we need to have courage? When there is something that we fear but we have to do? Supposing these challenges did not come in our lives, then how would we become patient? How would we be courageous? How would we become selfless? We would all die arrogant, selfish, ignorant, cowards - who are impatient.

The opportunity for these qualities would never arise without having this, and that is why the Quran repeatedly says this, Kutiba alaikumulqitaal - fighting has been prescribed for you, where you may have to give your life. Wa huwa kurhullakum - even though we know that you don't like it, you hate it. Wa 'asaaa an takrahoo shai'anw wa huwa khairullakum - it may be that you despise something in life, but it is good for you. Wa 'asaaa an tuhibbo shai'anw wa huwa sharrullakum - and it may be that you love something, but it is bad for you. Wallaahu ya'lamu wa antum laa ta'lamoon - Allah , Subhana Wa Ta'ala knows, you don't know (2:216) meaning Allah's eyes is on your soul, on your journey to Him. He wants your soul to mature and come to a fruition and bloom and blossom so that you know Him. And the way to that is through suffering. You are looking at your physical dimension and your animal instinct and running away from suffering and therefore, missing the whole purpose of life.

And so the verses of the Quran that I begin with in which Allah , Subhana Wa Ta'ala says - no affliction befalls you in this world, on this Earth or in yourself, but it is in a book recorded before we send it down to you (57:22). That means any suffering that befalls you is not out of our control. We regulate and we control it and we know what befalls you, and Inna zaalika 'alal laahi yaseer - this is very easy for Allah , Subhana Wa Ta'ala to do (57:22).

Why does he let you suffer? Likailaa ta'saw 'alaa maa faatakum wa laa tafrahoo bimaaa aataakum (57:23) - so that you do not become a creature that is always despairing and depressed and despondent when something bad befalls you and a creature that gloats and becomes arrogant and overly rejoicing and happy when something physically good comes to you, we want to regulate and mature your soul so that you are not constantly swinging like a pendulum, from one side to the other of over joy and despair.

And that is why we constantly send you suffering, so that you may mature in your soul and in your understanding.