Difficulties is True Character of the World
By Dr. Jasser Auda
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-`ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam, is His Messenger
In his well-known book entitled: “Al-Hikam (Words of Wisdom)”, Sheikh Ahmad Ibn `Ataa`illah As-Sakandari (rahimahullah) says:
“Do not be surprised when difficulties happen in this worldly abode. It is only revealing its true character and identity.”
Sheikh Ibn `Ataa`illah (rahimahullah) was indicating that should the servant of Allah repents to Him, relies on Him, purifies his intention to Him, reflects on Him, and seizes the time, the light of faith will shine in his heart and his journey will draw closer to Allah Almighty.
In any case, as Sheikh Ibn `Ataa (rahimahullah) had said, "There is no real distance between you and Him so that you embark upon a journey. And the connection between you and Him is not cut so that you seek to mend it".
In Hadith Qudsi, Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) state that Allah Almighty said:
"My servant continues to draw near to Me with additional work until I love him. When I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. If he asks me, I will give him, and if he seeks my refuge, I will grant it to him." (Al-Bukhari) and "And if he draws near to Me a hand's span, I draw near to him an arm's length. And if he draws near to Me an arm's length, I draw near to him a fathom's length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed" (Al-Bukhari and Muslim.).
However, it is one of Allah's consistent and universal laws that when Allah loves someone, He will test him with trials in this world.
Allah says: “Do people think that on their mere claiming, “We have attained to faith”, they will be left to themselves, and will not be put to a test?” (Al-`Ankabut, 29:2).
A claim of belief has to be put to test.
Allah says: “And most certainly We shall try you all, so that We might mark out those of you who strive hard in Our cause and are patient in adversity: for We shall put to a test the truth of all your assertions.” (Muhammad,47:31)
Trials vary but the expected reaction is the same; patience and piety.
“And most certainly shall We try you by means of danger, and hunger, and loss of worldly goods, of lives and of labor's fruits. But give glad tidings unto those who are patient in adversity” (Al-Baqarah, 2:155).
“You shall most certainly be tried in your possessions and in your persons; and indeed you shall hear many hurtful things from those to whom revelation was granted before your time, as well as from those who have come to ascribe divinity to other beings beside God. But if you remain patient in adversity and pious - this, behold, is something to set one's heart upon” (Aal-`Imran, 3:186).
The Worldly matters worth Very Little to Allah
Allah announces that this worldly life is worth very little. So, if He deprives a person of this worldly life or part of it and guides him to repentance and bestows on him His mercy and paradise instead, then what a great deal! Therefore, the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:
"The most severely tested people are the prophets, then the next best, then the next best. A man will be tested in accordance with his level of commitment to God" (Ibn Hibban).
For this reason, if life is full of difficulties and challenges, one should not be surprised or asks why. It is as if Ibn `Ataa (rahimahullah) is asking us: What is the name of this world? The answer in Arabic is `ad-dunya’, which literally means the lower life. Therefore, it is not surprising if bad conditions, unpleasant manners, and fatal consequences reveal themselves, because these things are derived from the very character and nature of this lower worldly life.
Accepting this nature of worldly life helps the servant acquire a basic virtue and cross a very important stop in his journey to Allah. It is patience with tests. Patience is a characteristic that gets the servant into God's Presence, as mentioned before: “O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:153).
The category of Patience
There are three categories of patience that the servant of Allah required to consistantly adhere to draw closer to Allah, namely: “Patience in doing good deeds”, “Patience in avoiding evil”, and: “Patience with tests”.
1. “Patience in doing good deeds” refers that the believer should always be active, without placing hardship on oneself. Allah says:
“God has laid no hardship on you in anything that pertains to religion” (Al-Hajj, 22:78).
The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) saw an old man walking, supported by his two sons, and asked about him. The people informed him that he had vowed to travel on foot to the Ka`bah. The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said: “Allah is not in need of this old man's torturing himself”; and ordered him to get a ride to the Ka`bah. (An-Nasa`ie) It is not considered as a ‘patience’ to cause torture, hardship or harm upon oneself.
2. As for “Patience in avoiding evil”, it means that a believer should stay away from committing what Allah Almighty has forbidden. For one example, we read in the Qur'an about Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) and one of the tests he was put to.
Allah Says: “And it so happened that she in whose house he was living conceived a passion for him and sought to make him yield himself unto her; and she bolted the doors and said, ‘Come you unto me!’ Joseph answered: ‘May God preserve me!’” (Yusuf, 12:23).
There is a great reward for this type of patience. The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) says that one of the seven persons whom Allah would give protection with His Shade on the Day when there would be no shade but that of Him is "A man whom a beautiful woman of high rank seduces for adultery, but he rejects by saying: ‘I fear God’." (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
3. “Patience with Allah's tests” is at different levels, all of which bear the meaning of refraining from something. The most basic level of patience with Allah’s tests is to refrain from the act of complaining about the test, but to repent and surrender to Allah's Decree. Then, a higher level is to refrain from complaining by your tongue. Finally, the highest level of patience is to refrain even from complaining in your heart.
Refraining from committing sins is a condition for purifying one's heart. Allah says about the hypocrites: “Indeed, We tested them through suffering, but they did surrender to their Sustainer; and they will never humble themselves” (Al-Mu’minun, 23:76).
When a person faces some problems, then he or she is at a cross-road; either to repent and surrender to Allah, or to fall into sins, which means failing the test.
At a higher level, patience with Allah's tests requires one to refrain from even complaining about the test. This is called ‘beautiful patience’, as Allah tells us about the story of Prophet Jacob (‘alayhis salam), when he said: “I will only show beautiful patience” (Yusuf, 12:18), and “It is only to Allah that I complain of my deep grief and my sorrow” (Yusuf, 12:86). Prophet Jacob (`alayhis salam) complained only to his Lord and refused to complain to anyone else.
Being patient with Allah's Decree on the level of the heart is the best type of patience. The believer attains this degree when he or she not only refrains from speaking about the difficulty, but also refrains from agonizing about it in his heart. The soul is always at peace, even at the peak of crisis.
The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said:"Genuine patience is at the first stroke of a calamity" (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said:"Genuine patience is at the first stroke of a calamity" (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
If the believer is patient at the face of tests, he or she will advance in the way of Allah.
“Consider the flight of time! Verily, a human is bound to lose himself, unless he be of those who attain to faith, and do good works, and enjoin upon one another the keeping to truth, and enjoin upon one another patience in adversity” (Al-`Asr, 103:1-3).
And in any case, adversity does not last forever.
“And, behold, with every hardship comes ease: verily, with every hardship comes ease!” (Al-Inshirah 94:4-5).
The Supplication of the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam)
`Abdullah Ibn `Umar (radiyallāhu`anhu) said: We counted Messenger's saying a hundred times during one single sitting: ‘Rabb ighfir li wa tubb `alayya innaka antat-tawwābul-raheem’ (O Allāh, forgive me and accept my repentance, for You are the Accepter of Repentance, Most Merciful). According to another report: ‘Rabb ighfir li wa tubb `alayya Innaka antat-tawābul-ghafūr” (O Allāh, forgive me and accept my repentance, for You are the Acceptor of Repentance, Oft-Forgiving). [Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidzi]
`Aishah (radiyallāhu`anha) also reported, who said: The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) used also to recite frequently in his Ruku’ and Sujud: “Subhānakallāhumma Rabbanā, Wabihamdika, Allāhummaghfirli (Glory is to You, O Allāh! Our Lord, And all the Praise be to You. O Allāh! Forgive me.” Implementing (the order of) the Qur’an: "Fasabbih bihamdi rabbika wastaghfirhu innahu kana tawwaba (Then glorify with the Praises of your Lord, and seek His Forgiveness, for He is Oft-Returning.)" (Nasr, 110:3). [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Ibn `Abbas (radiyallahu`anhu) narrated: The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) used to say ‘between the two Sujud’:“Rabbighfirli, Warhamni, [Wajburni], Warfa’ni, Warzuqni, Wahdini, Wa`afini [Wa’fu‘anni](O my Lord! Forgive me, and Have Mercy on me, [and Strengthen me, and Raise my rank] and Grants me sustenance, and Guide me, and Grant me healthiness, [and Pardon me.])” three times. [Recorded by Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidzi, Ibn Majah and Hākim, who declared it sahih and Dhahabi agreed]
Thawban ibn Bajdad (radiyallāhu‘anhu) reported: Whenever Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) finished his Solat (prayer), he would beg forgiveness three times [by saying, 'Astaghfirullah' (3 times)] and then he would say: "Allāhumma Antas-Salāmu, wa minkas-Salamu, tabarakta ya Dzal-Jalali wal-Ikram. (O Allāh! You are the Bestower of security and security comes from You; Blessed are You. O Possessor of glory and honour)." Imām Al-Awza'ie (one of the subnarrators) of this Hadith was asked: "How forgiveness should be sought?" He replied: "I say: Astaghfirullah!, Astaghfirullah!, Astaghfirullah! (I seek forgiveness O Allāh!. I seek forgiveness O Allāh!. I seek forgiveness O Allāh!)."[Muslim]
In another narration : “Allāhumma antas-Salām wa minkas-Salām wa ilai kaya`udus-Salām, Fahaiyina-Rabbana-bis-Salam Wa ad-khilnal-Jannata Dārus-Salām tabārakta Rabbana wa ta`a laita, Ya Dzal-Jalali wal-Ikram” (O Allāh, You are the One Who is free from all defects and deficiencies, from Thou come well-being, to Thou shalt return the well-being; Thus bless us with peace and Jannah, the Abode of Peace, shower us your blessing O Allāh, Our Lord, the Most High; O Allāh, our Lord Possessor of majesty and honour.)
This Du`a was a Sunnah of Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu`alayhi wasallam), and it is highly recommended to recite it after Solat.
Muslim ibn al-Harith reported that his father said, “The Allāh`s Messenger (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said to me: ‘When you performed Solah Fajar, before you talk to anyone, say: ‘Allāhumma ajirni minannar (O Allāh, I seek your protection from the Hell-fire)” seven times. If you should die on that day, Allāh will record for you protection from the Hell-fire. When you performed the Solāh Maghrib, say, before you speak to anyone: “Allāhumma inni as`aluka al-jannah, Allāhumma ajirni minannar (O Allāh, I ask Paradise of You. O Allāh, I seek Your protection from the Hell-fire)” seven times. If you die during that night, Allāh will record for you protection from the Hell-fire.” (Related by Ahmad and Abu Dawud.)
Ibn Mas`ud (radiyallahu`anhu) reported: “The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) used to say: ‘Allahumma inni as'alukal-huda wat-tuqa wal-‘afafa wal-ghina (O Allah! I ask You for guidance, piety, chastity and self-sufficiency)’.” [Muslim].
This Hadith contains four words, the meanings and implications of which constitute its essence. These words are guidance, piety (fear of Allah), chastity and sufficiency. Al-Huda (Guidance) here means guidance at every turn of life and steadfastness on the path of truth. Al-Taqwa (Fear of Allah) is the greatest means of piety and strongest defense against sins. Al-`afafa (Chastity) is the state of being free from what is unlawful. Al-ghina (Self-sufficiency) is the antonym of poverty and here it means the self-contentment. What it implies is that one should not care for what people possess. In view of all these qualities, the prayer of the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) mentioned in this Hadith is very comprehensive and valuable.
Ibn Abi Hatim and Ibn Jarir Al-Tabari (rahimahullah) recorded that Umm Salamah (radiyallāhu`anha), reported that the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) used to supplicate: ‘Ya Muqallibal-qulubi, thabbit qalbi `ala deenik (O Controller of the hearts makes my heart steadfast in Your religion and to Your obedience).” Rasulullah (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) then recited: Rabbana la tuzia’qulubana ba’ daiz hadaitana wahab Lana min laduñ karahmah; Iñnaka an tal Wahhāb. (Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after Thou have guided us, and grant us mercy from Thou. Truly, Thou are the Bestower.) (Al-’Imran, 3:8) [This is recorded by Muslim and At-Tirmidzi]
Anas Ibn Mālik (radiyallāhu`anhu) who said: “The supplication most often recited by Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu`alayhi wasallam): Rabbana-ātina-fid-dunya hasanah, Wa fil-ākhirati-hasanah, Wa-qina-`ādzabānnār (O Lord! Bestow upon us in this world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and save us from the punishment of the Fire).’” (Al-Baqārah 2:201) [This is recorded by Al-Bukhāri, Muslim, and Tarmidzi]. Tarmidzi (rahimullāh) said: “Hasanah is very comprehensive and includes in all kinds of good and benefits of this world and of the Hereafter. Good health, wealth and satisfaction of the world and good status in Jannah, forgiveness from sins and Allāh’s bounties and favours in both worlds are included in this duā’” [ At-Tarmidzi].
And Allāh Almighty Knows best.
[Excerpted from “Ibn `Atta’ Words of Wisdom (8): Difficulties: True Character of the World”, a commentary by Dr. Jasser Auda, Thursday, 29 September 2011 via On Islam]