By Romina Afghan
Again and again in the Quran, we are presented with the stories of the people of the past– those who were successful and those who failed; those who came through the arena of tests that is this world, and those who drowned in it’s temporary allure. Through these stories, we are called to recognise the sunnah of this life that all people have faced and will continue to face challenges, tests and trials.
Did we think we were different? Did we think we were better than the people of the past? Did we think that the Quran didn’t apply to us?
أَحَسِبَ ٱلنَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُوٓا۟ أَن يَقُولُوٓا۟ ءَامَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ
Do people think once they say, “We believe,” that they will be left without being put to the test? (29:2)
Perhaps we did think that. Perhaps we did think it was enough that we said we believe in Allaah, but never had to put anything on the line to validate that statement. Did we think that huge plagues and wars and trials were things relegated to the annals of history and that they couldn’t reach us in these modern times, because we are far too advanced? Then let us ponder the question Allaah asks us:
Have they not travelled through the earth and seen what was the end of those who were before them? And verily, the home of the Hereafter is the best for those who fear Allah and obey Him (by abstaining from sins and evil deeds, and by performing righteous good deeds). Do you not then understand? ( Qur’an 12:109)
Perhaps we did think that our tests would not be like the global tests that are described in the stories of the past. Perhaps we did think that the cataclysmic events that decimated entire civilizations, that left no trace of them but their empty palaces, their imposing architecture and their gaudy trinkets, would not touch us or our civilisation in the same way. Perhaps we did just “pass by” ( literally or figuratively) the empty monuments or even the palatial carved out homes like those at Petra and think nothing of the arrogance for which Allaah blames these people. Perhaps we didn’t reflect that we too could be just like them…leaving no trace of our existence but hollow homes and discarded possessions.
Allah tells us to “travel through the lands and see what was the end of those before” in order for us to learn lessons, to draw parallels, to seek refuge and not get caught up in the arrogance of our own progress, technology or achievements – almost as if we are being warned: do not think you are too far advanced for the Decree of Allaah to reach you; do not think you are too modern to escape the trials that the people of the past were faced to confront, because didn’t they too think they were too “modern” and advanced in their own respective times? Were they not the peak of advancement at the time when they were taken, just as we too may fall into thinking that we are at the peak of our advancement…
…do not think you are ‘too modern’ to escape the trials that the people of the past were faced to confront…
Really, what these ayaat point out to us, is that these trials are nothing new. They may be in a new form for us, because we never expected to face a trial this big or this global, but in the history of mankind, in the history of believers, trials are the sunnah of Allaah. Trials are how the gold is separated from the ore, how the wheat is separated from the chaff, how the elite and the true believers are given the opportunity to shine, to bring forth their diamonds and show their real selves:
وَلَقَدۡ فَتَـنَّا الَّذِيۡنَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِهِمۡ فَلَيَـعۡلَمَنَّ اللّٰهُ الَّذِيۡنَ صَدَقُوۡا وَلَيَعۡلَمَنَّ الۡكٰذِبِيۡنَ
Indeed We have tested those who were before them. So Allah will surely know the ones who are truthful, and He will surely know the liars.(29:3)
None of us can or should expect the great rewards of Jannah, of having complete faith in this world and the next, without having to make sacrifices, without having to pay a price for those blessings – it is part of the justice of Allaah that He should give us all a chance to redeem ourselves, that He should give us all the opportunity to show that our heart is truly in it when we say we believe. In fact Allaah tells us clearly in the Quran many times that we should indeed expect to be tested:
“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.” (Quran 2:155)
There is no doubt there- we will all have to undergo difficulties and trials by virtue of our faith – in fact, even those without faith are tested, so the question this begs is, how are we going to show that we are true to our word, to our belief, to our witnessing ? It is simply this: to hold onto the rope of Allaah.
In essence we really have no alternative when faced by the decree of Allaah: whether we cry or don’t cry – the test will remain. In fact, if we cry to people, the test will get worse and yet if we cry to Allaah the pain is no doubt alleviated and there is even reward. There is no running from Allaah, the best we can do, therefore is run to Him: Seek him, seek His Help, Seek His ease.
It is not that we should feel no discomfort in the trials- because even the sahaabah became agitated and found their trials difficult at times, as Khabbab ibn al Araat says:
We complained to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) (of the persecution inflicted on us by the disbelievers) while he was sitting in the shade of the Ka`ba, leaning over his Burd (i.e. covering sheet). We said to him, “Won’t you seek help for us? Won’t you pray to Allah for us?”
(The Hadeeth continues that the Prophet (ﷺ) said to Khabbab in response, “Among the nations before you a (believing) man would be put in a ditch that was dug for him, and a saw would be put over his head and he would be cut into two pieces; yet that (torture) would not make him give up his religion. His body would be combed with iron combs that would remove his flesh from the bones and nerves, yet that would not make him abandon his religion. By Allah, this religion (i.e. Islam) will prevail till a traveller from Sana (in Yemen) to Hadrarmaut will fear none but Allah, or a wolf as regards his sheep, but you (people) are hasty.”)
Even the sahaabah found it difficult to withstand the trials they were going through in Makkah at the time; even they felt the suffering and the pain, and that is why they went to ask the Prophet (ﷺ) to make duaa for them, and the Prophet (ﷺ) reminds them that worse has been inflicted on the believers of the past; he urged them to not think of their trials as the worst ever faced, but rather to continue to be patient and wait for victory. He urged them to continue facing that pain and to know that this is the path of the believers before you, the righteous and prophets before you. He reminded them that victory is always for the believer – no matter what the result that you see in this world appears to be.
This is the lesson for all of us: any believer who wants to meet Allaah will have to face their moment of great trial – whether that is apparent to others or not, whether it is internal or external, whether it is through people or through natural disaster- it can come in any form, but it will come.
This is the lesson for all of us: any believer who wants to meet Allaah will have to face their moment of great trial…
Perhaps this is why this message is reiterated in the Quran so many times:
“Do you think that you will enter Paradise without undergoing such trials as were experienced by the believers before you? They met with adversity and affliction and were so shaken by trials that the Prophet of the time and his followers cried out, when will Allah’s help come? (Then only they were comforted with the good tidings:) “Yes, Allah’s help is near!” (2:214).
My dear brothers and sisters, prepare yourselves now to be shaken by your trials. Prepare yourself now to be met with a level of affliction and adversity that you will cry out to Allah in desperation yourself, “When will the help of Allaah come?”, so that then you too can experience the sweetness of Allaah’s response that He Himself promised to us, is near. It is near and it is coming, just as soon as we have learnt what we need to.
Prepare yourself for those trials now, if you are not already facing them, and know with certainty that this is how Allaah subhanahu wa ta’ala chooses and prefers some of His beloved slaves over others. Know that this testing is how Allah will sort the pure from the impure, the truthful from the liars and the believer over the disbeliever.
There is no need to pretend to be strong, there is no need to pretend to be anything other than a humble slave, because the purpose of a test is not to test how strong you are, but to test how strongly you seek the help of Allaah. So seek it: strongly, desperately, brokenly, following in the footsteps of our Prophets and the pious before us, crying as the Prophet Nooh (alyhis-salaam) cried:
“I have been overcome, so help (me)!”
“I have been overcome, so help (me)!”
“I have been overcome, so help (me)!”
( Qur’an 54:10)
And all the while knowing that while you do so, you fulfil the purpose of the test, and are living true to your covenant of belief.
About the author:
Romina is a happy mother to four children, a Master NLP-practitioner in training, part-time teacher, coach and passionate believer in unlocking the wonderful potential of each and every soul by connecting them to Allaah and His Book. She has been blessed to be a part of Solace for some years now, and loves connecting with sisters and children everywhere! You can connect with her on Instagram at @connectedcoachingbyrom and listen to her podcast “Grounded in Guidance” at https://anchor.fm/groundedinguidance or on Spotify.