Testing, Afflictions and Calamities – Dr Saleh As-Saleh [Audio & Transcribed PDF]
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Al-Hamdulillaah (all praise is due to Allaah), the Most High, the One who said (in the translation of the meaning):
And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to the patient ones. Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: “Truly! To Allaah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.” They are those on whom are the Salawat (i.e. who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided-ones.
Surah al-Baqarah (2:155-157)
May the salaah and salaam of Allaah be upon His Messenger Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم : sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), the one who was tried and tested in various ways and who was patient and persevered. And may Allaah’s (سبحانه و تعالى : subhannahu wa ta’ala) salaah and salaam be upon his household, the noble companions who also were also tested and tried, as well as upon the righteous predecessors and those who follow them in righteousness until the Day of Resurrection.
The Nature of Tests and Trials
It is clear that this life is filled with calamities, tests, and trials and that every believer will be subjected to many of these. Sometimes these trials are within himself, sometimes with his wealth and sometimes with his loved ones. These preordained trials and calamities, from the One who is All-Wise, will touch the believer in various ways and manners; if the believer does not have the correct view regarding the matter of testing, then he may err seriously, especially since some of the calamities are painful and profound.
Many people are negligent about the wisdoms behind trials and testing; they may not understand that Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) does not test us as a punishment, but rather as a mercy. The believer should look at the matter of ibtilaa’ (testing and trials) through the textual proofs in the Qur’aan and authentic Sunnah of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) so that he can stand on a firm ground regarding these matters.
Yes, life is a test and a trial; we are tested everyday in this life. Our wealth is a test; the spouse is a test; the children are tests; poverty and wealth are tests, and likewise health and illnesses are tests. We are tested in everything we possess and in that which we encounter in this life until we meet Allaah, the Most High.
Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) said (in the translation of the meaning):
Everyone is going to taste death, and We shall make a trial of you with evil and with good, and to Us you will be returned. – Surah al-Anbiyaa’ (21:35)
In addition, Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) stated (in the translation of the meaning):
Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested. And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allaah will certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars, (although Allaah knows all that before putting them to test). – Surah al-‘Ankabut (29:2-3)
Even the one who is healthy is tested, and also, the one who is ill is tested. The one who is healthy may not know this until he is touched by a trial, and the one who is ill will may not feel that he is in a testing situation until he is cured. No one is safe from trials because of their prestige or status; such things do not safeguard us from the tests as proven by the hasan (good) hadith in which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
“The people who receive the severest trial are the Prophets, then those most like them and then those most like them.”
[Reported by at-Tirmidhi, hadith no. 2400 and ibn Maajah, hadith no. 4023; at-Tirmidhi said “hasan-saheeh; authenticated by Ibn al-Qayyim (Tareequl Hijratayen, p. 226), Ahmad Shaakir (Musnad Ahmad 3/52), and al-Albaani (see as-Silsilah as-Saheehah, p.19).]
Response of the Believer to Tests and Trials
Amongst us, there is no one who possesses the ability to reject the tests, but there are those who are tested and succeed through good faith in Allaah, patient persevering, and by anticipating Allaah’s reward. Also, amongst us are those who are tested but fail because of weak faith and objection to Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى); we seek refuge in Allaah from that.
al-Fudayl ibn ‘Iyaad (rahimahullaah) said:
“As long as people are in a state of good welfare, then once they are tested, they will return to their reality. The believer will go to his faith, and the hypocrite will go to his hypocrisy.”
Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) preordained everything for us including our sustenance and our lifespan. He (سبحانه و تعالى) said (in the translation of the meaning):
“It is We Who portion out between them their livelihood in this world” – Surah az-Zukhruf (43:32)
Sustenance and livelihood are preordained in certain measures; illness is preordained, and one’s welfare is preordained; everything in this life is preordained. The person should accept what Allaah has preordained for him and should not hate, dislike, or show discomfort towards these preordainments. Since this is the nature of the matter, one should submit his entire affair to Allaah and know that whatever befalls him will not miss him and whatever misses him will not befall him. It is as if the one who prefers this life to be monotonic wants the predecree of Allaah to be in accordance with his desires, and this is wishful thinking. Irrespective of the preordinance or test, it is a matter that is good for the believer; however, this is with the condition that one gives thanks for Allaah’s favor and is patient, as in the authentic hadith of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم)
“Amazing is the matter of the believers, his affair to him is all good, and this is for none except for the believer, if he is touched by something good and then he thanks, then this is good for him. And if he is touched by a calamity or hardship, then he is patient and this is good for him.”
[Reported by Muslim, hadith no. 2999]
Allaah, the Most High, stated (in the translation of the meaning):
“It may be that you dislike a thing and Allaah brings through it a great deal of good.” – Surah an-Nisa (4:19)
Moreover, Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) said (in the translation of the meaning):
And it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allaah knows but you do not know. – Surah al-Baqarah (2:216)
Everyone should know that the One who tests us is also the One who bestows favors upon us. Furthermore, we should know that not everything we dislike is to be disliked in reality and that not everything that we desire is really beneficial for us; Allaah knows and you do not know.
Some of the Salaf (rahimahumullaah) said that:
If you were afflicted by a calamity, and you were patient, then your calamity is one; however, if you were impatient, then your calamity is double because of the loss of the reward as well as the beloved one, the Hereafter (i.e. Paradise).
This saying was in relation to what Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) mentioned in Surah al-Hajj (in the translation of the meaning):
“And among mankind is he who worships Allaah as it were, upon the very edge (i.e. in doubt); if good befalls him, he is content therewith; but if a trial befalls him, he turns back on his face. He loses both this world and the Hereafter. That is the evident loss.” – Surah al-Hajj (22:11)
Rewards Associated with Tests and Trials
Certainly, testing is a station for a while, which will erase the sins. The sins will be removed as the leaves of a tree fall down, as in the ahaadeeth of Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri and Abu Hurairah (radiya Allaahu ‘anhumaa) from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) who said:
“No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn but that Allaah expiates some of his sins for that.”
[Reported by al-Bukhaari, hadith no. 5641 & 5642 respectively]
Abu Hurairah (radiya Allaahu ‘anhu) also narrated that the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said,
“If Allaah wants to do good for somebody, He afflicts him with trials.”
[Reported by al-Bukhaari, hadith no. 5645]
In addition, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (radiya Allaahu ‘anhu) narrated:
“I visited the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) during his ailments, and he was suffering from a high fever. I said, ‘You have a high fever. Is it because you will have a double reward for it?’ He said, ‘Yes, for no Muslim is afflicted with any harm but that Allaah will remove his sins as the leaves of a tree fall down.’”
[Reported by al-Bukhaari, hadith no. 5647]
The reward is affirmed regarding every kind of harm or hurt, tangible or intangible, if the believer is patiently persevering and anticipates the reward. It was reported by Anas ibn Maalik (radiya Allaahu ‘anhu) that he heard the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) say:
“Allaah said, ‘If I deprive my slave of his two beloved things (i.e. his eyes) and he remains patient, I will let him enter Paradise in compensation for them.’”
[Reported by al-Bukhaari, hadith no. 5653]
Tests and trials remove sins from the believers of the children of Adam, and all of the children of Adam commit sins. The tests and trials can also raise one to a higher degree in Paradise. It is reported that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
“Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) says to His angels when they take the soul of a person’s child, ‘You took the fruit of his heart.’ They (the angels) say, ‘Yes.’ So Allaah says, ‘What did My slave say (upon that)?’ They say, ‘He praised you and made istirjaa’ (meaning he said, Innaa lillaahi wa inna ilayhi raaji’oon’ – verily to Allaah we belong and to Him we shall return). So Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) says, ‘Build for My slave a house in Paradise and name it the house of praise.’”
[Reported by Imaam Ahmad in his musnad and graded hasan (good) by Shaykh al-Albaani].
Furthermore, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said in the authentic hadith:
“No Muslim is hurt by a thorn or something greater than a thorn except that Allaah elevates him in rank or effaces his sins because of that.”
[Reported by Muslim, hadith no. 6238]
The believer’s degree will be raised until he reaches his final degree in Paradise; this will be due to his patience and more importantly because of the favor of Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى). Allaah, the Most High, said (in the translation of the meaning):
“Only those who are patient shall receive their rewards in full, without reckoning.” – Surah az-Zumar (39:10)
Calamities, trials, and tests are signs of Allaah’s love for the believer. Indeed, they are like a cure; although it may be bitter, we accept them since they are from the One whom we love, and to Allaah belongs the best example. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
“The greatest reward comes with the greatest trial. When Allaah loves a people, He tests them. Whoever accepts that wins His pleasure, but whoever is discontent with that earns His wrath.”
[Reported by at-Tirmidhi (2396) and ibn Maajah (4031). Shaykh al-Albaani (rahimahullaah) considered it hasan]
Imaam ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullaah) said:
“The ibtilaa’ (testing) of the believer is like medicine for him. It extracts from him the illnesses which if they had remained, would destroy him or diminish his reward and level. The tests and the trials extract these illnesses from him and prepare him for the perfect reward and the highness of degree.”
[Ighaathatul Lahfan, p. 286]
Certainly, the affliction by test and trials is better to the believer than punishment in the Hereafter, and in that, there is an elevation of his rank and expiation for his sins. Therefore, it is better for him. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
“When Allaah wills good for His slave, He hastens the punishment for him in this world, and when Allaah wills ill for His slave, he withholds the punishment for his sins from him until he comes with all his sins on the Day of Resurrection.”
[Reported by at-Tirmidhi (2396) and Shaykh al-Albaani (rahimahullaah) classified it as saheeh (authentic) in Saheeh at-Tirmidhi]
Ahlul-‘Ilm (the people of knowledge) made it clear that this hadith refers to the hypocrites; Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) withholds the punishment from them in this life in order to give them their full account on the Day of Resurrection.
Lessons of the Tests and Trials
In the test and trials, there are lessons.
The first lesson is that tests and trials are beneficial to the believer’s tawheed (worship of Allaah), imaan (Faith), and tawakkul (reliance upon Allaah). They force mankind to examine the reality that they are in fact a weak creation who has no power or strength, except in their Lord, Allaah. As such, we should resort to Him and depend upon Him, at which point arrogance, false pride, puffing, and negligence will be removed. We will come to know that we are really poor and in need of our Creator, the Almighty, the Most Perfect, so that we resort to Him.
The second lesson is that the tests unravel the reality of this life. They show that this life is a temporal stay for amusement, and the perfect life is the one after that, where there is no toil, worry, fatigue, or disease. Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) stated (in the translation of the meaning):
“And this life of the world is only amusement and play! Verily, the home of the Hereafter, that is the life indeed (i.e. the eternal life that will never end), if they but knew” – Surah al-‘Ankabut (29:64)
Even with amusement and play, there is also toil and fatigue. This is the reality of this life; one day it smiles at you, and the next day it turns its back to you. This is its nature, but man forgets that. Therefore, the trials and tests come, and they make the person understand the nature of this life and that he should not attach himself to it.
The third lesson is that the test and trials remind the person of Allaah’s favor upon him and how this is only a transitional existence.
The fourth lesson is that they remind us that we should not be in such a state of joy that we feel arrogant. Likewise, we should not be in such a state of sadness and grief that one feels despair. Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) affirmed (in the translation of the meaning):
No calamity befalls on the earth or in yourselves but is inscribed in the Book of Decrees (al-Lauh al-Mahfuz), before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allaah. In order that you may not be sad over matters that you fail to get, nor rejoice because of that which has been given to you. And Allaah likes not prideful boasters. – Surah al-Hadid (57:22-23)
The fifth lesson is that trials and tests remind the person of his shortcomings and defects so that he can repent from them. Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) stated (in the translation of the meaning):
Whatever of good reaches you, is from Allaah, but whatever of evil befalls you, is from yourself. And We have sent you (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) as a Messenger to mankind, and Allaah is Sufficient as a Witness. – Surah an-Nisa (4:79)
Also, He (سبحانه و تعالى) said (in the translation of the meaning):
And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons much. – Surah ash-Shura (42:30)
Thus, there is still chance for repentance before the greater torment may occur. In addition, Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) affirmed (in the translation of the meaning):
And verily, We will make them taste of the near torment (i.e. the torment in the life of this world, i.e. disasters, calamities, etc.) prior to the supreme torment (in the Hereafter), in order that they may (repent and) return (i.e. accept Islam). – Surah as-Sajdah (32:21)
The lesser torment in this life is calamities, disasters, and hardship.
The sixth lesson is that test and trials are a great teaching process whereby the person learns to become patient. We cannot stand on the truth and obedience, except with patience, and we cannot stay away from falsehood, except with patient perseverance regarding disobedience; we cannot walk the paths of this life, except with patience regarding the preordinances of Allaah. The outcome is jannat al-khuld war-ridwan (endless bliss in Paradise and the pleasure of Allaah). Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) mentioned (in the translation of the meaning):
But none is granted it (the above quality) except those who are patient, and none is granted it except the owner of the great portion (of the happiness in the Hereafter i.e. Paradise and in this world of a high moral character). Surah al-Fussilat (41:35)
Thus, if a calamity befalls us and we pass it, then we have learned the lessons. The Salaf (rahimahumullaah) more appropriately dealt with tests and trials than us. They left magnificent examples of patience in anticipation of reward. It is reported that ‘Umar (radiya Allaahu ‘anhu) used to praise Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) for the test and trials. When he was asked about it, he said:
“I was never touched by a test, except that Allaah bestowed four favors upon me; they (the favors) were that the test was not one in my deen (religion), was not greater than me, was not greater than what befell me, and I was not deprived of contentment and patience, and I hoped for the reward of Allaah for it.”
Therefore, we should not forget that in the test there is a reward, and it cannot be attained except with patience and that patience cannot be attained except with a strong will and faith. We should not forget to remember Allaah, being thankful for His favors and be patient with His tests and trials. Let this be a sincere and hidden matter between us and our Rubb (Lord) because He knows and He sees; He is more Merciful to us than ourselves and of all of mankind, so we should turn our affairs to Him. As the poet said:
“If you complain to the son of Adam, it is like you are complaining to the one who has no mercy towards you.”
We should not forget that if we are touched by a calamity, then we should praise Allaah and be thankful that He did not touch us with something more intense and far greater. Whatever befalls us is not going to miss us, and whatever has missed us is not going to befall us. The magnitude of reward is proportionate to the magnitude of testing and to Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) is that which He gives and to Him is that which He takes.
Leave complaints and discontentment because it will not help, rather it will magnify our calamity and causes us to miss the reward and subject us to being held sinful. Let each of us remember that no matter the magnitude of the calamity that may befall us, it will not reach the level of the calamity which touched the entire Ummah because of the loss of its beloved one, Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم), who reminded of this when he stated:
“If any one of you is touched by a calamity, let him remember the calamity that befell him concerning me because it is of the greatest calamities.”
[Reported by al-Bayhaqi and authenticated by Shaykh al-Albaani (rahimahullaah)].
When we are touched by a calamity, we should not forget to say “Innaa lillaahi wa inna ilayhi raaji’oon. Allahumma aajirnee fee museebatee wakhluf lee khairan minha”(1)(Verily, to Allah we belong, and truly to Him we shall return, reward me for my affliction and give me something better than it in exchange for it”). The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “Allah will give him something better than it in exchange.”
 Part of a hadith reported in Saheeh Muslim (English Translation No.1999; Chap 174)..
We should not despair regarding the Mercy of Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) no matter how the calamity may befall us or how intense it may be, because Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) affirmed (in the translation of the meaning):
So verily, with the hardship, there is relief. Verily, with the hardship, there is relief (i.e. there is one hardship with two reliefs, so one hardship cannot overcome two reliefs). – Surah ash-Sharh (94:5-6)
As ‘Umar (radiya Allaahu ‘anhu) stated, one hardship cannot beat two reliefs. We should not forget the favor of Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) if He restores your welfare and soundness, lest we should become like those Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) mentioned in Surah az-Zumar (in the translation of the meaning):
And when some hurt touches man, he cries to his Lord (Allaah Alone), turning to Him in repentance, but when He bestows a favor upon him from Himself, he forgets that for which he cried for before, and he sets up rivals to Allaah, in order to mislead others from His Path. Say: “Take pleasure in your disbelief for a while: surely, you are (one) of the dwellers of the Fire!” – Surah az-Zumar (39:8)
We should not forget that tests, calamities and trials remind us of an hour that is surely coming; a time that will end. This life is not an endless abode. Therefore, we must work for the Hereafter. At the end, the reminder and the glad tidings lie in the same verse we began with (in the translation of the meaning):
And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to the patient ones. Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: “Truly! To Allaah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.” They are those on whom are the Salawat (i.e. who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided-ones. – Surah al-Baqarah (2:155-157)
Imaam ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullaah) said:
“This statement is of the most effective and beneficial cure for the afflicted person in his sooner or later life since it comprises two great foundations such that if the slave comes to know them then he will be comforted in his affliction:
One is that the slave and his wealth and family truly belong to Allaah, most Mighty and Majestic. Allaah made them as a loan. So if He takes them from him then it is like the lender taking his possession from the borrower (and to Allaah belongs the Best Example).
The second is that the slave will return to Allaah, his true Master, and it is inevitable that he will leave this worldly life behind him and comes unto Allaah alone (without wealth, companions, or anything else) as Allaah created him the first time [see verse 6:94]. He will come only with his deeds, the good and the bad. So if this is the beginning and end of the slave, then how could he be pleased for the existence of someone or grieved for a missed one? So his contemplation of his beginning and end is from the greatest cures of this illness.”
I ask Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) to make us from those who when afflicted with a calamity, truly remember and manifest the saying of Allaah, “Innaa lillaahi wa inna ilayhi raaji’oon,” asking Him to help us with the calamities, testing, and trials, to persevere patiently, to overcome, to ask Him for reward, to anticipate the reward from Him (سبحانه و تعالى), and to compensate us with that which is better.
All Praise is due to Allaah, and may the salaah and salaam be on Prophet Muhammad, his household, the noble companions and those who follow them until the Day of Resurrection.
21st Sha’baan, 1427 AH
14th Sept. 2006
Acknowledgement: based upon an article prepared by ‘Ali bin Salih al-‘Aayid for Daaril Watan, Riyadh (n.d.)
Transcribed from www.understand-islam.net by sister Umm Maahir al-Amreekiyyah and sister Umm_Amatillaah as-Sweediyah. Emended by Br. Abu ‘Abdullaah al-Amreeki. Edited by sis Umm Ahmad al-Kanadiyyah.