Author: Ammar Habib
Today we’re going to discuss an important part of Islam, which is the topic of trials and tests. There’s a lot of things that we can talk about when it comes to this subject, but let’s focus on two basic questions: why does Allah test us & what should our attitude be when facing a test from Allah?
Why does Allah test us?
“It is He who created death and life to test which of you are best in deeds, for He is the Almighty, the Forgiving.” (Qur’an 67:2)
Many religions preach that trials and tests are always sent as punishment from God. They claim that if you are afflicted with a hardship, such as sickness or loss of wealth, it means you have somehow displeased God. However, this is NOT true in Islam. In Islam, there is no correlation between our present situation and Allah’s attitude toward us. For example, if I lose my job, it doesn’t mean that Allah is angry at me. On the other hand, if I get a pay raise at my job, it doesn’t mean that Allah is happy with me. Instead, Allah presents us with these different situations to see how we react to them.
In the above Quranic verse, Allah tells us that tests and trials are a part of life. Everyone will be tested to a certain extent at times so that Allah can see which person has true faith in him. In other words, He will see who is doing good deeds for the right reason and who only does good deeds when it is convenient.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Nothing befalls a believer, a (prick of a) thorn or more than that, but Allah will raise him one degree in status thereby, or erase a bad deed.” (Bukhari)
This hadith shows us the two general reasons a test may occur in somebody’s life. The first reason is that Allah will test you with something so that you have the opportunity to successfully go through the test with the right attitude, and Allah will therefore raise your station in Paradise.
The second reason for facing a trial is that I may have done something wrong and I may not have asked Allah for forgiveness. Instead of punishing me in the Hereafter, Allah will put me through something in this life. Whatever He puts me through in this life will be nothing like what I would have faced in the Hereafter, so this trial is actually a form of Allah’s mercy.
What should a Muslim’s attitude be when faced with a test or trial?
Now that we know the reasons for tests and trials, let’s examine how we as Muslims should respond when faced with a test. The first thing is to keep it all in perspective.
1. Keep it in perspective
“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear.” (Qur’an 2:286)
A person will never be faced with a bigger hardship than they can handle. A lot of times, when we’re going through a trial, we become so focused on the trial that we lose sight of everything else. For example, if a person loses a job, they will often focus on what they don’t have and will forget what they do have, such as their health, family, or (if nothing else) their faith.
Focusing on what we have versus what problems we’re faced with allows us to keep a good attitude about situations, and knowing that Allah will never give us more than we can handle helps us keep everything in perspective.
Keeping the perspective that Allah never gives a person a trial that’s bigger than what they can handle reminds us that no matter what it may be, we should never lose hope or lose patience because we already know we will get through it.
2. Allah always does what’s best for us
“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. Allah knows but you do not know.” (Qur’an, 2:216)
Allah is reminding us of something very important here. He is saying that when we are faced with something, we see the here and now. We don’t truly understand the big picture. Therefore, we see things as good or bad because we can only see what’s physically happening in the present.
An easy example to understand is the example of getting a flat tire on the road. Nobody wants to deal with a flat tire because it’s an inconvenience. However, imagine that down the road there was a drunk driver who was out of control. Perhaps by giving us a flat tire, Allah saved us from being harmed by the drunk driver.
One thing we must realize is that Allah will never put us through a trial for no reason. There are several authentic hadiths where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) mentioned that Allah loves us more than our own mothers. A mother would never willingly put their child through a hardship for no reason at all. Therefore, it is safe to say that neither would Allah. Every trial or test has a purpose behind it, even if we cannot comprehend it at the time.
With that in mind, here’s an analogy to show how we sometimes can’t see why we’re put through a trial until after we’ve gone through it. When I was younger, my parents were very strict on how much dessert or soda I could have. As a child, I saw these restrictions as unfair. However, now as an adult, I’ve come to realize that they were doing it for my own good. They didn’t want me to intake that much sugar so that I would grow up healthy. Back then, I could only see the here and now and thought they were being cruel to me. However, in reality, my parents were thinking about my future and doing what they knew was best for me even if I didn’t understand it.
Allah does the same thing for us. Sometimes we may really want something and not get it, or we might face some hardship. It’s easy to get focused on the here and now and be tempted to question Allah. However, if we remember how much Allah cares about us, we realize that He is actually doing what is best for us in the long run.
3. Remember the importance of thankfulness and patience
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Wondrous is the affair of the believer for there is good for him in every matter and this is not the case with anyone except the believer. If he is happy, then he thanks Allah and thus there is good for him. If he is harmed, then he shows patience and thus there is good for him.” (Muslim)
This is one hadith that we should always keep at the forefront of our minds. There are very few periods in our lives where things are simply neutral. Most of the time, things seem to be progressing or it seems as if the entire world has turned against us.
One of the aspects I love above the above hadith is that it shows us how powerful our attitude is because our attitude shows Allah our faith in Him. Our attitude can make a positive situation better and turn a negative situation into a positive situation. In other words, if things are going well and we remain thankful and humble, Allah will turn a good situation into a great situation. As Allah promises in verse 7 of Surah Ibrahim, when we are thankful, He will give us more, Insha Allah.
On the other hand, if things are not going well but we remain patient and steadfast (i.e. have sabr), then Allah will bring about some good from the situation, and the situation will eventually be alleviated.
This hadith should give us hope that no matter what we’re going through, Allah has not abandoned us. We just need to maintain the right attitude toward the situation and good faith toward Him.
4. The rewards of a test are always greater than the test itself
“Surely there is ease after hardship. Aye, surely there is ease after hardship.” (Qur’an 94:5-6)
One thing scholars have mentioned about this verse is that by the use of a definite article in the Arabic text, the two verses refer to the same difficulty, but they refer to different eases or rewards. In other words, Allah is telling us that every trial we go through, if faced with the right attitude, will result in multiple rewards that are greater than the trial itself!
With this in mind, knowing that Allah has promised us a victory for facing hardships with the right attitude, it is much easier to stay steadfast in times of trials. An excellent example of what this verse means is shown in the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). After preaching Islam in Mecca for close to thirteen years, there were only a handful of Muslims in the city when the migration to Medina occurred. However, just ten years later, the entire Arabian Peninsula had converted to Islam, and tens of thousands of Muslims accompanied Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) during his final pilgrimage to Mecca.
Insha’Allah may Allah keep us safe from hardships. However, if we face any, may Allah then allow us to face them with patience and with the right attitude.