How to Achieve Tranquility of the Heart Series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIII | Part XIX | Part XX
Developing Our Relationship with Allah
In July 2006, I was watching the news report on Israel’s devastating attack on Lebanon. As I saw the images of severed bodies and heard the cries for help, the frustration and helplessness I felt was overwhelming. So I decided to pray while reciting from the mus’haf (hardcopy of the Qur’an, which is the word of God). As I was reading, I arrived at the verse:
“Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such [trial] has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until [even their] messenger and those who believed with him said, ‘When is the help of Allah?’ Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near.” [Qur’an, 2:214]
And that was the answer. As human beings, we will be tested. But this doesn’t mean that we are going to live our lives in perpetual hardship, because ‘unquestionably, the help of Allah is near.’ So what does it mean when we are going through hardship? Is Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) angry with us? What if there is no way out?
Whenever we go through hardship, there are things we need to know with certainty. Allah (swt) tells us in the Qur’an:
“[…] Allah will bring about, after hardship, ease.” [Qur’an, 65:7]
Certain hardships are so consuming that we cannot focus on anything but the difficulty. But we have to remember that if we were to enumerate the blessings of Allah (swt), we would not be able to count them. Reminding ourselves of the other blessings in our lives helps us to see the test within the context of the grand scheme of things. Just the fact that you can make sajda (prostration), and call out, “O Allah!” is a blessing that surpasses all others.
There is a purpose behind the trial, and this purpose corresponds to our internal state and our relationship with Allah (swt). Allah (swt) has 99 Beautiful Names, and it should suffice us to know that He is the Most Merciful, the Most Just and the Most Wise. Your test is not being put upon you by a random being, but by the Almighty Allah, who is closer to us than our jugular vein.
Tests are a way to purify us. The Prophet ﷺ 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 Allah expiates some of his sins for that,” [Bukhari]. Our ultimate aim is to earn Allah’s pleasure and Jannah (paradise), and all of us fall short in truly worshiping Allah (swt) as He should be worshiped. Many of us fail to ask for forgiveness regularly, or to reflect on our state and return to Allah (swt). These tests, as burdensome as they are, ease our burden on the Day of Judgment, if we respond with patience.
Trials also have a way of reminding us of our purpose. If we are far from Allah (swt), the test is usually to bring us close to Him. Whatever heedlessness we are engaging in, the test should make us realize we have no one, no one at all, but Him.
Sheikh Ratib an-Nabulsi related a story about a man in Syria. This man would always mock Islam. He thought people who ‘wasted their time’ praying were silly. No matter how much da’wah (calling, used to refer to inviting people to learn about Islam) the sheikh gave him, the man remained in this state. He then had a daughter, and this daughter became very sick. He went to so many doctors, even traveling abroad to Europe, but no one could help him. After that, he started praying and turning to Allah (swt). Years later, his daughter was better and healthy. Both his dunya (this life) and akhira (the next life) were saved.
If we are close to Allah (swt), it is to test our resilience. Are we only close to Allah (swt) in times of ease, or does our trust extend to the times of hardship? When we are tested, do we leave the good deeds that we used to do? Allah (swt) describes such people in the following verse:
“And of the people is he who worships Allah on an edge. If he is touched by good, he is reassured by it; but if he is struck by trial, he turns on his face [to the other direction]. He has lost [this] world and the Hereafter. That is what is the manifest loss.” [Qur’an, 22:11]
This may seem counter-intuitive, but tests are also out of Allah’s love. The Prophet ﷺ said, “When Allah loves a servant, He tests him,” [Tirmidhi]. In a hadith qudsi (a hadith relating the words of Allah [swt]), Allah (swt) tells Jibreel to delay the response to the du`a’ of a servant because Allah (swt) loves hearing his voice [Tabarani]. Sometimes the answer to a test is that need for Allah (swt), those long hours spent in the night, and the tears of sincerity.
May Allah (swt) make us of those who constantly turn to Him, in hardship and ease.