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Why We Are Tested: The Psychology of Suffering & Misfortune Part 2


Why does Allāh test us?

What are the wisdoms of misfortunes?

7-A reminder of Allāh’s favors upon mankind:

That is because man, who has been created with the faculty of sight, often forgets the blessing of being able to see. He does not fully give its due right.

If Allāh was to temporarily take away his sight then return it to him he would realise the value of this great bounty.

Constant bounties and good-fortune often makes people forget the value of these bounties good-fortune for which they forget to show gratitude. Allāh subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) takes it away from people and then returns it to them in order for them to be reminded about these bounties and that they show gratitude to Allāh subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) for them.

Suffering makes us human.

Suffering and adversity have existed as long as human beings have. When we suffer we are connected to the common fate of the people who came before us and the people who will come after us.

Indeed, in tribulations there is a reminder for the person afflicted and others of the bounties of Allāh subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He). For example, when a person encounters a senile person he will appreciate the blessing of intellect. When a person observes a non-believer living his life like cattle, he will value the blessing of īmān [faith]. When a person meets a sick person he will realize and value the blessing of good health. When he sees an impoverished person he will appreciate the blessing of wealth. When he encounters an ignorant person he is thankful for the blessing of knowledge. A person whose heart is awake and open to the reality will show gratitude but those who do not have [awakened] hearts will not show gratitude for the bounties of Allāh subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He); instead they will be haughty and behave arrogantly towards the creation of Allāh!!

8-Lessen people’s attachment to the Dunya:

If the dunya was free of any hardship and misfortune then people would have even been more attached to it and neglect the next life.

However, calamities and misfortunes alert people to the realities of the life of this world and awaken them from their neglectful state. Also they remind them about the next world which is free of any kind of misfortunes except for the wrongdoers.

9-Strengthening the personality of the believer (Saql Shakhsiya al-Mu’min):

Through hardship and difficulties Allāh makes firm the hearts of the believers. This is why Allāh chose our Prophet ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to grow up as an orphan and experience numerous hardships. As for those children who are pampered, generally, their personality is weakened because of this.

Through hardship and difficulty a believer is able to reach his full potential and growth in īmān and Taqwa.

10-Often a misfortune and calamity may come with a combination of wisdoms as in the case of the calamity at the battle of Uhud.

Allāh says:

إِن يَمْسَسْكُمْ قَرْحٌ فَقَدْ مَسَّ ٱلْقَوْمَ قَرْحٌ مِّثْلُهُ وَتِلْكَ ٱلأَيَّامُ نُدَاوِلُهَا بَيْنَ ٱلنَّاسِ وَلِيَعْلَمَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَيَتَّخِذَ مِنكُمْ شُهَدَآءَ وَٱللَّهُ لاَ يُحِبُّ ٱلظَّالِمِينَ

If a wound has touched you, be sure a similar wound has touched the others. Such days (of varying fortunes) We give to men and men by turns: that Allāh may know those that believe,and that He may take to Himself from your ranks Martyrs-witnesses (to Truth). And Allāh loves not those that do wrong”.- and so that Allāh may purify those who believe and eradicate the disbelievers. (Aal-Imran:140-141)

In these two verses we can identify a number of wisdoms in what took place during the battle of Uhud:

Days of varying fortunes among people – these have its causes and reasons
Establishment of Allāh’s proof against those who turn their backs on His Guidance
Elevation of the ranks of the Shuhadah [martyrs] A test and tribulation to the believers
A warning to the negligent [non believers]

Suffering is only as bad as we make it. If we believe we are entitled to a life of comfort, then a life that consists of suffering is simply unfair, and who likes an unfair world?

But if we believe that life is about growth and that growth entails a degree of pain and suffering, then there is nothing unfair about it.

How many people are tested with a disabled child – for example – this [in turn] is an enormous test for his entire family, and a test for him when he grows, and also, a test for the entire society – to determine whether the society takes care of him. This also acts as a reminder to others of the bounties that Allāh grants them. Therefore, if the parents, the disabled, and others take heed – and the society fulfils its rights of the disabled, they all are rewarded according to their level of patience and how well they protected the weak and the afflicted.

11-Sometimes a hardship can be a blessing in disguise:

People who are afflicted with some misfortune may only see one side to the happenings and be heedless to other aspects, for which after a certain period of time, the beneficial side to the misfortune are unveiled to them.

Sometimes, they are convinced that the calamity they were suffering from was a good thing as opposed to being an omen or a calamity. Allāh says:

‘Fighting has been prescribed for you even though you detest it, it may be that something you dislike be good for you, and it may happen that something you like be bad for you, Allāh knows while you do not”.

Suffering gives us a greater appreciation of the moments of comfort. If life were comfortable 24/7, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the moments of comfort. There would be nothing to compare comfort to. This is analogous to a marathon runner. If there were no suffering in running a marathon there would be no comfort, and certainly no sense of accomplishment, in crossing the finish line. Mountain climbers voluntarily endure excruciating suffering, often for weeks on end, in their attempt to reach the summit. They risk their lives; endure high altitude sickness, bottomless crevasses and glaciers, mountain storms, snow blindness, and sudden storms all to experience the several moments of magnificent comfort and satisfaction the mountain summit has to offer.

In addition, the misfortune may be good for his religiosity and for his next life, but even, also, for his living in the dunya.

12- Suffering is a normal part of parenting, marriage, working, and every other worthwhile endeavor:

If we are in a constant state of suffering and anguish then something is most likely not as it optimally should be. However, periodic suffering in all areas of life is normal.

Every good marriage has periods of discord and uncertainty. Every healthy parent/child relationship goes through phases of disrespect and resentment with our children or parents not doing what we think they ought to be doing and us not doing what they think we ought to be doing. Jobs, homes, neighborhoods and communities enter and leave our lives based on need, interest, and a variety of other factors, which are often based on suffering.

Lobsters are soft animals with hard shells that do not grow. When lobsters outgrow their shells they climb into a rock cleft. They face the uncertainty of being swallowed up by another animal or of being swept away by the current. Yet imagine if lobsters stifled their discomfort rather than using it as a catalyst for growth: they would be a miniature species.

We can emulate lobsters by accepting suffering as a sign that it’s time for growth and renewal. The bottom line is that periodic suffering is part of every aspect of our lives and it need not be “bad.”

Suffering is what it is and what we make of it. Not pleasant, but generally not unbearable or unacceptable.

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