Trials and tribulations are a part of life. We do not like them; we do not like to go through them; but eventually we accept them. Even if we pray, fast, pay our zakat and do all different forms of ibadat we still get tested. Sadness sometimes fills our hearts. We could be the best of practicing Muslims, yet poor and unable to put food on our table. We could be rich yet lonely, or young yet unhealthy.
It is in these instances that shaytan starts toying with our head. We look at what others have, especially the non-Muslims, and our core gets rattled. The shaytan ignites a fire that gets our blood boiling, hopelessness and frustration set in, and we ask “Oh Allah, why me?! Why am I being punished?”
Psychologists tell us that human beings go through five stages of emotion when struck with a calamity. Understanding the different stages of grief minimizes the first four stages (which are denial, anger, bargaining and depression) and gets us to the final stage – which is acceptance. I went through these stages on many different occasions, as I am sure you have.
I am not a psychologist nor am I trying to refute the works of psychology, but I would nonetheless like to offer a different view, a Qur’anic view, on how to deal with life’s trials.
Though we do not have a say in when we are born nor in when we die, life has a clear beginning and a clear end. What is sometimes unclear is the journey between the two points. For Muslims, however, the journey could not be any clearer. Allah says in Surat Adh-Dhariyat:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ“And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone)” (Qur’an, 51:56).
Now think back to the first paragraph of this article. You might think to yourself, “I pray five times a day, I fast during Ramadan and pay my zakat, yet I have an ill child, or still can’t find a job, or this stressor or that.” You begin to wonder why you are going through this and why you are being “punished.” Before you know it, shaytan takes the helm and you are on a slippery slope of anger and denial.
Before falling down that slope, one must take a deep breath and ponder the following question: is it punishment or is it a manifestation of what Allah has told us in Surat Al-Ankabut:
أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَنْ يُتْرَكُوا أَنْ يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested?” (Qur’an, 29:2)
Allah tells us that through this journey we call life we will be tested. In Surat Al-Baqarah, He says:
وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ بِشَيْءٍ مِنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنْفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ“And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits…” (Qur’an, 2:155)
Tribulations are a part of life but that doesn’t make them easy. We still grieve — but how could we not? We are, after all, a very emotional creation. So how does one cope with adversity? There are many ayat in the Qur’an that talk about different mechanisms of coping such as patience, faith, prayer and acceptance. But what I find the most profound and the most comforting is what Allah says in Surat Al-Baqarah:
لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear…” (Qur’an,2:286).
If you stand back and take a look at the whole picture, you will realize that what you have when faced by a tragedy is a choice. Will you go through the stages of grief, denying Allah’s destiny and the wisdom of His plan for you? Or will you realize that what you are going through is something you know you can handle? Whatever trial comes your way is something that Allah has planned and which He has guaranteed you can handle. This ayah is comforting because I, as a faithful mu’min who believes in Allah and His wisdom, know deep in my heart that although the sadness is cumbersome it will not be overwhelming; that although the times might be tough, I am tougher; and that whatever comes my way will go away; and that eventually I will face my Lord whom, I hope, will be pleased with me as I am pleased with Him.
So when you go through a difficult situation, be it the inevitable death of a loved one or the loss of a job or just a flat tire on the side of the highway, take a deep breath and say:
قُلْ لَنْ يُصِيبَنَا إِلَّا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَنَا“Say: ‘Nothing shall ever happen to us except what Allâh has ordained for us…’” (9:51).