In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy
All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is His servant and Messenger.
Dear brothers and sisters, many people ask, why are we tested and tried? Why the hardships? Why the calamities? Why the tribulations? Why the covid-19 and it’s harsh and difficult restrictions? Why the armed banditry? Why the cattle rustling? Why the Boko Haram terrorism? Why the kidnappings? Why the rampant rape in our societies? Why the bad leaders? Why the bad followers? Why the killings? Why..? Why..? Why..? These are the very common questions from Muslims, from people of other faiths, or no faith – so it’s important to reflect on them. Because lack of answers can sometimes distance people from their faith (iman) – if a person doesn’t understand why tests and trials happen they can start to feel that life is unfair to them or even that Allah is being unfair to them.
But Allah is Al-Adl, The Just, and He is Al-Rahman, The Most Merciful; He never wants ill for His servants, He only wants the best for us. There are a lot of evidences in the Qur’an and Hadith that helps us answer these questions of why we are tested and tried:
1. We were created to worship Allah alone.
We were created to worship Allah, and we all made a promise to do so before we were sent to earth. Tests are a means for us to fulfil this promise, in fact, they are a ‘Sunnah (way)’ of Allah – i.e. tests are the means by which Allah distinguishes between us, because they help to expose faith and lack of faith. Allah Almighty states in the Qur’an:
“Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried and tested? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident those who are false.” [Qur’an, 29: 2-3]
2. Allah tests us to purify us and wash away our sins.
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:
“No calamity befalls a Muslim but that Allah expiates some of his sins because of it, even if it were the prick of a thorn.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
So instead of seeing tests as a punishment from Allah, this shows that in fact, Allah wants to save us from punishment – i.e. the punishment of the hereafter which is much worse than any test and trial faced in this world.
3. A test can sometimes replace a worse misfortune.
A test can be a form of protection from something that might have befallen us. Or being deprived of something might, in fact, be saving us from something that is not good for us, even though we don’t have the knowledge to realise it at the time. Allah the Most High tells us:
“Perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.” [Qur’an, 4: 19]
Therefore the test which might seem so awful to you at the time is, in fact, a blessing.
4. Tests are given to us to strengthen our Iman (faith).
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:
“The people who face the most difficult tests are the Prophets, then the righteous, then those following them in degree. A person is tried according to his religion. So if there is firmness in his religion, then the trial is increased, and if there is a weakness, then it is lightened. Verily a trial remains with a servant until he walks the earth having no sin left upon him.” [Bukhari]
Allah Almighty wants to refine us, out of His love and mercy, so that we can attain not just Jannah (Paradise) but the highest rank of the Prophets and the righteous. Tests expose our faults and weaknesses to ourselves – and that awareness enables us to be more focused and proactive in rectifying those aspects of our character.
5. Allah tests a person He loves.
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:
“Whenever Allah wills good for a persons, He subjects them to adversity.” [Bukhari]
Why? Because if the servant reacts with Sabr (patience) and contentment with Allah’s decree, it brings them closer to Allah. And “Allah loves the Patient.” [Qur’an, 3: 146]
• Some ways to deal with tests and trials
Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim (rahimahullah) stated that when we are tested we are faced with two options:
1. To be patient!
2. Not to be patient!
So when we lack patience and get frustrated/bitter/lose hope/panicky/attack, abuse or insult our leaders/or blame Allah, this is actually a choice we make and not a very good one. But those who choose option one (to be patient), as difficult as it is, benefit from their tests in this life and also gain in the next life, i.e. Jannah (Paradise).
So how can we choose to have more patience and contentment when tested and tried? Please read the following suggestions:
1. Read/listen to Qur’an (because Zikr gives contentment – see Surah Ra’ad: 28).
2. Make Du’a for Allah’s help, strength, and relief from the test – just as Prophet Ya’qub (AS), and Maryam (AS) and the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) all did.
3. Gratitude puts our tests in perspective and stops us from complaining; it is the greatest route towards Patience (Sabr).
4. Remember what others are going through – remember the Ummah (nation), and people around you in your own communities; remind yourselves of the tests the Prophets of Allah went through – they provide us with good examples of perseverance. Bear in mind every single person is being tested in different ways.
5. Remember nothing in this life lasts forever, so the test and trial will have an end In Shaa Allah. Allah Almighty says:
“verily with every hardship comes ease.” [Qur’an, 94:5-6]
6. Allah does not burden any soul beyond what it can bear [Qur’an, 2:286]; Allah has confidence in us, so we too need to have confidence in our ability to get through the test and trial.
7. Muhasabah – use tests as an opportunity for self-assessment; are there things you can do better next time? Are there habits/characteristics you need to change?
8. Deal with your test one step at a time – i.e. if you have a task to complete, give yourself small goals. Or if you are facing a long-term test, try to have patience for that day, and start afresh with your goal of patience the next day etc.
9. Have trust in Allah (tawakkal), whatever the test is – because Allah is the best of Planners and teaches us the best lessons.
10. Strengthen your Salah (prayer). Allah Almighty says:
“Seek help in patience and prayer.” [Qur’an, 2: 153]
Respected brothers and sisters, now what if you are not being tested?
The following question was asked, and it comes up quite a lot – “what if someone doesn’t seem to be going through any major trials, and in fact, they are being blessed with abundance. Does Allah love such a person less than someone He subjects to obvious harsh trials?” Tests can take many forms, they can be great or small, a one-off trial or something we face consistently. They can come in the form of hardships… or, they can come in the form of blessings.
In fact, these can be a greater pitfall than hardships because they are harder to identify as tests. Why is this the case?Because when we feel less needy of Allah’s help we turn to Him less. We tend to remember Allah less in times of ease. So ‘ease’ is no less of a test of our faith, especially when we remember that Iblis (Shaitan) vowed to use ingratitude as a means to lead us astray [See Surah A’araf: 16-17].
My beloved people, the way to show patience with such a test is to always be grateful; to know Allah is the source of our blessings; to fight pride, selfishness and ego, and to fight the temptation to show off. And if someone succeeds in that trial, they would be rewarded by Allah and be drawn closer to Allah, no different from someone who faced their hardships with patience.
Having patience with blessings is also shown by utilising the good things Allah gave us – if it is money, do we spend it freely in the way of Allah, or do we hold back? If it is knowledge, or free time, or good health, or youthfulness, how do we use these blessings? It is not always easy to be generous with those blessings, and to use them for Allah rather than the ego – that is a great test and trial too.
It’s worth remembering there are examples of companions who were blessed with abundance – Khadijah, Abu Bakr, Uthman bin Affan, Abdur Rahman bin Awf, may Allah be pleased with them all! They were blessed with wealth and status too, but they used that to serve Allah and the Ummah (nation). In fact, they were among those promised paradise. So being tested with abundance does not necessarily mean that person is less beloved to Allah, they are just being tested differently. And Allah knows best.
• Some Qur’anic Verses To Get You Through Hardship:
1. You may hate a thing that is good for you.
I was convinced by the Qur’anic verse that says:
“You may dislike something although it is good for you, or like something, although it is bad for you.” [Qur’an, 2:216]
The only thing that was steady during this awful time was our prayers, even after all those feelings of loss; We kept up with our prayers. We didn’t let that go because deep down we knew the tough days would pass by the help of Allah Almighty. We knew He would guide us – He is Al-Hadiy and Ar-Rashid. We knew He loved people who were committed to Him. Allah the Most High says:
“Allah loves those who are steadfast.” [Qur’an, 3:146]
We prayed at home, and then slowly – at a snail’s pace, we started going out to the Mosque. Deep down, we knew Allah Almighty tests whom He loves and clearly He was testing us because He loves us. The thing we hated, that pain that sorrow and darkness, lead us to be closer to him, those dark days brought us the greatest gift.
2. If you believe you will be tested.
I kept reminding myself about the Qur’anic verse:
“Do people think they will be left alone after saying ‘We believe’ without being put to the test and trial?” [Qur’an, 29:2]
3. Allah Almighty never burdens a soul beyond what it can bare.
Allah the Most High never burdens a soul more than it can bear. I was assured, I could bear the pain I was feeling because He told me, I could. “Allah does not burden any soul with more than it can bear.” [Qur’an, 2:286]
4. If Allah desires good for someone he faces hardship.
Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:
“When Allah Almighty desires good for someone, He tries him with hardships.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
5. The Prophets of Allah are tested the most.
Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
“I said: O Messenger of Allah, which of the people are most sorely tested?” He said: “The Prophets, then the next best and the next best. A man will be tested in accordance with his level of religious commitment. If his religious commitment is strong, he will be tested more severely, and if his religious commitment is weak, he will be tested in accordance with his religious commitment. Calamity will keep befalling a person until he walks on the earth with no sin on him.” [At-Tirmidhi]
6. Allah does not change your condition until you change what is in yourself.
He (Allah) is Al-Wakil.
“Allah does not change the condition of a people unless they change what is in themselves.” [Qur’an, 13:11]
It is only upon us to decide what we want. It is for us to choose what we want in life. Either we choose happiness or sadness. If we want to be happy, then we must change what is within ourselves by our actions every single day, no let ups. Small and consistent steps are what will piece together bit by bit your happiness, as happiness is not served on a plate. You earn happiness. You work for it. Having a content life is what every individual desires, and wallahi that requires a lot of work, work that has to be consistent. It is an ongoing process, which needs to be monitored and nurtured all the time.
“Our Lord, give us good in this World and in the Hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the Fire.” [Qur’an, 2:201]
We must ponder over Allah’s wisdom in which He tests His chosen servants, He guides and directs us to achieve goals to reach a high rank in His eyes, which would not be possible or achieved without a lifetime of tests, trials, and tribulations. Tests and tribulations are in fact, all mercies and blessings from Allah Almighty. So Alhamdulillah, for tests, trials and tribulations.
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true followers.
Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: email@example.com or +2348038289761.
This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Shawwal 27, 1441 A. H. (June 19, 2020).