(2:286) Why is my life so difficult?
by Ayesha Khan
The Wisdom Your Difficulties in Life
Why are we tested? Why me? What did I do to deserve this?
The Messenger has believed in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, and the believers as well. All have believed in Allah and His angels and His Books and His Messengers. ‘We make no division between any of His Messengers,’ and they have said: ‘We have listened, and obeyed. Our Lord, (we seek) Your pardon! And to You is the return.’
Allah Almighty does not obligate anyone beyond his capacity. For him is what he has earned, and on him what he has incurred. ‘Our Lord, do not hold us accountable, if we forget or make a mistake, and, Our Lord, do not place on us such a burden as You have placed on those before us, and, Our Lord, do not make us bear a burden for which we have no strength. And pardon us, and grant us forgiveness, and have mercy on us. You are our Lord. So then help us against the disbelieving people.’ (2:286)
Tests afflict believers and non-believers alike. Allah Almighty stated in the Quran that He is:
‘The One who created death and life, so that He may test you as to which of you is better in his deeds. And He is the All Mighty, the Most-Forgiving.’ (67:2)
The tests we endure separate the chaff from the wheat, and in surviving them we discover our own potential. Without them we could overestimate our imaan, or underestimate our spiritual strength.
Part of your process of self discovery and development
Being tested is an important part of our development. They help us realise our areas of weakness. Through them we find out if we crack under pressure or if we are made of stronger stuff. And sometimes it is surprising to ourselves and others as well when we handle hardship with fortitude.
Beyond your understanding
To many who misunderstand the basics of imaan, the tests may seem unfair, particularly when we come across seemingly disproportionate hardship, or suffering on a horrific scale. Though we cannot understand, just as Musa (peace be on him) was stunned and incredulous at what Khidr did in Surah Kahf, we need to remember that we cannot understand what Allah Almighty has ordained, but that ultimately He knows better than us.
Individualised for you
Allah Almighty sets individual tests. There isn’t a standard exam for everyone, but personalised challenges through which we have the opportunity to grow and develop personally and spiritually. Some people can run the marathon, others can’t.
Help you prioritise and value what it important
On many occasions, the tests bring a deep realisation of what is important in life and who around us is actually sincere, and ultimately bring us closer to Allah Almighty. Ease, beauty and intellect are often a more difficult test, because they allow us a sense of comfort that takes us away from Allah Almighty.
As Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
If the veil were to be removed (from the unseen), you would only choose what has already been decreed.
This means that were we to truly see things as they are, we would realise that what Allah Almighty has decreed is best for us and He has our best interests at heart. It means we have to have complete faith in Allah Almighty that no matter what we go through, even when ‘the medicine’ seems bitter, painful or unpleasant, it will be the best thing that could have happened. If we can know this, we feel assured of Allah Almighty’s support at all times.
Calamities, trials and hardship
Allah Almighty only tests us as much as our capacity. Not beyond. We each have a bespoke test designed exclusively for us and with our capabilities. Though we may sometimes feel our situation is unbearable this ayah is motivating and encouraging because there is reassurance that Allah Almighty would not have tested us by it if He didn’t think we could cope with it. Which means there is no reason why we cannot pass the test.
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace be on him) (peace be on him) said:
Whenever Allah wills good for a person, He subjects him to adversity (Bukhari)
The most in their suffering among the people are the prophets, then the best, then the (next) best. One is afflicted in accordance with his deen (faith). If his deen is firm his affliction is hard, and if his deen is weak, his affliction is light. Indeed, one would be so much subjected to adversity until he walks among the people without any sins. (Ahmad, Tirmidhi)
Punishment or test?
How can we tell if we are being punished or tested? We need to look at our lives and check that our actions are in line with Allah Almighty’s commands. If we are following the Quran and Sunnah, it is likely to be a test. If we are doing something wrong, then it could be a punishment. It is impossible to be a successful if we keep failing the test. So it may happen that we are tested with the same thing repeatedly because we are not passing.
- It could be Allah Almighty ’s whip, bringing us back to His remembrance. A wake up call if we are not responding to His mercy.
- It could be that the hardship is a purification, so our sins are being cleansed by it.
- It could be Allah Almighty’s way of bringing us closer to Him and elevate our rank.
- It could be a way of detaching our hearts from dunya by tasting its bitterness.
Can we understand our tests?
Not entirely. Our intellect is limited; we cannot fully understand the wisdom behind the challenges and trials that we go through and see others suffer from. We certainly shouldn’t judge other people’s situations. We need to have trust in Allah Almighty that though it is beyond our comprehension, there must be some benefit in it.
We may love something that is bad for us, and hate the thing that is good for us.
Frequently, Allah Almighty tests people of imaan more. As recorded in Bukhari and Muslim: The Prophet (peace be on him) said:
Whoever Allah Almighty wants good for him, he puts them to test. He puts them through difficulties. Like a diamond or some metal that has to be burnt and then that which is bad from it is removed so that you have that which is the pure diamond or the pure gold or whatever. Put them to tests, trials and difficulties.
An ailment is intensified for the righteous. Whenever a believer is afflicted by a hardship, whether it is a thorn or more, a sin is taken off from him because of it, and he is elevated by one rank (in Jannah). (Ahmad)
If tests bring reward, should I ask to be tested?
It is foolish to ask for tests.
When Allah Almighty is teaching us to ask Him to go easy on us, it is an act of self sabotage to ask Him to discipline us. Instead we should ask him to guide us with kindness and ask Him to help us improve our character.
Allah Almighty’s Messenger (peace be on him) visited a person from amongst the Muslims, in order to inquire about his health, who had become weak like a small bird. Allah Almighty’s Messenger (peace be on him) said:
‘Did you supplicate for anything or ask Allah for something?’
The man said, ‘Yes. I used to say: “Oh Allah, what you are going to punish me with in the Hereafter then hasten it for me in this life.”
Thereupon, Allah’s Messenger (peace be on him) said: ‘Glory be to Allah, you don’t have the ability to take it [the burden of His Punishment] upon yourself. Why did you not say, “Oh Allah, grant us good in the world and good in the Hereafter, and save us from the torment of Fire?”’
The Prophet (peace be on him) made this supplication for him and he became well. (Muslim/Tirmidhi)
There are many duas that ask for wellbeing, and on another occasion:
The Prophet (peace be on him) overheard a man asking for patience, so the Prophet (peace be on him) said to him:
‘You have asked Allah for a trial [to be patient in], rather ask for wellbeing.’ (Tirmidhi)
What if I can’t cope?
Allah Almighty encourages us to express our feelings of inadequacy and sense of our own weakness to Him, as our closest confidante, counsellor and ‘boss’.
He teaches us to turn to Him to help us through our tests as He is our Protector and our Helper, the one on whom we depend and rely on.
We can implore Him for an easier test and He Himself has taught us to ask for, and granted us less, burdens and obligations than previous nations, such as Bani Israel who were encumbered with so many restrictions.
When we are tested collectively as an ummah, we ask for Allah Almighty to grant us victory over those who reject Islam and make trouble for us.
Allah Almighty ’s mercy is so great that in situations of extreme hardship, even haram solutions become permissible. Such as accessing a loan with riba if we have no other choice.
What about suicide?
Suicide is not permissible. It is a grave sin. Remember with every hardship comes ease.
If you believe it is halal to commit suicide, you are now in the realms of kufr, which is unforgivable. If it all gets too much, the Prophet (peace be on him) taught us to ask for life if it good for us and death if that is better for us.
What if I make a mistake?
Allah Almighty is inspiring and encouraging. He teaches us to seek forgiveness for sins committed out of forgetfulness or by mistake. And then grants it when we ask.
Rather than using the tone that suggests ‘Well of course you made a mistake, that’s just the sort of thing I expect from YOU!’, in these ayahs we have Allah Almighty treating us with the utmost politeness of a parent telling their erring child that of course they didn’t deliberately doing something wrong, they must have slipped up and that they will be forgiven if they ask for it.
The psychology is important as it is expecting good from us and teaching us to become a better person.
If he used the former tone, we could lose hope and confidence in ourselves to do the right thing, because we would feel incapable of doing what is right.
Will Allah forgive me if I make a mistake deliberately?
We are only punished for deeds over which we had control.
The door for repentance is always open. We must acknowledge our sins, and repent as Allah Almighty is the Most Forgiving and there is no sin too big to be forgiven, if we are sincere in our repentance.
Tests afflict believers and non-believers alike. We need to look in our hearts and actions to determine whether we have brought this upon ourselves and how then to repent and rectify our conduct. We also need to know how to deal with the trial with patience (sabr) and contentment (rida). Ibn Ata Illah Iskandari said:
He has only made the world a place for the ‘aghyar’ (other than Allah) and a mine for trouble so that you would be detached from it.
Had He not made the dunya with tests and troubles we would be infatuated by its pleasures and would not want to leave it. A taste of its harsh, bitter nature makes it easier for us to detach from loving the dunya and re-orientating us towards the right direction, towards what is ultimately best for our well-being in this life and the next.
The last two ayahs of the Surah Baqarah provide the coping mechanism for the test He warned us about:
Certainly, We shall test you with fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits; but give glad tidings to the patient – those who, when afflicted with calamity say, ‘Truly to Allah we belong, and truly to Him shall we return.’
It is those who will be awarded blessings and mercy from their Lord; and it is those who are the guided ones. (2:155-157)
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