Coping with calamities
Calamities afflict everyone
When we read the Quran we see the word calamity musibah المصيبة has been repeated ten times and test, bala‘ البلاء has been mentioned 25 times. Allah Almighty tells us in this hadith that He will afflict His believing servants, and He afflicts His non-believing servants. The tests come in different ways, illness, calamities, loss in business and property, and so on.
For example in Surah Ash Shurah, we are told:
قال الله تعالى: وَمَا أَصَابَكُم مِّن مُّصِيبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَيَعْفُو عَن كَثِيرٍ سورة الشورى30.
Whatever misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned; and yet He pardons much. (42:30)
In Surah Hadid, it says:
ما أَصابَ مِن مُصيبَةٍ فِى الأَرضِ وَلا فى أَنفُسِكُم إِلّا فى كِتٰبٍ مِن قَبلِ أَن نَبرَأَها ۚ إِنَّ ذٰلِكَ عَلَى اللَّهِ يَسيرٌ
No calamity occurs on earth, or in your souls, but it is in a Book, even before We make it happen. That is easy for God. (57:22)
In Surah Taghabun, Allah Almighty says:
ما أَصابَ مِن مُصيبَةٍ إِلّا بِإِذنِ اللَّهِ ۗ وَمَن يُؤمِن بِاللَّهِ يَهدِ قَلبَهُ ۚ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيءٍ عَليمٌ
No disaster occurs except by God’s leave. Whoever believes in God, He guides his heart. God is Aware of everything. (64:11)
Calamities are a means of expiation and elevation and self-exploration
Enduring calamities is part of our reality as well as our destiny. It was Allah’s will that this would happen, in order to test people and their level of imaan, and to elevate their status, delete their sins and improve their connection with Him, or reveal any gaps and shortcomings in their character or commitment to Allah Almighty.
Calamities affect us at an individual and ummah level
Though these tests are bitter, and difficult and as we see today these calamities are different on an individual level and on an ummah level. On the individual level you need to analyse yourself and see why you are here, what is the lesson in it for you, and Allah’s message to you. You have to delve and discover what you need to extract from it and to escape it.
Avoid the blame game
On the ummah level there is a lesson to learn – firstly we are all in this calamity together.
Next, Allah Almighty has told us that these calamities are based on our actions.
However, many of us are sucked into the blame game and feel that we have not done much to ‘deserve’ this, but it is not us who decide our destiny, it is Allah Almighty.
Without doubt there are certain reasons why Allah destined for us to be tested by calamities, just as He tested other nations before us, in different centuries throughout our history. Indeed, millions were affected by the plague in history. The plague was and still is fatal and contagious.
Calamities are a time to reflect and remain calm
These verses show us the Allah Almighty wants us to reflect and see what we have done and what is in our book of records. To acknowledge our mistakes, sins and shortcomings. He says:
Whoever believes in Allah, Allah will guide His heart. (64:11)
This means Allah will give him or her peace and tranquillity. We don’t want to be panicked and be anxious all the time; we need to look after ourselves and our families and communities.
We have to protect ourselves, and do all we can to safeguard ourselves, our families and our possessions.
Calamities and tests are reasons for people to reflect and come back to Him. As Allah Almighty mentioned in Surah Baqarah:
يقول الله: سورة البقرة216،
وَعَسىٰ أَن تَكرَهوا شَيـًٔا وَهُوَ خَيرٌ لَكُم ۖ وَعَسىٰ أَن تُحِبّوا شَيـًٔا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَكُم ۗ وَاللَّهُ يَعلَمُ وَأَنتُم لا تَعلَمونَ
But it may be that you dislike something while it is good for you, and it may be that you like something while it is bad for you. God knows, and you do not know. (2:216)
Calamities increase our humility
Calalmities show show us that despite all our might and technology and sense of progress and advancement in reality we are weak. We can lose all we have within seconds. In Surah Anam, Allah Almighty tells us:
البلاء سبب للرجوع إلى الله تعالى وتكفير السيئات
قال الله تعالى: وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلنَآ إِلَى أُمَمٍ مِّن قَبْلِكَ فَأَخَذْنَاهُمْ بِالْبَأْسَاء وَالضَّرَّاء لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَضَرَّعُونَ سورة الأنعام42،
We sent messengers to communities before you, and We afflicted them with suffering and hardship, that they may humble themselves. (6:42)
Calamities remind us of our mortality
We are reminded how close we are to death and the hereafter and how weak we are. In Surah Al Araf, Allah Almighty says:
وَبَلَوْنَاهُمْ بِالْحَسَنَاتِ وَالسَّيِّئَاتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ، الأعراف: ١٦٨.
And We tested them with fortunes and misfortunes, so that they may return. (7:168)
Remember that prosperity is also a test, and adversity can be a mercy
Allah Almighty does not only test us through misfortune, but through His favours to us as well. Do they make us more grateful or arrogant? Indeed, when Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) asked the Prophet (peace be on him) about the plague, which most would assume is worse than prosperity and success, He told her that it is a mercy for believers:
عَنْ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا زَوْجِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَتْ : سَأَلْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ عَنِ الطَّاعُونِ، فَأَخْبَرَنِي أَنَّهُ عَذَابٌ يَبْعَثُهُ اللَّهُ عَلَى مَنْ يَشَاءُ، وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ جَعَلَهُ رَحْمَةً لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ، لَيْسَ مِنْ أَحَدٍ يَقَعُ الطَّاعُونُ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي بَلَدِهِ صَابِرًا مُحْتَسِبًا، يَعْلَمُ أَنَّهُ لَا يُصِيبُهُ إِلَّا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَهُ، إِلَّا كَانَ لَهُ مِثْلُ أَجْرِ شَهِيدٍ. رواه البخاري.
When ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) about the plague, she reported:
I asked the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) about plague and he said, “It is a punishment which Allah sends upon whomsoever He wills, but Allah has made it a mercy for the believers. Anyone who remains in a town which is plagued with it, maintaining patience and expecting his reward from Allah, and knowing that nothing will befall him other than what Allah has foreordained for him, he will receive the same reward as a Shaheed”. (Bukhari)
The Prophet (peace be on him) said the plague was a punishment, which Allah Almighty sends to whomever He wills, yet even this fatal disease is a mercy for His believers. Anyone who is afflicted by the plague and remains in that town, and remains patient, knowing that nothing will befall him except what was destined, will receive the reward of a martyr.
Don’t complain. Have tawakkul
When adversity strikes in any shape or form, it comes as a shock and our first reaction tends to be to complain and object. However, the best way to deal with it is to know that Allah is the One who sent it, and that we are being tested, and we will be rewarded by our patience. The one who moans and whinges will not get that reward because he is complaining about Allah.
Real tawakkul (complete trust in Allah) is to combine imaan and acceptance of your destiny with seeking whatever support is available and medical help, and doing your bit not to spread it and not to complain.
Have sabr and accept Allah’s will
فعن أبي يحيى صهيب بن سنان عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: «عجباً لأمر المؤمن إن أمره كله خير وليس ذلك لأحد إلا للمؤمن؛ إن أصابته سراء شكر فكان خيراً له، وإن أصابته ضراء صبر فكان خيراً له» رواه مسلم
Abu Yahya Suhaib bin Sinan (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
How wonderful is the case of a believer; there is good for him in everything and this applies only to the believer. If prosperity attends him, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him; and if adversity befalls him, he endures it patiently and that is better for him. (Muslim)
This is hugely rewarding. This motivates the believer to accept Allah’s destiny and not to complain, because complaining worsens the situation and anxiety worsens your immunity and the defences in your system.
Allah renews the body of the sick
When someone is afflicted by a test, such as illness and does not complain Allah Almighty gives him the cure and uniquely, renews and rejuvenates him with better flesh and blood. From a scientific point of view, his immunity will be improved when he recovers. His defences will be stronger. This is something we can understand physically, but spiritually, there is also an improvement.
: عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم-: «قَالَ اللَّهُ -تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَى-: إِذَا ابْتَلَيْتُ عَبْدِي الْمُؤْمِنَ، فَلَمْ يَشْكُنِي إِلَى عُوَّادِهِ، أَطْلَقْتُهُ مِنْ إسَارِي، ثُمَّ أَبْدَلْتُهُ لَحْمًا خَيْرًا مِنْ لَحْمِهِ، وَدَمًا خَيْرًا مِنْ دَمِهِ، ثُمَّ يَسْتَأْنِفُ الْعَمَلَ». صححه الحاكم، ووافقه الذهبي، وصححه الألباني في السلسلة الصحيحة.
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said that Allah, the Glorious and Exalted said:
When I afflict My believing servant, and he does not complain about Me to his visitors, I will release him from illness, and I will replace his flesh with a better flesh than his and his blood with better blood than his, and then he will begin his deeds afresh. (Mustadrak Alhakim – Sahih)
The Prophet (peace be on him) also mentioned that the patient believer’s sins are shed like autumn leaves:
عن عبد الله بن مسعود رضي الله تعالى عنه أنه قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله تعالى عليه وسلم:” ما من مسلم يصيبه أذىً من مرض فما سواه إلا حط الله به سيئاته كما تحط الشجرة ورقها. رواه البخاري ومسلم.
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said:
When a Muslim falls ill, his compensation is that his minor sins are obliterated just as leaves fall from the tree (in autumn). (Bukhari and Muslim)
عَنْ شَدَّادَ بْنَ أَوْسٍ قال: سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَقُولُ : ” إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ يَقُولُ : إِنِّي إِذَا ابْتَلَيْتُ عَبْدًا مِنْ عِبَادِي
مُؤْمِنًا، فَحَمِدَنِي عَلَى مَا ابْتَلَيْتُهُ فَإِنَّهُ يَقُومُ مِنْ مَضْجَعِهِ ذَلِكَ كَيَوْمَ وَلَدَتْهُ أُمُّهُ مِنَ الْخَطَايَا. وَيَقُولُ الرَّبُّ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ : أَنَا قَيَّدْتُ عَبْدِي وَابْتَلَيْتُهُ فَأَجْرُوا لَهُ كَمَا كُنْتُمْ تُجْرَوْنَ لَهُ وَهُوَ صَحِيحٌ “. رواه أحمد.
حكم الحديث: صحيح لغيره وهذا إسناد ضعيف
Shaddad bin Aws (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
Allah, the Glorious and Exalted said: ‘When I afflict My believing servant, and he praises me for that test, he will rise from his bed as if he is a newborn baby. Then Allah will say: I have restricted My servant and afflicted him, so record for him the same actions [in his time of illness] as he used to do when he was healthy’. (Ahmad)
In this very deep narration, we were told that when the patient recovers, he is like a new-born, with a clean slate. We are familiar with the new-born baby scenario after hajj, but here we discover that in a state of illness and weakness, Allah Almighty removes a sick person’s sins and commands the angels to write down the best deeds he used to when he was healthy, if he acted with patience and rida (satisfaction):
Be grateful and make dua and avoid shaytanic whispers
Have gratitude and recite your daily adkhar. This will be sufficient protection from Allah Almighty.
If we have patience and strong imaan this enables us to be on the right path, otherwise shaytan can play us. It is easy for someone afflicted to be played by shaytan, and be more susceptible to his whispers.
If you do not control our emotions, you can say and do things that are not in line with shariah. Contain your emotions, and cling to the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be on him).
That is why the Prophet (peace be on him) is preparing us to face our tests, whether they be small, medium or on a global scale with positivity:
الَّذينَ إِذا أَصٰبَتهُم مُصيبَةٌ قالوا إِنّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنّا إِلَيهِ رٰجِعونَ
Those who, when a calamity afflicts them, say, “To God we belong, and to Him we will return.” (2:156)
When you say this dua it calms you down. It reminds you that you are not immortal, but you are here to be tested, and this is part of your journey. So check the manual what you should do in this scenario, and it teaches you to recite this dua.
Compensation for affliction
This is exactly what Umm Salamah did, when she lost her husband, who was the whole world to her. The Prophet (peace be on him) taught her what to say.
عن أم سلمة رضي الله عنها قالت سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول (( ما من عبدٍ تصيبُه مصيبةٌ فيقول : إنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون . اللهمَّ ! أْجُرْني في مصيبتي وأَخلِفْ لي خيرًا منها – إلا أجَره اللهُ في مصيبتِه وأَخلَفْ له خيرًا منها )) . قالت : فلما تُوفِّيَ أبو سلمةَ قلتُ كما أمرني رسولُ اللهِ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّمَ . فأَخلَفَ اللهُ لي خيرًا منه رسولَ اللهِ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّمَ . رواه مسلم .
Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported:
I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying, “When a person suffers from a calamity and utters: ‘Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un. Allahumma ujurni fi musibati, wa’akhlif li khairan minha (We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return. O Allah! Compensate me in my affliction and give me something better instead of it), then Allah surely compensates him with a reward and a better substitute.” Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her) said: When Abu Salamah (may Allah be pleased with him) died, I repeated the same supplication as the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) had commanded me (to do) and Allah bestowed upon me a better substitute than him, the Messenger of Allahﷺ. (Muslim)
Beg for afiyah
We do not follow our own whims or desires but rather what pleases Allah Almighty. The Prophet (peace be on him) taught us to ask for afiyah – well-being and safety. Not for tests. Nor to endanger ourselves, by entering infected places.
والنبي ﷺ قال: سلوا الله العافية. البخاري ومسلم.
‘Abdullah bin Abi Awfa (may Allah be pleased with them) reported:
On one occasion the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Pray to Allah to grant you safety ‘Afiyah”. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Allah is our Protector
Trust Allah and trust His decree. Without doubt, Allah Almighty will protect you. Like the driving test, there is theory and practice. Aqeedah is the theory, and it impacts the practice, because what is inside your heart is reflected in your actions.
Help others and work on your inner status
Look beyond yourself and seize this opportunity to reach out to others
Do not panic. Remember that Allah is the One in whose Hand your destiny lies. If you cannot help physically, occupy your time with what is beneficial, salah and duas and dhikr. Beg Allah for relief and to lift the calamity and protect our Ummah in prosperity or adversity.
May Allah protect us and enable us to accept our destiny and praise Allah for everything we receive from Him, even during times of tests and calamities.
From Shaykh Haytham Tamim’s course on Hadith Qudsi – 17th March 2020.
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