Imagine that a difficulty arises in your life; perhaps you lose your job, you lose a loved one, you develop an illness, or someone breaks your heart – how would you view this tribulation? Would you rush to assume it’s a punishment?  Would you see it as a test? Would you see it as an effect of the manifestation of Allah’s love for you?

The fact of the matter is that this life is an abode in which there exists tests and tribulations.

Allah says [which may mean]: “Do the people think they will be left to say, ‘We believe’ and will not be tried?” (Quran 29: 2).

However, while every Muslim accepts this, it seems that there is a wrong understanding amongst some who, when a trial or tribulation occurs, they rush to assume it is a punishment or that Allah wants them to fail.  This stems from a lack of understanding, ignorance, and poor thinking of Allah.  Ponder this narration found in Sunan al-Tirmidhi:

            Mus’ab ibn Sa’eed reported: His father asked, “O Messenger of Allah, which people are tested most  severely?” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “They are the prophets, then the next best, then the next best. A man is tried according to his religion. If he is firm in his religion, then his trials will be more severe. If he is weak in his religion, then he is tried according to his strength in religion. The servant will continue to be tried until he is left walking upon the earth without any sin.”

This narration explains to us that trials and tests are not to be automatically assumed to be punishments.  While we do believe that people are punished not only in the Hereafter, but in this world as well, we can understand from this narration that Allah tests those whom He loves more, with more sever tests; and that these tests are a means of elevation, purification, and are a means by which we gain closeness to Him.

The key to pass these trials and tests is to possess three things:  Sincerity – a heart firmly dedicated to what pleases Him and seeks nothing but Him; Hope – the firm belief that Allah is greater than whatever you’re going through, that He can help you overcome your challenges, and it’s never too late to turn back to Him; and patience – the understanding that what you’re going through could be a means of elevation and purification, and that the reward He will give you is far greater – in an incomparable way – to the bitterness you feel during your times of hardship.

I will be patient in order to please You, even though my sorrow kills me.  It suffices me that You are pleased, even though my patience kills me.

            – Ibn Ata’Allah

Therefore, let me encourage myself and you to view Divinely bestowed tests and trials as jewels.  Safeguard these jewels from the eyes of people and keep them as a secret between you and your Lord; reflect on the incomprehensible value of these jewels – cherish them and be grateful for them. Let me leave you with the following words by Ibn Ata’Allah, who writes:

He only made injury flow from their hands onto you, so that you would not find rest in them.  He wants to push you away from everything, so that nothing busies you away from Him.