The angels heard this late plea of Pharaoh, and Hadhrat Jibreel would descend not as a savior but to thrust the sea sand into the Pharaoh’s mouth, and the Pharaoh’s pleas were rejected:
آلْآنَ وَقَدْ عَصَيْتَ قَبْلُ وَكُنْتَ مِنَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ[يونس: 91-92] oفَالْيَوْمَ نُنَجِّيكَ بِبَدَنِكَ لِتَكُونَ لِمَنْ خَلْفَكَ آيَةً وَإِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِنَ النَّاسِ عَنْ آيَاتِنَا لَغَافِلُونَ
“Allah said: ‘Is it now (that you have come to believe) while you were rebellious all along, and you were among the mischief-makers. So, today, We shall save your body, so that you may become a sign for those after you. And many of the people are heedless of Our signs.” (Younus 91-92)
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) does not punish from the very first slip. Chances are given, reminders are sent, sins are veiled, and punishment is compassionately delayed repeatedly. Nothing will snap a person into realization and a penitent retreat more than a devastating calamity.
A thief was presented to the second pious Caliph, Hadhrat ‘Umar bin Khattaab, the great Sahaabi (Companion) of the Prophet Hadhrat Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam). Shortly before his hand was amputated, the thief yelled: “Woe to me! This was my first time stealing!” to which Hadhrat ‘Umar responded:
ﻛﺬﺑﺖ ﻭﺭﺏ ﻋﻤﺮ، ﻣﺎ ﺃﺳﻠﻢ اﻟﻠﻪ ﻋﺒﺪا ﻋﻨﺪ ﺃﻭﻝ ﺫﻧﺐ
“I swear by my Lord! You speak a lie! Allah would never punish a person following his very first sin.” (At-Talkhees Al-Habeer)
Shame on man for needing devastating events to bring him back to his senses. A major illness which deprives him for sleep, forcing him back to the Salaah (Prayers) five times a day, or crippling anxiety which forces him to accept the wrong of his alcohol, drugs, or interest-based business.
Shame on man for only rediscovering passionate Du’aa, Zikr, and the Quraan following threats of being exposed for illicit behavior.
Shame on man for needing his wife to walk away from him irreparably for being unfaithful, forcing him to realize the blessing that he once had at home all along.
Shame on man for needing calamities to corner Him into thanking Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) and forcing him to appreciate His blessings.
If you are feeling healthy, safe from harm, and veiled from shame at this moment, then take the hint: remove yourself from this second category of people and be of those who glorify Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) in all circumstances, not just when you are lost for options.
The third category
Those who ignore Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) during both times of ease and hardship
For this category of people, nothing brings about Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s remembrance. Prosperity is simply “luck”, whilst adversity is mere “misfortune”. These people will give it any description as long as it does not involve Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa).
Speaking about this group – the worst of the four – Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) said:
وَإِذَا أَنْعَمْنَا عَلَى الْإِنْسَانِ أَعْرَضَ وَنَأَى بِجَانِبِهِ وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ كَانَ يَئُوسًا [الإسراء: 83]
“When We bestow Our favor upon man, he avoids (to recognize it) and keeps himself far aside (from obedience), and when some evil touches him, he is in total despair.” (Al-Israa 17:83)
And He also said:
إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ خُلِقَ هَلُوعًا[المعارج: 19-21]oإِذَا مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ جَزُوعًاoوَإِذَا مَسَّهُ الْخَيْرُ مَنُوعًا
“Man was created restless. Touched by adversity, he is fretful. Touched by good, he is ungenerous.” (Al-“Ma’aarij 70:19-21)
Regardless of which way they take, their flame of Iman remains blown out. Their ears, eyes, and hearts have been firmly sealed. Even if every circumstance changes, they will not.
Consider the late Christopher Hitchens, who lived his life as an anti-theist arguing a case against existence of any God. His diagnosis of cancer towards the latter part of his life did not cause a shift in his position. Hitchens maintained his devout atheism until the very end, and insisting: “No evidence or argument has yet been presented which would change my mind. But I like surprises.” (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16226580)
Consider Abu Jahl, described by the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) as the ‘Pharaoh of this Ummah (Nation)’. Abu Jahl led military campaigns against the Muslims, personally seeing to the persecution of believing men and women. Abu Jahl took charge of the defamation of the Prophet of Islam and the Muslims. This was his hallmark during his time of ease, which extended until his very last moments as he bled to death at the Battle of Badr. His Kufr (Infidelity) and Shirk (Polytheism) did not change.
After the Battle of Badr, Hadhrat ‘Abdullah Ibne Mas’ood saw Abu Jahl lying on the ground, taking his final breaths. He placed his foot over his neck – surely a humbling experience one would have thought – to which Abu Jahl muttered:
لَقَدْ ارْتَقَيْتَ مُرْتَقًى صَعْبًا يَا رُوَيْعِي الْغَنَمِ
“You have ascended a mighty mount, you pathetic shepherd.” (Ibne Hishaam)
This is an accurate depiction of what this third category of people are all about: blind during times of ease and heedless during times of difficulty.
The fourth category
Those who turn to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) during times of ease and difficulty
These are the very finest of human beings – the saints of Islam and the truest slaves of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). They are clearly identifiable and together share the same characteristics: They interpret every experience of life, both the happy and miserable, as a test.
They recognize that the entire spectrum – from extreme hardship to extreme ease and all that is in between – is a test from Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). They make sure to announce this, in words and deeds, at their every experience.
Take the example of Prophet Hadhrat Sulaimaan. Seeing the power that Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) had endowed him, where Jinn competed to serve him and deliver the thrones of kings to him from continent to continent, Prophet Hadhrat Sulaimaan proclaimed:
هَذَا مِنْ فَضْلِ رَبِّي لِيَبْلُوَنِي أَأَشْكُرُ أَمْ أَكْفُرُ [النمل: 40]
“This is by the grace of my Lord, so that He may test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful.” (An-Naml 27:40)
They are fully aware that the greatest guarantor of blessings is gratitude.
The equation, as far as they are concerned, is very clear: the greater the gratitude, the greater the preservation of blessings.
This is why Prophet Hadhrat Sulaimaan would become intensely grateful before Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) at the remembrance of any blessing, knowing that this is the fuel needed for the continuity of such blessings. On one such day, it occurred to him just how gifted he had been to hear and understand the language of ants, so he said:
رَبِّ أَوْزِعْنِي أَنْ أَشْكُرَ نِعْمَتَكَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ وَعَلَى وَالِدَيَّ وَأَنْ أَعْمَلَ صَالِحًا تَرْضَاهُ وَأَدْخِلْنِي بِرَحْمَتِكَ فِي عِبَادِكَ الصَّالِحِينَ [النمل: 19]
“My Lord! Enable me to become grateful to Your favor that you have bestowed on me and on my parents, and to do good deeds that You like, and admit me, with Your mercy, among Your righteous servants.” (An-Naml 27:19)
In the dawn of every blessing that renews itself in the lives of this blessed category of people – when he sees his children running around playfully and healthily, or when his wife calls him to say “hurry, the food is getting cold!”, dinner, or when he cleans himself after using the bathroom in a dignified fashion without needing help, or when he puts food into his mouth without the need of pipes and needles – their hearts are quick to submit in sincere gratitude to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). The words of Prophet Sulaimaan above are repeated, as are those by the Prophet Hadhrat Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam):
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ زَوَالِ نِعْمَتِكَ، وَتَحَوُّلِ عَافِيَتِكَ، وَفُجَاءَةِ نِقْمَتِكَ، وَجَمِيعِ سَخَطِكَ
“O Allah! I seek refuge in You from the decline of Your blessings, the removal of Your safety, the sudden onset of Your punishment, and from all that displeases You.” (Muslim)
They recognize that their good deeds today are stored for the rainy days to come.
The Quraan has given us two examples of people who experienced a calamity by way of the sea. The first is the Pharaoh of Egypt, and the second is Prophet Hadhrat Younus. Both suffered in similar ways and both begged from the same Deity, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) for help. However, their outcomes were the polar opposite: one was drowned to death, whilst the other was saved. The reason for this is simple: during their times of ease, they were two very different people.
The Du’aa of the Pharaoh was rejected and Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) said to him:
آلْآنَ وَقَدْ عَصَيْتَ قَبْلُ وَكُنْتَ مِنَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ [يونس: 91]
“(Allah said:) ‘Is it now (that you have come to believe)? while you were rebellious all along, and you were among the mischief-makers.” (Younus 10:91)
On the other hand, the Du’aa of Prophet Hadhrat Younus was answered, and Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) said:
فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ وَنَجَّيْنَاهُ مِنَ الْغَمِّ وَكَذَلِكَ نُنْجِي الْمُؤْمِنِينَ [الأنبياء: 88]
“So We responded to him and rescued him from the distress. And this is how We rescue the believers.” (Al-Anbiyaa 21:88)
Prophet Hadhrat Younus was righteous, penitent, and hardworking before his trial, so when it arrived, it was quick to depart. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) said about Prophet Hadhrat Younus:
فَلَوْلَا أَنَّهُ كَانَ مِنَ الْمُسَبِّحِينَ[الصافات: 143-144]oلَلَبِثَ فِي بَطْنِهِ إِلَى يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ
“Had he not been of those who proclaim Allah‘s purity, he would have definitely lived in its belly till the day when the dead will be raised.” (As-Saaffaat 37:143-144)
Commenting on this, Qataadah said:
كان كثير الصَّلاةِ في الرّخاء، فنجَّاه الله بذلك; قال: وقد كان يقال في الحكمة: إن العمل الصالح يرفع صاحبه إذا ما عَثَر، فإذا صُرع وجد متكئا
“He [Prophet Younus] would pray abundantly during times of ease, and so Allah saved him through that. It used to be said: ‘Good deeds carry a person when he slips, but should he fall, he will find something to lean on.’” (Tafseer At-Tabari)
Thus, when the trial of Prophet Hadhrat Younus eventually arrived, its effects were lessened and its end was relief.
The exact same can be said about the famous story of the three men who retreated to a cave from the torrential rain. The three men then became trapped by a falling boulder that sealed the entrance of the cave. Screaming for help was pointless, crying would not avail them, and their arms were no match for the mighty rock before them. This calamity could not have been any darker.
There, the three men discussed what to do and unanimously agreed that their escape can only be through one method: Du’aa that includes the mention of a good deed that they had performed solely for the sake of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s pleasure during their times of ease.
So, they began: The first man, in Du’aa, relayed a time when he gave preference to his parents over his children when it came to providing them their daily milk. The second man relayed a moment when he walked away from fornication in the nick of time. The third man relayed an awe-inspiring moment of honesty in a business matter. No sooner had they completed their Du’aa than the rock shifted from its place and they were set free. Their investment in doing good deeds during times of ease saved them in their darkest hour of need.
In summary, this fourth category of people refuse to allow calamities – whether it is the current pandemic or otherwise – to mark the beginning of their relationship with Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), punctual Salaah, and Taubah (Repentance). Instead, they lead lives of hard work, patience, gratitude, and steadfastness around the clock and across borders, inspired by the guidance of the Prophet Hadhrat Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) who said:
مَنْ سَرَّهُ أَنْ يَسْتَجِيبَ اللَّهُ لَهُ عِنْدَ الشَّدَائِدِ وَالْكُرَبِ فَلْيُكْثِرِ الدُّعَاءَ فِي الرَّخَاءِ
“Whoever wishes that Allah would respond to him during hardship and grief, then let him make plentifully Du’aa when at ease.” (At-Tirmizi)
And by his guidance when he said:
تَعرفْ إلى اللهِ في الرخاءِ يعرفْكَ في الشدةِ
“Know Allah during times of ease, and Allah will know you during times of hardship.” (At-Tabaraani)