Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) has kept it no secret, as long as man lives, he shall not be left alone.
Tests from all corners of life will be thrown at him in order to uncover his essence and exhibit his core. Indeed, how many a times has one assumed to know another before the latter is tested? The one we had assumed was generous, brave, and wise turns out to be a lowly, selfish and cowardly miser. Conversely, how many times have our eyes looked beyond certain individuals whose voices are not heard and whose deeds are not particularly spectacular, only to be awe-struck by them during testing times when they exhibit unfettered generosity, lion-like bravery, and mountain-like steadfastness?
All things have been created with purpose. Jannah (Paradise) for pleasure, Jahannum (Hell) for suffering, and the life of today for tests. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) said:
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا فِي قَرْيَةٍ مِنْ نَبِيٍّ إِلَّا أَخَذْنَا أَهْلَهَا بِالْبَأْسَاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَضَّرَّعُونَ [الأعراف: 94]
"We did not send any prophet to a town, but We seized its people with hardship and suffering, so that they may turn humble.” (Al-A’raaf 7:94)
The reality, however, is a bitter one. Not everyone humbles themselves in repentance after tests. Indeed, a select minority does, but the reactions of the rest of humanity vary immensely – not only in the face of difficulties, but also during times of ease. It really is a fascinating observation, one that is particularly relevant in light of the current global pandemic that has not spared a single household from its grip.
Broadly, there are four distinct categories of people in times of ease and hardship. Which of the four do you fit in? Measure yourself against the following:
The first category
Those who turn to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) during times of ease and ignore Him during times of difficulty Speaking about this category of people, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) said:
وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَعْبُدُ اللَّهَ عَلَى حَرْفٍ فَإِنْ أَصَابَهُ خَيْرٌ اطْمَأَنَّ بِهِ وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ فِتْنَةٌ انْقَلَبَ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ خَسِرَ الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةَ ذَلِكَ هُوَ الْخُسْرَانُ الْمُبِينُ [الحج: 11]
"And among men there is one who worships Allah (standing) on the verge: so if some good thing happens to him, he is satisfied with it, and if a trial befalls him, he turns his face back. He loses both this world and the Aakhirah (Hereafter). That is the manifest loss.” (Al-Hajj 22:11)
For this category of people, their commitment to Islam only lasts as far as they live a life of wellbeing and prosperity. Should a challenge interrupt their routine, they are the quickest to drop it all, turning to anything for relief, whether it is an ex-partner, pornography, drugs, abandonment of Salaah (Prayers) – anything but Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). In fact, the reason for revelation of the Aayah (Verse) above is a telling one.
A Jewish man once said to the Prophet Hadhrat Mohammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam):
أدع لي ربك ان يرزقني مالا وإبلا وخيلا وولدا حتى أؤمن بك
"Call upon your Lord to give me wealth, camels, horses, and children so that I believe in you.”
The Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) did so, and Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) granted this man his requests, after which he embraced Islam. However, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) had wished to test him. These blessings were soon taken away from him, and so the man left Islam. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) then revealed the above Aayah. (Tafseer al-Qurtubi)
Hadhrat Ibne ‘Abbas said:
كان الرجل يقدم المدينة فان ولدت امرأته غلاماً أو نتجت خيله قال:هذا دينٌ صالح وان لم تلد امرأته ولم تنتج خيله قال : هذا دين سوء
"There were some who would arrive at Madinah al Munawwarah. If their wives gave birth to children and their camels produced calves, they would say: ‘This is a righteous religion.’ However, if their wives and camels failed to reproduce, they would say: ‘This is an evil religion.'”(Tafseer al-Qurtubi)
This category of people is common and include:
A spouse who remains faithful so long as their spouse is, too, faithful. Should unfaithfulness happen, however, the other spouse takes the first opportunity for vengeance by doing the same so that they "get a feel” of what they felt. All along, their chastity was not for Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) – it was conditional upon a worldly gain. Hence, when that gain disappeared, they let themselves go.
A sister whose Hijab is pristine and Salaah on time so long as her marital life is in place. However, should her marriage end in divorce, her religious life is cast aside, her Salaah is dismissed, and the Hijab becomes no more. All of it was conditional on her marriage.
A Muslim (revert or otherwise) whose commitment to Islam is on point so long as parents or friends do not turn against them. Should that happen, they show no hesitation in shelving Islam both inwardly and outwardly.
The religiosity of this category of people is conditional; steadfastness upon Islam as long as they enjoy a relatively problem-free life. Any obstacles along the way sees them opt out of the religion (or at least many parts of it) in no time.
The second category
Those who turn to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) during times of difficulty and ignore Him during times of ease.
This group has arguably received the most attention from the Quraan. For this category, so long as they are fit, well, and prosperous, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) does not appear in their conversations or decisions. It takes a seismic adversity to send them back to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) in desperation.
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) said:
وَإِذَا مَسَّ الْإِنْسَانَ الضُّرُّ دَعَانَا لِجَنْبِهِ أَوْ قَاعِدًا أَوْ قَائِمًا فَلَمَّا كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُ ضُرَّهُ مَرَّ كَأَنْ لَمْ يَدْعُنَا إِلَى ضُرٍّ مَسَّهُ [يونس: 12]
"When man is afflicted by a hardship, he prays to Us (at all times), when reclining or sitting or standing. But when We remove his hardship, he just takes his way as though he had never prayed to Us in any hardship that afflicted him.” (Younus 10:12)
And Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) said:
وَإِذَا أَنْعَمْنَا عَلَى الْإِنْسَانِ أَعْرَضَ وَنَأَى بِجَانِبِهِ وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ فَذُو دُعَاءٍ عَرِيضٍ [فصلت: 51]
"When We bestow Our favor upon man, he avoids (to appreciate it) and keeps himself far aside (from obedience), and when some evil touches him, he is full of lengthy prayers.” (Fussilat 41:51)
When the situation is dire – upcoming exams, plummeting investments, crumbling relationships, worrying medical diagnoses – this category of people will rediscover Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). When that dark cloud begins to pass, and when safety and relief erase fear and grief, the previously intense Du’aa, punctual Salaah, and distancing from sins bid the person farewell.
The arrogance of this category and their utter ingratitude to their Lord is beyond measure. The most famous example is that of the Pharaoh of Egypt, who spent a lifetime crushing his people and calling to the deification of himself. During his hour of need as he drowned, he finally turned to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) in desperation, saying:
آمَنَتْ بِهِ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ وَأَنَا مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ [يونس: 90]
"I believe that there is no god but the One in whom the children of Isra‘il believe, and I am among those who submit to Allah.” (Younus 10:90)