Hardships and Calamities… Not in Vain

“And surely We shall try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and crops; but give glad tidings to the patient, Who says, when afflicted with calamity: “To Allah We belong, and to Him is our return.” They are those on whom (descend) Blessings from Allah, and Mercy, and they are the ones that receive guidance.” (Qur’an 2:155-157)


Life is a journey full of ups and downs; it is an obstacle course that requires us to continually navigate and overcome challenges with faith, patience and with a positive attitude. Every challenge we face and navigate strengthens our will, confidence, and our ability to conquer future obstacles. The Qur’an teaches us that life is a test; we are temporarily placed on earth so that we may be tried through circumstances of adversity and prosperity.


Life by its very nature is a fusion of duality; there’s good and bad, justice and injustice, mercy and oppression, love and hate, truth and falsehood, etc. Without suffering, pleasure would also cease to exist. Besides the spectre of human pain and sorrow, we also see the splendour of beauty, of health, prosperity, life, birth, wisdom, intelligence, peace and success.


What attitude do you adopt in the face of difficulties? Do you turn them into springboards or are they roadblocks? Will hardships alter your focus into being bitter or a better person? Setbacks are frequently growth accelerators. They provide the opportunity to reinforce self-assurance, revitalize your commitment to what you want to achieve, and reassess what you are willing to sacrifice to make it happen.


There are a number of reasons why Allah allows hardship and adversity to befall humans:


  • Test of faith: It is Allah’s will to put humans through hardship and adversity so as to test their faith, steadfastness and trust in Him. “Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe,” without being put to test?” (Qur’an 29:2) Allah tests us to see if we are able to display patience, faith, submission and obedience.


  • Humility: Hardships force you to come face-to-face with who you are. Hardship chisels away our arrogance, self-importance and our sense of invincibility. A significant dose of humility usually comes with hardship. “And We did not send in a city any Prophet except We seized its people with adversity and hardship, so that they may (become) humble.” (Qur’an 7:94) Hardships compels us to turn to Allah, it creates the realization that He alone is the One Who grants relief from distress. He wants His slaves to turn to Him in humility and supplication.


  • Cleansing from sin: Hardship and adversity is a means of cleansing our souls from sins. “A Muslim, male or female, continues to remain under trial in respect of his life, property, and offspring until he faces Allah, the Exalted, with no sin record” (Tirmidhi). Another hadith states: “No fatigue, nor disease, nor anxiety, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.” (Bukhari and Muslim)


  • Appreciation: Suffering and hardship serve as a reminder for people who tends to take things for granted and forget that what they have is a blessing from Allah. The most painful experiences in life may come with an eventual upside, promoting the ability to appreciate life’s small pleasures. Lessons learned from hardships often reveal limitations, patterns, beliefs, and skills you didn’t see or appreciate before. We do not learn by living an easy life. We only learn by living through challenging experiences. These challenging experiences make us stronger humbler and wiser.


  • Development of character: Hardships bring out the true human mettle in each of us, it spurs us to action, it teaches us resolve, discipline and endurance. Setbacks make us wiser; more alert; more strategic; more willing to take risks; more self-assured; more patient; more confident in our own abilities; more optimistic; more empowered, and more mindful in our approach to life. Calamities tend to draw out our strengths and other qualities that would have laid dormant without them.


Hasan al-Basri (RA) said: “Do not resent the calamities that come and the disasters that occur, for perhaps in something that you dislike will be your salvation, and perhaps in something that you prefer will be your doom.”


Fadl ibn Sahl (RA) said: “There is a blessing in calamity that the wise man should not ignore, for it erases sins, gives one the opportunity to attain the reward for patience, dispels negligence, reminds one of blessings at the time of health, calls one to repent and encourages one to give charity.


Ibn Taymiyah (RA) said: “A calamity that makes you turn to Allah is better for you than a blessing which makes you forget the remembrance of Allah.”


How you react and move forward during difficult times is what matters. Move forward with renewed commitment, strengthened faith, hope for reward and a positive attitude. “A strong believer is better and dearer to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in both. Adhere to whatever brings you benefit, seek the help of Allah, and do not feel helpless. If something befalls you, do not say: ‘Had I done such-and-such, it would be such-and-such.‘ Indeed, ‘if’ opens the way before the devil to act.” (Muslim)