Salam Dear Reader,
Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
Some of the most beautiful realities emerge from some of the most excruciatingly painful moments.
Imagine if the child birth experience happened by simply clicking on a button and popping the baby out of his mother’s womb in seconds… would that have any meaning, significance or notable value?
We call it a miracle. Despite all the pain and suffering, we call this experience a miracle.
With some patience and humility, greater messages and gifts could be achieved.
Let us remember also that some of the greatest figures we know have attained to their esteemed statuses by overcoming hardships and suffering. Think Nelson Mandela, for example. Maybe we wouldn’t have known or recognized him globally if it wasn’t for the struggles he went through and overcame.
The message is: if it wasn’t for illness, we wouldn’t have truly appreciated our health, if it wasn’t for the moments of sadness, we wouldn’t have truly appreciated contentment, if it wasn’t for the darkness, we wouldn’t have truly appreciated the light. Sometimes, those moments of suffering allow us to truly appreciate the countless blessings that we’ve been taking for granted.
If everything came easy, what then would be the purpose of our existence?
Sometimes, we are asked to ponder on deeper meanings in life. That’s why tribulations and suffering happen: to test and teach, show true faith of the believers, and also warn and alarm those who are oblivious or heedless.
A quick look at the Islamic perspective
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) was asked which people are the most severely tested. He replied:
‘The Prophets, then the next best and the next best. A person is tested according to his religious commitment. If he is steadfast in his religious commitment, he will be tested more severely, and if he is frail in his religious commitment, his test will be according to his commitment. Trials will continue to afflict a person until they leave him walking on the earth with no sin on him.’” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
So, the strongest believers sometimes are the ones who’re given the biggest tests.
Think about this example: if you have friends who only stick by your side when things are going well, but they abandon you when the going gets tough. Does this make them real friends?
Aren’t those friends who stick by you in the most difficult times- no matter how long it takes- prove to be the most committed and real friends?
This is what happens when we commit to God through what we think is a difficulty or a hardship.
It is a manifestation of true faith and commitment.
Now, there are a few points to remember.
God gave us an ability to learn and He will continue to teach us until our last breath. When God created our father Adam, He said “And He taught Adam the names-all of them…..” [Quran: Chapter 2: Verse 31].
This is not a fleeting moment in history. This a reality of life: God teaches us. The word ‘Rabb’ (Lord) in Arabic comes from the word ‘tarbiyaa’ (education). God is the Supreme Educator. We will learn from everything that happens in our lives, good and bad. We just need our hearts and minds to be attentive and reflect.
We understand also from the Quran and prophetic narrations that God essentially wants us to deeply know Him, fall in love with Him and develop a strong meaningful relationship with Him. This relationship will be carried with us when we live near Him for eternity in an eternal Paradise.
In Surat Ad-Dhariyat verse 56, God says that He created mankind to worship Him.
In Surat Al Ma’ida Verse 54, God says that if we turn our back or walk away from Him, He will bring other people that “He will love, and who will love Him.”
So, the core of our relationship with God is to love Him.
What is love?
When someone is in a loving relationship with someone else, doesn’t he/she promise to hold on to the other for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health?
I remember listening to a lecture where the speaker mentioned that his partner told him “you never really loved me because when problems happened, you ran away. This is not love.”
Now think about this: if we maintain our loving relationship with God only when things are going well….. Is this true commitment or a sincere test of faith?
“And of the people is he who worships God on an edge. If he is touched by good, he is reassured by it; but if he is struck by trial, he turns on his face [to the other direction]….” [Quran 22:11]
Moreover, is being in a test or a trial an indication that God is humiliating this person?
The answer is no.
God doesn’t charge a soul more than it can handle, and He knows they have the capacity to get through this situation even better with reflections, understandings, experiences and knowledge that not only illuminate their hearts, but the hearts and minds of many others around them.
The blessing is not a matter of instant gratification. It is an educational process that elevates the human being emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.
The gift of knowledge and education is not about giving all students a report sheet of straights A’s all the time with no effort on their end. Rather it is a blessing and a gift for those who were patient and struggled to achieve and earn their success.
How many hard and difficult tests and examinations have you been given throughout your educational journey? Why then didn’t we stop learning and say: “education is difficult, let’s give up education, if education sets our minds free, why are we being restricted by all these difficult tests and exams?”
Well, if it wasn’t for the testing, we wouldn’t have known the real stars, the outstanding individuals who’ve earned their status by overcoming what’s hard.
The toughest warriors are the ones who’re given the most challenging battles. Those who’re suffering are not necessarily humiliated, it is sometimes a recognition of their ability to handle bigger tests.
We can take a defensive position from God because we can’t seem to understand why certain things are happening. But some people will not do that. They will remain humble, patient and committed until they realize the deeper meanings, wisdom and blessings that come out of their difficulties.
They’re the people who realize that if there was no darkness, we wouldn’t have appreciated the light, if there was no difficulty, we wouldn’t have appreciated ease, and if there was no evil, we wouldn’t have yearned for all that is good.
These are all experiences that should remind us of our meaning and purpose in life, encourage us to better ourselves, strengthen us and deepen our relationship with our Creator, not take us away from Him…And the promise of God is ever true…
“For indeed with the hardship [will be] ease. Indeed with the hardship [will be] ease.” (Quran 94: 5-6)
To sum up, why does a disaster happen?
It is a sign of The Power of the Creator, a reminder for us to reevaluate our lives and our purpose, and a test of true faith for the sincere believers.
I hope this helps answer your questions.
Salam and please keep in touch.