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How Are Trials Defined?

16 April, 2020
Q Salam Aleikoum dear brother or sister, my question regards the trials we humans face in this life. How do we know we are facing a trial; what is a trial? Could the hard time we face fixing our mistakes be considered as a trial? If we are patient is it guaranteed that Allah will help? To have a prayer answered what steps should a Muslim take? Thank you for your efforts.


Short Answer: 

  • One of the welcome side effects of trials is spiritual growth. It happens through painful experiences. 
  • Then at a later stage when the pain is dulled by time and effort to overcome it, the circle of caring expands even more to include many more people we can help with our experiences.


Asalamu Alaikum,

Thank you for contacting Ask About Islam with your question.

How Are Trials Defined?

It’s not very difficult to recognize trials when they happen; any kind of hardship, big or small is a trial. Anything unpleasant, which requires effort and attention to overcome or correct, is a trial.

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Even leisure and success are trails to see if we will be thankful to Allah or if we will become heedless. But for the purposes of your question, I will focus on trials of pain and suffering. 

Hardships are not necessarily a punishment; they may well be to test our resolve, resilience, and strength of faith. Certainly, when we’re patient, this brings about a lot of good in learning the lessons and developing strength and self-control.

How we grow, as a result of going through a trial, is in direct proportion to the way we choose to deal with it. Let me start by defining pain and suffering in order to clarify how to deal with each of them:

What is the Difference between Pain and Suffering?

According to acclaimed life coach Anthony Robbins, pain is the experience of hurt, and it’s a fact of life. All of us experience some kind of pain on a regular basis. Suffering, on the other hand, comes from feeling powerless to stop the pain.

Pain is inevitable, while suffering is optional. We can always do something to change the pain, to deal with it, to overcome it, or at least to endure it without crumbling under the pressure.

We can choose to step out of the pain, that doesn’t mean not to feel it, rather to make an effort not to stay in that pain so as not to prolong our suffering. We can choose to use the pain as a drive, not as a hurdle. This is the way Islam teaches us to use our faith to deal with hardships and trials, because we know they happen for a reason.

Why Do we Suffer?

Most of us suffer when things don’t turn out as we’ve planned, or when the life we experience is different from our expectations for the life we deserve to live.

If we can’t change our environment, we can certainly change our model of the world. We can adjust what we expect from it, and realize that there’s a bigger plan in action, in which we’re taking part, and that God must have a bigger role for us than the one we assign to ourselves.

This is because He gave us a chance to grow, expand, and experience the world on a much deeper level, in order for us to be able to take more from it and share more of it with others.

Spiritual Growth is a Result of Trials

One of the welcome side effects of trials is spiritual growth. It happens through painful experiences: first, when the pain is fresh, we’re focused on ourselves and our pain, which is a miserable state because the pain is magnified and all-encompassing.

Then our focus expands to include others around us as we look for support, and we open up to them to release our pain and receive their comfort.

Then at a later stage when the pain is dulled by time and effort to overcome it, the circle of caring expands even more to include many more people we can help with our experiences.

We care about others who may be suffering because our consciousness has developed and expanded in such a magnificent way as a result of the trial. At that stage, the pain not only becomes tolerable, but it also turns into a constructive power to do great things and improve lives.

The pain of trial opens up a well inside you, it’s up to you what you fill it with: love or fear and anger. When you have faith, you’ll always search to find the good in every trial.

You’ll know that this is happening to you for a reason because God doesn’t do haphazard acts, nor does He hate us or enjoys tormenting us. To the contrary, He loves us and wants us to be happy. And so when He sends us trials, we must strive to find the reason, learn the lesson, and share the wisdom.

Great Lessons we Learn from Trials:

1- God wouldn’t test us if He didn’t give us the strength to go through it and learn from it, it’s up to us to draw on our strengths and turn every trial into a chance for growth, love, compassion, and awareness.

2- Learning to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and humble in front of God, and accepting that we can’t control everything, and that we have to succumb to His will and wisdom.

Surprisingly, this makes us free and strong, because we cease to fear anything or anyone besides God. 

3- God listens to prayers and He most certainly grants them, although in His infinite wisdom and mercy, He chooses what’s best for us, which is not necessarily what we’ve asked if it would be harmful for us in the long run.

To have prayers granted, a Muslim must have good credit with God through faith, worship, and good deeds. He must also ask for what he wants repeatedly and relentlessly. For although God knows you and knows what you want, He loves to hear you call to Him and ask Him of His bounty and mercy.

And Allah knows best.

I hope this helps.

Salam and please keep in touch.

(From Ask About Islam archives)

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Patience and Thankfulness on The Path to Allah

Why Difficult Times? (7 Verses)

Between Anxiety and Allah

How Does Islam View Failure and Success?

About Sahar El-Nadi
Sahar El-Nadi is an Egyptian freelance journalist who traveled to 25 countries around the world and currently based in Cairo. Sahar also worked in many people-related careers in parallel, including presenting public events and TV programs; instructing training courses in communication skills; cross cultural issues; image consulting for public speakers; orientation for first-time visitors to the Middle East; and localization consulting for international educational projects.