Using Quran to Discover the Source & Cure for Hardship

During a global crisis, it is hard for any Muslim to maintain their faith. When things are going great in life and you jump from success to success, it is easy to attribute that all to the blessings of God.

But what happens when things get turned around? How can such a powerful world, interconnected with the greatest scientific advances that human civilization has ever known, fall in a matter of weeks?

Or even more pressing: Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?

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The answer to the last question is that faith is not transactional in this world, and the worst things imaginable happen to the best of us.

Think of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who regularly faced the death of those closest to him, a blockade that almost wiped out the entire Muslim population from hunger and a decade of armed conflict that, in some moments, seemed un-winnable. That didn’t destroy the Prophet Muhammad’s faith, nor did it cause him to question the revelations he was receiving from God.

In this article, we will explore the verses of the Quran that explore the concept of hardship. Where does hardship come from? Why does this happen in the first place? And how should we face it?

Where Does Hardship Come From?

Islamic theology teaches us that our conception of God must be comprehensive. Bad things that happen in the world don’t come from an outside source, which would mean that there are other beings capable of circumventing the will of God or with powers and abilities comparable to that of God. Rather, everything that exists, the good AND the bad, comes from God. This might seem contradictory to the verse:

What comes to you of good is from Allah, but what comes to of evil is from yourself (4:79).

However, who created that person and gave us the ability to choose between doing good and evil?

At the personal level, God created our “selves (nafs),” that part of you that selfishly wants the best for you alone.

And by the self and He who proportioned it and inspired in it its wickedness and righteousness (91:7-8).

Your nafs could cheer you on to your greatest successes or enable your most dangerous desires. God is aware of that, because:

… He knows what is on the land and in the sea. Not a leaf falls but that He knows it. And no grain is there within the darkness of the earth and no moist or dry thing but that it is written in a clear record (6:59).

Why? Because Faith

That all sounds good, but why do I have to go through this? I am a good person and do what my faith requires. I don’t deserve this level of hardship.

The answer here is that hardship is a test. It is designed to stretch our faith to its limits and see how dedicated we really are. The Quran states:

And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits but give good tidings to the patient (2:155).

This is one of the most basic principles of life: that nothing can be truly taken for granted until it is tested.

Think about friendships: you never know who your friend is until that relationship faces real hardship. Those who mean it stick around, while others quickly run away.

The same is true of faith. When you have the time, money, and comforts of life it is easy to pray on time, fast, and remember God. It is what happens when times get rough when a person’s true nature appears.

Two Steps to Removing Hardship

Once an understanding of the source and hardship is complete, the next step is to explore how to handle it, or more specifically, how to get rid of it. That, like all other things, lies squarely in the hands of God.

Of [hardship], besides Allah, there is no remover. (53:58)

This doesn’t mean that there is nothing that you can do. First, you must persevere and be patient. “But give good tidings to the patient,” the verse above reminds us, and our willingness to stand firm in the face of hardship is the first and most critical step.

Your hardship might be as short as an afternoon or last for years but remember that it is always something that you can handle.

Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity (2:286).

The second step is to find out the secondary causes of your hardship and make the necessary changes to better your life.

Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves (13:11).

That change can be big or small, as complex as coordinating international efforts to discover a cure for a disease, or simply realizing that you need to change career paths or how you approach one aspect of your life.

In conclusion, as Muslims we are always commanded to act to improve ourselves. Even though we know that we are neither the ultimate bringer nor remover of hardship, it is always upon us to do what is right.

In these trying times you must persevere, focus on bettering your condition and those around you, and look to God for true relief.  

About Brian Wright
Brian Wright is an Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at Zayed University, Abu Dhabi. He holds a PhD from the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University. His dissertation was on Islamic criminal law in Egypt, India, and Ottoman Turkey during the 19th century. He has studied fiqh with a number of traditional scholars in Egypt and India.