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Understanding Tests – Why, When, and How?

When someone asks us, ‘What is your religion?’ we say ‘Islam’.

But what really makes us Muslims? What is the proof that we’re worthy of being called Muslims?

It’s the same proof that teachers use to make sure a student is worthy of being at the school – a test. That is the reason that Allah the Exalted tests me and you, as He said in the Quran:

Who has created death and life that He may test which of you is best in deed. And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving.  (67: 2)

Or do you think that you will enter Paradise before Allah tests those of you who fought (in His Cause) and (also) tests those who are As-Sabirun (the patient)? (3: 142)

You shall certainly be tried and tested in your wealth and properties and in your personal selves. (3: 186)

Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: ‘We believe,’ and will not be tested. And We indeed tested those who were before them… (29: 2)

When does Allah test us?

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

The extent of the reward will be in accordance with the extent of the trial. If Allah loves a people, He tries them, and whoever is content will have contentment, and whoever is angry will have anger. (At-Tirmidhi)

Allah tests us in order to make us better and stronger Muslims. The point where you overcome a test successfully, you are not the same anymore, you are now better prepared for further challenges, you have stronger belief in Allah and more hopeful of success. Allah said:

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No calamity occurs, but by the permission of Allah, and whosover believes in Allah, He guides his heart. And Allah is the All-Knower of everything. (64:11)

How Does Allah Test Us?

The tests of Allah are different for different individuals, custom-made according to their particular strengths and weaknesses. The things which seem like a trial to me may not even bother you a bit, and vice versa.

Therefore we must not look at someone depressed over something that seems trivial to us and say, ‘Look what a weak person s/he is!’ It may be just that his/her strengths are different than yours.

Allah tests some people with poverty, others with emotional distress, others with illness, and yet others with prosperity and fame.

How come prosperity is a test? When things are going well, we tend to forget about Allah and the Hereafter, and death, and as a result we may lose the most precious thing to a believer – Imaan.

Indeed, mankind was created anxious: When evil touches him, impatient, And when good touches him, withholding [of it]. (70:19-21)

What to Do When Allah Tests Us

Allah said in the Quran:

And seek help in patience and As-Salah and truly it is extremely heavy and hard except for humbly submissive [to Allah] (2:45)

The moment a trial strikes you, remember to be patient. The Prophet said:

The real patience is at the first stroke of a calamity. (Sahih Al Bukhari)

If it’s difficult to be patient, then pretend to be patient, and the pretense will soon turn real. The best way to do it is to just keep silent and pray to Allah for patience.

Our Lord, pour upon us patience and let us die as Muslims. (7:126)

Look at the beauty of this dua. When does one come to the verge of losing faith? When some disaster totally destroys a person. You will find many atheists complaining, ‘Where was God when such and such happened to me?’

So we ask Allah’s help against this ultimate disaster – loss of faith.

Allah describes those who are patient in the following verses:

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, who, when disaster strikes them, say, ‘Indeed we belong to Allah , and indeed to Him we will return.’ Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided. (2:155-57)

So whenever something bad happens, say as the Prophet said:

Inna-lillahi wa’inna ilayhi raji’un. Allahumma-juri fi museebati wa akhlif li khairan minha

To Allah we belong, and to Him is our Return. O Allah! Take me out of my plight and replace it with something which is better. (Muslim)

And remember:

For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease. Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease. (94: 5-6)