The Muslim Of Difficult Times
The quality of a Muslim's belief and moral character is revealed in difficult times. Under such circumstances, we see their superior morality, courage, patience, trust, perception, fortitude, tolerance, willingness to forgive, self-sacrifice, mercy, humanity, appreciation, conscience, and composure.
"The Muslim of difficult times" indicates an individual who endures every difficulty, frustration, and deprivation while displaying the qualities listed above. Such people never compromise their moral character, encounter every eventuality with great maturity and trust in Allah, see the reason for everything that happens and the good in it, and exhort others to practice the same superior morality. As The Qur'an says: "… when they came at you from above and below, when your eyes rolled and your hearts rose to your throats..." (Surat al-Ahzab, 10), these difficult times are when believers undergo serious testing and are beset by frustrations.
When we speak of difficult times, some examples come to the mind of people who do not know Allah: a natural disaster, losing a job, bankruptcy, and similar events. But for those with faith, the difficult moments refer to more serious situations: a time when a person is deprived of his or her most basic requirements, and when the frustrations are far more serious than those experienced in daily life. The Qur'an defines such times when "the heart roses to the throat" as periods when every imaginable kind of difficulty, illness, and disaster falls upon a person one after another, such as when they are thrown out of their house, driven from their country, confronted with traps set just for them, as well as their family and people, and they are subject to spiritual oppression.
The Qur'an provides examples of the difficulties experienced by the Prophets and devout believers. As we said earlier, devout believers have been brought through and endured many serious trials, for:
…Or did you suppose that you would enter the Garden without facing the same as those who came before you? Poverty and illness afflicted them and they were shaken to the point that the Messenger and those who believed with him asked: "When is Allah's help coming?" Be assured that Allah's help is very near. (Surat al-Baqara, 214)
In this verse, Allah announces that all people will undergo difficulties and gives the good news that those who are patient will have good things for eternity. In these times, the difference between "Muslims of moments of distress" and "fair-weather Muslims" will become evident. Members of the first group respond to their difficulties and frustrations in this way: Those who, when disaster strikes them, say: "We belong to Allah and to Him we will return." (Surat al-Baqara, 156)
The Voice of Conscience and the Voice of the Lower Self in Times of Difficulty
When people come face to face with difficulty or frustration, they hear two inner voices. One is the conscience, which urges them to behave as Allah wants them to behave: with self-sacrifice, courage, and moral rectitude. Those who listen to this voice will choose to be patient and trust in Allah. The second voice belongs to the lower self, described as that which "commands to evil acts" (Surah Yusuf, 53). This voice, which urges rebellion, immorality, selfishness, and cowardice, causes those who listen to it great loss and attracts Satan's "friendship." To describe to people what they will lose by making this bargain, it is necessary to know how Satan acquired his influence over them. The Qur'an gives detailed information about this and also warns people against his entrapments.
When Allah created Prophet Adam (as), He commanded the angels and Satan to bow before him. The angels did so, but in his arrogant pride, Satan refused to do so and was therefore driven out of Paradise for this rebellion. He then asked Allah to allow him to influence people until the Day of Judgment. Allah granted this request, but said that he would have no influence over His believing servants. Satan vowed that he would deceive human beings with various promises, deceptions, and entrapments, and draw them away from the true path. The Qur'an relates his oath, as follows:
He [Satan] said: "By Your misguidance of me, I will lie in ambush for them on your straight path. Then I will come at them, from in front of them and behind them, from their right and from their left. You will not find most of them thankful." He [Allah] said: "Get out of it, reviled and driven out. As for those of them who follow you, I will fill up Hell with every one of you." (Surat al-A`raf, 16-18)
He [Satan] said: "Do you see this creature you have honored over me? If You reprieve me till the Day of Resurrection, I will be the master of his descendants, except for a very few." He [Allah] said: "Go! And as for any who follow you, your repayment is Hell, repayment in full! Stir up any of them you can with your voice, rally against them your cavalry and your infantry, share with them in their children and their wealth, and make them promises! The promise of Satan is nothing but delusion." (Surat al-Isra', 62-64)
As it says in the verse, Satan will try anything to divert people from the true path and prevent them from being thankful to Allah and from living a good moral life. As a result, he will bring the majority of people over to his side by using the voice of the lower self. For this reason, when people undergo hard times, Satan will always make them think selfishly about themselves and how to secure their own advantage by presenting self-sacrifice, compassion, and mercy as negative options:
O humanity, eat what is good and lawful on Earth. Do not follow in the footsteps of Satan, for he truly is an outright enemy to you. He only commands you to do evil and indecent acts, and to say about Allah that which you do not know. (Surat al-Baqara, 168-169)
For all of these reasons, Muslims who are facing difficulties, frustration, or disaster must act according to their conscience so that they will not join Satan. By following Satan, selfishness, opportunism, addiction to pleasure, hypocrisy, and many other negative qualities are given a chance to arise and corrupt the Qur'an's morality. Sincere Muslims listen to their conscience and always follow the way of goodness. As the Qur'an says, it is important that good morals be shown when "the matter is resolved upon":
Once the matter is resolved upon, being true to Allah would be better for them. (Surah Muhammad, 21)
The majority of people know that faithfulness shown in times of trial indicates superior morality and swear that they will be faithful and strong in such times. But when the trial comes, their behavior does not match their earlier promises and they react negatively when touched by the least frustration. They become angry all of a sudden and, instead of love and compassion, display angry recrimination. In a moment, they can become suspicious, rebellious, and demanding. In such instances, the strong will be separated from the weak and corrupted morality will show itself; those whose belief is weak will reveal themselves by becoming immersed in anxiety. These people are just one step away from joining the unbelievers and their anti-Muslim activities. Occasions such as these increase by several times the value of a Muslim whose belief is sincere and strong.
All of the difficulties and frustrations encountered in daily life are both a test and a means to a happiness that can be compared to the Paradise that Muslims hope to attain in the afterlife. It is a source of great pleasure to compare the difficulties with this ease and comfort. And, for sincere Muslims, each of such difficulties brings an increase of love, respect, and appreciation from other Muslims, and is a blessing that deepens their belief. It is a divine blessing with abundant benefits and beauties that makes believers take that person as an example. In addition, it has a positive influence on the belief of those around them (by Allah's grace) and makes them worthy of the unbelievers' admiration, whether secret or open.
Someone who thinks that a particular event is outside the plan of destiny is under Satan's strong influence, which often is the cause of such doubts. Satan takes great pleasure in seeing people fall into this situation. Sometimes, under his influence, people may fall into the sickness of considering an apparently insignificant matter as being outside the sphere of destiny or beyond Allah's mercy, knowledge, and intention. Believers must be aware of and avoid this sickness, and be able to cure it if they somehow succumb to it.
For example, there is good in every event in such apparently minor things as missing a certain television program or forgetting to order something to eat. For example, missing a television program might give them some extra time to do a good deed, think good thoughts, or might arrive at an idea that will increase their ability to serve Allah even more. Or, in that period of time they may remember Allah and understand far more than they would have gotten from the television program. Forgetting to order something to eat may be like a diet that cures an illness. People with high blood-pressure may find that it returns to normal if they forget to eat cheese one day. By putting themselves in Allah's hands, they gain merit in His sight and win His approval by striving to do good deeds. Besides, always trusting in Allah is a means for believers to attain love and contentment.
Given that many similar examples can be gleaned from daily life, it is very important to understand this matter and not let it slip our mind. Whatever people encounter, important or insignificant, is included in destiny. Satan suggests that these events are a necessary component of daily life and have nothing to do with destiny. However, believers must always be alert and aware of these suggestions, for being able to understand this and keep it in our remembrance, see reason and good in every thing and event, and realize that everything happens within Allah's good plan is a great blessing in this world and the world to come. This is a truth that gives wisdom, will, comfort, and contentment to all believers.
The Separation of Good from Evil
Allah created good and evil, help and harm, and beauty and ugliness simultaneously and made them tests on the road to Paradise or Hell. The period of testing in this earthly life clearly separates good from evil, those who are patient and those who are afraid to face difficulties, those who oppose irreligious ways of thinking and those who sit and do nothing, and those who follow their lower selves and those who listen to the voice of their conscience.
There is very good reason why good and evil are so closely connected with each other. One reason is that the value of good and evil may be understood only within this contradiction. If evil, deprivation, or disaster did not exist, people could not understand the value of good. For example, when you place a diamond among ordinary stones, its beauty and allure becomes more evident.
Another reason is found in the secret of this transitory world's trials. Here, people are tested with good and evil. In the testing, the difference in degree between the two will become evident, and the good will be separated to one side, and the evil to the other.
While the Angel of Death will take the souls of evil people with great harshness, good people will be invited to enter the beauty and pleasure of Paradise. The Qur'an says that these trials are the way by which believers are distinguished from those with a disease in their hearts:
What assailed you on the day the two armies met was by Allah's permission, so that He would know the believers and the hypocrites. They were told: "Come and fight in the Way of Allah, or at least help defend us." They said: "If we knew how to fight, we would certainly follow you." They were closer to unbelief that day than to faith, saying with their mouths that which was not in their hearts. And Allah knows best what they are hiding. (Surah Al `Imran, 166-167)
As these verses say, the behavior shown by the Prophet's (saas) contemporaries in the face of difficulty was the way by which devout believers were distinguished from hypocrites.
Bediuzzaman discusses in depth how difficulties and disasters separate the good from the evil, and gives very good and wise advice on this matter. When asked what the purpose of Satan and wickedness is, he concludes that some very important reasons lie behind every frustration, deprivation, and wickedness. The most important of these is the separation between a "coal-like" disposition and a "diamond-like" disposition.
He uses this example to show that every kind of difficulty and frustration brings out the best in a person. The trials of this world bring to light each person's bad aspects and so provide the opportunity to correct them. For example, a serious illness may reveal an individual's timidity or spiritual weakness. Thus, when a woman becomes aware of her weakness, she immediately remedies it. So, the illness allowed her to see her mistakes and to correct them within this short lifetime. After this misfortune, one more impurity will be done away with, and her moral character will be improved. Take the example of a man with a life-long reputation for being honorable but then goes bankrupt and resorts to illegal means to get money. This shows how misfortune can reveal a person's bad aspects. But if this individual does not commit a sin and compromise his honor despite his need for money, then his deprivation will show that he is really pure and devout.
In his Letters, Beddiuzzaman gives examples of the wisdom of showing patience in situations that will later turn out for the good. He writes:
So, the creation in the universe of wickedness, hurt, trials, evil and suffering is not something bad or ugly; these things have been created for a very important purpose. …in the world of human beings advance and decline are endless. There is a great distance between the Nimrods and Pharaohs on one hand and the saints and prophets on the other.
So to distinguish between the coal-like base spirits and diamond-like spirits above, the creation of Satan opened an arena of struggle, contest, and trial to which prophets are sent and in which the secret of responsibility is revealed. If there were no struggle and contest, the qualities within coal and diamonds would remain indistinguishable in the human ore. The exalted spirit of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq and the base spirit of Abu Jahl would remain on the same level. This means that the creation of evil and wickedness is not bad and ugly because it leads to important results. 7
Another matter stressed here is the value of this world's trials. If there were no evil or frustration, the good qualities in human character would not come to the fore, the high moral quality of devout persons would not be displayed, and there would be no advance in one's level of spirituality. This is why every eventuality that appears to be negative in fact opens an unlimited horizon of opportunity to mature one's moral character, strengthen and deepen one's spirituality, and raise one's rank and position in Paradise.
Bediuzzaman writes further that:
Religion is an examination, a test, proposed by Allah so that in the arena of competition elevated spirits and base spirits may be distinguished from one another. Just as materials are plunged in the fire so that diamonds and coal, gold and earth, separate out from one another, so too religion is a trial concerning the obligations placed on man by Allah and a driving to competition, which is what this abode of examination consists of. In this way the elevated jewels in the mine of man's abilities become separated out from the dross. ...the Qur'an was revealed in this abode of examination for man to be perfected through trial in the arena of competition. 8
According to this comparison, the good diamond-like qualities must be separated from the base coal-like qualities. But as this can be done only by applying fire, human beings must go through a serious testing period involving difficulties, misfortunes, and various frustrations to remove their bad qualities so that their good qualities can shine in the light of day.
Bediuzzaman gives another example: the separation of silver and copper from the ore when it is struck against a touchstone. Two valuable materials are separated from each other by striking the ore against that stone, and the valueless copper ore is eliminated. In this process of separation, the ore has to be struck violently against the stone and then passed through a fine sieve. This process reveals the silver within the ore and cleanses it of the copper ore, which reduces its value. What the master means by being "struck against the stone" is that undergoing difficulties, misfortunes, and various frustrations will cause the person's internal beauty to be revealed. The severity of the difficulties and frustrations reveal the strength of the person's belief, as well as the superiority of his or her moral character, discernment, faithfulness, and loyalty. Moreover, this testing leaves behind a maturity of character with great faith and spiritual depth. So, this process purges the believer's superior character of all qualities that weaken it, until it appears like silver. Bediuzzaman writes:
Then this morning the following was imparted to me: for us to be set this rigorous examination, and to be struck on the touchstone numerous times to see clearly whether we are gold or brass, and to be tried unfairly in every respect, and to be passed through ever finer sieves three or four times to see whether our evil-commanding souls take a share or are playing any tricks, is extremely necessary for our service, which should be purely and solely in the name of truth and reality, so that Divine Determining and dominical grace permit it. For by being exhibited in this field of trial and examination confronted by obdurate, unjust enemies and their pretexts, everyone has understood that there is no trickery, no egotism, no malice, no worldly or personal interests, nor those that look to the Hereafter, mixed in with our service, and that it is completely sincere and proceeds from truth and reality. If it had remained concealed, it could have been given numerous meanings. The mass of believers would not have had confidence in it. They would have said: "Perhaps they are deceiving us," and the elite too would have had their suspicions. Thinking that "perhaps they are acting the same as some of those who sell themselves to acquire spiritual rank for themselves and to win confidence," they would not feel completely certain about it. Now, following the examination, even the most stubborn and obdurate person is compelled to submit. If your hardship is one, your profits are a thousandfold. Allah willing .9
In these examples, Bediuzzaman also draws attention to other reasons for frustration and misfortune. Other people will see and be inspired by the superior moral character of those individuals who rid themselves of their negative qualities while passing through severe trials. The faithfulness of Muslims, their superior and virtuous acts on the side of righteousness, will come out as they face these serious trials, and people will see that they expect no human reward for the services they perform. Even those who harbor great doubts about Muslims will admit that every effort they make is solely for the sake of earning Allah's good pleasure, and everyone will attest to the purity of their intentions. Other people will come to recognize Muslims by the difficulties and misfortunes that they undergo, all of which confirm that they are on the right path.
Exhibiting Good Moral Qualities at Times of Difficulty and Frustration
Everyone experiences many things during the day: feelings of tiredness, hunger, weakness, and so on. This is all very natural. However, Allah says that Muslims can be chosen to suffer trials that are much harder than these as a test. The moral character revealed by believers and unbelievers in these situations is quite different.
For example, such frustration leads unbelievers to rebel, be intimidated, become aggressive, and lose hope and integrity. Since they do not believe in an afterlife, they think that everything they do is relevant only for this world: They say: "There is nothing but our existence in this world. We die and we live, and nothing destroys us except for time." They have no knowledge of that. They are only conjecturing. (Surat al-Jathiyya, 24) According to them, everything will end when the world comes to an end. Therefore, they want to experience comfort, peace of mind, reward for their labors, and all other good things in this world. This desire makes difficulties and frustration very painful for them. They are neither patient nor trusting, cannot forgive or give of themselves, cannot treat others humanely, or have any sense of compassion or mercy. Believing that there is no reward or profit in such things, they fall into the hopelessness of thinking that difficulties bring only loss.
But such ideas are totally wrong, because a person's real and eternal life begins only after death. On the Day of Judgment, everyone will account totally for what they have done and will receive their just reward. Those who have exhibited good moral qualities will not suffer loss; on the contrary, their gain will be great. In fact, they will receive the reward for every good word they have spoken, every pious deed they have done, and each instance of self-sacrifice, faithfulness, loyalty, and humanity they have shown.
But people far removed from religion are not aware of this reality. They are intimidated in the face of difficult situations, because they deny that everything they are experiencing is a test. Here is a point of which we must take careful note: "If you feel pain, they too are feeling it just as you are. But you hope for something from Allah, for which they cannot hope" (Surat an-Nisa', 104). As this verse says, both believers and unbelievers are struck by the same kinds of difficulties and frustrations. But because unbelievers have no faith in Allah and do not consider that every event has been created by Him, they do not expect to receive from Allah what believers hope to receive. So, the basic difference is that they remain oblivious of life's true meaning. In other words, the believers' belief in Allah totally separates them from the unbelievers in the afterlife.
For example, Allah tells us that people will be tried by hunger and poverty. While hunger is a major difficulty and frustration for unbelievers, for Muslims it is a trial in which they can show the quality of their moral character and a good opportunity that they should not miss. In such times, submission to Allah, trust, and patience gain great importance, and the fact that they do not lose hope but rather see the good in what is happening are indications that they are passing the test.
Unbelievers consider their own advantage and comfort first; however, the believers' moral quality always gives precedence to the other person. Believers freely give to other believers the best seat, the best food, and the best clothing. When it is cold, sincere Muslims will always take care of their fellow Muslims by offering them blankets and hot drinks, even when they themselves are cold. They take joy in ensuring their friend's health, safety, comfort, and happiness, for they know that the pleasure derived from these acts of self-sacrifice cannot be compared with the pleasure of drinking the hot drink themselves.
People can exhibit fine moral qualities if everything is going well amid an abundance of blessings, if their health is good and their needs are being met. But showing exemplary moral quality in times of difficulty, or displaying good treatment toward others while being shunned, slandered, or vilified by harsh words, is to respond to evil with good. Another sign of good moral character is when a person who is not hungry gives food to another and a person who is warm gives clothing to someone who is cold. Both people are very valuable in Allah's sight, but showing moral excellence in the face of difficulty and bad treatment is very important and valuable, for it displays the strength and sincerity of an individual's faith, devoutness, and superior virtue.
In addition, those who live a virtuous life listening to their conscience may hear their lower self constantly urging them toward evil, suggesting that they will find it hard to be virtuous, and trying everything to prevent them from being so. This voice makes people fear that they will be cold if they give away a sweater or that they will be hungry if they give away their food. This is one of Satan's tactics, for he uses the fear of poverty in an attempt to prevent believers from helping the poor:
O you who believe. Give away some of the good things you have earned and some of what the ground produces for you. Do not have recourse to bad things when you give, things you would only take with your eyes tight shut! Know that Allah is Rich Beyond Need, Praiseworthy. Satan promises you poverty and commands you to avarice. Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and abundance. Allah is All-Encompassing, All-Knowing. (Surat al-Baqara, 267-268)
This passage goes on to say that Allah foils this weak trick of Satan and announces to human beings the good news of His good pleasure. In return for their high moral character, Allah allows them to experience a spiritual delight that cannot be compared with any earthly pleasure. There is no limit to the joy that comes from self-sacrifice, patience, faithfulness, generosity, humanity, and loyalty. In one verse, Allah praises the superior moral character of those believers who eagerly and happily open their houses to other Muslims who migrated to their country, providing everything they need despite the fact that they are needy themselves:
Those who were already settled in the abode and in faith before they came love those who have migrated to them, do not find in their hearts any need for what they have been given, and prefer them to themselves even if they themselves are needy. It is the people who are safe-guarded from the avarice of their own selves who are successful. (Surat al-Hashr, 9)
Allah also describes the rewards granted after the trial of thirst, fatigue, and hunger to those who work in His way:
It was not for the people of Madinah and the desert Arabs around them to remain behind the Messenger of Allah, nor to prefer themselves to him. That is because no thirst or weariness or hunger will afflict them in the Way of Allah. Nor will they take a single step to infuriate the unbelievers or secure any gain from the enemy without a right action being written down for them because of it. Allah does not let the wage of the good-doers go to waste. (Surat at-Tawba, 120)
As this verse says, every frustration that a Muslim experiences on the way of Allah is, in fact, a good deed. Given that all people were created to serve Allah and do good deeds, they will receive the perfect reward for their patience and moral character, and will suffer no injustice.
The same is true of illness, and other frustrations. Believers know that only Allah will reward them and that this world is only temporary. Therefore, they are always discerning, decisive, and firm because they have read in the Qur'an that He will give spiritual strength and support to those believers who work for Him. To know the secret of this world's trials causes a great feeling of ease in the face of difficulty. People who know that whatever happens to them is a test can neither become unhappy, frustrated, or depressed nor lose hope and be overwhelmed by fear and anxiety.
The Strength that Supports Believers
The eager and joyful strength of character that believers display when they encounter difficulties and frustration is something that those who have no faith in Allah's supreme power cannot understand. Unbelievers are suspicious and wonder what power supports these people, for since they have no belief in Allah, they remain totally unaware of the truth that only He can send this supportive power. To them, people are strong because of their material means and friends. Thus, they always look for a kind of intention and a different material source that they believe is responsible for the believers' strength. However, this strength comes from the believers' belief in destiny and the Hereafter, as well as their trust and submission to Allah. The lives of the Prophets and other devout believers contain many fine examples of the power that comes from this trust.
An important example is the group of Pharaoh's magicians, who showed strength of character when Pharaoh threatened them with death. The Qur'an tells us that Pharaoh tried to intimidate them with torture and death, and kept them from following the true path that Prophet Musa (as) had brought to them. However, their answer to him showed that they feared only Allah and turned to Him in any difficulty that happened to them. Despite all of Pharaoh's threats, the magicians told him that they would hold firm to the way of submission and trust in Allah that their faith had given them:
Pharaoh said: "Do you believe in him before I have authorized you? He is your chief, the one who taught you magic. I will cut off your hands and feet alternately, and have you crucified on palm trunks. Then you will know for certain which of us has the harsher and longer-lasting punishment."
They said: "We will never prefer you to the Clear Signs that have come to us, nor to Him Who brought us into being. Decide on any judgment you like. Your jurisdiction only covers the life of this world.
He may forgive us for our mistakes and for the magic that you forced us to perform. Allah is better and longer-lasting." (Surah Ta Ha, 71-73)
Another example concerns the young people who believed in Prophet Musa (as). Pharaoh's threats prevented some of his people from having faith in Allah, and so they suffered a great loss. But devout believers who feared only Allah's power believed in Him and followed the way Prophet Musa (as) showed them. The oppression and assaults of Pharaoh and his company did not deter them:
No one believed in Musa, except for a few of his people, out of fear that Pharaoh and the elders would persecute them. Pharaoh was high and mighty in the land. He was one of the profligate. (Surah Yunus, 83)
Like these devout young people who believed in Prophet Musa (as), all believers displayed the same trust and courage when faced with society's hostility or serious difficulties, frustration, or need. The Qur'an tells us:
When the believers saw the Confederates, they said: "This is what Allah and His Messenger promised us. Allah and His Messenger told us the truth." It only increased them in faith and in submission. (Surat al-Ahzab, 22)
Meticulous Obedience to Allah in Times of Difficulty
One of the most notable things that distinguish devout Muslims from others is their attention to Allah's commands and recommendations. No difficulty, frustration, or restriction will lessen their resolve to obey them or lead them to compromise their moral character. No matter how much in need or trouble they may be, they will never consider doing anything forbidden by Allah. In a situation rife with illness, need, failure, or oppression, they will not compromise their honesty and sincerity.
As we said earlier, Satan wants to divert human beings from the true path and get them to listen to the negative voice of their lower self. So, he urges them to do things that Allah has forbidden and blocks them from doing what Allah has approved. This inner negative voice always works toward this goal, continually suggesting wicked things to their minds. For example, this negative voice wants to prevent people from getting up to perform their prayers; it makes them sleepy, listless, and out of sorts; and it constantly tries to make them forget why they should do this. Satan inspires them to ask themselves: "What's the difference if I don't get up just for today?" But believers do not listen to this negative voice. They get up every morning with eager determination to perform their prayers, remembering that this is the way to true beauty and salvation. This negative voice finds every excuse to make fasting appear difficult, even though Allah has commanded that this kind of worship be performed. It tries to make it appear that hunger and thirst are difficult to endure. If they fast, this voice makes them doubt their ability to do it. But devout Muslims fast with eager determination despite their lower self's insistent pressure. They hope for reward from our Lord for the hunger, thirst, and fatigue that they have endured to gain His favor. And in this, they take great pleasure.
Similarly, in some situations where making money illegally is considered legitimate, this inner voice makes it appear easy and suggests that everyone is doing it. Even though they may be in great need and when the inner voice is pressuring them the most, Muslims would never lower themselves to do such a thing, regarding such a moral flaw as reprehensible. They would never touch money that was obtained illegally, and would never sit at a table and eat food bought with forbidden money, no matter how hungry they were. Even being in such a situation would make them very uncomfortable. They would never assert that being in need was any justification for wrong behavior, for they know that the important thing is always to carefully avoid what Allah has forbidden. They practice this precept with an inner sense of well-being and eager sincerity.
The Qur'an calls those Muslims who are eager to behave in ways that earn Allah's good pleasure "those who race each other to the good." While striving to attain Allah's promised Paradise, Muslims experience peace and well-being from giving whatever and whenever they can and from being patient in every difficulty. For example, they may have Muslim friends who are in need. So, they get up one sleepless morning and try to please their friends by supplying whatever they need. Most often the recipients of such good deeds do not know who did it, and the doers, pleased with their own moral conduct, would never let it be known if it caused them any difficulty.
Allah says that Muslims have a deep sense of pleasure in living according to the Qur'an's morality and find the opposite kind of behavior reprehensible:
… However, Allah has given you love of faith and made it pleasing to your hearts, and has made disbelief, deviance, and disobedience hateful to you. People such as these are rightly guided. It is a great favor from Allah and a blessing. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (Surat al-Hujurat, 7-8)
But in spite of everything, Satan tries to make it appear that all illegal activities are legitimate. To do this, Satan shows that those who do evil things are in the majority. A large number of people take forbidden money, pay no attention to what is permitted and what is not, and transgress the tenets of the Qur'an's morality. Thus, Satan always intimates the illogical idea that the majority is right and that what it does makes sense. But the Qur'an says that those who do evil deeds are not on the right path, even though they are in the majority: "If you obeyed most of those on Earth, they would misguide you from Allah's Way. They follow nothing but conjecture..." (Surat al-An`am, 116). But, on the contrary, Allah says that only a small community of people has faith and that the majority are on the wrong path. For this reason, Satan cannot fool believers but can only influence those whose belief is weak, whose minds are open to doubt and apprehension, and who openly reject Allah.
The attentiveness of devout Muslims comes from their belief in Allah and the unwavering decisiveness that this belief brings with it, as well as from their superior moral character. Muslims know that good behavior is composed of acts that defy the lower self's voice. For example, when generosity, loyalty, patience, faithfulness, and other such high moral qualities are practiced, the lower self is disgusted. But the result of all this will be spiritual and material good. Living a life in this world and in the world to come in a state of contentment with the rewards of moral purity is much better than acquiring all of the things that belong to this world and please the lower self. For example, people who refuse to listen to the lower self's persuasive tones to enter into an illegitimate relationship, but who prefer to wait for their reward in the Hereafter, will enjoy honor and righteousness in this world. In the same way, those who go hungry or without sleep to supply the needs of a beloved Muslim friend, and who disregard the ensuing difficulties, will be joyous in their hope to win Allah's good pleasure. Muslims who have these fine moral qualities, all of which Allah praises in the Qur'an, also earn the believers' love and respect. If they work hard for Allah's cause and gladly confront every obstacle, if they act with untiring dedication to a just cause without fear of confrontation, and if they are willing to make every kind of self-sacrifice, the love and respect that others feel for them will increase severalfold. In the Qur'an, Allah refers to those who live according to His superior morality: "Those for whom the Best from Us was preordained will be far away from it [Hell]" (Surat al-Anbiya', 101) and relates to us their fine physical and moral qualities.
Muslims Are True Friends in Times of Need
There is a common saying among non-religious people: Someone who has fallen on hard times has no friends. This is a good expression of the common idea that you cannot find a real friend when you need one. However, friendship, loyalty, and faithfulness are very important in a person's life, for those who are in financial difficulty or ill, or in need of spiritual support, want a real close friend at their side—a friend who is a believer—to help them. But since all relationships in non-religious societies are based on opportunism, unbelievers can never find a true friend. Only when they are in trouble or need do people see the real face of those whom they had always considered to be their friends. Their supposed friends even give trouble to them in such difficult times. For example, people going through times of need complain that no relative calls, that they are left alone, and that no one gives them any support.
For example, a wealthy person who drives an expensive car and eats in gourmet restaurants generally has a wide circle of friends, including many close ones. But if he loses his job and starts to work in a salaried position in his own factory, how will his relationships fare? Will his circle of friends show him the same love and respect that they did when he was rich? Will he be treated with the same interest, respect, and affection as when he wore expensive clothes and drove a luxury car? How will he be treated if he dresses modestly, does not throw his money around like he used to, and does not treat his friends to dinners? Clearly, he will not enjoy the same attention. Indeed, all of those whom he thought were his friends will turn their back on him. When they meet him, they will pretend not to see him or even might ridicule him. Actually, this person's spirit has not changed; only his external appearance has changed. But because his erstwhile friends rely on outward material appearances, they abandon him in a moment, leaving him all by himself.
Take another example, that of a married couple. When they were married, they promised to stay together both in good times and bad. But what happens when the wife becomes paralyzed below the waist due to an accident and thus cannot walk or do anything for herself? What will her husband do? Perhaps he will stay with her for a while and help. But when he realizes that this is a permanent situation and one from which he will never benefit, everything suddenly changes. This example clearly shows how unbelievers regard loyalty, fidelity, and friendship: When the profit goes, the connection ends. Most of those who do not abandon their spouse in such a situation stay because they are afraid of what their friends may think, not out of love and compassion for the handicapped spouse. On the surface, they appear dedicated and loyal, but they never feel real compassion and empathy for their spouse when he or she most needs it.
Another frequently encountered situation seen in unbelieving societies that are far from the Qur'an's morality is how young people behave toward their elderly parents. For years, their families met their every need; but when their parents become old and their limbs do not support them any more, the young people do not show their parents the same loyalty and attention. They feel fettered by their elderly parents and usually put them in an old people's home. However, as in everything else, Muslims show the same loyalty in how they treat their family members. They feed their parents but may not eat themselves, and will take great care to meet all of their needs. Allah describes how Muslims must behave toward their parents:
Your Lord has decreed that you should worship none but Him, and that you should show kindness to your parents. Whether one or both of them reach old age with you, do not say "Ugh!" to them out of irritation, and do not be harsh with them; rather, speak to them with gentleness and generosity. (Surat al-Isra', 23)
In other words, Muslims will not complain about believers who are in need; rather, they will help in every way they can, humanely and out of a good conscience. The only place you can find real friendship, sincere loyalty, and faithfulness is among devout Muslims. Muslims are friends, advocates, and helpers to one another. Obliged by their moral character to consider the good and well-being of their friends, even when they fall into desperate straits, they always do their best to fulfill their friends' needs before their own and take pleasure in their acts of self-sacrifice. When their friends are ill or in financial distress, they do not mind seeing to their every need even before they are asked to do so. Even if they lose sleep and go hungry, they will not see their Muslim friends treated unjustly or in any need. In the Qur'an, Allah tells us about the true friends of believers:
Your friend is only Allah, His Messenger, and those who have faith: those who establish prayer, pay alms, and bow. (Surat al- Ma'ida, 55)
Those who believe and have migrated and striven with their wealth and themselves in the Way of Allah, and those who have given refuge and help, they are the friends and protectors of one another. But as for those who believe but have not migrated, you are not in any way responsible for their protection until they migrate. But if they ask you for help in respect of the religion, it is your duty to help them, except against people with whom you have a treaty. Allah sees what you do.(Surat al-Anfal, 72)
With Every Difficulty There Is Some Ease
From the outset, we have been speaking about the various difficulties and frustrations that Allah uses to test believers and to reveal the superior moral character that they display in such situations. We have also spoken about the well-being, eagerness, and feelings of love and respect that they experience while acting upon their moral qualities.
However, we should not neglect to emphasize that with each test, Allah also sends good and relief to His believing servants. In the Qur'an, Allah mentions this promise:
For truly with hardship comes ease; truly, with hardship comes ease. (Surat al-Inshirah, 5-6)
… Allah desires ease for you (Surat al-Baqara, 185)
… We will ease you to the Easy Way. (Surat al-A`la, 8)
… Whoever has fear [and respect] of Allah—He will make matters easy for him. That is Allah's command, which He has sent down to you. Whoever has fear [and respect] of Allah—He will erase his bad actions from him and greatly increase his reward. (Surat at-Talaq, 4-5)
… Allah does not demand from anyone more than He has given it. Allah will appoint ease after difficulty. (Surat at-Talaq, 7)
As these verses show, Allah gives relief to those believers laboring in difficulty and frustration and sends them help from His presence. The Qur'an states that Allah sends help to believers by angels, and that He does this only to encourage them with good news.
Allah helped you at Badr when you were weak, so have fear [and respect] of Allah, so that, hopefully, you will be thankful. And when you asked the believers: "Is it not enough for you that your Lord reinforced you with three thousand angels, sent down?" Yes indeed! But if you are steadfast and guard against evil and they come upon you suddenly, your Lord will reinforce you with five thousand angels, clearly identified. Allah only did this for it to be good news for you, and so that your hearts might be set at rest by it. [In any case,] there is no help except from Allah, the Almighty, the All-Wise, so that He might cut off a group of those who do not believe or crush them, and they might be turned back in defeat. (Surah Al `Imran, 123-127)
In addition to this support by angels, Allah also defends believers by an invisible army and bestows upon them a sense of security and well-being. For example, the Qur'an describes the support Allah provided to our Prophet (saas) during a difficult period of his mission:
If you do not help him, Allah helped him when the unbelievers drove him out and there were two of them in the Cave. He said to his companion: "Do not be despondent, Allah is with us." Then Allah sent down His serenity upon him and reinforced him with troops that you could not see. He made the word of the unbelievers undermost. The word of Allah is uppermost. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (Surat at-Tawba, 40)
As we see in the above verse, an intense sense of relief follows each period of difficulty. Actually, the fact that Muslims act as a unit, their knowledge that every event contains a test and their awareness of the need to prepare themselves for the eternal life give them a great sense of relief during their trials. Besides this, Allah announces even gladder tidings to all believers. As we have seen in the lives of our Prophet (saas)and faithful Muslims, after the difficulties are over, Allah gives believers a definite victory. Prophet Yusuf's (as) life exemplifies this tiding.
When Yusuf (as) was very young, his brothers threw him into a well and left him there to die. Those who found him sold him as a slave to an Egyptian vizier. Later, Yusuf (as) was falsely accused by the vizier's wife, arrested, and spent several years in prison, where he suffered many difficulties without ever compromising his moral character. Whenever something happened to him, he took refuge in Allah and thus turned his time in prison into a positive experience. He became an example for all believers with his trust, loyalty, and submission to Allah in all of his misfortunes. As a reward, Allah removed him from prison at a time of His choice and gave him power and wealth in Egypt.
For this reason, his life is a good example for believers. Allah promises His servants who show trust and patience in difficulty that He will bring good out of it and give them sure relief.
… Whoever has fear [and respect] of Allah—He will give him a way out and provide for him from where he does not expect. Whoever puts his trust in Allah—He will be enough for him. Allah always achieves His aim. Allah has appointed a measure for all things. (Surat at-Talaq, 2-3)
This example reveals that Allah tests His servants from time to time with difficulties and frustration. But believers who know that they are being tested and continue to submit wholeheartedly to Allah have gained something of great importance: They know they will have their reward multiplied in the next world for the things they suffer in this life, for the high moral standards they display in all sorts of difficult situations, and for their self-sacrifice, patience, and submission. Perhaps the few minutes of difficulty they endure here will bring them millions of years of reward in Paradise. Surely, those who are aware of this great promise spend their whole lives in eager expectation and joyous hope of living in a Paradise filled with endless good things. Allah describes the state of these people in the following verses:
Those who do not bear false witness and who, when they pass by worthless talk, pass by with dignity; those who, when they are reminded of the Signs of their Lord, do not turn their backs, deaf and blind to them; those who say: "Our Lord, give us joy in our wives and children and make us a good example for those who have fear [and respect] of Allah." Such people will be repaid for their steadfastness with the Highest Paradise, where they will meet with welcome and "Peace." They will remain in it timelessly, forever. What an excellent lodging and abode! (Surat al-Furqan, 72-76)
Not distracted by trade or commerce from the remembrance of Allah and the establishment of prayer and the payment of alms; fearing a day when all hearts and eyes will be in turmoil—so that Allah can reward them for the best of what they did and give them more from His unbounded favor. Allah provides for anyone He wills without reckoning. (Surat an-Nur, 37-38)