'Asiyah, the wife of Fir'aun (Pharoah). Her iman in Allah thrived under the shadow of someone that said, "I am your Lord, Most High!" When news reached Fir'aun of his wife's iman he beat her and commanded his guards to beat her. They took her out in the scalding noon heat, tied her hands and feet and beat her perpetually. Who did she turn to? She turned to Allah! She prayed, "My lord, build for me a home with you in Paradise and save me from Fir'aun and his deeds and save me from the transgressing people."
It was narrated that when she said this, the sky opened for her and she saw her home in Paradise. She smiled. The guards watched astonished, she's being tortured and she smiles? Frustrated, Fir'aun commanded a boulder to be brought and dropped on Aasiyah, to crush her to death. But Allah took her soul before the boulder was brought and she became an example for all the believing men and women till the end of time:
"And Allah has set forth an example for those who believe: the wife of Fir'aun – when she said, 'My Lord, Build for me a home with You in Paradise, and save me from Fir'aun and his deeds, and save me from the transgressing disbelieving people.' "
In the hadith of Jibril [the Angel Gabriel], when he came to the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam (may Allah's peace and blessing be upon him), and asked him about Islam, iman, and ihsan, the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said about iman, "Iman is to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His Messengers, the Final Day, and the divine decree, the good and the bad thereof." For the past few weeks we have been reflecting on this hadith, only glimpses. Today we shall conclude with the last article of iman: to believe in the Divine decree, the good and the bad thereof.
As you and I travel though life we find ourselves in one of two situations. Either something good is happening in our lives and in which case – as Muslims - our role is have shukr (to thank Allah for the blessing). Or something bad is happening to us, something we dislike and our role here is to have sabr (patience). This is the formula for a happy life, a life cruising towards the pleasure of Allah. Sabr or shukr, the worry stops here.
The Messenger of Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, "Strange is the affair of the mu'min (the believer), verily all his affairs are good for him. If something pleasing befalls him he thanks (Allah) and it becomes better for him. And if something harmful befalls him he is patient (sabir) and it becomes better for him. And this is only for the mu'min."
Ibn al-Jawzi said, "If this dunya was not a station of tests it would not be filled with sicknesses and filth. If life was not about hardship, then the Prophets and the pious would have lived the most comfortable of lives. Nay, Adam suffered test after test until he left the dunya. Nuh (Noah) cried for 300 years. Ibrahim (Abraham) was thrown into a pit of fire and later told to slaughter his son. Ya'qub (Jacob) cried until he became blind. Musa (Moses) challenged Fir'aun and was tested by his people. Isa (Jesus) had no provision except the morsels his disciples provided him with. And Muhammad sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam met poverty with patience, his uncle - one of the most beloved relatives to him - was slain and mutilated and his people disbelieved in him ... and the list of Prophets and the pious goes on and on."
What happens to us happens by the will of Allah. It is an article of our iman in qada' and qadr that we are pleased with Allah's choice, Good or seemingly bad it is all the test of this dunya. How could we imagine that we shall not be tested when those who were better than us suffered what they suffered? They however came away with the pleasure of Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala (how far from imperfection is He and He is the Most High).
Al-Hasan ibn Arafah narrated, "I visited Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal after he was whipped and tortured. I said to him, 'O Abu Abdillaah, you have reached the station of the Prophets!' He said, 'Keep quiet. Verily, I saw nothing more than people selling their din. And I saw scholars that were with me sell their faith. So I said to myself who am I? What am I? What am I going to say to Allah tomorrow when I stand in front of Him and He asks me, 'Did you sell your din like the others did?'? So I looked at the whip and the sword and chose them. And I said if I die I shall return to Allah and say I was told to say that one of Your Characteristics was something created but I did not. After that, it will be upto Him - either to punish me of be Merciful on me.' "
Al-Hasan ibn Arafah then asked, "Did you feel pain when they whipped you?" He said, "Yes, I felt the pain up to 20 lashes then I lost all feeling (They whipped him over eighty times). After it was over I felt no pain and that day I prayed dhuhr standing."
Al-Hasan ibn Arafah started weeping when he heard what had happened. Imam Ahmad questioned him, "Why are you crying? I did not lose my iman. After that why should I care if I lose my life."
They were better than us but this was how they were tested.
Let us discuss some facts about these tests of life, the good and the bad that befalls us:
- Much of what befalls us – the hard times – is the direct result of our own sins.
Allah, ta'ala (the Most High), says:
"And whatever misfortune befalls you it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons much."
Muhammad ibn Sirin used to say when his debts piled up and he felt sad, "I know that the cause of this sadness is a sin I committed over 40 years ago."
- People understand that when something bad happens it is a test from Allah. But dear Brothers and Sisters, the good things that happen to us are also a test.
Allah, ta'ala, says:
"And we tested them with good (blessings) and evil (calamities) in order that they might turn back."
Abd al-Malik ibn Ishaq said, "There is no one that is not tested with health and prosperity to measure how thankful he is (shukr)."
And the Companion – Abdur-Rahman ibn 'Awf, radiallahu 'anhu (may Allah be pleased with him), said, "We were tested with hardship and were patient. And then we were tested with prosperity and we were not patient." Because of this Allah states:
"O ye who believe! Let not your wealth or your children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. And whosoever does that, then they are the losers."
- Patience must happen from the beginning, not three days later or one day later, at the first news of the calamity, when it first happens. The Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, "Verily patience (is only sabr when practiced) at the first hit (of news)."
- There are things that contradict sabr. Tearing ones shirt, for example, slapping ones face, slapping hands, shaving ones head, and cursing and wailing. Umm Salamah narrates: I heard the Messenger of Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam say, "Any Muslim that says when a calamity befalls him that which Allah commanded him: To Allah we belong and to him we return. O Allah reward me in this calamity and give me better then it – (any Muslim that says this) Allah will grant him better than (that which he lost)." [Muslim]
- These tests and hardships wash our sins. 'Aishah radiallahu 'anha said, "Verily fever sheds sins like a tree sheds leaves."
- The hardships that befall us distinguish the believers from the insincere. Shumayt ibn Ajlan said, "The pious and the ungrateful are hidden by health. Yet when calamities befall the two men are separated (by how they react)."
Allah says in the Qur'an:
"Alif, Lam, Mim. Do people think that they will be left alone because they say, 'We believe,' and will not be tested? Indeed We tested those who (lived) before them."
Part II: Towards Sabr
'Ali radiallahu 'anhu said, "Verily sabr is to iman what the head is to the body. When the head is cut off, the body falls. (He then raised his voice) Verily there is no iman for he who has no sabr (patience)."
There are three types of sabr that the Muslim must have:
- Sabr in the obedience of Allah. For example, one must be patient and perform their fajr at it's time.
- Sabr in not disobeying Allah. Like someone might say, "I have to listen to music in the car." No you are command by He who gave you those ears to not listen to those lullabies of the Devil. And you must have sabr in not disobeying Allah.
- Sabr in what Allah decrees on us. For example, if our child was to pass away we should be patient and seek the reward of Allah in our patience and say only that which is pleasing to Allah.
There are two keys. If we understand them we shall open the door to sabr in our lives:
The First Key: Know that our souls, families and wealth do not belong to us, they belong to Allah. He gave it to us as a loan to see what we would do with it. And when he takes it back He is taking back what belongs to Him. We had nothing before the blessing and we'll have nothing after it. We did not create the blessing from nothing, so how can we claim that it belongs to us.
The Second Key: We are on a journey and the destination is the hereafter – Paradise or Hell. We'll be leaving the dunya behind us and we'll come back to Allah by ourselves. This is what needs our focus. And if Allah is pleased with us then no worry. If He is not pleased with us then all worry.
Let me draw your attention to a verse. Listen carefully. Allah revealed:
"Guard strictly the (five obligatory) prayers, especially the middle salah (prayer) and stand before Allah in obedience."
The verses before this deal with divorce. The verses after it deal with divorce. Why was this verse placed in the middle? The ulama' (scholars) have suggested, wallahu a'lam (and Allah knows best), that in the hard times that a person goes through they should not forget the remembrance of Allah, the salah. And it is that salah coupled with sabr that will pull them through.
"O you who believe! Seek Help in patience and salah. Truly, Allah is with those that are patient."
There is good news for those who intend to act on their Sabr. Allah promised them three things: His prayer for them, His Mercy, and their guidance.
"Who, when afflicted with calamity say, 'Truly, to Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.' They are those on whom the salawat (the blessing and forgiveness) of their Lord is upon them, and who shall receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided ones."
"And We made from among them leaders, giving guidance under Our Command, when they were patient."
Sufyan ibn 'Uyaynah commented, "When they took hold of the leading issue, we made them leaders!"