These approximate statistics show that the world today is experiencing many problems that solving them is so difficult that they seem almost impossible to solve. People are and have always been suffering from hunger, poverty, violence, war, physical and psychological disorders or diseases, and the like.
The question is, “What does Allah Almighty do about all these?”
Evil proves that Allah doesn’t exist
Some people may ask “If Allah Almighty exists and He is omnipotent and loves his worshipers, why do people suffer while He can prevent all these problems?”
Those believing in Allah Almighty mostly argue that the discipline in the world and the harmony between its parts prove that there is a God who has made all these. On the other hand, those who disbelieve in Allah Almighty respond that the world is full of evils, as well, and the difficulties in the world are uncountable and unbearable.
In return, the believers say that the discipline of the world is a sign of the existence of Allah Almighty whether some evils exist or not. They don’t say that to prove the existence of Allah Almighty we should prove the whole world is disciplined but there is an adequate amount of harmony in the world that proves there is a Creator.
The Holy Quran and the Shiite Imams have answered the problem of evil in various ways.
We know that Allah is pure good, but He sometimes lets us suffer because through enduring these sufferings and hardships, we can achieve something better which couldn’t be possible to achieve without experiencing those difficulties.
Sometimes, Allah tests us with hardships and difficulties, so He sees how we react and if we do well, we will be worthy enough to be rewarded by Allah. If Allah doesn’t test us, how can we show our worthiness?
The Holy Quran says,
We will certainly test you with a touch of fear and famine and loss of property, life, and crops. Give good news to those who patiently endure* — who, when faced with a disaster, say, “Surely to Allah we belong and to Him we will ˹all˺ return.”* They are the ones who will receive Allah’s blessings and mercy. And it is they who are ˹rightly˺ guided. * (2:155-157)
In this regard, Imam Sadiq (AS) says,
Indeed, there is a [high] place in the heavens that no one can reach except with enduring hardships regarding their bodies. (7)
Also, Imam Ali (AS) says about the advantages of difficulties,
Remember that the tree of dry plains is the best for timber, while green twigs have soft bark, and the wild bushes are very strong for burning and slow in dying off. (8)
Now we can understand why the believers are suffering from their issues more than the disbelievers. Allah wants to give us greater rewards in the hereafter. Imam Sadiq (AS) says,
Among people, the prophets suffered the most, and after them the ones who are like them. (9)
He also says,
Believers will suffer as much as their righteous deeds. Therefore, if they have a true religion and do good deeds, they will suffer from so many difficulties. This is because of the fact that Allah hasn’t created this world as a reward for the believers and not as a punishment for the disbelievers. (10)
Our Imams, especially Imam Hussein (AS), are the best examples of what Imam Sadiq (AS) says. If you study their history, you would see that they lived in the hardest circumstances.
The Holy Quran says,
Fighting has been made obligatory upon you ˹believers˺, though you dislike it. Perhaps you dislike something which is good for you and like something which is bad for you. Allah knows and you do not know. (2:216)
Imam Sadiq (AS) says,
The ones who disgust by the hardships of this world are like the kids who disgust by the bitter medicines and get angry when it is forbidden for them to eat some delicious food (which is harmful to them). (11)
For instance, imagine someone getting fired. This would make them so sad and they would think that Allah has forgotten about them. However, when they search for a new job, Allah gives them a better job opportunity which makes them understand getting fired was actually a gift because it made them go for another job. Notice that sometimes we think some event is bad but actually is a gift.
Our needs are mostly the only things that make us think about God. When everything is good and we have no problems in our lives and everything is just as we want, most of us forget about Allah and that He is the one who has given us all these gifts.
The Holy Quran says,
Indeed, man becomes rebellious * when he considers himself without need. (96:6 - 7)
It also says,
And this worldly life is not but diversion and amusement. And indeed, the home of the Hereafter - that is the [eternal] life, if only they knew.* And when they board a ship, they supplicate Allāh, sincere to Him in religion [i.e., faith and hope]. But when He delivers them to the land, at once they associate others with Him.* So that they will deny what We have granted them, and they will enjoy themselves.
But they are going to know.(29:64-66)
Allah almighty clarifies why he sometimes let people suffer,
We will certainly make them taste some of the minor torment ˹in this life˺ before the major torment ˹of the Hereafter˺, so perhaps they will return ˹to the Right Path˺. (32:21)
It means that Allah punishes us in this world because of forgetting about Him and committing sins and by this punishment, He tries to make us understand that we should stop and repent. This way Allah protects us from the greater punishment of the hereafter.
Every evil in this world is not always because of the will of Allah but it is sometimes the consequence of humans’ deeds. The Holy Quran says,
Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea as a result of people's actions, so He will make them taste [the consequences of] some of their actions so that perhaps they will return [to righteousness]. (30:41)
Whatever affliction befalls you is because of what your own hands have committed. And He pardons much. (42:30)
Allah gave humans free will and would not force us to do or not to do anything. Therefore, humans must face the result of their actions.
Take World War I and II as examples. Many people were killed and butchered by soldiers of the opposite party. Were these wars by the will or order of Allah? If one refuses to study and work hard while young, he/she will have to work hard and suffer from poverty in the future. It is the consequence of his/her deeds not the will of Allah.
- Vasa’il ash-Shia, Sheikh Hurr al-Ameli, vol.3, pg.261
- Nahjul Balagha, Letter 45
- Vasa’il ash-Shia, Sheikh Hurr al-Ameli, vol.3, pg.261
- The same
- Tohid, Mufazzal ibn Umar, pg.168
Have you ever taken part in a challenge of self-building for a certain amount of time? These challenges, be it individual or social, need a few elements to keep you move on and get over them. Thirty days of fasting in the holy month of Ramadan seems like both an individual and a social challenge.
In this text, we would like to discover the ways that keep us motivated to finish our challenge of fasting in Ramadan. How can we complete this challenge and take the most benefits out of it?
The challenge is to perform fasting for thirty (sometimes 29) days in the month of Ramadan. Fasting in Islam is to avoid eating and drinking and many other worldly desires and sins from the morning prayer (Salat al-Fajr) time until the dawn prayer (Salat al-Maqrib). It is noteworthy that committing some acts will make fast invalid. 
The main goal of fasting like any other type of worship is to purify the soul and improve human beings spiritually: “Felicitous is he who purifies himself.” (87: 14)
But any type of worship, apart from its ultimate goal, has other benefits and some minor goals in training the human soul. For example, one of the small goals of praying the obligatory prayers (Salat) during the day and at night is to teach Muslims to adhere to certain principles. It is mentioned in the Quran that one of the characteristics of true believers is that they are “those who are humble in their prayers” (23:2) and “are watchful of their prayers” (23:9). These two verses, mentioned in the same Surah, show that one level of being a believer is to reach a feeling of utter humbleness in front of Allah. However, at the same time, being watchful on prayers and trying to perform them on time while observing all of its rulings is another aspect that will lead to higher spiritual levels. The same example applies to any other type of worship, especially fasting in Ramadan.
I have personally tried many different challenges for forty days; for example, forty days of waking up before dawn, forty days of avoiding fast foods, forty days of doing half an hour exercise per day, etc. I’ve been able to make some of those challenges a habit. However, in all those challenges, I needed something or someone to keep me motivated and guide me with the issues that I was facing throughout the challenge.
Regarding the challenge of fasting in Ramadan, I think it is essential to find some ways to help us enjoy fasting, instead of solely experiencing hunger and thirst.
Different things can keep us motivated to have better spiritual experiences of fasting in Ramadan. Having a different routine in the month of Ramadan, avoiding some entertainment and starting some new useful habits such as reading the supplications and contemplating on them, specifying a certain amount of time on reciting the Quran with translation and interpretation, performing the recommended prayers (Nawafil), trying to help others in any possible ways, and any other act of goodness that we can accomplish.
While we try to perform good deeds during fasting, reciting the Quran has a powerful influence on all our acts. Allah (SWT) mentions in the Quran: “So recite as much of the Quran as is feasible. He knows that some of you will be sick, while others will travel in the land seeking Allah’s bounty, and yet others will fight in the way of Allah. So recite as much of it as is feasible, and maintain the prayer and pay the zakat and lend Allah a good loan.” (73:20)
Allah (SWT) tells us to recite the Quran as much as we can. Then He mentions that He is aware of different conditions that people may have; some of them may be sick, some maybe traveling and working outside their houses to gain Allah’s provision, some may be fighting in the way of Allah. But then He mentions again that in whatever situation you are, do not forget to recite the Quran. It does not need to be a lot of recitation. Just recite as much as you can, and it will help you by both its miraculous and extraordinary achievements.
To provide a better definition of the above phrases, it can be said that the miraculous effects of the Quran are those effects that everyone can gain them by reciting it, even if they are not contemplating on its verses. However, exceptional achievements are for those who recite the Quran thoughtfully and intend to understand the words of Allah (SWT) as much as possible.
In sum, when you start the challenge of fasting in Ramadan and hope to gain the best results out of it, you need someone to motivate you, to be your mentor, and to elevate your knowledge and wisdom while you are going through the hard days of your challenge. The Quran could be that mentor who speaks to you the words of Allah (SWT), gives you hope, sympathizes with you in your hard moments, and guides you through the way to reach your ultimate goal. “So recite as much of the Quran as is feasible.” (73: 20)
If your right were taken away unfairly, what would be your reaction? Of course, you would stand up for your right and try to take it back or maybe fight for it. What if this reaction would make everything worse? What if you realize that your compromise, leads into the greater good of yourself or even the society? Fighting against injustice, sometimes, includes sacrifices, which goes beyond egotistic and individual desires. Depending on the situation, one might be made to compromise and sacrifice his/her right for the sake of his/her higher purpose, while having the power to take his/her right back. And this can only be done by a spiritually and mentally powerful person, such as Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (AS), the first grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP).
In what follows, we will review the life of this exceptional figure in the history of Islam.
Hasan ibn Ali (AS), known as Hasan al-Mujtaba (AS), was born on 15th of Ramadan, 1st of March, 625 A.D. in Medina. He was the first son of Imam Ali (AS) and Lady Fatima (AS), and the first grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). His name, "Hasan," which means good or beautiful, and was chosen by his grandfather, the Prophet (PBUH&HP), for him, having no precedent in this name in the pre-Islamic history.
Imam Hasan (AS) was only seven years old when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) passed away. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) dearly loved him, and as it is narrated, he used to put Imam Hasan (AS) on his shoulders and said, "O' Allah! I love him, therefore, You love him, too."  In some instances, while Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was performing the congregational prayer in the mosque, Imam Hasan (AS), then a little boy, would go on Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) back while he was prostrating. In response, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) would kindly and patiently prolong his prostration, so that he would come down himself. Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) manner of treating his grandsons was, in fact, a model to his followers to treat their children respectfully and compassionately.
His love and respect toward Imam Hasan (AS) are evident through the many narrations left by him about his grandson: "Surely, Hasan and Hussain are my two fragrant flowers from this world; he who loves me, should love them, too" , "Hasan is my son and dear to my heart, whoever hurt him, is like he's hurting me" , "Hasan and Hussain are the masters of the youth in paradise" . It has also been narrated that Imam Hasan (AS) very much looked like Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) in both appearance and personality . Despite his young age, Imam Hasan (AS) was present in many significant incidents in Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) time.
After Imam Ali's (AS) tragic martyrdom in 661 A.D, many people in Iraq and the neighboring lands pledged allegiance to Imam Hasan (AS), as the most suitable person to be their Caliph succeeded by Imam Ali (AS). Nevertheless, soon after this pledge of allegiance, Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan [i] refused to respect people's choice and offended Imam Hasan's (AS) caliphate. He tried to incite people of Iraq by sending two spies who were captured and punished by Imam Hasan (AS) . Finally, Mu'awiya provoked a rebellion in Syria against Imam Hasan (AS) and built an army to go into war with Imam (AS) in Iraq. It is reported that 60,000 soldiers or more accompanied Mu'awiya .
In this situation, Imam Hasan (AS) gathered an army of Kufa people to fight against them and defend the people. Some minor battles occurred between the two troops. Later, Imam Hasan (AS) joined the army of Kufa and gave a sermon to them, inviting them to unity and reconciliation rather than hatred and enmity. After this speech, people thought that Imam (AS) was after making peace with Mu'awiya and accused him of disbelief, attacked his tent, and left his side. Also, some of the heads of Imam Hasan's (AS) army, including "Ubayd Allah b. 'Abbas", the commander in chief of Imam Hasan's (AS) army, joined Mu'awiya's army with two-third of his army. Before that, Mu'awiya had sent them letters and promised them high positions in his government and a considerable amount of money. This was followed by the letters of the chiefs of Iraqi tribes to Mu'awiya, expressing him their support.
All these incidents resulted in the significant physical weakening of Imam Hasan's (AS) army and losing their spirit, despite Imam Hasan's (AS) efforts to give them heart through his influential and alarming speeches. Yet the covert activities of Mu'awiya in Kufa, sending his forces undercover among people and spreading false accusations concerning Imam Hasan (AS), gradually broken Imam Hasan's (AS) army. Some even assassinated Imam Hasan (AS) and wounded him severely.
Finally, pressing hard under the conspiracies of Mu'awiya and the weakness of people in fighting against injustice, which had disturbed the military balance between the two armies, Imam Hasan (AS) was made to accept a peace treaty and leave the caliphate to Mu'awiya . Thus, the period of Imam Hasan's (AS) caliphate lasted between six to eight months.
According to historical accounts, "Mu'awiya sent a blank contract with his seal at the bottom for Imam al-Hasan (a) to write anything that he wished and thus he wrote, "In this peace treaty, al-Hasan b. 'Ali (a) establishes peace with Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan and leaves the government of the Muslims to him with the following conditions:
1. He observes the Book of God, the conduct of the Prophet (s), and the conduct of the righteous caliphs.
2. He appoints no one as the Caliph after himself; and after him, the Caliph should be elected by a council of Muslims.
3. Lives, property, and children of people should be safe everywhere.
4. Mu'awiya should not implicitly or explicitly plot against al-Hasan b. 'Ali or threaten any of his companions." 
Under these conditions, Imam Hasan (AS) signed the peace treaty in 661 A.D. However, all of these conditions were later denied by Mu'awiya in his sermons and manners. "After the peace treaty, Imam (AS) gave a sermon and pointed to this issue that Mu'awiya challenged him over his rights and explained the reasons for his peace, which was to protect the lives of people and avoid bloodshed. After the treaty, Mu'awiya, too, gave a sermon at his first presence in Kufa. He broke his promises, saying that Imam (AS) had asked for peace and cursed Imam Ali (AS). Then, Imam Hasan (AS) explained about the peace treaty in a sermon and the proposal of Mu'awiya for it and answered to Mu'awiya's disrespect to his father." 
After this incident, Imam Hasan (AS) went back to Medina. While he was not a caliph anymore, he felt the responsibility to guide people in religion, science, and social and political issues. The signing of the peace treaty had made the situation very difficult for him. Some people criticized him, some of his old companions left his side, and severe political measures were taken against him.
Imam Hasan's (AS) patience in the face of hardship becomes evident by having a glance at his life, which was full of challenges. Losing Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) when he was only a child, losing his mother, lady Fatima (AS), bearing the difficulties at the time of his father's caliphate, following by his martyrdom most brutally, electing as a caliph by the people and then being abandoned by the same ones provoked by Mu'awiya, being forced to accept a peace treaty and giving up caliphate unfairly, was only some of these hardships. No doubt, without a strong personality resulted from a deep belief in Allah, Imam Hasan (AS) would not be able to bear these sufferings and challenges.
Moreover, he presented forbearance even when he was directly insulted and never responded with anger. In an instance, "a Syrian man saw Imam Hasan (AS) and started cursing him. When he finished his insults, the Imam (AS) smiled, greeted him, and said, "It looks like you are a stranger in this city … If you need anything, we will fulfill your needs." The man was deeply impressed by the Imam's (AS) noble reaction; he started crying and recited the following verse: "God knows best with whom to place His message" (Quran 6:124), indicating that the Imam (AS) deserved to be a descendant of the Prophet (PBUH&HP)" .
Imam Hasan's (AS) life was full of instances, which revealed his immense generosity and selflessness. It is narrated that he had given away all his properties and wealth as a charity twice in his lifetime . According to an account, a man in need came to Imam Hasan (AS). Imam (AS) asked him to write what he needed and give him the note. When Imam (AS) read his letter, he gave him twice more than what he had asked. One of the people who were present there said, "What a bounteous letter he wrote, O' son of the Prophet (PBUH&HP)!" Imam (AS) replied, "The letter had more bounty and blessing for us than him since it had made us among the generous ones. Don't you know that "generosity" is to give something to someone without being asked for, and what is given away after being asked, is paltry in return to that person's honor. Perhaps the one who asked for something had spent a night full of stress and fear, not knowing if you reject him or make him happy with accepting to fulfill his request. Now he has come to you, his heart beating fearfully. If you, then, give him no more than what he had asked, you don't give away anything worthier than his honor, which he had broken for this request." 
Imam Hasan's (AS) generosity was not limited to human beings, but all of Allah's creatures. In one account, a man saw Imam Hasan (AS) eating, giving a morsel of his food to a dog, and eating a morsel himself. The man who was surprised by this scene went closer to Imam Hasan (AS) and said, "Would you permit me to hit this dog with a stone and take him away from your food?" Imam (AS) replied, "Leave it alone! Since I feel ashamed of Allah al-Mighty if an alive animal looks into my face while I'm eating and I won't give it part of my food." 
Imam Hasan (AS) found generosity and doing charity, not as a mere religious burden; instead, he gave away willingly and saw it as a chance bestowed to him by Allah to please Him.
The grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), following the footsteps of his grandfather, was highly observant of his manner toward the ones in need, being careful not to break their hearts or belittling them while helping them. It is reported in an account, "One day, he passed by a group of poor people who were eating pieces of bread. When they saw him, they invited him to eat with them. The Imam (AS) accepted their invitation and sat and ate with them and then invited all of them to his house and offered them food and clothes." 
Imam Hasan (AS) never felt superior to other people and treated everyone, regardless of their age or position, with the same respect and modesty.
All the above characteristics of Imam Hasan (AS) and many more is a reflection of his deep devotion and love toward Allah, the One and Only Creator. Imam Hasan (AS) was the perfect example of a true believer both in manner and words. He was famous for his sincere worship, long prayers, and his enthusiasm to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca on foot. He would say, "I would be embarrassed to meet my Lord without having walked toward His house." 
His abiding faith had made him a strong and exemplary personality from whom any human being with a free soul can learn the lesson of humanity and love.
According to some historical sources, After disregarding the conditions in the peace treaty, Mu'awiya conspired the assassination of Imam Hasan (AS) to secure the position of his son, Yazid, as his successor. To further his plan, he sent for Imam Hasan's (AS) wife and enticed her to poison her husband in return for money and marrying Yazid. Finally, she accepted his offer and fatally poisoned Imam Hasan (AS) . He was martyred in the 15th of Ramadan of 50 (670 A.D.) and was buried in al-Baqi' cemetery in Medina.
[i] The first Umayyad caliph who ruled in Damascus after the Peace Treaty of Imam Hasan (AS).
- Ali ibn Abd-al-Malik al-Hindi, Kanz al-Ummal, Vol.16, p.262.
- Al-Tirmidhi, Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Vol.5, p.615.
- Qadi Nur Allah Shushtari, Ihqaq al-haqq, Vol.11, p.63.
- Muhammad b. 'Ali b. Shahrashub, Manaqib Al Abi Talib, Vol.3, p. 394.
- Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol.43, p.338.
- Al-Shaykh al-Mufid, Kitab al-Irshad, Translated by I.K.A Howard, Published by Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an. p.350.
- Al-Sharif al-Qarashi, Baqir, The life of Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba (a), translated by Jasim al-Rasheed, Qom, Ansariyan Publications. p.334-335.
- Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, History of the Prophets and Kings, Vol.5, p.324.
- Al-Baladhuri, Ahmad ibn Yahya. Ansab al-Ashraf, vol. 3, p. 41-42.
- Imam Hasan Mujtaba
- Baha' al-Din 'Ali b. 'Isa al-Irbili, Kashf al-ghumma fi ma'rifat al-a'imma, Vol.1, p.561.
- Ahmad b. Abi Ya'qub, Tarikh al-Ya'qubi, Vol.2, p.226.
- Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Khalid al-Barqi, Al-Mahasin, p.55.
- Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol.43, p.352.
- ibid, p.319.
- Muhammad b. 'Ali b. Shahrashub, Manaqib Al Abi Talib, Vol.4, p. 7.
- Abū al-Qāsim Maḥmūd ibn Umar al-Zamakhsharī, Rabi al-Abrar wa nusus al-Akhbar, Vol.5, p.155-156.