All of us go through hardships and calamities that are not pleasing to us. We have all experienced moments and days of sorrow and suffering; be it one or more of the natural disasters, the loss of health or wealth, the loss of one of our dear ones, or even simpler issues that we face in our everyday life. The number of people who do not complain while they are suffering an incident is very few. Sometimes the calamities are so huge that they put us under severe pressure and take us to the point where we start complaining to Allah and asking Him the famous “why” question: “Why should this happen to me? Why don’t you help me overcome my problem? Why does this suffering seem everlasting?”
If you are one of those who have happened to ask these questions from Allah in specific situations, then this article might be useful to you and to myself, as it tries to answer all the above questions based on the words of Allah and the Islamic traditions.
We may be surprised in reading the verse of the Quran in which Allah (SWT) says:
“Certainly We created man in travail.” (90: 4)
Why would He do such a thing to us? Was He going to take revenge on us for something? Or does He enjoy seeing us suffering?
The fact is that all different types of problems, sorrows, losses, and sufferings can be looked at from two different perspectives. If one looks at problems and calamities only from a materialistic perspective, one may be able to find a material reason for each; For example, the drought is caused by the lack of rain, the disease is caused by poor hygiene and bankruptcy is a sign of lack of business awareness. But from the Islamic viewpoint, there are several factors influencing these events and disasters only some of which are considered material causes.
One of the wisdom behind worldly sufferings according to the verses of the Quran is that Allah tests His servants with hardships and calamities, and in this test only those who are patient are victorious:
“We will surely test you with a measure of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth, lives, and fruits; and give good news to the patient.” (2: 155)
It is noteworthy that there is no problem in mourning for our sorrows, feeling down, and even crying over them. We are all human beings, flesh, and blood, and sometimes we feel so burdened by the difficulties of life that we find it hard to bear. Yet one should be wary not to blame Allah for these sufferings and turn his/her back to Him. Instead, we should find the capacity to submit to the fate destined for us by Allah, believing in the fact that Allah is the only One who can save us from these calamities and would never do injustice to us. These are the times we should get closer to Allah and rely on His mercy and help.
But, why would Allah need to test His servants? He mentions in a verse of the Quran that being faithful is not accepted in words only, and to prove one’s faith, he/she should go through different tests:
“Do the people suppose that they will be let off because they say, ‘We have faith,’ and they will not be tested? Certainly, We tested those who were before them. So Allah shall surely ascertain those who are truthful, and He shall surely ascertain the liars.” (29: 2-3)
It is not for Allah (SWT) to find out if we are real believers or not, but by putting us through tests He allows us to see the real level of our faith and try to improve it or leave it as it is.
Therefore, one can conclude that the divine test is performed to separate and recognize the truthful from the false claimants and to make the believers pure. The higher the level of our faith goes the harder the tests become.
Another reason behind worldly sufferings according to Islamic teachings is that Allah (SWT) wants to save and strengthen His servant’s faith. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) narrated from Gabriel from Allah that:
“Among my faithful servants, there are some whose faith is not amended except by poverty and destitution, and if I make him rich, this wealth will corrupt and destroy his faith. And among my believing servants, there is one whose faith is not corrected except by wealth, and if I make him poor, poverty and misery will corrupt and destroy his faith. ... I guide them by the knowledge that I have of the hearts of my servants. It is true that I am Wise and Knowledgeable.” 
Therefore, there are many things that happen to us by the will of Allah which may not be pleasing to us and we may interpret them as sufferings while at the heart of them are great blessings for us:
“… may be that you dislike something, which is good for you, and it may be that you love something, which is bad for you, and Allah knows and you do not know.” (2: 216)
Sometimes we are so pleased and drowned in the blessings that Allah (SWT) has provided us that we totally forget our mission and goal of living in this world. In these moments Allah (SWT) tests us with some calamities and puts us through some sufferings to remind us of our goal and warn us about the consequences of neglecting our mission. These little sufferings as mentioned in the Quran are the ones that keep us away from the harder sufferings:
“We shall surely make them taste the nearer punishment prior to the greater punishment, so that they may come back.” (32: 21)
Another important reason behind worldly sufferings is that these types of things show the human being how weak he is and how needy he is toward his Lord. It is at the time of suffering that we realize there is nothing we can do to solve the problems and we turn to Allah to ask Him for help.
Allah (SWT) mentions this point in the Quran in different verses:
“When distress befalls you at sea, those whom you invoke besides Him are forsaken. But when He delivers you to land, you are disregardful [of Him]. And man is very ungrateful.” (17:67)
Therefore, hardship and suffering cause us to remember that He is the only One who can help us, thus we turn to Him.
Compensation for our sins
According to Islamic teachings, worldly sufferings are also a way by which Allah (SWT) makes up our mistakes and sins. It is narrated from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) that:
“The sorrows, sicknesses, and sufferings that befall on a believer are the means of wiping away his/her sins by Allah.” 
However, sometimes these sufferings are not to compensate for our sins. We have all seen or heard that sometimes some of the very faithful servants of Allah face huge sufferings. These types of suffering according to Islamic teachings is to elevate the spiritual or even the material capacities of human beings.
- Shaikh Sadough: Al-tawheed. (1398 A.H.), p. 400
- Ali bin al-Husain bin Shu’ba al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-Uqul, p.38.
Eid al Adha (or Dhuha) is one of the greatest eids of Islam. It is a feast of love, sacrifice, and submission to the will of Allah (s.w.t). Celebrated on the 10th of Dhul Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar, it is the time of the year where Muslims from all over the world gather for the annual ritual of Hajj and mark the end of Hajj by sacrificing a camel, a cow or a sheep. Those Muslims who could not make it for Hajj, sacrifice these animals and distribute the meat and other gifts among the poor, their family and friends.
There are many recommended (not obligatory) rituals and practices to be performed on the day of Eid al Adha, some of them are as follows:
-Doing Ghusl (ritual bath)
-Eid Prayer, either in a congregation or individually
-Reciting the Ziarat of Imam Husain (AS), the third infallible Imam
-Sacrificing either a camel, cow, or sheep. Sacrifice is obligatory for those performing Hajj and recommended for those not performing Hajj
-According to Islamic laws, it is forbidden to fast on this day
Prophet Abraham (PBUH) was a true embodiment of the verse from the Holy Quran: “Do the people suppose that they will be let off because they say, ‘We have faith,’ and they will not be tested? Certainly, We tested those who were before them. So, Allah shall surely ascertain those who are truthful, and He shall surely ascertain the liars.” (29:2)
Prophet Abraham (PBUH) was a great Prophet of Allah (SWT) who is greatly celebrated in the Holy Quran. He is one of the Ulu –l-Azm (Arch) prophets. Allah (SWT) calls him his friend in the Holy Quran (4:125). The intended sacrifice of this holy prophet is greatly eulogized in the Holy Quran and the prophetic traditions. Abraham is especially famous for the numerous ways God tested him; especially the tough tests of leaving his wife Hagar and his firstborn son Ishmael (2:124) and bringing his son to a special place as an offering to God (37:100-113).
“My Lord! Give me [an heir], one of the righteous.” So We gave him the good news of a forbearing son. When he was old enough to assist in his endeavor, he said, ‘My son! I see in dreams that I am sacrificing you. See what you think.’ He said, ‘Father! Do whatever you have been commanded. If Allah wishes, you will find me to be patient.’ So, when they had both surrendered to Allah’s will, and he had laid him down on his forehead, We called out to him, ‘O Abraham! You have indeed fulfilled your mission! Thus, indeed do We reward the virtuous! This was indeed a manifest test.’ Then We ransomed him with a great sacrifice, and left for him a good name in posterity: ‘Peace be to Abraham!’ Thus, do We reward the virtuous? He is indeed one of Our faithful servants.” (37:100-110)
The Holy Quran gives us a very clear picture of the incidents that unfolded with Prophet Abraham (PBUH). It tells us that Prophet Abraham (PBUH) prayed for a righteous heir and Allah (SWT) answered his prayers. But after a few years, Allah (SWT) orders his Prophet to sacrifice his only son and both Prophet Abraham (PBUH) and Prophet Ishmael (PBUH) agree to submit to the will of Allah (SWT). It was a test for Prophet Abraham (PBUH) as well as his son Prophet Ishmael (PBUH), who emerged victorious from this test. Thus, leaving a legacy of complete submission to the will of Allah (SWT), a submission that calls for sacrificing everything you have to gain the pleasure of your beloved creator. It is this humble and pure submission of Prophet Abraham (PBUH) that makes this great prophet a ‘good example’ for us. (60:4).
The sacrifice of Prophet Abraham is not a fairy tale to be read to our children before going to sleep, it is a story that has the potential to make human beings build a lasting relationship with Allah (SWT). If we truly trust in Allah (SWT) and reach a position where we readily sacrifice everything in the way of Allah, we can proudly claim to be inheritors of the legacy of Abraham, a friend of Allah (SWT). But for us to reach that position we need to first ask ourselves: who is our Ishmael? Is it my child, my spouse, my property, wealth, job, position or my desires?
- Quran Translations, Ali Quli Qara’i
- Recommended rituals and practices on the eve of Eid and the day of Eid: Dua for EID ul Adha Night and Day (duas.org) (these recommended acts can also be found in Mafatih Al-Jinan under the section of aamaal for Eid)
- Exegesis of Surah Saaffat, Tafseer Nemuneh, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi (Farsi)
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was the last messenger of Allah Almighty sent to human beings to guide them towards a more prosperous and meaningful life: "O Prophet! Indeed, We have sent you as a witness, as a bearer of good news and as a warner. and as a summoner to Allah by His permission, and as a radiant lamp." (33:45-46).
You might be interested to know more details on his delegation (be' tha). So, follow us to find out more.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was born into the tribe of Quraysh, one of the prominent tribes of Mecca. He was known as an honest and faithful man such that he was called Al-Amin [i], meaning trustee.
He used to spend some hours alone out of town in Hira cave to worship, contemplate and reflect the state of people of that time and the aspects of creation. It was during one of these occasions that he received the divine message of prophethood. He was nearly 40 at that time. It was Rajab the 27th on 610 CE that the Archangel Gabriel (Jibreel) appeared before him and said: "Read." Muhammad (PBUH&HP) replied: "I am not able to read." This was repeated two more times. Then, the angel Gabriel recited the first verses of the Quran:
"Recite in the name of your Lord who created -
Created man from a clinging substance.
Recite, and your Lord is the Most Generous –
Who taught by the pen -
Taught man that which he knew not." (96:1-5)
And, his mission started there.
According to Imam Ali (AS), Allah Almighty sent Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) as a warner (against vice) for all the worlds and a trustee of His revelation. That was while the people of his time were following the worst religion. They resided among rough stones and venomous serpents, drank dirty water and ate filthy food, shed each other's blood, and did not care about their relationships. They worshiped and respected Idols, and sins were clinging to them .
Imam Ali (AS) sometimes accompanied Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) when he went to Hira cave. And, the day that the Archangel Gabriel appeared before the Prophet (PBUH&HP), Imam Ali (AS) was there, too. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said to Imam Ali (AS) that: "O Ali, you see all that I see and you hear all that I hear, except that you are not a Prophet, but you are a vicegerent and you are surely on (the path of) virtue." .
Afterward, being perplexed by this happening, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) went home to describe what has happened to his wife, Khadija (AS). She (AS) was the first woman who testified to the prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH&HP). And according to the authentic resources, the first man was Ali (AS) . Imam Ali (AS) has described the situation like this: "In those days Islam did not exist in any house except that of the Prophet of Allah (PBUH&HP) and Khadijah (AS), while I was the third after these two." .
In the beginning and according to divine guidelines, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) did not reveal his revelations publicly. Still, it was confined to a small circle of his family, close friends, and whoever he thought was eligible. In this period, the aim was to find real loyal fellows, although few. Of course, polytheists found about it, but they did not take it seriously .
Three years later, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) began to preach to his clan members by receiving the command to "Warn the nearest of your kinsfolk" (26:214). But he mostly received ridicule and mockery. Allah Almighty ordered him not to give up and make his mission publicly known: "So proclaim what you have been commanded, and turn away from the polytheists" (15:94).
The rich people of Mecca saw their power and wealth in danger with the ideas that Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) new religion proposed like social equality, sharing the wealth with needy people, and rejecting idols. On the contrary, people of the lower classes, slaves, and women were those who embraced Islam very soon .
According to the details above, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was chosen by Allah almighty at the time when humanity was at its dawn, and morality was long disappeared among humankind. He was the one who once more reminded human beings of the concept of humanity and the reason for creation.
[i] In the "Age of Ignorance" (before the advent of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP)), people did not trust each other much and did not care about the safekeeping of others' affairs. But, everyone in Mecca trusted Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), and when they went to business travels, they entrusted their valuable goods to him. So, he was given the nickname "Al-Amin." And, this title continued to be used for the Prophet (PBUH&HP) after the emergence of Islam, too, although some people had become against him since he fought idolatry.
- "Nahjul Balaqah", Sermon 26.
- Allamah Amini, “Al-Ghadir”, vol. 3, p. 236.
- "Nahjul Balaqah", Sermon 192.
- Jafar Morteza Amoli, “Al-Sahih Min Sirat Al-Nabi Al-Azam”