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.
Before the appearance of a group called ISIS, I always wondered if it is possible for people to easily behead men, to kill children and cut the bodies into pieces. I had repeatedly heard and read the event of the tenth day (Ashura) in Muharram of 61 AH, in which the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), who was the leader (Imam) of Muslims at his time, and the males of his family and companions were martyred, beheaded and cut into pieces.
While I was reading those events, I started thinking about what kind of a person is capable of doing such horrible acts? Who were the people of that era who stood against their leader and watched him getting martyred and beheaded, because he could not morally and ethically accept the caliphate of a corrupt leader over the Muslim society?
I found answers to my questions in the past few years when some terrorist groups began to take advantage of some of the verses of the Holy Quran and use it as a pretext for their evil purposes. These terrorist groups, the most recent of them Taliban, Al-Qaida and ISIS, are very much the same as those who considered themselves Muslims and stood against the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the leader of Muslim society, who was the manifestation of Islam, under the name of supporting the corrupt oppressor caliph; Yazid.
Having people with different attitudes who all believe that they are true Muslims makes it hard for truth-seekers to find the right path in life.
In this article, we will revise the reasons for which a group like ISIS would appear, grow and spread in the world in the name of Islam. We will try to clarify a few points by which we can make a border between the real Islam and the unreal Islam that is being used as the tool of terrorism.
To begin, let’s see what the main types of Muslims that we face these days are.
The passive depiction of Islam is the sort of Islam that is at peace with EVERYTHING in this world. Whatever happens, the passive Muslim will not show any reactions. These types of Muslims believe in having a safe and calm life. They have no considerable social or political involvements. If an issue arises in the community or the society, they prefer to remain silent and show no reactions toward it, as it may cause some harm to them or their benefits.
One may think that this type of Islam is the best as it does not harm the believer or others in the society. But the fact is that according to Islam or any other Abrahamic religion, he who remains silent, at a time when he has to stand against an oppressor or to help a human in a reasonable need, has no value in the eyes of God in this world or the other .
It is also firmly narrated by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that “whoever starts his day with no efforts on Muslims’ issues IS NOT A MUSLIM” . This is how Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) excludes passive Muslims from the true Islam.
In the same way it is stated in the Holy Quran that: “Why should you not fight in the way of Allah and the oppressed men, women, and children, who say, ‘Our Lord, bring us out of this town whose people are oppressors, and appoint for us a guardian from Yourself, and appoint for us a helper from Yourself’?” (4:75)
The wild representation of Islam is much worse, much more inaccurate and much further from the real context of Islam than the passive representation. Silent Muslims will cause damages to others by not helping them at the right time, while Wild people who act, using the name of Islam, will hurt the society, families, and a whole generation that is to come.
All terrorists who call themselves Muslims and make the world an unsafe place for human beings are amongst those wild creatures. They kill children, men and women all over the world by using their invented and wrong interpretations of a few verses of the Holy Quran, trying to demolish the religion of God.
They ignore all the verses of the Holy Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his successors that emphasize tolerance, kindness toward human beings and animals, protecting the environment, supporting the truth, gentle speaking, respecting the humankind, and observing the rights of the previous religions.
Facing this representation of Islam, one may think that these people are either very ignorant and indolent that will not even spend some time on understanding the real Islam, OR use some parts of Islam as a part of a bigger plot by which they can reach their hypocritical goals.
But put aside the passive and the wild representations of Islam, and let us find out what the true Islam is and how we can recognize the true Islam from among its different representations.
We do not insist that every truth-seeker should conclude accepting Islam as his religion, but there are hints and guidelines for every truth-seeker to realize the true path of life.
Here we will count a few of these hints:
A) Have no prejudice in searching for the truth
It is important that even those who have specific beliefs, start researching and rebuilding their mindset. If we do not keep thinking about our beliefs, we will be dogmatic people who have no logical answers to other people’s questions about their ideas.
Not being prejudiced about our views gives us an open mind. Therefore, if we face a belief that may be contrary to ours, but we find it closer to the truth than ours, we should be able to change our idea and follow the best route.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) says: “Avoid prejudice, as it begins with ignorance and ends up in regression” .
B) Support the truth
“Do not mix the truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth while you know” (2: 42).
Most of us experience situations in which we have to choose between our benefits and the truth. This is what we call fairness. It is essential to be careful about taking the right side even if it is against our benefits. Although sometimes by supporting the truth we may lose our worldly benefits, it is important to remember that reaching the ultimate purpose of humanity is hidden in taking the right side.
C) Listen carefully and completely
“… So give good news to My servants, who listen to the word [of Allah] and follow the best [interpretation] of it. They are the ones whom Allah has guided, and it is they who possess intellect” (39: 17- 18).
Unfortunately, the wrong presentations of Islam come from the point where people take some advice from the Quran and leave the rest instead of looking at it as a whole. For example, those who stand for the rights of Muslim women and try to revive their rights, stick to a few verses of the Quran that are about women.
They do not understand Islam’s aim of ordering women to observe the Islamic dress code, so they start campaigns against it. While if they read the Quran as a whole alongside with the prophet’s teachings, and put different pieces of the puzzle together, they will realize that the Islamic dress code, plus men’s and women’s etiquette of looking, plus men’s role in supporting the family and women’s role in calming the atmosphere of the house, and many other pieces of the puzzle are to make the society a better place for all members to live in.
D) Animals’ Rights
According to the Quran, all the creatures [including animals] have been created to serve human being (2: 29). But if we need to use animals for our needs, we should not forget that we have a huge responsibility towards them as living creatures. The rights of animals are of much importance in Islam, and we have a lot of narrations from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his successors with regards to them.
An example is a narration by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): “When you stop riding an animal, do not keep sitting on them while having a [lengthy] conversation with others; instead, descend and [let the animal rest, and] then talk” .
E) Love for humanity
And finally, the Golden Rule that if we all follow, we will experience a peaceful life in this world and the hereafter is stated in the letter of Imam Ali (AS) to his son who said:
“O, my child! Make yourself the measure (for dealings) between you and others. Thus, you should desire for others what you desire for yourself and hate for others what you hate for yourself” .
At the beginning of this article, we read those who martyred Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions on the tenth day (Ashura) in Muharram of 61 AH, are the ones who took advantage of the name of Islam to gain their worldly desires. We discussed that the same thing is happening in our era and different terrorist groups, by misusing the name of Islam, try to divert people from the true guidance and the peaceful path of life.
This reminds me of the famous saying “every day is Ashura, and every land is Karbala.”; Which means the confrontation between right and wrong always exists. This may be a simple confrontation in family relations, at work or in the community, or it may be a more significant conflict between the countries.
No matter we are Muslim or Christian or Jewish. The fact is that the history repeats itself. And it is vital for us to be wise enough to realize the truth and support it. Imam Hussain (AS) on the tenth day (Ashura) faced the massive army of Yazid and told them:
“If you neither believe in religion nor fear the hereafter, then at least be free from tyranny and arrogance” .
- Majlesi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 74, p. 311.
- Al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 164.
- The Quran, Chapter 4 (Al-Nisa’), verse. 75.
- Mizan al-Hikmah, vol. 4, p. 2770.
- Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 64, p. 173.
- Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 64, p. 214.
- Nahjul – Balagha; letter 31.
- wedMajlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol.74, p. 91.
Islam has spread much more quickly than the other religions all over the world. The question is how this has happened? And it becomes more important when we consider the situation in which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) emerged.
He (PBUH&HP) invited people to Islam while he did not have any wealth or position and even when his family opposed him; except his wife, Lady Khadija (AS), and his cousin, Imam Ali (AS). Several factors were involved which we will discuss in a series of articles. Here, the focus is on how pleasant characteristics of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) helped Islam to become well known throughout the world.
In the Quran it is emphasized that the morals and attitude of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was one of the factors which attracted people to Islam: “had you been harsh and hard-hearted, they (people) would have surely scattered from around you” (3:159). This pleasant behavior of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) which made people inclined to him and Islam is known to be due to the God’s mercy over him (PBUH&HP) (3:159).
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was forgiving towards those who had bothered him or even insulted him. It is narrated that once, a Jew accused Prophet (PBUHHP) of owing him some money and insisted on paying him back immediately. Prophet (PBUH&HP) told him gently that he had made a mistake, but the man repeated his claim and suddenly assaulted the Prophet (PBUH&HP). The companions of Prophet (PBUH&HP) came to interfere, but he (PBUH&HP) said: “I know how to deal with my friend.” He (PBUH&HP) behaved very nicely such that the man acknowledged that this behavior is only expected from a prophet and he declared his belief and embraced Islam right there.
However, he (PBUH&HP) was very serious about applying Islamic regulations or others’ rights. It is narrated that a woman from Quraysh [i] had stolen something; she confessed and had to be punished. Many people, including her family, interfered to change the Prophet’s mind and to stop her punishment. Prophet (PBUH) told people that they had meddled because she was from a famous family, but there is no exception to Islamic rules.
To provide an exemplary leader for others, to train people to act alike, to valorize his companions and to convince people to follow his instructions, Prophet (PBUH) used to take advice. Of course, in the end, he (PBUH&HP) was the one who decided and made firm decisions: “consult them on the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah” (3:159).
“Invite (mankind) to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better” (16:125). Unlike what is advertised against Islam, Prophet Muhammad (PBUHHP) never forced people or threatened them to accept Islam.
On the contrary, following the advice of the Quran, he promoted Islam with kindness, fairness, and wisdom. Instead of humiliating and discriminating non-Muslims, or being harsh and fierce, he used rational argument and discussion which also improved their rationality and thinking power . This followed the fact that embracing Islam should be according to the personal perception and understanding and it cannot be based on the imitation .
[i]A mercantile tribe that historically inhabited and controlled Mecca and Ka'aba.