How this whole life is a test is not always easy to decipher. We live through the familiar cycle of good times and bad times, yet we fail to recognize the pattern behind them, and how they are controlled by the Force that sets them about in our lives.
There’s always a "problem" at hand. "I want such-and-such thing to happen". Well, for those of us with faith, they set about trying to make it happen. First they try the right means, then they try all other difficult possibilities*. After that, desperate, they try the not-so-right-means to achieve their goal**.
Finally, they either get what they want* or they don’t**. In the former case, they are either grateful, acknowledging to their Creator that yes, it was YOU who made this happen; even though I tried to get it done, I would not have succeeded without Your Will. In the latter case, they are ungrateful, saying, "I don’t understand why Allah does not listen to my prayers; I have been praying and praying, He does not listen." Huffing and puffing, frowning, pushing their nose in the air, they walk off**.
Now to explain the asterisks I placed after each happening. A single asterisk (*) implies an easy test or trial. Allah is watching, let’s see how my slave behaves. And a double asterisk (**) implies a difficult test or trial, one that only few people pass.
You see, each and every event that happens in our lives is a trial. Cliched yes, but our whole life is a trial. Start from your school years and remember your hard work, agony, stress and worry before that big exam. Sitting, lying down and walking around, you prayed to Allah that He give you a good result. And you also tried your best by studying hard. So, one of two things happened: either you got the result you desired*, or you did not**.
Getting a good result is the easy trial – one which you pass if you are everlastingly grateful to Allah for giving it to you, not boasting about it, not giving undue credit for it to yourself, and not becoming arrogant due to the success (better college prospects) it brings you. By not letting the praise, recognition and compliments people give you get to your head by making you arrogant, you pass this easy trial. You know in your heart that the brains and ability to work hard was also a gift from Allah, so you have no reason to gloat about it.
Now, about not getting the good result despite the hard work and prayers. This is the difficult trial. In the previous case, Shaytan came in the form of a "friend" whispering to you, "Oh YOU did it! Your hard work paid off! You got the great result because of your own efforts…you are so cool!". But in this scenario, he comes in with a much more effective tool: grouchiness, disappointment in Allah’s Mercy, complaining to Allah, doubting Allah’s benevolence, doubting that even there is an Allah who listens – "If He did listen, then why didn’t He pay me back for my hard work and my prayers? So-and-so Christian guy in my class got a better result, and I did not. Why?"
You see, sometimes, though it might seem "unfair" to us if we think about it with our pea-sized brains, withholding from us what we really, really, want is good for us in the long run. Allah knows how it is good for us, and so He withholds it. We, however, see only as far as our eyes can see. We only see that "I prayed and prayed, and He did not give me what I wanted". Then we become ungrateful, self-loving wretches who think that we alone know what is good for us, and we raise a hue and cry about how we, the high-and-mighty slaves of Allah, did not get what we wanted.
What happens as a result of this difficult trial? We fail. We lose His Pleasure and His Approval. And we make Him angry. "This slave claims to love me, and he is not happy with what I have chosen for him?".
As for the difficult trial befalling a true, sincere believer? Someone who did not get good results despite his full efforts and prayers? He is hurt and dejected yes, but he says, "I am pleased with Allah. If He chose this for me, its best." He doesn’t stop there; he further goes on to analyze his actions: "Was there something I did that angered Him? Have I been doing something to disobey Him that He became angry with me and did not grant me my prayers?" He turns his pointing finger inwards, towards himself, and seeks forgiveness for anything that he might have done that angered Allah and became a barrier to his success.
Whether easy or difficult, each trial comes and goes. With each, our "grades" are recorded in our book of deeds: whether we passed it or failed it. The grades depend upon how we behaved, what we thought, and what we did. Usually, time heals the wound and life goes on. Until the next trial sets in. Again, Allah is watching to see what His slave does this time. He is watching.
There is something we really, really want again. Based on our previous experiences in life, we either turn to Allah or we don’t. "He did not listen to me the last time, so why ask Him now? It doesn’t make a difference. This life is all there is and there’s no need to "believe". Just do what you think is right and live your life."
So, maybe this time its wanting to marry some member of the opposite sex. Or wanting to marry, period. Or wanting a particular job. Or wanting admission into some good University. Or wanting to immigrate to a particular country. Or wanting a child. We really want it to happen, and soon. We start again: pursuing the right means, the not-so-right means, or the absolutely forbidden means. Things either work out* or they don’t**. Usually though, if they do work out, we go on happily, "not believing" (in other words, thinking it just happened as good luck, and not thanking Allah for it, since we didn’t ask Him for it in the first place) and enjoying ourselves*.
Single Asterisk! This was the easy trial, even though we failed it miserably. Why did we fail? By: (i) not asking Allah to give us what we wanted, not asking Him for His help, (ii) using the wrong means – things He has forbidden us to do – in order to get what we wanted, and (iii) going further on to enjoy being given what we wanted (Allah gave it to us, despite our wrong-doing) and not feeling repentant or regretful for having disobeyed our Creator. How do you think we will fare in this trial? What will be recorded in our Book of Deeds?
So, some people enter unlawful relationships, in the hope of getting married. There’s no need to mention how the deeds done in these relationships fare in the sight of Allah. Some people commit zina (fornication) if marriage is too difficult for them. Instead of being patient, they give up and disobey Allah. Some use illegal methods to land in the country they want to immigrate to. Besides how they pursue what they want, the other aspects of their lives also reflect their belief in Allah: the activities they take part in, the people they hang out with, the nature of their work, their choice of outer appearance/identity, their actions in day-to-day living, and last but not least, their relationships with other people. If they get what they want, they enjoy themselves, being heedless. This test, though, was the easy one, as I said. Single Asterisk.
Now for the Double Asterisk. What if they do not get what they want yet again? Their desired marriage partner gives them the negative. They do not find anyone they can marry, as time goes on. They do not get into the university of their choice. The company of their dreams does not acknowledge their job application. Their immigration application is rejected.
This, again, is the tougher trial. Dejection, hopelessness and sorrow abound, as the heart sinks and the thoughts turn bitter. Shaytan moves in again. "After all I did, nothing ever works out for me." "You – you are so talented and self-sufficient, you don’t need any prayers or dua’s! Look at how much you’ve always had in your life: looks, wealth, intelligence, education – even though you don’t pray and you don’t fast." The non-believer thus turns away from Allah even more diffidently, even more arrogantly. "He never listens to me. Why should I pray? Why should I go for Hajj?"
My dear, did you win His approval that He will listen to you? Did you obey Him that He’d grant you what you want? Did you have trust in Him no matter how He kept you, knowing that He will bring ease and happiness in the end? No? Then why cry out to Him now when you profess that you "do not believe?" Why be disappointed now, when you claim to never have had hopes in His mercy in the first place?
The believer on the other hand, what does he do? If something works out, he is grateful, period. Mind you, whenever a Believer wants something, any of the above things, he does not pursue the not-so-right or the forbidden means to acquire it in the first place. He wants to marry? He will not watch porn, masturbate, look at girls, chat with them (on the phone or on the internet) or take them out on dates. He will pursue the means Allah has chosen for him: informing his parents of his wish, or staying single with patience. What is patience? Abstaining from all those things that could lead him towards making Allah angry with him, in the hope that one day Allah will listen to his prayers and bless him with the best. If he gets what he wants, he is grateful, knowing that only Allah can give. If not, he is patient, and careful of not steering off the path of obedience.
Each trial comes and goes. No matter how much you believe, or how much you claim to "not believe", whether you live a lifestyle of trangression of Allah’s limits ("I don’t believe nor do I care") or a lifestyle of submission to His Will, there will always be trials. There will always be difficult times, when you will really want something to happen, and you will stress over it and work hard to acquire it. Either you will get it, or you will not. What matters is what you thought, what you did, how you behaved; whether you obeyed Allah or disobeyed Him. Whether you looked at your own mistakes and repented, or whether you turned away with persistent arrogance. Once the trial will pass, life will go on. But your record of deeds will have everything you did recorded in it.
There’s just one eraser that can wipe out the bad parts of our Book of Deeds: true and sincere repentance. Regretting, trying to change ourselves, and wiping out our past bad deeds with good ones.
There will be many believers whose prayers will not be answered, whose life will be riddled with problems, despite Allah being pleased with them. And there will be many disbelievers who will get what they want in life, and have smooth-sailing lives, despite Allah being angry with them. Because this life is but a temporary abode of actions. Good times follow bad ones, and vice versa. And this life?
This too, shall pass.
No matter what You give me
or what You don’t
whether You bless me
or You don’t
whether You enrich me
or You don’t
whether You answer my dua’s
or You don’t….
I will always love You,
I will always obey You
So help me, O Allah, help me
Help me live this life submitting to You
so that death means salvation
Dying means that I..
I finally get to be with You