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Monday, August 11, 2008

How to understand tribulations

Tribulations are not easy to go through, they can be really difficult, unexpected and last a while. We must know that tribulations cannot be seen through the eyes of the people of the world. They see tribulations as punishment full stop, it's unwanted, it interrupts their plans and it gets in the way. Some accept it as part of life and others deny it totally and cannot cope with it.

Tribulations can shake someone's faith to the core when they are unable to find answers. Sometimes we do not know where to look. So, as Muslims what is our first port of call? It has to be the majestic Quran, we must look at that then look further a field.

 "We have sent already unto peoples that were before you, and We visited them with tribulation and adversity, in order that they might grow humble." The cattle 6:42

The Muslims are not the first nation be send tribulations but they are the last. Tribulations are not something new, it's something old.


The English word Tribulation goes back to Latin word tribulare which means to press or oppress. The Arabic word Fatana comes from a word to purify gold, to take out the impurities, which can only be done in a fire.

"And that He may purge those who believe and deprive the unbelievers of blessings." 
The Family of Imran 3:141

Many of us feel oppressed when tribulations befall us. One of the synonyms, in English, for tribulation is evil; so this brings an idea that something bad or evil is afflicted a person. In Christianity, there is an interesting belief of the great tribulation, something akin to the grief of the people towards the end of time and the Antichrist/Dajjal. We have no problem of evil in Islam; we know that whatever happens is good. If I break my pen, something that I possess, you cannot say anything to me about it. It is my pen and I own it, so I can do what I like to it. Nor do I need a reason to do so. Likewise the whole world belongs to God; so how can he be unjust in anything he does? How can He be unjust to anything he owns? When He owns everything! It can never happen can it? Good, so we agree that now there is no problem, problem solved guys!

I was talking to a non Muslim about my absence due to illness, he said that it was no good, without thinking I agreed. Then I realised that for a believer in God everything is all good and my error became clear.

Does Allah give us tribulation more than we can bear?

"No person shall have a burden laid on him greater than he can bear." The Heffer 2:233.

"Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope." The Heffer 2:286

"Allah wishes to lighten (burden) for you." The Women 4:28

 "We burden not any person, but that which he can bear." The Cattle 6:152

These verses are clear and do not need explaination. We can bear the burden, we can bear the tribulation; it may not be easy for us but we can do it.

Love what's bad for us?

Sometimes something that you love contains harm. You can desire something and it can be withheld from you or something that you wished for does not happen. Then this becomes like a burden upon you, dragging you down. Beware, satan at this point, because he can beautify the worst thing in your eyes. Like wine/alcohol we know it is prohibited but some of us still consume it because we love it. This is an example of something we love but has harm in it. Likewise, we can hate tribulations even though it is something good for us. This is also due to the heart being so sick that it loves the prohibited.

 "If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good." The Women 4:19

“Perhaps that you hate something which is good (better) for you; and perhaps you love something which is evil (worse) for you.”
Quran: The Heffer 2:216.

Imam Al-Qurtabi (may Allah be pleased with him) says perhaps/'saa means definitely/qad.
Its reads like this: "Definitely you will hate something which is good for you and you will definitely love something which is evil for you."

This is something to ponder over.

Hearts re-connect to Allah the exalted

This sounds strange but hear me out, tribulations draw a person closer to Allah by means of opening a dormant channel between that person and Allah. 

This happens quite frequently, we are sent a tribulation and then and only then do we remember Allah because we realise that we have no one else to turn to. 

The only problem is when the tribulation ends and we return to our old ways. 

We cannot remember Allah in adversity alone, don't we realise the blessings that are showered upon us, in every moment!

Ponder the following

 "Who has created death and life, that He may test you which of you is best in deed. And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving." The Dominion 67:2

 "Those unto whom men said: Lo! the people have gathered against you, therefore fear them. (The threat of danger) but increased the faith of them and they cried: Allah is Sufficient for us! Most Excellent is He in Whom we trust!" The Family of Imran 3:173

I remember Sheikh Hamza Yusuf commentating on this verse, the subject of this verse had been told that people would oppose you if you believed and when this occurred they took it as proof that their belief was strong. Which leads me onto another point; as much as your faith is strong, you will be tested in accordance to it.

The more faith you have the more you are tested and likewise the lesser faith you have the least you are tested with. The people who have tribulation all the time are those of strong faith and those who are weak are rarely tested. In any case what our reaction to events that transpire that are against us?

Al-Tirmidhi (2398) narrated that Sa'd ibn Abu Waqqas (may Allah be pleased with him) said, I asked, "O Messenger of Allah, which of the people are the most sorely tested?" He said: "The Prophets, then those similar, then those similar. A man will be tested in accordance with his level of faith. If his faith is strong, he will be tested more severely, and if his faith is weak, he will be tested in accordance with his faith. Calamity will keep befalling a person until he walks on the Earth with no sin on him."

If you look into the lives of the Prophets (upon them peace) they were sorely tested, Adam (upon him peace) lived during the time when one of his children murdered the other, Nuh's (upon him peace) son disbelieved at the time of the flood, Ayyub's (upon him peace) sickness, Musa's (upon him peace) people adopting polytheism at Mount Sinai, Ibrahim's (upon him peace) sacrifice of his son, Isa's (upon him peace) nation transgressing the limits by turning into polytheists. Then look at the life story of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), his father died before he was born, his mother died when he was six and his grandfather died when he was eight years old. Think about this, you are eight years old without brother or sister and your parents are dead.

So, now the question is; did Allah love the Prophets? The answer from any responsible person is a resounding yes! Yes, of course, so tribulations are sent to those with great faith, to those who can bear it and those who are strong.

So listen dear friend if you are in a tribulation then be patient and know relief is coming. Do not feel angry or upset, be calm and remain steadfast. Please do not lose hope and direct yourself to Allah (the Exalted).

 As we all know tribulations can be one of two:

1. Expiation - for previous wrongs

2. To raise the persons rank closer to Allah Ta'ala

All these states are good because the Muslim is losing his sins which is the least that a person gets from tribulations. If we are patient as well then there is a reward for that as well! So He wants to remove your sins and reward you for it!

There is a wonderful saying that the Moroccans have which is when something of material value breaks or is lost they say that something bad was going to happen to that person and instead that thing broke or was lost. Most of all tribulations remind us not to get too comfortable in the world because we are going to leave it one day. Only when we have closed the door to the past, can we open the door to the future. It is difficult but we can learn and move on. You are stronger than you know and you can make it past this, to see better days. One day you will look back at this time and realise the strength you found to move on was the best thing that you did. Look back one last time and move forward. You can do it, one day at a time. Laughter is the best medicine, it really is and it really helps. Your heart might be busy with pain so make it busy with something else.

Also, I do not claim to be an expert because there have been many times that I have lost my temper during tribulations. I hope that Allah (Mighty and M
ajestic) allows us all to get "double" points from our tribulations! Hang on in there because it is always darkest before dawn.

Please see this link it is a clip of Sheikh Hamza yusuf talking about the four states of man

40 hadith on tribulation

The 17 benefits of tribulations.

For our German readership here is a link to a partial German translation.


  1. Anonymous12:09 am

    asalamu alaykum,
    i really needed this so may Allah reward you abundantly. ameen. Alhamdulilah ala kulli haal.

  2. Anonymous10:49 pm

    Excellent reminder. May Allah reward you for writing this.