Forged in Tribulation – al-ʿIzz b. ʿAbdi’l-Salām

Trials and Tribulations

Wisdom and Benefits 

Imām al-ʿIzz b. ʿAbdi’l-Salām (d. 660H)

With the Name of Allāh, the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful

Peace and Blessings be upon our master, Muḥammad, his family and his Companions

 

The Shaykh, the Imām, the Proof of Islām, Abū Muḥammad ʿAbdu’l-ʿAzīz b. ʿAbdu’l-Salām b. Abū al-Qāsim al-Sulamī al-Shāfiʿī, may Allāh benefit the Muslims through him and forgive him, us and all the Muslims, said:

 

In tribulations, trials, misfortunes and calamities lie a number of benefits; these benefits have differing degrees of relevance, differing in accordance to the various ranks of people.

 

-Realising the greatness of Allāh’s Lordship and His all-encompassing power.

 

– Realising the humility and dejection of servitude. It is to this that the saying of Allāh, Most High, points to, 

“Those who, when disaster strikes them, say, ‘We belong to Allāh and to Him will we return.’” [al-Baqarah (2): 156]

 

They acknowledge that they belong to Him, that they are but lowly servants of His, that they will return to Him for judgment and are subject to His decree and regulation. They know that they have nowhere to flee from Him and no way to escape Him.

 

-Actualising sincerity for Allāh, Most High.

This is because there is no way to repress hardship except by recoursing to Him and there is no one that one can depend on to remove it except Him

“If Allāh touches you with harm, none can remove it but Him…” [al-Anʿām (6): 17]

“When they embark on ships, they call on Allāh, making their religion sincerely His…” [al-ʿAnkābūt (29): 65]

 

-Turning in penitence[1] to Allāh, Most High, and directing ones heart to Him

“When harm touches man he calls upon his Lord, turning in repentance to Him” [al-Zumar (39): 8]

 

-Submissiveness and supplication,[2]

 “When harm touches man he calls on Us…” [al-Zumar (39): 49]

“When harm touches you at sea, those you call on vanish – except for Him alone!” [al-Isrāʾ (17): 67]

 “It is Him you call on and, if He wills, He will deliver you from whatever it was that made you call on Him…” [al-Anʿām (6): 41]

“Say: ‘Who rescues you from the darkness of the land and sea? You call on Him humbly and secretly:…’ Say: ‘Allāh rescues you from it and from every plight, then you associate others with Him!’” [al-Anʿām (6): 63-64]

 

-Forbearance,[3]

 “Ibrāhīm was tender-hearted and forbearing” [al-Tawbah (9): 114]

“…and We gave give glad-tidings of a forbearing boy” [al-Ṣāffāt (37): 101]

 

The Prophet (SAW) said [to Ashaj ʿAbdu’l-Qays],

 You have two qualities that Allāh loves: forbearance and deliberation[4]

 

The ranking of forbearance differs in accordance to the magnitude of calamity; showing forbearance at the onset of the severest calamities is from its greatest manifestations.

 

-Forgiving the human agent who caused the trial,

 “…those who pardon others…” [Āli ʿImrān (3): 134]

“…but if someone pardons and puts things right, his reward is with Allāh” [al-Shūrā (42): 40]

 

Showing forgiveness at the onset of the greatest of calamities is from its greatest manifestations.[5]

 

-Patience and steadfastness in the face of affliction,[6] this leads to Allāh’s love and increase in His rewards,

 “…Allāh loves the patient and steadfast…” [Āli ʿImrān (3): 146]

“The patient and steadfast will be repaid their wages in full without any reckoning” [al-Zumar (39): 10]

 

The Messenger of Allāh (SAW) said,

 None has been given a gift better and more encompassing than patience.[7]

 

-Experiencing joy at the onset of calamity because of the many benefits it contains.

The Messenger of Allāh (SAW) said,

 By the One in whose hand is my soul, they [the righteous] would show joy at the onset of calamity as you show joy in times of ease.[8]

 

Ibn Masʿūd (RA) said, ‘Truly amazing are the two detested ones: death and poverty!’[9] They showed joy at the onset of calamity because they knew full well that there is no comparison between its hardship and its fruits and benefits. This situation is comparable to one who is cured from severe illness after drinking foul medicine.[10]

 

-Being grateful[11] at the onset of calamity because of the many benefits it contains.

Comparable to this is the case of a sick person thanking a doctor who has just amputated one of his limbs in order to save his life, even though this would serve to disable him to some extent.

 

-Its expiating sins and errors,

 “Any disaster that strikes you is through what your own hands have earned and He pardons much” [al-Shūrā (42): 30]

 

The Messenger of Allāh (SAW) said,

The believer is not afflicted with illness or hardship, even if it be a worry that troubles him or a thorn that pricks him, except that his sins would be expiated as a result of it.[12]

 

-Showing mercy to those who are undergoing affliction and coming to their aid.

[It is reported that ʿĪsā (SAW) would say], “People are either living in times of ease and well-being or facing tribulation, so be merciful to those who are facing tribulation and thank Allāh for your own well-being.”[13]

 

[The poet said],

The only one to show mercy upon the lovers is one who has loved

 

-Understanding the greatness of the blessing of ease and well-being.

This is because blessings are never truly appreciated until one loses them.

 

-Understanding what Allāh, Most High, has caused to be the outcome of these benefits in terms of reward in the Hereafter.

 

-Realising the many hidden benefits it contains,

 “…it may well be that you dislike something in which Allāh has placed a lot of good” [al-Nisāʾ (4): 19]

“…it may be that you hate something when it is good fir you…” [al-Baqarah (2): 216]

“Those who propagated the lie, do not suppose it to be bad for you; rather it is good for you” [al-Nūr (24): 11]

 

When the tyrannical ruler took Sārah from Ibrāhīm, one of the hidden benefits of this trial was that later she was given Hājar as a servant who bore Ibrāhīm, Ismāʿīl, from whose progeny was born the Master of the Messengers and the Seal of the Prophets (SAW). Look and see how great the hidden benefit was in that trial! It is said,

How many are blessings hidden

Under the veil of tribulations

 

Another person said,

Perhaps something that is detested, hateful

Contains much blessings from Allāh

 

-Tribulation and hardship prevents one from evil, vanity, boastfulness, arrogance, ostentation and oppression.

Were Nimrod someone poor and feeble, blind and deaf, he would never have argued with Ibrāhīm concerning his Lord; however he was deceived into this by his sovereignty as pointed out by Allāh, Exalted is He,

 “What about the one who argued with Ibrāhīm about his Lord, on the basis that Allāh had given him sovereignty?” [al-Baqarah (2): 258]

 

Were Pharaoh to have been similarly tried, he would never have said,

 “I am your Lord Most High!” [al-Nāziʿāt (79): 24]

 

Allāh, Most High, says,

 “…they were vindictive for no cause other than that Allāh and His Messenger had enriched them from His bounty” [al-Tawbah (9): 74]

“No indeed! Truly man is unbridled, seeing himself as self-sufficient” [al-ʿAlaq (96): 76]

“Were Allāh to expand the provision of His servants, they would act as tyrants on the earth” [al-Shūrā (42): 27]

“Those who did wrong gladly pursued the life of luxury that they were given…” [Hūd (11): 116]

“…We would give them abundant water so that We could test them by it” [al-Jinn (72): 16-17]

“We never sent a warner into any city without the affluent people saying, ‘we reject what you have been sent with’” [Sabaʾ (34): 34]

 

It is because of these great benefits that those who were tried most severely were the Prophets, then the righteous and then those closest to them.[14] They were accused of being mad, magicians, fortune tellers; they were mocked and ridiculed,

 “…but they were steadfast in the face of denial and injury they suffered…” [al-Anʿām (6): 34]

 

It has been said to us,

 “Or do you suppose that you would enter Paradise without facing the same as those who came before you? Poverty and illness afflicted them and they were shaken to the point that the Prophet and the believers with him said, ‘when is Allāh’s help coming?’ Be assured that Allāh’s help is very near” [al-Baqarah (2): 214]

“We will test you with a certain amount of fear and hunger and loss of wealth, life and fruits. But give good news to the steadfast…” [al-Baqarah (2): 155]

“You will be tested in your wealth and in yourselves and you will hear many abusive words from those who were given the Book before you and from the polytheists” [Āli Imrān (3): 186]

 

The Companions were evicted from their homes and lands, forced to flee leaving their possessions behind them, their tribulations went from severity to severity, their enemies multiplied in number, on occasion they were overcome and defeated, many of them were killed at Uḥud and other places and battles, the Messenger of Allāh (SAW) received injury in his face, one of his molar teeth was broken and his helmet was crushed into the sides of his head and split to expose his head; his enemies rejoiced and his associates despaired. On the Day of al-Khandaq they were tried to the point that,

 “…the believers were tested and severely shaken” [al-Aḥzāb (33): 11]

“…when the eyes rolled and the hearts rose to the throats…” [al-Aḥzāb (33): 10]

 

They would live in a constant state of fear, destitution and poverty. They would be forced to tie rocks to their stomachs out of severe hunger and the Master of the first and last never ate his fill of bread twice in any one day.[15] He was injured in various ways to the point that they accused the chastity of his most beloved wife. Then, towards the end of his life, he was tried with Musaylamah, Ṭulayḥah and al-Ansī.[16] When he (SAW) passed away, his armour was mortgaged to a Jew for thirty sāʾ of wheat.[17]

 

The Prophets and righteous have always faced trials and tribulations, with each person being tried in proportion to his religion. Some of them would be sawn in half but this would not make them renegade from their faith. The Messenger of Allāh (SAW) said,

The example of the believer is like that of a plant, the wind is always making it lean in one direction and then another, in the same way the believer is always afflicted with trial.[18]

The example of the believer is like the stem of a fresh tender plant, the wind causing it bend sometimes, fall over sometimes and stand erect at others until it withers and dies.[19]

 

The state of hardship and tribulation causes the servant to turn towards Allāh, Mighty and Magnificent.[20] The state of ease, well-being and blessings causes the servant to turn away from Allāh, Most High,

 “When harm touches man, he calls on Us, lying on his side or sitting down or standing up. Then when We remove the harm from him he carries on as if he had never called on Us when the harm first touched him” [Yūnus (10): 12]

 

This is why they ate scarcely and wore modest clothing etc. so that they could be in a state that would lead them to turn back to Allāh, Mighty and Magnificent, and devote themselves to Him.

 

-Being pleased and content[21] with the tribulation such that it would lead to the pleasure of Allāh, Most High.

This is because both the righteous and sinner is afflicted with trial, hence whoever is malcontent at its onset, for him is displeasure and misery in this life and the Hereafter. Whoever is pleased and content with it, for him lies in store the good pleasure of Allāh and that is greater than Paradise and what it contains, for Allāh, Exalted is He, says,

“…and Allāh’s good pleasure is even greater” [al-Tawbah (9): 72]

i.e. greater than the Gardens of Paradise.

 

These are brief perusals into what comes to mind concerning the benefits of tribulation. We ask Allāh that He forgive us and give us well-being in this world and the Hereafter. May Allāh grants us the accord to enact that which He loves and is pleased with.

Peace and blessings be upon Muḥammad, his family and Companions.

Allāh is sufficient for us and what an excellent disposer of our affairs is He.

 


ENDNOTES

[1] Inābah: returning. ibn al-Qayyim, Madārij al-Sālikīn [1/467] said, ‘Inābah comprises four matters: the love of Allāh, submission to Him, turning to Him, and turning away from everything besides Him. A person cannot be said to penitent unless he meets all four requirements and the explanation of the Salaf to this word revolves around this. The word also carries the meaning of quickness, returning and precedence; therefore the penitent is rushing to do that which would please his Lord, turning back to Him at every moment and foremost in doing that which He loves.’

[2] Duʿā: to call out, to summon. Khaṭṭābī, Shaʾn al-Duʿā [p. 4] said, ‘The meaning of duʿā is the servants asking his Lord for His help and continued support. Its essence is that a person shows his need of Allāh and expresses his inability to change any matter himself or having any power and ability. This characteristic is the mark of servitude and exemplifies it. Duʿā also carries with it the meaning of praising Allāh and attributing to Him generosity and grace.’

[3] Ḥilm: the abandonment of haste. Rāghib, al-Mufradāt said, ‘It is the ability to control the soul and temperament at the onrush of anger.’ Jāhiẓ, Tahdhīb al-Akhlāq said, ‘Tt is the abandonment of taking revenge in the state of extreme anger, despite the ability to do so.’ Jurjāni, al-Tarīfāt said, ‘It is to be calm in the state of anger.’

ibn Ḥibbān (d. 354H), Rawatu’l-ʿUqalāʾ [pp. 170-174] said, ‘It is to prevent the soul, at the onset of something that it dislikes, from falling into that which is prohibited. It is made up of cognisance (maʿrifah), patience (abr), deliberation (anāh) and examination and circumspection (tathabbut). …Were ḥilm to have no praiseworthy trait except preventing one from falling into sin and entering into despicable situations, this would be sufficient in making it obligatory upon the intelligent to adhere to whenever he finds the opportunity…It is obligatory upon the intelligent when he becomes angry and exasperated to bring to mind the ḥilm that Allāh displays to him despite his frequently transgressing the bounds and falling into sin, this should then direct him to showing ḥilm and prevent his anger from leading to sin…were ḥilm to have parents, one of them would be intelligence and the other silence.’

Māwardī (d.450H), Adab al-Dunyā wa’l-Dīn [p. 184] said, ‘Ḥilm is from the most noble of qualities and the most deserving of being possessed by the intelligent, the perspicuous. It serves to preserve ones honour, keep one free from trouble and worry, and attract respect and praise.’

[4] Muslim [#17, 18] on the authority of ibn ʿAbbās and Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī

[5] Ibn Ḥibbān [p. 131] said, ‘It is necessary that the intelligent accustom his soul to forgiving people and to leave repaying evil with evil. This is because there is nothing that would silence an evil better than good treatment and beneficence and there is nothing that would stir up evil more than repaying evil with evil… Whoever desires copious reward, to receive devout love and good mention, let him experience the bitterness of opposing his base desires and taking to the way we have highlighted: joining relations when they have been severed; giving in the face of prevention; ḥilm in the face of ignorance; and forgiveness in the face of oppression. These are the greatest morals and manners of the religious.’

[6] Ṣabr: to refrain and withhold. Rāghib said, ‘It is to withhold the soul as determined by the Legal Law and the intellect.’ Jāḥiẓ said that it is a quality made up of sobriety and courage and Manāwī said that it was the ability to face disturbing and painful circumstances, both physical and mental. It is to withhold the soul from misery and displeasure, the tongue from complaining and the limbs from derangement; it is to remain firm upon the laws of Allāh in all circumstances and to face adversity with the best of conduct.

Ibn Ḥibbān [pp. 126-128] said, ‘It is obligatory upon the intelligent, in the beginning, to adhere firmly to abr at the onset of difficulty and when he becomes firm in this he should then move on to the level of contentment (riā). If one has not been nourished with abr he should adhere firmly to inculcating abr in himself (taabbur) for that is the first stages of riā. If a man was to have abr, truly would he be noble; for abr is the fount of all good and the foundation of all obedience… The stages leading to it are concern (ihtimām), awakening (tayakkuẓ), examination and circumspection (tathabbut), and taabbur; after it comes riā and that is the peak of the spiritual stations… abr is displayed in three matters: abr from sin; ābr upon obedience; and abr at the face of adversity and calamity.’ See also ibn al-Qayyim, Madārij al-Sālikīn [1/162-165]

[7] Bukhārī [#1429] and Muslim [#1053] on the authority of Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī

[8] Ibn Mājah [#4024] on the authority of Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī. Būṣayrī said its isnād was ṣaḥīḥ as did Ḥākim [#119] with Dhahabī agreeing as did Albānī, al-Ṣaḥīḥah [#144]

[9] Abū Nuʿaym, al-Ḥilyah [1/180 #416]

[10] Abū Umāmah reports that the Messenger of Allāh (SAW) said, “Allāh tests you through tribulation in order to refine you, just as you refine gold with fire. Amongst you are those who are left resembling pure gold – such is a person whom Allāh has saved from evil deeds; amongst you are those who are left resembling gold of lesser quality – such is a person who falls into some degree of doubt; and amongst you are those who are left resembling black gold – such a person is one who gives in to the trial.”

Recorded by Bayhaqī, Shuʿab [#9924] and Ḥākim [#7878] said it was ṣaḥīḥ with Dhahabī agreeing.

ʿAlī (RA) said, ‘Son of Ādam! Do not rejoice at wealth and do not despair at poverty. Do not become despondent at the onset of tribulation and do not rejoice at the onset of ease for gold is refined through fire and the righteous servant is refined through tribulation. You will not attain what you want except be leaving what you desire and you will not reach what you aspire to except through abr. Expend all your efforts in carefully fulfilling the duties made obligatory upon you.’

[11] Shukr: praising another for the good that he has done to one. Ibn al-Qayyim [2/244] said, ‘Shukr is to display the effects of the blessings of Allāh upon the tongue by way of praise and acknowledgment; in the heart by way of witnessing and love; and upon the limbs by way of submission and obedience.’ Fairozabādī said that shukr was built upon five pillars: submission to the One who gave the blessings; loving Him; acknowledging His blessing; praising Him for it; and not using it in any way that may displease Him.

Ibn Ḥajr, Fatḥ al-Bārī [11/311] said, ‘Shukr comprises abr upon obedience and away from disobedience. Some of the Imāms said that abr necessitates shukr and cannot be completed without it, and the opposite; hence if one of them goes so too does the other. So whoever is in a state of receiving favours, it is obligatory upon him to show abr and shukr; ṣabr from disobedience. Whoever is in a state of trial, it is also obligatory upon him to show ṣabr and shukr; shukr by establishing the rights of Allāh during that trial. Indeed servitude is due to Allāh in times of tribulation and in times of ease.’

[12] Bukhārī [#5641] and Muslim [#2573]

[13] Mālik [2/986]

[14] Aḥmad [#1481, 1494, 1555, 1607], Tirmidhī [#2400] and ibn Mājah [#4023] on the authority of Saʿd b. Abī Waqqāṣ. Tirmidhī said it was ḥasan ṣaḥīḥ; Ḥākim [#120] said it was ṣaḥīḥ and Dhahabī agreed.

[15] Muslim [#2970]

[16] These were all people who claimed Prophethood.

[17] Bukhārī [#2916] on the authority of ʿĀʾishah

[18] Bukhārī [#5644] and Muslim [#2809] on the authority of Abū Hurayrah

[19] Bukhārī [#5643] and Muslim [#2810] on the authority of Kaʿb b. Mālik

[20] Manāwī, Fayḍ al-Qadīr [1/245] said, ‘Ghazālī said, “If you see Allāh, Mighty and Magnificent, holding back this world from you, frequently trying you with adversity and tribulation, know that you hold a great status with Him. Know that He is dealing with you as he does with His Awliyāʾ and chosen elite and is watching over you, have you not heard His saying, “So wait steadfastly for the judgment of your Lord – you are certainly before Our eyes.” [al-Ṭūr (52): 48], so acknowledge this great favour upon you.”’

[21] Riā: the opposite of displeasure and malcontent. Jurjānī said that it referred to the joy of the heart at the occurrence of the decree. Ibn al-Qayyim [2/185] mentioned that it is the tranquillity of the heart in the face of the vicissitudes of the decree and the firm knowledge that it has that Allāh would only that which is good for it.

Ibn Rajab, Jāmi al-ʿUlūm wa’l-Ḥikam [1/239] said, ‘Riā is recommended whereas ṣabr is obligatory, from ṣabr ensues a great deal of good… The difference between riḍā and ṣabr is that ṣabr is to restrain ones soul from feeling and displaying displeasure or malcontent coupled with sensing the pain of what has befallen him and the desire to see it removed; riḍā is the expansion of the heart to what has befallen it, its total acceptance of the divine decree and its not desiring to see it removed. Even though one may feel pain, riḍā lessens that pain because of the certainty (yaqīn) and cognisance (maʿrifah) that has taken root in the heart. As the state of riḍā strengthens it is even possible that the person no longer feel the pain at all.’

Bayhaqī [#209] records that ibn Masʿūd (RA) said, ‘Riḍā is that you not please the people at the expense of the displeasure of Allāh; that you not praise anyone for the provision Allāh has granted you; and that you not blame anyone for that which Allāh has not given you. The grant of provision is not dictated by the desire of a person and neither is it withheld because of the dislike of another. It is Allāh, through His knowledge and justice, who has placed relief and joy in certainty and riḍā and placed worry and despair in doubt and malcontent.’

 

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