The Blessings of Hardship
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
We live in a time when anything and everything is available at the click of a button.
*A brother shares his contemplations on hardship and gratitude*
The lives we lead are filled with urgency, immediacy, deadlines and appointments, carefully interwoven around busy schedules, busy families, fast cars and fast food. Spending two minutes stuck in traffic is enough to make our blood boil. We no longer have time to stop and think about our lives, to look around and remind ourselves about what really matters. Life now moves so fast that it passes us by without us barely noticing. We have become so focused upon making life ‘better’ that we fail to appreciate the lives we already have. We’re so busy complaining about things that displease us that we fail to even acknowledge the many blessings that we take for granted each and very moment of each and every day.
Some years ago, I had a work colleague who would spend around 10 minutes each lunchtime listing 5 good things that had happened to him in the last 24 hours. I’m sure most of us have days when we genuinely believe that nothing good has happened to us. We could easily list 100 things that annoyed us, inconvenienced us or stressed us out in some way. Yet each and every day my work colleague would list five different good things that happened to him. Whether it be receiving a smile from a child, or finding a clean pair of socks, he would patiently remind himself of the many fleeting moments that we have to be grateful for, moments that most of us fail to even register as significant.
My work colleague would have made an excellent Muslim. According to one of the great scholars of Islam, Ibn al-Qayyim, the faith of a Muslim consists of two related and often interdependent qualities; those of patience and of gratitude. Attempting to cultivate these two extraordinary qualities lies at the heart of becoming a good Muslim. We are taught by the wisdom of the Qur’an, and the lives of our noble Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions, the importance of being patient and grateful to God both in times of hardship and of comfort. For a Muslim this is the essence of faith, something which we all should strive to achieve.
As Muslims, we aim to develop a very different attitude to the hardships that appear throughout our lives. God tells us in the Qur’an that there is an excellent reward awaiting the patient and grateful ones in the Hereafter. A little hardship in life, if endured with dignity and patience, can hold the key to the eternal pleasure of paradise. It is through coping with the trials of life, that a Muslim grows closer to God, because the knowledgable Muslim understands that trials are our chance to please our Creator and earn the rewards he has promised us. Each hardship we encounter is simply another opportunity to prove our faith and earn the pleasure of God. Being stuck in traffic really doesn’t seem that bad, after all!
The next time I am frustrated with one of these minor inconveniences of life, I will aim to copy the good habit of my work colleague, for this is the very essence of my faith as a Muslim. Instead of whining about being stuck in traffic on the way to work, for example, I will remind myself to be grateful that I have a job; to be grateful that I have a car, and a family to support; to be grateful that I am healthy enough to be able to work and drive. With the stressful nature of modern life, to show a little patience and gratitude during the daily trials of life, is an easy way to earn the pleasure of my Creator. It is also the practice of developing the qualities and attitude I need to be a good Muslim.
N.B. The featured image associated with this piece is the Arabic text of a verse from the Holy Quran:
“Truly with hardship comes ease”