If we carefully reflect on our lives, we will realise that we all experience moments of both grief and happiness. One will never experience only grief or only happiness throughout his life. Every human being from the time of Sayyidunā Ādam ‘alayhis salām till today will have experienced both grief and happiness and this will be the case for every person to come till the last day. After moments, days, weeks or months of grief, Allāh ta‘ālā changes the situation and one finds himself enjoying happiness. Similarly after a period of happiness, be it short or long, a person will experience some grief.
Happiness and Grief: Samples of Jannah and Jahannam
One of the wisdoms behind creating grief and happiness and making us experience both is that after spending time in this world, a person will depart for the Hereafter where there is Jannah and Jahannam. The characteristic of Jannah is eternal comfort and happiness, whilst the characteristic of Jahannam is eternal hardship and grief. This world, however, bears the characteristics of both Jannah and Jahannam. The grief and happiness experienced here is, in effect, a sample of the eternal and unimaginable grief or happiness to come in the Hereafter. When one is struck with any condition that brings grief, for example illness and poverty, one should understand that this is merely a sample of the grief of the Hereafter. Allāh ta‘ālā puts His servants in this grief as a reminder that if they are unable to bear the limited and temporary grief of this world, then how will they bear the everlasting grief of Jahannam? Similarly, Allāh ta‘ālā gives one the taste of happiness, so that one can reflect and acknowledge that if temporary bounties of this world can bring such happiness, then what about the happiness acquired through the inconceivable bounties of Jannah. They serve as reminders for us to try our utmost to safeguard ourselves from the everlasting grief and strive to acquire the everlasting happiness of the Hereafter.
Happiness and Grief: Tests from Allāh ta‘ālā
Happiness and grief are both tests from Allāh ta‘ālā. Everything that we experience in this world either brings happiness or grief. Life is a blessing which results in happiness. The birth of a child or recovery of a loved one after being on the brink of death are certainly sources of happiness. On the other hand, losing a loved one is a source of grief. Everything in this world has a life and a death. Prosperity in business is life, whilst bankruptcy is its death. Honour and reputation is life, whilst humiliation and disgrace is its death. Similarly health is life, whilst illness is its death. Allāh ta‘ālā has created these two conditions to test His servants, to see whether the servant is patient and persevering when struck with grief and whether he is grateful when blessed with happiness.
Causes Behind Afflictions
It is important to understand that there isn’t always a single cause behind the afflictions and trials one experiences. When someone is struck with a calamity, the general tendency is to assume that it is a punishment from Allāh ta‘ālā as a consequence of the person’s sins. This is not always the case. No one has the right to be suspicious about someone else’s internal condition. The causes of afflictions can be good as well as bad. Those afflicted fall into one of three categories:
- The afflicted is not content with the Decree of Allāh ta‘ālā and complains saying things like, ‘Why did this happen to me? What have I done to deserve this?’ This is a sign that the calamity is a punishment from Allāh ta‘ālā.
- The afflicted is content with the Decree of Allāh ta‘ālā and exercises patience despite the discomfort. This is a sign that the calamity is a blessing and that the sins of the afflicted are being forgiven. Alhamdulillāh, majority of the Muslims find themselves in this category when afflicted.
- The afflicted not only observes patience and refrains from complaining but also shows gratitude to Allāh ta‘ālā for having saved him from something worse. When afflicted with an illness, for instance, he will remain thankful for being able to walk, see and hear. When his wealth is taken away from him, he thanks Allāh ta‘ālā for having protected his life. This is a sign that the one afflicted is a very special servant of Allāh ta‘ālā and the affliction is a means of elevating his status.
Immense Reward for Sabr
In light of the above, one should remember that grief is a test from Allāh ta‘ālā and one should bear it with patience; and true patience is to accept the Decision of Allāh ta‘ālā wholeheartedly. For such people are glad tidings and immense reward. Allāh ta‘ālā says,
We will most definitely test you with some fear and hunger, and loss in wealth, lives and fruits. And give glad tidings to the patient ones, those who when afflicted with an adversity say, ‘Indeed, to Allāh we belong and indeed, to Him we will return. (2:155-156)
Indeed, the patient ones will be given their reward in full without measure. (39:10)
Three Components of Shukr (Gratitude)
Another test from Allāh ta‘ālā is that of blessings and bounties which result in happiness. Allāh ta‘ālā desires to see shukr from those blessed with his favours. And this shukr comprises of three parts:
- Firstly, one needs to acknowledge with the heart and mind that one was not deserving of the blessings and bounties he enjoys. One should never feel that any bounty was a result of one’s effort and striving. Although such a thought does not usually arise regarding the bounties granted by Allāh ta‘ālā directly, such as the eyes and ears; but thoughts like these can occur with regard to bounties that apparently seem to have been acquired through one’s efforts. Wealth and knowledge are examples of such bounties. If the mind happens to think this way, then one should repel this thought by asking questions such as, ‘Who gave me the ability to strive in the first place? What about those who are more intelligent and able in this field than me?’ Moreover, one should always remember that Allāh ta‘ālā is capable of taking away the blessing in a split of a second if He wills.#
- Secondly, one should declare with the tongue what one has acknowledged with the heart and mind and thereafter, thank Him and praise Him saying, ‘Allāhumma lakal-hamdu wa lakash-shukr’ (O Allāh! For You is all praise and for You is all gratitude). One should also acknowledge that he can never praise Allāh ta‘ālā for His Blessings as He deserves to be praised. Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam supplicated:
لَا أُحْصِيْ ثَـنَاءً عَلَيْكَ، أَنْتَ كَمَا أَثْـنَـيْتَ عَلٰى نَفْسِكَ
I cannot truly praise You; You are as You have praised Yourself. (Ibn Mājah)
- Thirdly, one should refrain from utilising the Bounties of Allāh ta‘ālā in disobeying Him. The eyes, the ears, the tongue, wealth, health, knowledge and every bounty Allāh ta‘ālā has blessed us with should never be utilised in disobedience to Him. Only then can one be regarded truly grateful to Allāh ta‘ālā.
Patience and Gratitude: Two Doors of Jannah
Sabr (patience) in times of grief and shukr (gratitude) in times of happiness are both means of entering Jannah. Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam has said,
How wonderful is the situation of a believer! Every situation of his is khayr (goodness) for him, and this is for no one except the believer; if he finds himself in a favourable situation, he expresses gratitude, and this is good for him; and if he is afflicted with adversity, he exercises patience, and this is good for him. (Muslim)
A Beautiful Incident Regarding Shukr
There is a well-known incident of Sayyidunā Dāwūd ‘alayhis salām with regards to expressing true gratitude to Allāh ta‘ālā. Whilst engaged in shukr for the Blessings of Allāh ta‘ālā, he was inspired with a wonderful thought, ‘The tawfīq of shukr upon blessings granted by Allāh ta‘ālā is also a blessing from Him. Therefore, it is necessary to express shukr for this also.’ Upon engaging in shukr a second time, the same thought occurred again, so he carried out shukr for a third time. He then thought, ‘The tawfīq to express gratitude for a third time is yet another blessing.’ Now Sayyidunā Dāwūd ‘alayhis salām thought to himself that this is a never-ending cycle. Every shukr will always be a new blessing upon which another shukr will be necessary. Therefore, it is impossible to fulfil the responsibility of doing shukr. Sayyidunā Dāwūd ‘alayhis salām was compelled to say:
O my Rabb! How can I be [truly] grateful to You when my shukr to You is also a blessing from You upon me?
Upon this, Allāh ta‘ālā said,
O Dāwūd! Now you have expressed (true) gratitude to Me.
May Allāh ta‘ālā grant us the tawfīq to adopt the beautiful qualities of sabr and shukr. Āmīn.
Extracted from Riyāḍul Jannah, Vol. 29 No. 7, 2020