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The Foundational Characteristics of a Believer in Times of Distress

The Foundational Characteristics of a Believer in Times of Distress

By Sheikh Mikaeel Olivieri (Abdur Rahman)

Almighty Allah has put us in this world for a short amount of time. In our time here, we must quickly assess and examine our situation. By the grace of Almighty Allah, he has guided us to the religion of Islam. Islam has left no stone unturned in showing us, in a very beautiful and simple way, how to live. The biggest test, of course, is dealing with trials and tribulations. Allah, outlining this, says in the Quran:

أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَنْ يُتْرَكُوا أَنْ يَقُولُوا آَمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ  وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ االْكَاذِبِينَ

Does man suppose that he will be left alone saying the he believes without being tested? We have already tested the people before, so most definitely Allah knows who are truthful, and he will definitely know the liars.

     Here we can see that the trials of this world are actually a test from Almighty Allah to differentiate the real believers from the fake. Like a goldsmith when he melts the gold to separate the real gold from the fake properties in it, Allah uses a similar process called "fitna", which actually happens to have the meaning of melting.

       There are a couple of foundational characteristics that a believer must have in order to have a fighter’s chance in confronting the trials and tribulations of this worldly life.

        The first is a very strong faith in Almighty Allah. One who has strong faith knows that all things come from He who is eternal in His wisdom. If a stranger hit you without reason, it would frustrate you.  If your mother hit you, however, you would realize there is love and wisdom in her action. In the same way, through strong faith, we realize the source of our trials, and that is Almighty Allah. It is for this reason the companions of Rasulullah (SAW) were praised by Almighty Allah in Surah Ahzaab:

وَلَمَّا رَأَى الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الْأَحْزَابَ قَالُوا هَٰذَا مَا وَعَدَنَا اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَصَدَقَ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ ۚ وَمَا زَادَهُمْ إِلَّا إِيمَانًا ووَتَسْلِيمًا

And when the believers saw the coalition forces they said this is what our Lord and His messenger promised us, and Allah and His messenger have spoken the truth. And this incident only increased them in faith and submission.

     Here we can see that the companions, because of their strong faith, were able to endure such a great trial like the war of Ahzaab toward the end of the 4th year of hijra.  It seemed like a doomsday for the Muslims.

      The second characteristic is to continue to do good deeds, which are a manifestation of our faith in Allah. Deeds are the outstanding quality of a believer at all times as he/she is always working toward bettering his/her hereafter, as Rasulullah has said:

عَجَبًا لأمرِ المؤمنِ إِنَّ أمْرَه كُلَّهُ لهُ خَيرٌ وليسَ ذلكَ لأحَدٍ إلا للمُؤْمنِ إِنْ أصَابتهُ سَرَّاءُ شَكَرَ فكانتْ خَيرًا لهُ وإنْ أصَابتهُ ضَرَّاءُ صَبرَ فكانتْ خَيرًا لهُ ". رواهُ مُسْلِمٌ

Marvelous is the affair of the believer. All of his affairs are somehow good for him, and only a believer's affairs can somehow always be good for him. If he is happy, then he remains grateful, and that is good for him; and if he is in misery, he remains patient, and that is good for him.

     Gratefulness and patience are qualities that have an aspect of continuously performing good deeds at times of ease and of difficulty. No person was given the blessings of Allah like it was given to Sulaiman (AS). His dua to Allah was:

رَبِّ أَوْزِعْنِي أَنْ أَشْكُرَ نِعْمَتَكَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ وَعَلَىٰ وَالِدَيَّ وَأَنْ أَعْمَلَ صَالِحًا تَرْضَاهُ وَأَدْخِلْنِي بِرَحْمَتِكَ فِي عِبَادِكَ االصَّالِحِينَ

O my Lord, inspire me to be grateful for Your blessing that You have bestowed on me and my father, and inspire me to do good deeds with which You are pleased, and enter me through Your mercy among Your pious servants.

Ulema has said that gratefulness is manifest through the tongue, heart, and body. All three have been covered in this verse.  These can only be achieved by those who have pure, grateful hearts.

اعْمَلُوا آلَ دَاوُودَ شُكْرًا ۚ وَقَلِيلٌ مِّنْ عِبَادِيَ االشَّكُورُ

Work, O Family of David, with gratitude!  But few of my servants are grateful (excerpt from Surah 34: 13).

     Patience also has this same flavor --condition of the heart and tongue, which is easily seen in these verses:

وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ (155) الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ  baqara

Give good news to the patient ones.  When something bad happens, they say, “Truly, to Allah we belong, and truly, to Him we will return” (excerpt from Surah 2: 155-156).

    But what cannot be forgotten is the aspect of doing good deeds at time of difficulty and this is hand-in-hand with patience. Rasulullah, at times of difficulty, would turn to doing good deeds.

كان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم إذا حزبه أمرٌ صلىAbu Dawud 

When an affair would worry Rasulullah (SAW), he would resort to prayer.

   That is why it is of utmost importance that, no matter what conditions come on this ummat, we can never introduce the idea of abandoning good deeds or turning form our deen, which is a sign of weak faith. We must endure and begin to confront our trials with strong faith and steadfastness in good deeds. These are foundational, and any effort without them will be fruitless and a waste of time.

(Sheikh Mikaeel Olivieri (Abdur Rahman) is Dean of Students at Darul Uloom, New York)



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