|In the name of
GOD, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
There is no other god beside GOD
Our response to Tests
Imagine being in the situation of the prophet Job (38:41). Faced with a test, he would have tried his hardest to be a good submitter. He would have examined himself, repented and tried to figure out what he was doing or had done wrong. But his test continued for some time. What can we learn from this example? While our tests and reasons for them vary, we can learn from Quran how a submitter responds to tests: we implore God, seek forgiveness and repent, and steadfastly submit (38:24, 34, 41-44).
Do you expect to enter Paradise without being tested like those before you? They were tested with hardship and adversity, and were shaken up, until the messenger and those who believed with him said, "Where is GOD's victory?" GOD's victory is near. (2:214)
Even the messengers and the believers with him can be "shaken up" with their test. God tells us that we will be tested with "fear, hunger, and loss of money, lives, and crops." He also says: "Give good news to the steadfast." (2:155)
The Quran teaches us that we are put to the test to see if we worship God under all circumstances. (Note: we may be tested with blessings too.) We will all be tested. Tests in themselves are not bad things (2:155-157, 3:140-142, 8:28, 5:48, etc.). If a test improves our understanding, draws us closer to God, and proves our steadfastness it is a blessing for our souls. Even if we don't initially pass a test, we may learn from it and benefit our souls for the next time we face a similar test.
The story of Job shows us that a test may be exceptionally severe. In Job's case the Bible tells us that he lost his family and he was afflicted with terrible physical suffering (Book of Job, Ch. 1). Neither the Quran nor the Bible mentions a mistake made by Job. The story in the Quran (21:83-84, 38:41-44) tells us of his response to the test instead of the cause. Indeed for our own lives, it may not be as useful for us to know the specific details of his adversity, since our tests are designed for our individual circumstances (38:34, 41). What God does tell us, is how he responded. Job implored God, remained steadfast, and upheld his pledge to God. This was the right response, and God uses the phrase, "What a good servant!" when describing his steadfast submission. This is a good lesson for us. After the tests are over God makes it up to the believers (38:43).
When we or someone else is facing a major difficulty, the question may cross our minds as to whether something is a test or a punishment. Each situation and submitter is different, and every person has to examine (18:103-105, 59:18) and interpret their own life (with God's help). It is important that we should seek help through steadfastness and the Contact Prayers (2:45, 153), advocate righteousness and remain steadfast in the face of adversity (31:17) and not despair (15:56, 19:4) as we believe God when He says He forgives all sins (39:53) and that repentance cleans the slate (9:11).
[2:153] O you who believe, seek help through steadfastness and the Contact Prayers (Salat). GOD is with those who steadfastly persevere.
Events in another human's life may not be for us to fully understand. In terms of another person's test, our role is not to examine their soul (that is their job). But we can ask what we can do that would please God. This may include praying Al-Fãtehah for them, or if a person needs assistance (for the soul or the body), we can provide it with kindness and without reproach (2:263-265, 41:33-34, 17:53). We should trust that a submitter faced with a test would respond appropriately. On our part we should refrain from reprimanding or hurting them, and instead treat them with kindness and compassion (48:29). God may create situations or opportunities for us to help them in other ways.
Returning to ourselves, perhaps reviewing the purpose of our creation may help put things in perspective. When the great feud arose in the heavenly society (38:69), you and I did not side whole-heartedly with God. This world is divinely designed to manifest our decision to uphold either God's absolute authority, or Satan's idolatrous views (67:1-2). The day and the night change constantly to test our willingness to uphold God's laws by observing the Dawn Prayer and fasting during the hottest and longest days. Only those who are totally certain about God's absolute authority are redeemed (26:89).
If we step out of God's kingdom temporarily (or, God forbid, are permanently living outside it), God may allow Satan to afflict us with some hardship or pain. The important thing to remember is that disasters and pain come from Satan, not God. Nothing bad or evil comes from God (4:78-79), but rather is due to our own weaknesses and inflicted by Satan. These are important principles and sometimes misunderstood, even by good submitters (4:78).
If we are examining our lives, we may want to better understand the mechanism behind the adversity we are facing. If we are destined to believe God willing, we will not continue to transgress like the community of Lot to the point of no return.
Admission tests: Once we make the decision to submit whole-heartedly to God and forsake Satan's kingdom in favor of God's, submitters undergo admission tests to prove our true convictions (3:154, 186). We are told in 29:2 that the test is mandatory. Note: we have admission tests because we chose to worship God alone, not because we did something wrong per se, it's usually in the first 5 years of Submission though it may be over in the first few months.
We may be tested through wealth, health, or lack of them, to see if we worship God alone under all circumstances (38:34 & 41). Why are some people tested with adversity, and some with prosperity? God knows best. For all that we know, if God were to test us differently, we may either turn despondent (41:49) or drift away (41:51). We pray that God may protect us from falling into either of those traps.
God also teaches us, through the story of Job, that if we face hardship in an admission test—He makes it up to us (21:84, 38:43). He restores loss of health or wealth so we have nothing to fear.
Educational disaster: An educational disaster is a reminder to return to the straight path. All of us go through a polishing or learning process to grow our souls. If we need an external event or “pinch” to remind us that we’re doing something wrong, God in His kindness lets us have one. While this test is still caused by something we have done (4:78-79), if we respond by learning from this lesson, God takes away the problem. The story of Jonah (21:87-88) is a good example of this type of disaster. Had he not been swallowed, he might not have turned back to God.
Blessings in disguise: These appear to be disasters, but when they pass, we look back and see they were good for us. We are told that the human prays for things that may hurt him, thinking he is praying for good (17:11). What we think is bad for us, may really be good for us in the long run (18:71, 97).
Retribution: Finally, the last kind of disaster mentioned in the Quran is that of retribution incurred by people who have reached a point of no reform (e.g., Sodom & Gomorrah, 11:77-83). This one comes from God, not Satan. This is different from the previous categories as it ends their life. Death is a fact of life (3:156, 4:78, 6:61, 23:14-15, 28:88, 35:11; please also see Appendix 17), so it is not really a disaster since we all die. While people who are annihilated have no further opportunity to repent and reform, God knows that their continuance will not improve their souls. Thus, if examined carefully, retribution is a mercy for a community in a hopelessly trapped in a state of transgression. Those in the community who die under the age of 40 go to heaven (46:15), and the rest are spared by God from committing more sins against their soul.
All adversity is a punishment. If we repent, reform, hold fast to God and devote our religion absolutely to God alone we know He will not punish us (4:146-147). Also God may use hardship to toughen the submitters (3:141). It is a punishment only if we turn away (5:49).
The size and/or duration of the disaster reflects the size of a transgression. The examples of Job and Joseph show that tests are not comparable across submitters. As a true believer, Joseph had a greater responsibility and this also meant the consequences were greater (12:42). Similarly, those close to a messenger or blessed with proofs (33:32, 5:114) have a greater responsibility. If someone is apparently going through a harsher test than you, it does not mean you are more righteous than they are.
Our job is to repeatedly remind those undergoing tests until they repent or confess their sins. That is not our job. A submitter's repentance is to God Alone and comes from within. God tells us to not be suspicious of or harsh with one another, and instead worry about our own necks. While a reminder or invitation may benefit a submitter if God provides such an opportunity, repeatedly reminding someone may reflect our own ego and repel people by setting a poor and unkind example. Quranic references to inviting people to the message say to do it kindly (16:125). We cannot guide anyone, only God guides (28:56). Submitters are allies of one another (5:55, 8:72) and are kind, humble, and compassionate amongst themselves (52:26).
If you're not currently healthy and wealthy, you're not currently a submitter. The Quran makes it clear that this is not so (2:184-185, 2:196, 4:102, 26:80, 73:20). Not only is Job a good example, but also we're told in 9:91-2 and 24:61 that there are believers who wish to mobilize in the cause of God but may be too weak or sick to do so. A poor believer (9:79) is still a believer and must be treated like a fellow submitter. Their worldly status does not exclude them from being submitters at that time. An individual, with God's help, may be in a position to know what is going on with their lives, but outsiders may not know what is in their hearts and minds. Again, it is God's system that He creates us weak, then grants us strength and then we become weak again 30:54. As our time on this earth is short, God gives us reminders about our mortality that we may keep Him in our mind constantly.
In 80:1-11 God gives us the example of a blind man whom Muhammad ignored in favor of a rich man though the blind man was truly reverent to God. This shows us that this worldly life may not be a good way to know the state of someone's soul, or to say who is better than whom. The only criterion for distinguishing among people is righteousness (49:13).
To conclude, it is valuable to focus on how we respond to any test or problem. From David and Job we learn that a submitter seeks forgiveness, repents, implores God and remains steadfast. We should not despair, and instead should focus on growing the soul and learning the lessons God is teaching us. It can help to remind ourselves that God is running everything. The polishing process to purify our souls can be severe, but is well worth it. The body is not the real person, and is like a temporary shirt for the real person, the soul. Happiness is an exclusive property of the soul and comes from God. Hence, observing the religious duties and commandments that lead to the growth of our souls is what helps us achieve happiness in this world and the eternal Hereafter. This life is a temporary illusion and our energies must be channeled towards growing our true selves closer to God (73:8). If we do so, the test can prove to be a great blessing for our soul. A response that allows us to increase our devotion to God is a blessing.
God suffices as our advocate, and we must remain steadfast in our devotion to Him (2:177, 3:17, 3:142, 73:8-10). We will all die at a predetermined moment. It is the status of our soul in the other dimension, not our achievements in this dimension, which will matter when that time comes (69:19-29, Sura 92, 101:6-9).
International Community of Submitters / Masjid Tucson
The world wide community of those who Submit to God Alone and advocate the worship of God Alone
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