FOR many of us, the world often becomes a place for merriment or sadness, depending on the events we experience. We wonder at the apparent contradictions, are stricken by the injustices and pain that surround us, which sometimes touch our own lives. Why could the world not be a better place? Why are moments of happiness so fleeting, and our trials and tribulations seemingly unending?
In all divine religions, this world is a place of trial for humankind, and thus necessarily unjust. Looking around the universe, the presence of a Creator seems to be the only possibility, and His justice as real and given. To compensate for the injustice here, a day will come when justice will be meted out, every human being will be required to give an account of his deeds and shall be rewarded or punished accordingly. God tests mankind in their mettle and their belief in Him, through both comfort and suffering.
A life of prosperity and wealth is easy in this world, but can lead to destruction in the Hereafter, unless one is careful, constantly kind and charitable to his fellow beings and thankful to God. Jesus urged his followers to enter by the “narrow gate” even though it was difficult to pass through and there would be few who would be able to do so.
In all divine religions, this world is a place of trial.
According to the Quran: “But he did not surmount the steep path. And what have you understood what this steep path is?”(90:11-12).
God tries mankind in several ways, including taking him through both good and testing times. It depends on the attitude that man takes towards his circumstances, and how he responds. He could adopt the quality of sabr, simultaneously making efforts to overcome his difficulties, or, in times of prosperity, being grateful to God and sharing his bounties. The other way is to despair and complain, to display arrogance, in the belief that the goods that have come a man’s way are signs of his superiority.
By nature, man tends to forget God when things are going well, and wail about his poor fortunes when faced with difficult circumstances.
Men of power and authority are under greater tests, if they only knew it. Their responsibilities towards their fellows (huqooqul ibad) — countrymen, the poor and the needy, orphans, neighbours — are far in excess of what would be required of an ordinary person. The privileged class is bound under Islam to follow simplicity in their personal lives; ensure justice to all, regardless of race, creed, colour, status or gender; give equal treatment to all citizens; provide education, food and health services; ensure freedom of expression and to practice religion, and protection from fraud, violence or attack on property or honour.
Indeed, from this perspective, God is testing the Muslim rulers in this world, including in Pakistan, severely. The apparent state of the citizenry shows that the former are either unaware of this, or believe that they will be protected from the repercussions. The gap between the rulers and the ruled has continued to widen, due to the misdeeds of both groups, leading to unrest, violence and backwardness in Muslim countries.
At several places in the Quran, and in ahadith, it is stated that whatever the crimes committed by humans against each other, both the victim and the victimiser shall be brought face to face on the Day of Judgment and the latter shall be asked to answer for his actions. Any good that he may have done shall be added to the deeds of the oppressed. The oppressor shall be further punished according to the severity of his crimes. It is strange that many who claim belief deprive poor people of their rights, their property and assets and submit them to torture. When in positions of public responsibility, they evade their duties and allow suffering.
The already oppressed are often hit hardest by calamities. While the patience and fortitude with which they meet their misfortunes will be rewarded by God, once again, those who were in a position to help them or to prevent their suffering will be tested. The one who is suffering should know that God is fully aware of what he is going through, and that every sorrow shall be rewarded multifold in the Hereafter, provided he is following a path of submission to God.
Sometimes, the troubles we face are a consequence of our own actions, and we must deliberate on this before we begin to complain. Khaled Abou El Fadl, Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law has said, “There is a blessing in calamity that the wise man should not ignore, for it erases sins, gives one the opportunity to attain the reward for patience, dispels negligence, reminds one of blessings at the time of health, calls one to repent and encourages one to give charity.”
The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.
The Narrow Gate | Nikhat Sattar
Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2015