It is a simple truth that humankind did not create themselves; we humans are meant to acknowledge our dependence upon our Creator. He it is who provides us with a mandatory boot camp in regard to the moral laws of the universe, as well as —for those who graduate from boot camp—advanced training all along life’s journey.
THE TESTING-TRAINING PROCESS IN LIFE
Regardless of what ultimate truth-value we give to modern Science and no matter how we weigh what can be known with certainty by the methods of scientific thinking and investigation, the Quran asks us to pay attention, to observe, and to ponder over ourselves and over our world. Our sin and God’s forgiveness of us is part of His method of shaping our character in this life.
Allah’s dual act of testing-training us as human individuals, and as communities or nations is a prominent theme in the Quran. All along the way He has tallied our progress and has tailored the next steps to deal with our needs. Shouldn’t our self-development by experience —something in which all humans participate— shouldn’t this fact assure us that we are moving toward a goal. In fact, moving toward this goal is in accord with the very nature of our existence in this world.
This ultimate goal is a glorious one if we, as believers, are willing to look beyond the suffering and the blatant injustices we often see perpetrated everywhere around us —suffering and injustices, insha allah, not initiated or made worse by us.
Now, behold! Your Lord said to the angels: I am placing upon the earth a [human] successor [to steward it]. They said: Will you place thereupon one who will spread corruption therein, and who, [moreover,] will shed blood, while we ever exalt You with all praise and hallow You? He said: Indeed, I know what you do not know. … [God] said [to the angels]: Did I not say to you that I know [all] the [realms of the] unseen of the heavens and the earth, and I know what you reveal and what you conceal? [Sûrah Al-Baqarah, 2:30, 33]
For He [alone] is the One who has made you successors in the land, [O humankind,] and He has raised some of you above others by degrees, to test you in all that He has given you… [Sûrah Al-An’âm, 6:165]
He is the [Sole] Knower [of the realm of] the unseen. And never does He manifest His [knowledge of the] unseen [realm] to anyone—except for one among the messengers with whom He is well pleased. Then, indeed, He dispatches before such a one, and behind him, [angel-]sentinels, so that He may know [with proof] whether they [who are His messengers] have conveyed the messages of their Lord—though He [Himself] encompasses all [the mysteries that are] with them; and He [Himself] takes account of every single thing. [Sûrah Al-Jinn, 72:26-27]
And, most assuredly, We shall test [all of] you [believers] with something of fear and [with] hunger and [with] loss of wealth and life and crops. So give glad tidings [of everlasting delight in Paradise] to those who are [enduringly] patient—and those, who when an affliction strikes them, say: Indeed to God do we belong, and indeed, to Him are we returning. Upon such as these descend prayers [of blessing] from their Lord, and [His] mercy. And it is these who are rightly guided. [Sûrah Al-Baqarah, 2:155-157]
[Soloman] said: This is of my Lord’s favor [upon me], to try me, [as to] whether I will be thankful [to Him] or ungrateful. Yet anyone who is thankful [to God] is but thankful for [the good of] his own soul. And whoever is ungrateful—then, nevertheless, my Lord is self-sufficient, all-generous! [Sûrah Al-Naml, 27:40]
But, most assuredly, We shall test you, so that We might make known those who strive among you [for the sake of God] and those who are [truly] patient. We shall, moreover, test [the merit] of all that you say and do. [Surah Muhammad, 47:31]
Narrated Umm Salamah that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
When one of you is afflicted with a calamity, he should say: “We belong to Allah, and to Him we do return. (2:156) O Allah, I expect reward from You from this affliction, so give me reward for it, and give me a better compensation.” (Abu Dawud 3119)
Narrated Aishah that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said,
Whenever a believer is stricken with any hardship, or pain, or anxiety, or sorrow, or harm, or distress —even if it be a thorn that has hurt him — God redeems thereby some of his failings. (Bukhari 5642)
Abu Huraira reported that Allah’s Apostle (ﷺ) said:
Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, said: I have prepared for My pious servants bounties which no eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard and no human heart has ever perceived—leaving apart (those bounties) about which Allah has informed you. (Muslim, 2824b)
In spite of the wrongs which have been committed by ourselves and others, God promises never to slight His reward promised to believers who sincerely attend to pleasing their Lord. Nor will He overlook the evil deeds —Muslims included— of those who have refused to come to their senses in this life; they neglect to make their peace with their Lord for their deeds of disbelief in Him as Lord; they discount His power to set things aright through the agency of righteous acts —done by us so as to please Him. Do not find yourself among those who are led astray by others or who fail to listen to the advice of knowledgeable Muslims when they give correct guidance. All are responsible for their own deeds; faithful believers will be recompensed in mercy for their slightest goodness.
Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
“Support your brother, whether he is an oppressor or is being oppressed.” It was said, “O Messenger of Allah, we help the one being oppressed but how do we help an oppressor?” The Prophet said: “By restraining him or preventing him from committing injustice, for that is how you support him.” (Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhari 6552)
On that Day, all people shall issue forth [from their graves] in divergent multitudes to be shown their [past] deeds. So whoever does an atom’s weight of good shall behold it. And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil shall behold it. [Sûrah Al-Zalzalah, 99:6-8]
But there is no repentance for those who [continue to] do [great] sins—until, when death approaches one of them, he says: I do, indeed, repent now! [Sûrah Al-Nisâ’, 4:18]
Those who lead other Muslims astray are accomplices and thus liable for the misdeeds of those whom they lead astray.
CAbdullah bin CAmr bin Al-‘Âs reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying:
Verily, Allah does not take away knowledge by snatching it from the people but He takes away knowledge by taking away the scholars, so that when He leaves no learned person, people turn to the ignorant as their leaders; then when they are asked to deliver religious verdicts and they deliver them without knowledge, they go astray, and lead others astray. (Muslim 2673a)
Yet from among mankind there is the [type of] person who argues about God without any [revealed] knowledge, nor any [divine] guidance, nor an illuminating [Heavenly] Book. He turns himself aside [from the truth] in disdain, [so as] to lead [people] astray from the path of God. There shall be for him disgrace in this world. Then We shall make him taste, on the Day of Resurrection, the torment of burning [in Hellfire. It shall be said to him:] That is [the recompense] for all [the evil] that your two hands have advanced [in the world] —and never does God wrong [His] servants [in the least]. [Sûrah Al-Hajj, 22:9]
Allah coaches all who are willing to listen; He is generous in rewarding the least bit of good—with a view to training us to be tried and true believers, the best community of humankind.
You [believers] are the best Community ever brought forth for [the good of] humankind: You enjoin what is right. And you forbid what is wrong. And you believe in God. [Surah Âl Imrân, 3:110]
Indeed, God wrongs none, [not even by] an atom’s weight. … if there is a good deed, He multiplies it and gives, moreover, from His own bounty a magnificent reward [in the Hereafter]. How then shall it be [on Judgment Day] when We bring forth from each community [its prophet as] a witness—and We bring you forth, [O Muhammad,] over [all] these as a witness? On that Day, those who have disbelieved and disobeyed the Messenger shall [ardently] wish that the earth would be leveled with them [in it]. For they shall not conceal from God even a [single] word [of their deeds]. [Sûrah Al-Nisâ’, 4:40-42]
Yet those who disbelieve say: Never shall the Hour [of Doom] come to us. Say [to them]: On the contrary! By my Lord, it shall, most assuredly, come to you, indeed! [For] it is He [alone] who is the Knower of the unseen [realm]. Not even an atom’s weight—either in the heavens nor in the earth—eludes Him, nor anything smaller than that nor [anything] greater, but that it is [registered] in a clear record [preserved in Heaven], so that He may reward those who believe and do righteous deeds. For [such as] these there is forgiveness and a generous provision [awaiting in the Hereafter]. [Sûrah Saba’, 34:3-4]
All what is with you [in life] shall come to an end. But what is with God is everlasting—and those who have [remained] patient We shall certainly recompense them with their reward, [in accordance] with the very best that they ever did. Whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, and is a believer, We shall, most assuredly, cause him to live a good life. Moreover, We shall, most assuredly, recompense [all of] them with their reward, [in accordance] with the very best that they ever did. [16:96-97]
Allah trains us step-by-step through testing, and He guides to His Straight Path all who are willing to be guided.
…To be continued in Part 10