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Ibn 'Arabi On
Proximity And Distance

Why Do Muslims Fast?

Knowledge of Reality and
Ignorance of Reality -
What is Knowledge
of Reality?

Knowledge of Reality and
Ignorance of Reality -
Seeing Versus
Not Seeing

Knowledge of Reality and
Ignorance of Reality -
Journeying In
The Spiritual Path

Book of Theophanies

The Month of Ramadhan

Sufi Psychology:
The Isolation and
Transformation
of the Nafs

To Be Or Not To Be

Imposter Or
Mistaken Identity?

Moulana Rumi -
The Mirror of Divine Love

The Transformative Power
of the Fear of God

Test of the Hardship

The Theatre
of Life

Peace and the
Inner Jihad

Sufism and the
Paradox of Self

Surrender

Faith and Action

What is Tasawwuf
(Sufism)?

Listening for God:
Prayer and the Heart

 



Bismillaah ir Rahmaan ir Rahiim
In the name of Allah, The Merciful, The Compassionate



TEST OF THE HARDSHIP


By Fatima Fleur Nassery Bonnin


With so much unrest in the world and fighting between the nations, it is important that we recognise the misuse of religion (whether deliberate or unconscious) as a means of propagating conflict and violence. One wonders if those who are involved or causing such devastating actions or policies, have ever properly understood their respective scriptures and their teachings. As a Muslim, I need to be more critical of my own people since we have the book of Allah (swt) from which “nothing has been left out”, nor has it been contaminated by the hand of man. But alas, like most religious scripture, the Qur’an is being read by many Muslims at an exoteric level, and as a result it is often misunderstood and misused.

From the time of the Prophet (pbuh) until now, the reliable sources and commentators of the Qur’an have said that most of the ayaat in the Qur’an, whilst they have an exoteric meaning which would mainly relate to the events and the needs of that time, also have an esoteric meaning that relates to all generations. The Prophet (pbuh) is quoted as having said the Qur’an is wrapped in seven layers of meaning. This is inherent in the nature of scripture, and therefore all other scriptures from Allah (swt) would also have layers of both exoteric and esoteric meaning. However for the purpose of this article, regardless of what other religious groups have done or continue to do with their scriptures, as Muslims our focus needs to be to keep our own house in order and make an effort to understand the meaning and the teaching of the Qur’an so that we might act accordingly.

There are many references in the Qur’an about how very few people will use their intellect to properly understand. For example: “in this, there are lessons for those who can understand”, "there is indeed a lesson for all who have eyes to see", “if only they could understand”, "we detail Our signs for people who understand" or “in all this there is indeed a reminder to those who are endowed with insight”. (Qur’an 12:111, 3:13, 26:113, 6:98, 39:21)

With so many references in the Qur’an it would be absolutely to our detriment not to reflect on this and try to get the messages that our Creator who has created us and our psyche, our perception and our blindness, has given us using parables and examples in order to show us the Truth and the way to the Truth.

"A blessed divine writ which we have sent down so that men may ponder over its messages, and that those who are endowed with insight may take them to heart” - Qur’an 38:29

Let us start from the base of - “Allah created the heavens and the earth in accordance with the Truth. Behold, in this there is a message for those who believe” - Qur’an 29:44

Without delving too deeply into this verse and at an accessible level, this is to say that in every aspect of the creation and within every step and stage (since things often are in stages), there is no haphazardness or accidental cause and effect, but rather, a deliberate process and conclusion in accordance with His Will and His Plan which is the Reality and the Truth (Haqq).

“Unto every one of you have We appointed a law and way of life. And if Allah had so willed, He could surely have made you one single community; (but He willed it otherwise) in order to test you by means of that which He has vouchsafed unto you. So surpass one another in doing good deeds! Unto God you all must return; and then He will make you truly understand all the differences in which you were engaged in dispute.” - Qur’an 5:48

We are told that we are meant to have different laws and ways of life which result in different religions and that is according to the Plan and Will of Allah (swt) and in accordance with the Truth.

“Unto every community We appointed (different) ways of worship, which they ought to observe. Hence do not let them dispute with you on the matter, but do call them unto your Lord: for, behold, you are on a straight guidance.”
“And if they argue with you, say (only) ‘Allah knows best what you are doing’” - Qur’an
22:67-68

“Do not argue with the followers of earlier revelation other than in a most kindly manner – except those of them who did wrong and are oppressors – and say ‘we believe in that which has been sent down to us and that which has been sent down to you; for our God and your God is one and the same, and it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves.’” - Qur’an 29:46

Is this how the differences in the religions are being handled these days? Allah (swt) says do not argue with them unless you enter into a discussion in a kindly manner. Since God’s teaching is essentially the same in all religions, it is unfortunate to see that many people from other religions who hold powerful positions in the west have abused their power through politics and the use of the media to propagate ignorant ideas full of hatred against other faiths. But the hypocrisy that some politicians have exhibited by hijacking ‘the religions’, whilst posing as religious people, or “doing the right thing”, does not give anyone an excuse to disobey God. Christian scripture also reflects these sentiments of tolerance. Jesus (pbuh) passed on these instructions from God, as the most important rules - the first and second commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and “Love your neighbour as your self”. Mark 12:30-31

We need to reflect on the reason that God, the Creator, with full knowledge of what is to come, during the time of each prophet has instructed us to accept and be kind and courteous to people of other religions. These instructions obviously equally apply for differences within the same religion. Within Islam, Sunnis and Shia’s who have a history of undermining each other, must take into consideration what Allah (swt) has instructed in terms of the right action in how to treat each other regarding their differences. Of course the same holds for examples of animosity within Christianity and Judaism, but as I mentioned earlier, we Muslims as the people of the last religion, with our access to the Qur’an, have no excuse. The mentality that only one religion is right, only one sect is right, is a losing position in the eyes of God, the Creator of all.

The Tradition has it that when “owe yalbesakum shai’an” in Sura 6, ayah 65 descended upon the Prophet (pbuh), he got up and made ablution and stood for prayer. Then he made supplication and asked Allah (swt) not to send any suffering from above and not from beneath and asked Allah (swt) not to allow the Muslim community to become divided into different branches and not to fight amongst themselves. At this point Gabriel (a.s.) appeared to him and gave him the good news that his first two requests had been accepted, but not the last two requests. Then the Prophet (pbuh) said, O Gabriel, if it is ordained that my ummah (Muslim community) fight each other, then there will be nothing left of the ummah. So he started praying for it again and at this point ayah 2 of Surah 29 Al- Ankabut (The Spider) descended, followed by ayah 3:

“Do people think that on their (mere) saying ‘we have attained to faith’, they will be left to themselves and not tested with hardship?”
“Whereas We indeed tested those who lived before them. Allah will surely bring to light those who are true in their faith as He will bring to light also the liars by putting them into the test of hardship.”
- Qur’an 29:2-3

The commentary about the above ayaat (there are similar verses in the Qur’an) says that there is no way out of this hardship testing “fetneh”, since the community (ummah) of the prophets need to be tested after the departure of the prophets, so that the truthful ones will be distinguished from the liars. After all, there will not be any “vahye” (revelation) coming down in order to help distinguish the ones that lie from the truthful ones. Therefore what would be left is the struggle and the fighting until the day of judgement.

Let us reflect on what it is that Allah (swt) is teaching us through all the above. He has sent different prophets and knows there are going to be different religions with different sects in this world. He has clearly said that if He wanted to create only one community He would have done so. In fact even without the ayaat, the fact that these different religions and beliefs exist is evidence that it is according to His Will, unless some would rather think that it slipped out of Allah’s control and now they have to make it right. Astaghfer Allah!

Allah (swt) is teaching us how to be tolerant of other people’s beliefs and ways of life that are different than ours. This is the teaching of God to all the religions. In Christianity it goes even further than acceptance and not arguing, by the instruction of “turning the other cheek”. Then why is it that we do not seem to be doing that?

We need to look for the answer in the self protective mechanism of the ego which needs to be right in order to feel good. This is where the seemingly righteous act or a religious duty could often be a cover up for self righteousness of the ego (nafs), to the point of disobeying God no matter how we rationalise it. Isn’t that what Satan did? Satan also had a reason for disobeying Allah (swt) and not prostrating to Adam, most probably a valid reason in his way of thinking. Allah (swt) has told us the story of Satan and Adam in order that we take heed and use the teaching in our life. The underpinning belief of man in his arrogance is that his belief is right. Even if his belief is in conflict with the instructions of God and the prophets, he still goes ahead and rationalises his actions. There are many examples of this which are beyond the scope of this discourse.

We are living in difficult times of public backlash against Muslims in the western countries with the media driving the fanning of the fire of hatred and intolerance. Today it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a Christian clergyman who appears on television condemning Muslims and other religions and stating that the only people that go to heaven are Christians, and the Muslim extremist.

Allah (swt) has clearly told us that the hardship, turmoil and struggle are a part of this life in order that the real believer who tells the truth about his being a servant is distinguished from the one who only says so. Let me repeat the verse:

“Do people think that on their (mere) saying ‘we have attained to faith’, they will be left to themselves and not tested with hardship?”
“Whereas We indeed tested those who lived before them. Allah will surely bring to light those who are true in their faith as He will bring to light also the liars by putting them into the test of hardship.”
- Qur’an 29:2-3

In case some people think that Allah (swt) did not know the situation that we are facing these days – Astaghfer Allah – I would like to mention another verse:

“Say: it is He alone who has the power to send down upon you suffering from above you and from beneath your feet, or to confound you with mutual discord and let you taste the affliction of one another.
See how We explain the signs by various forms, so that they may understand.”
- Qur’an 6:65

This ayah clearly illustrates the situation in the western countries between Muslim and non Muslims since September 11. Yet Allah (swt) wants us not to resort to fighting and violence. He wants that we human beings rise above the selfishness, self righteousness, and self protective behaviour to a level of real submission. It is not enough to just say that Islam means submission.
“Do people think that on their (mere) saying ‘we have attained to faith’, they will be left to themselves and not tested with hardship?”

Such a level of submission is the sign of having attained true faith. This submission and having attained true faith is the outcome of the realisation and total trust that Allah (swt) has created the world in Truth (Haqq). He does not need our agreement but wants our submission to this Reality. It is in that submission that we realise the unity of existence and the Tawhid. This cannot happen while we fight one another.
“So surpass one another in doing good deeds!!”
And it is precisely because of the fact that there are always going to be people who hurt other people that Jesus (pbuh) instructed us to turn the other cheek.

If our Creator tells us that He has created other religions and different ways of life and worshipping on purpose, and wants us to live accordingly with respect and acceptance and even surpassing one another in so doing, and we (the People of the Book) keep doing the opposite of that, overtly or covertly, what does that say about our submission to our Lord and our true faith?

Sufis have always known that unless people struggle with their ego-personality (nafs), they are always prey for misunderstanding of their religion and not able to rise above the temptation and seduction of the ego-personality. These are the veils that are ordained for man in order to break out of them before the end of his life. The level of the submission that Allah (swt) is requiring from us will not happen unless we go from the outer level of understanding the religion and scripture to the inner, while constantly fighting the ego, which the Prophet (pbuh) stated as – “The Greatest Struggle”. Maybe then by the Rahmat of Allah (swt) the transformation of the nafs takes place. It is a long journey but it is the purpose of the journey of life.

May Allah (swt) help us and include us on the path of obedience and submission to Him.

To Top

_________________________________


Sufi Teachings:

Ibn 'Arabi On Proximity And Distance

Why Do Muslims Fast?

Knowledge of Reality and Ignorance of Reality - What is Knowledge of Reality?

Knowledge of Reality and Ignorance of Reality - Seeing Versus Not Seeing

Knowledge of Reality and Ignorance of Reality - Journeying In The Spiritual Path

Book of Theophanies

The Month of Ramadhan

Sufi Psychology: The Isolation and Transformation of the Nafs

To Be Or Not To Be

Imposter Or Mistaken Identity?

Moulana Rumi - The Mirror of Divine Love

The Transformative Power of the Fear of God

Test of the Hardship

The Theatre of Life

Peace and the Inner Jihad

Sufism and the Paradox of Self

Surrender

Faith and Action

What is Tasawwuf (Sufism)?

Listening for God: Prayer and the Heart

To Top

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For further information contact the
Australian Centre for Sufism and Irfanic Studies (ACSIS)
Phone: (02) 9955 SUFI (7834)
or email: acs@australiansuficentre.org


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