A write-up based on ADIL Knowledge Retreat 2019 – Why does Allah allow suffering?
“To be ridha (content) is to not just passively bear the trials you are facing,” corrected Mdm Hamidah Bahashwan at the recent ADIL (Adult Islamic Learning) Knowledge Retreat, “but to also seek help or take some form of action to improve your situation”.
For Nadia, one of the over 500 participants present at Suntec City Convention Hall on 13th October 2018, attending the retreat was precisely part of her efforts to seek help. “I am currently going through some hard times,” said the twenty-five year old, smiling as she emerged from the hall, “and the topic of the retreat – Why Does Allāh Allow Suffering? – was so timely; I came here seeking answers, and I leave knowing that I can rely on Allāh SWT to face whatever hardship I am going through”.
Providing refreshing and relevant content, the annual ADIL Knowledge Retreat (AKR) aims to fulfill the spiritual and intellectual needs of today’s adult contemporary learners, from freelance designers such as Nadia, to even scientists like 28-year-old Parveen. The retreat first began in 2014, covering diverse topics from Radicalisation and Extremism to The Science of Fatwas, and is an extension ofto the organization’s modular classes ADIL’s modules for adults.
Topic 1: Even the Prophets: Embracing a Life of Tests
The retreat began with the blessed opportunity to reflect upon the life stories of five pProphets raised in rank by Allāh SWT: Prophet Nuh AS, Prophet Ibrahim AS, Prophet Musa AS, Prophet Isa AS, and Prophet Muhammad SAW. Known in the Qur’an (Surah al-Ahqaf, verse 35) as the Ulul Azmi, or the Messengers of Strong Will and Determination, Ustaz Fathurrahman explained that the five pProphets were all given the highest of standings in the eyes of Allāh SWT because of their response towards the trials and tribulations that He gifted them with.
“Look at Prophet Nuh AS,” Ustaz Fathurrahman Dawoed, member of the Singapore Fatwa Council, pointed out. “For 950 years, he called upon his own family and tribe to worship Allāh SWT, and all he got from themthat was ridicule. Even after hundreds of years, less than two hundred people responded to his call, and even his own wife and child turned their backs on him. Did he lose hope, as any of us probably would? No, he was patient.”
Patience and contentment: These qualities were also fiercely held by the other pProphets of the Ulul Azmi as they bore the weight of their Prophetic Duties, and these were their medals of honour.
Consider too, the story of Prophet Ibrahim AS. Exiled since young, in his adulthood, he was thrown alive into a fire that blazed for days by a wayward king. He was later tested with the absence of a child in his first marriage, and when Allāh SWT finally gave him a son through his second, Prophet Ibrahim AS was then commanded to lay down his son as a sacrifice.
Or consider the example of Prophet Musa AS, who was kicked out from his home and had to face the tyrant that was Fir’aun and lead a tribe that constantly lost their way. Or Prophet ‘Isa AS, who was raised by a single parent, faced poverty, and was slandered by his own community.
Perhaps we can also take cues from the best of them all, Prophet Muhammad SAW, who lost his loved ones one after another even before he was born, who suddenly found himself being called a liar even though he had been known all his life as The Trustworthy One, who found himself having to flee from his home in the cover of the night, all while being so poor to the extent that he had to tie stones to his stomach to soften the sharpness of hunger.
If this is the life Allāh SWT had written for the most beloved of His creations, then perhaps we should rethink why trials are but necessary in our lives.
“There are many reasons why Allāh SWT would test the Prophets, and us, with hardship,” Ustaz Fathurrahman clarified. “Some of them are to cleanse our soul, to teach us gratefulness, and to remind us to remember Him. When faced with hardships, we should try to rememberturn to what the Prophets of Ulul Azmi taught us: to bear them with patience and contentment, by constantly turning to Allāh SWT.”
Topic 2: Between Ridha & Seeking Help: Correcting the Misconception
While it has been made clear that one should be patient and content in facing hardship, Mdm Hamidah Bahashwan, the second speaker of the retreat, highlighted that many today who are struggling often end up in a predicament because they misunderstand the very concept of being patient and content.
Mdm Hamidah, a counselor for over thirty years, emphasized that being patient and content does not equate to being passive. In fact, one should work on accepting the situation and actively either learn to let go, or to make the situation or the self better through the trial that has been given.
“Being patient in a situation that puts one in danger, like at the hands of an abusive spouse, is patience that is misplaced. It is, in reality, an abuse of the self,” said the counselor who has supported thousands through their trying times in her work.
Mdm Hamidah then elaborated on the steps a person can take when faced with hardship.
The first, is that one should constantly seek the silver lining in each trial – to look at things positively. Can this suffering I am facingfeeling instead be looked at as an opportunity to grow? Can I embrace this as a challenge and look for a solution instead of feeling hopeless? Can I stop focusing on all that is wrong, and instead be grateful for the endless blessings that Allāh SWT has given?
The second is that one should be careful in the words used when engaging in self-talk. Mdm Hamidah suggested avoiding absolute terms such as “I am” when describing one’s self, as that would bind a person onto a negative characteristic or emotion that is, in reality, changeable or fluctuating.
Another toxic term to avoid saying is that one is “unhappy”, for being “happy” itself is an emotion that cannot be measured and varies from person to person – what makes another happy might not make you happy, and your own understanding of happiness might differ from another’s. This makes it problematic when we mistakenly measure our own happiness against that of another’s.
The third step a person can take is to actively seek support and solutions, from Allāh SWT first, through du’a and a firm reliance on Him. A person should then seek help through the many channels available today, be it via one’s social support network through his family and friends, counselors, psychiatrists and mental health support groups, or even medical intervention if this is what has been prescribed.
“The bottom line is that even when you cannot change – of your situation (or) anything, you still have the power to change the way you think,” concluded Mdm Hamidah.
Topic 3: Harnessing the Power of Sabr and Dua
The seeking of support and solutions from Allāh SWT was the crux of Ustazah Nurul ‘Izzah Khamsani’s lecture in the third segment of the retreat. While quoting from the many explanations and du’as in the Qur’an on pPatience, the award-winning Qariah shone light on the fact that the scope of patience lies not just towards facing trials in the conventional sense, but also in striving to worship God, avoiding what is prohibited and wrestling with the desires of the self.
“We are asking for Paradise, and so the pPatience that we have to practisce is meant only to elevate us,” said Ustazah ‘Izzah, Mosque Religious Officer (MRO) from Masjid Jamiyah Ar-Rabitah at Bukit Merah. “True patience, said the Prophet SAW, is at the first stroke of calamity, and the Qur’an says that this is truly hard, except for those who are humble-minded.”
And Ustazah ‘Izzah herself should know, for many of the participants shared her tears when she recalled the raw emotions that she and her family felt upon the death of her younger sister five years ago after a struggle with lupus. What kept them together was knowing, with firm faith, that what had happened was for the better, and that Allāh SWT is with the patient.
Several of the du’as that Ustazah ‘Izzah shared during her segment included:
“Our Lord! Pour out constancy on us and make our steps firm: Help us against those that reject faith”
“Our Lord, pour upon us patience and let us die as Muslims (in submission to You).”
“O Allah there is no ease except in that which You have made easy, and You make difficulty, if You wish, easy.”
“Besides making du’a, other ways in which we can seek the help of Allāh SWT when facing difficulties are to make lots of du’a to Him during times of ease, and to also constantly ease the difficulties of others,” advised Ustazah Nurul ‘Izzah.
Acknowledging the Divine Wisdom
To beautifully conclude the retreat, Ustaz Fathurrahman, in a separate segment for advanced learners, gave the analogy of seeing our suffering vis-a-vis our lives akin to being able to only see one pixel from the tapestry of Allāh SWT’s big picture.
“We only have to look at the conversation captured in the Qur’an between Prophet Musa AS and Prophet Khidr AS to realise that our knowledge and understanding of the matters of the world is extremely limited compared to what Allāh SWT, The Wise and The Knowledgeable, knows,” shared the Ustaz, “And so we are given a hint that nothing in this world happens without Divine Purpose.”
As the Prophet SAW says, “Amazing is the affair of the believer; Vverily, all of his affairs are good, and this is for no one except the believer. If something of good/happiness befalls him, he is grateful and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him, he is patient and that is good for him.”
Developed by the Youth and Community Education Strategic Unit, Muis, the ADIL programme is designed such that it remains relevant and suited for our Muslim adults’ contemporary spiritual and intellectual needs. The programme is offered in both Malay and English to cater to your needs. For the list of ADIL classes, do visit https://learnislam.sg/adil