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Lessons From Quran


  In the first chapter we have dealt with world-view, monotheism and polytheism. Now we deal with justice which is the second fundamental principle of belief.

It is through the wisdom and intelligence with which we have been endowed by Allah that we differentiate between a good and a bad thing and we understand that oppression is a bad thing and justice is a good thing.

It is our belief that Allah does not do any harm to us nor does He oppress us.

The Causes of Injustice

(i) Ignorance: Sometimes ignorance becomes the cause of oppression as for example man does not know that there is no difference between a white race and the Negroes and hence a white man under his feeling of superiority oppresses the people belonging to the black race. Thus by his ignorance and defective thinking a man starts doing things which result in oppression and persecution. But how the Almighty Allah Who is above all defects such as ignorance and Whose Knowledge is infinite, can do an act of oppression!

(ii) Fear: Sometimes it is fear which is the cause of oppression as for example one strong power is scared of another strong power which is its enemy and knowing that if it does attack the other power, the same would attack it and therefore in order to forestall this possible danger it commits oppression by making an attack on the other power. Similarly a despotic ruler in order to be in a formidable position persecutes the people who want freedom from his oppression. But the Almighty Allah has no one as His rival so as to indulge in an act of oppression'

(iii) Wants: Sometimes the cause of oppression is based on one's sense of deprivation and thus from the psychological point of view one is obliged to an act of oppression for fulfilling his wants.

(iv) Meanness: Sometimes it is the inner meanness that some people oppress others or when they see the deprived and oppressed people, they derive pleasure in seeing them so.

After knowing the various causes of oppression you can decide as to which one of these can be attributed to Allah? In this context, the Holy Qur'an says:

Allah does not wish injustice for any of His creatures.(Surah Ale Imran, 3:108)

How could it be that Allah Who commands us for doing justice can Himself be an oppressor? The Holy Qur'an says:

Allah commands people to maintain justice, kindness, and proper relations with their relatives. (Surah an-Nahl, 16:90)

How is it possible that Allah Who commands man who is weak and who leads his life under the dictates of his unruly passions, not to become the cause of injustices if he receives injustice at the hands of his nation, may Himself Who possesses unlimited power and Who is not under the domination of any instinct, perpetrate injustice?

The Attributes of Allah

The acquiring of knowledge about the Attributes of Allah is closely related to our knowledge of recognition of Allah. As for example just as we trace the writer from his writing as well as from his style of writing and identify him by particular words and phrases which he uses as his style and which indicate his mental attitude also, in the same way every creation performs the following two main functions.

(i) Identifying its creator

(ii) Projecting the attributes of its creator and explaining the objective of its creation.

Justice—One of the Principles of Religion

When Almighty Allah possesses innumerable attributes, e.g. Wisdom, Knowledge and Power of creation why is it said that justice is one of the principles of religion? Why is it not said that first the Belief in monotheism and then existence, or first the Belief in monotheism and then Knowledge? But on the contrary it is said first the belief in monotheism and then justice!

The answer to this question is as follows:

A small section of the Muslims known as Ash'ari sect do not consider that Allah is Just. They think that whatever Allah has done is correct no matter it may be wrong or cruel. Further, the Ash'arite say that if Allah sends Imam Ali to Hell and his assassin the accursed Ibn Muljam to Paradise, nothing can stop Him, He can do so. But we do not accept this logic as we consider Allah's Justice as one of the cardinal principles of our faith and according to Qur'anic reasoning and our own commonsense we say that all the acts of Allah are based on Justice and Wisdom and that Allah does not commit any act of cruelty or does anything wrong.

Moreover the belief that Allah is Just plays the following important role in building man's personality:

Advantages of Believing in the Justice of Allah

Self-restraint: From the point of view of self-control and abstaining from sins especially when man knows that his words and deeds are in the knowledge of Allah and not even a fraction of his deed however small it may be ignored from being taken into account, and that he will be paid back for his noble and evil deeds, he will then not consider himself independent in this world (Many Qur'anic verses can be cited in this behalf).

Cheerful Outlook: Anyone who has belief in the Justice of Allah in all worldly affairs possesses a cheerful outlook of life and as such when he considers Allah to be Just he has cogent reason and a satisfactory answer of the unpleasant things. He accepts the unpleasant things without hesitation. Such a person never suffers from disappointments and despair.

Justice Plays its Role in Individual and Collective Life: The faith in the Justice of Allah helps to lay the foundation of justice in individual and collective life. Such a person prepares himself to accept justice in his personal and social life.

The Meaning of Justice

In the discussions on justice the basic problem is to give satisfactory answer to its criticism. We would present some explanation in the light of Qur'anic verses and the traditions.

(i) The first point is that Allah is Just and Allah never deprives anyone of his rights and according to the rationality of the laws, Allah bestows His Kindness on all His creatures and never does Allah oppress anybody.

Now we can see whether there exists somebody's right on Allah or whether there is any right of the creatures from the very beginnings so that cruelty has arisen out of the suppression of this right? Were we present beforehand or did we have something beforehand which has been taken away from us? True, there is some differentiation between the creatures. Some are minerals, some are plants, some are animals and some are human beings, but none of these creatures possessed any existence or right before its birth and which is supposed to have been usurped.

Take for example a big carpet which we cut into small pieces. It will then be said that this carpet which originally was big has lost its originality of being big by having been cut into pieces. But in the case of a carpet which was already made small it cannot be complained as to why it has been made small because before that it had no existence at all and when it was brought into existence it was made small already. Thus this small carpet from the beginning had no quality of being big so that it was deprived of something which it possessed.

Allah, the All-Wise, has created all his creatures with difference when none of them had existed beforehand or had any claim or right. Allah established a system of life—cycle with cause and effect and set a particular line of action for every creature. He never makes any discrimination between His two creatures or two nations in as far as His expectations from them are concerned in regard to their obligations and responsibilities. Similarly His reward or punishment is also based on justice for all. He has taken into consideration the respective capabilities and capacities of each creature in His commands and accordingly He has fixed proportionate punishment for each so that there is no partiality or injustice done to anyone of his creatures.

Again take an example of a factory which manufactures spare parts of small machine and tires of big motor cars also. Would you brand the factory owner tyrant because he manufactures small parts and big tires? Or can the small machine parts themselves complain of the differentiation? The answer to this is certainly in negative. It is so because in this Machine Age we need machine parts as well as tires. But there was a time when none of them existed before and the factory owner made them or brought them into existence according to the need of the time for two different functions. Here the kind of cruelty exists only when the machine parts would bear the burden of tires. Now that when each one of them were brought into existence for its specific purpose and functions and no extra burden was put on it beyond its capacity the question of cruelty does not arise at all.

At this stage when the meaning of justice and cruelty has been abundantly clarified it is necessary to ponder over the following important point:

At every place and every occasion the concept of justice is not equality. For example, if a teacher without taking into consideration the abilities and the hard work of each student, gives equal marks to all of them, he actually commits cruelty. Similarly if a physician gives the same medicine to all of his patients without considering the nature of their diseases and conditions he does the same cruelty. In both these examples the demand of justice is that the teacher and the physician should treat his pupils and the patients differently according to their merits and ailments respectively. It should not admit any consideration, recommendation, favourtism etc, but this different attitude of treatment in different cases is according to the demand of the occasion. It does not come under the definition of cruelty.

(ii) The second point is that the objections to the Justice of Allah are only motivated by hasty decisions. Some of the examples are given below:

Suppose an Islamic Government out of necessity and in consideration of public welfare takes a decision to build a fortyfive kilometer long road as every road has its utility for providing a means of communication for the smooth flow of traffic and for the convenience of pedestrians, but by laying down each and every road people have to undergo some sort of hardship until the time compensation for the demolition of houses and the construction of new houses at alternate places is effected. Thus for the sake of avoiding hardship of a handful of people the overall interest of the people and the programme for the public welfare cannot be ignored. In Islam despite the importance of individual rights and ownership of the people the overall rights of the society have been greatly emphasized.

The Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali said to Malik Ashtar. "Call those people who have hoarded the things of public utility and remind them of doing good and abstaining from evil and if they still do not pay heed to your advice, bring them to task". He further said: "Hoarding is useful to a hoarder only, but it is harmful to the good of the society".

At yet another place, the Holy Imam said: "In the matter of administration your attention should be towards the comforts and benefit of the common people irrespective of the annoyance and displeasure of a selected few". (See: Letter—53, Peak of Eloquence, ISP, 1985)

An Incident: A man had a pet dog. He went out to fetch something from the bazaar leaving his infant child in the care of his dog. When he returned to his house his dog welcomed him outside the house with blood-stained mouth. He thought for a moment that the dog had devoured his child and under the heat of passion he fired his gun and killed the dog there and then and went inside hurriedly. There he found his child hale and hearty. In fact a wolf used to visit the town and since the door of his house was wide open it went inside and wanted to devour the child. The dog jumped upon the wolf and in a grim battle he overpowered it and tore it into pieces and thereby saved the child from the wolf's clutches. But the man in his extreme haste fired at his faithful dog which had saved the life of his child.

The man repented of his action and came to rescue his dog but it had already died. The man said that he looked into the eyes of his dog which were lamenting over his wisdom and saying: "O man! How hasty you happen to be? You make a hasty decision. You should have first entered the house and seen for yourself the true situation. Why have you killed me? ' After this tragic event the man wrote an article captioned "O man! How hasty you are in taking a decision!"

There may be some people who may have prayed for something and it was not granted, but afterwards they thought that it was better that their prayers were not granted.

The Dangers of Hasty Decision

The Holy Qur'an warns man against taking a hasty decision as often man's action is based on baseless thoughts and speculations. There are many things which appear to be harmful but actually they are of benefit to man and similarly many things appear to be very good but actually they are harmful to man.

As for example the Holy Qur'an says about Jihad that man apparently considers it to be not good but actually it brings good to him.

Fighting is made obligatory on you but you dislike it. You may dislike a thing yet it may be good for you; or a thing may haply please you but may be bad for you. Only Allah has knowledge, and you do not know. (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:216)

Fighting for the sake of Allah perfects man's abilities and brightens his capabilities. Those who put on airs and those who are men of action are distinguished in the battlefield. Fighting unites the scattered forces which are dedicated to the common cause and confers upon man honour and dignity. Basically fighting is the purpose of life for the people who have been oppressed and tyrannized.

The Holy Qur'an says:

It may be that you dislike a thing though Allah has placed abundant good in it. (Surah an-Nisa, 4:19)

If we look into the meaning of the word "husban" and collect its derivatives we learn that the Holy Qur'an warns that we should not think such and such thing, guess such and such thing, and conjure such and such thing. It tells us about things which contradict the decisions cursorily and hastily taken.

We read in the Holy Qur'an about the angels that, as they did not possess thorough knowledge about man, they pleaded to Allah that as they already worshipped Allah why He was creating man. But since Allah had willed to appoint His vicegerant on earth he bestowed upon man knowledge and brought out a stunning spectacle and established that their (the angels) decision about man was a hasty one.

In short, if we doubt about the Justice of Allah and say that if Allah is Just why and how such and such thing happened, then we should keep in mind that our speculations and decisions are mostly false and wrong because in most of the cases the causes and the effects of problems remain hidden from us as our knowledge and experience are very limited. It is for over several centuries that we have been considering the existence of forests as useless, but with the passage of time we have now realized that we obtain a number of useful things from these very forests.

Had not the people been saying for a long time that the glands in our body are quite useless? But now they say that these glands produce in the blood useful cells technically called phagocytes which devour the invading microbes in our body.

For years people thought that vermiform appendix, the blind pouch at the junction of the small and the large intestine was a useless thing but nowadays it is claimed that this appendix plays an important role in the prevention of cancer.

If we are reading a book which deals with highly important subjects and we come across a difficult word whose meaning is not known to us, we should not arrive at a hasty decision about the book and should not blame its author, but on the contrary we should review our understanding of the meaning of that word.

Now that we have comprehended the true meaning of justice and that our criticism of it is based on our superficial and hasty decision, we deal with the third point, that is, why we should try to know the causes of our troubles.

(iii) The third point is that while counting our troubles we altogether ignore our own doings and blame Allah for all that. We complain to Allah and say, "O Allah! if you are Just why am I faced with these troubles?" Obviously many of the troubles and hardships are due to our own faults as for example if we do not take care of our health by hygienic methods we are sure to fall sick. Similarly according to the principle of doing good and preventing others from doing evil and if we do not prevent the evils the evil doers will overpower us and in that case our supplications, implorations and invocations would be of no use. On this subject too we take the guideline from the following verses of the Holy Qur'an:

Whatever misfortune befalls you is a consequence of your own deeds. (Surah ash-Shura, 42:30)

When We let the people taste mercy, they rejoice in it, but when some misfortune befalls them because of their own doings they at once become desperate. (Surah Rum, 30:36)

As for man, whenever his Lord tests him by bestowing favour on him and blesses him, he says, 'My Lord is kind to me'. But when He tests him by stinting his means of living, he says my Lord has disgraced me. (Surah al-Fajr, 89:15—16)

As a matter of fact we should try to find out the cause and reason of our misfortunes and afflictions within ourselves and in the latter part of the preceding verse as we read, "Since wealth does not necessarily guarantee everlasting happiness then why do you not honour the orphans, or urge one another to feed the destitute?" Thus your carelessness resulted in the wrath of Allah. This verse too tells us about our deeds being the cause of our misfortune and deprivation of Allah's Mercy. The Holy Qur'an says:

Eat of the lawful and good things which Allah has provided for you and give thanks for His favours if it is He Whom you worship (Surah an-Nahl, 16:114)

In this verse Allah tells of a place where Allah's blessings and bounties were in abundance but its inhabitants became ungrateful to Allah and thus became guilty of infidelity. And Allah plunged them into hunger, poverty and terrible fear. This verse also establishes that ungratefulness to Allah becomes the cause of afflictions.

We have already mentioned before that the misdeed of the people is the cause of their troubles and afflictions and consequently Allah's wrath befalls them. Here the following two questions arise.

(i) We see that those who indulge in all sorts of misdeeds, cruelties and oppression are leading a very prosperous life! Why is it so?

(ii) We say that it is due to our misdeeds that misfortune and afflictions befall us but those people whose misdeeds are even worse than ours are not subjected to any afflictions! Why is it so?

In the eyes of Allah, all the people are not accounted for in the same way, because:

(i) Allah punishes some people or a nation at once.

(ii) Allah gives a time to some people or a nation.

(iii) Allah does not punish a certain group of people or a nation at all and despite their misdeeds they lead a comfortable life until the Doomsday as according to the Divine Outlook on the Universe and life this world is not separated from the Hereafter.

It is possible that a teacher may be having different standards of reprimanding his pupils. He may punish some at once as a result of his anger, but he may leave some alone for a certain period of time; and against some who are the worst he may take no action at all, and leave them to themselves until the end of the session for the purpose of awarding the marks. This sort of categorization is based on wisdom endowed by Allah because all the guilty ones are not equally responsible nor the nature of their deeds and mentality is similar so that we may deal with them equally from the point of view of punishment. Sometimes the teacher reacts violently on the negligence of one of his best pupils because he did not expect such negligence from his best pupil while in the case of his unworthy pupils he does not crack down on them severely.

We read in the Holy Qur'an that Allah on certain occasions reprimanded his Prophets and Messengers for their actions though these were not under the commitment of sins because He would not have expected of so august a personage an unexpected action, but we read about the common people differently. The Holy Qur'an says:

We destroyed the inhabitants of certain towns only when they transgressed and did not repent before our deadline.(Surah al-Kahf, 18 59)

It is explained that Allah does not hasten the punishment for those who commit the sins by putting them into misfortune but from the side of Allah there remains a deadline within which they can repent of their misdeeds. The Holy Qur'an says:

They want you to bring upon them their punishment without delay. Allah never disregards His promise. One day for Allah is equal to a thousand years for you. To how many unjust towns have we given respite and then seized with torment. (Surah al-Hajj, 22:48)

I granted temporary respite to the unbelievers (so that they would repent, but they did not). At last I seized them with a terrible retribution. (Surah ar-Ra'd, 13:32)

However, Allah gives the following reasons for His giving respite to the unbelievers:

The unbelievers must not think that our respite is for their good. We only give them time to let them indulge in their sins, and suffer an ignominious doom. For them there will be a humiliating torment. (Surah Ale Imran, 3 :178)

After the martyrdom of the Chief of the Martyrs, Imam Husayn, when the accursed Yazid thought himself victorious and successful, the revered sister of the Holy Imam, Lady Zaynab recited this very verse of the Holy Qur'an and pointed out to him that his seeming victory, freedom, comfort and power were only increasing the burden of his sins so that these should become the source of terrible torment for him as the Holy Qur'an says that Allah provides the people greater comfort so that they should become used to it and then He strikes them suddenly with a painful torment. The Holy Qur'an says.

When they neglected what we exhorted them, We opened to them the gates to all the worldly gains so much so that they became immensely rejoiced with that and then we caught them suddenly and they became utterly surprised and dejected. (Surah al-An'am, 6:44—45)

Such sort of people are like those who climb a tree higher and higher and think that they are getting more successful but when they fall down from it they realize that their going up was the beginning of their torment. Thus Allah treats some people in the similar way save those who have the capability of reforming themselves. The Holy Qur'an says:

Evil has spread over the land and the sea because of corruption and hence, Allah will cause some people to suffer so that perhaps they will return to Him. (Surah ar-Rum, 30:41)

In answer to the question as to why people are in comfort despite their flouting the Divine commands and why some receive punishment on that account, the above-mentioned verses from the Holy Qur'an will suffice.

In this context we would take the opportunity of referring to some ahadith (traditions) which warn the people to fear Allah if despite their sins they have not been faced with Allah's wrath so that the matter may not go too far away and they may lose a golden chance of retrieving and the punishment is meted out to them in the Hereafter by their being thrown into the Fire of Hell. It is like that sometime a patient reaches such a stage of his disease that the physician gives up his efforts by losing all hopes and he then issues no instructions to the patient and allows him to eat whatever he likes whether it is harmful to him or not. Thus there are people who have committed many sins and to whom Allah says in the Holy Qur'an:

Act as you wish; Allah is Well Aware of whatever you do.(Surah Ha Mim as-Sajdah, 41:40)

The Holy Prophet also when became disappointed with the people used to say:

My people, do as you wish and I will do what I believe.(Surah Hud, 11:93)

From the supplications of the Holy Imams we often read the following words. "O Allah! Do not leave me on my own".

In short Allah's wrath befalls the transgressors whom worldly comfort and pleasure prevented from getting warned and the punishment of the Doomsday awaits them eagerly.

(iv) The fourth point is that sometimes man despite the fact that he had not committed any sin or fault becomes afflicted with troubles. What is the analytical approach of the Holy Qur'an about the Justice of Allah?

Explanation: Allah's putting people on trial has been mentioned about twenty times in the Holy Qur'an. Thus one of the methods of Allah putting man on trial and hardships have been described above are just the means of that trial. Similarly, happiness and pleasure are also one of the means of trial. The Holy Qur'an says:

We shall test you through fear, hunger, loss of life, property and crops. Muhammad, give glad tidings to the people who have patience. (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:155—156)

Here the following points should be given due consideration:

(i) Does Allah not know the type and kind of man that He puts him on trial?

(ii) What is the means of trial?

(iii) People's reaction to unpleasant incidents!

(iv) Method of overcoming the difficulties.

The First Question: Obviously our trial is not for the purpose of His knowing our state of mind, mentality and reactive tendency because Allah already knows all this. He knows how we think and how we react but the purpose of the trial is to make us react by counteraction so that according to our deeds the question of recompense with reward or punishment is determined, because Allah never rewards or punishes a person on the basis of His Knowledge about his being good or bad, but He bases His decision on the deeds performed by that person.

The Second question: We said earlier that pleasant and unpleasant happenings are the source of man's trial. The Holy Qur'an says:

We test you with both misfortune and blessings. (Surah Anbiya, 21:35)

You (believers) will certainly be tested by the loss of your property and lives. (Surah Ale Imran, 3:186)

The Third Question: A friend of ours says that the people who face ordeals and misfortune can be divided into the following four groups:

1. Those when confronted with unpleasant incidents start complaining and finds fault with Allah's Justice, His Grace, Wisdom and His method of working things in this Universe. The Holy Qur'an tells of such a group of people as follows: When misfortune befalls him, he is perturbed. (Surah al-Ma'arij, 70:20) It means that when misfortune befalls such people they start grumbling and crying.

2. Those who bear hardship with patience and forbearance and they only declare: We are the servants of Allah and to Him we shall return. (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:l56)

3. Those who exceed the second group in this respect as these people not only remain patient and steadfast but they also thank Allah about what befalls them . We recite in Ziyarat 'ashura as follows: "O Allah! I thank you in the same way as the companions of the Holy Imam Husayn had done".

Indeed, there are people whose main ambition is to bear hardships and martyrdom in the path of Allah and when they achieve their goal, they offer their sincere gratitude to Allah.

4. Those who are on a still higher plane than those of the third group and who not only do not complain or show patience and steadfastness but they also yearn for bearing hardships and misfortune.

We read in the Holy Qur'an that when the companions of the Holy Prophet asked him to provide them with means and materials (horses, swords etc.) for Jihad and the Holy Prophet said that he had no such means available with him, they returned crying that they had not been able to lay their lives for the cause of Islam. The Holy Qur'an says.

Those who come to you (Muhammad) asking to be taken to the battle, but you cannot find the necessary means for them, are exempt from the duty of fighting for the cause of Allah and they go away in tears grieving that they are not being able to keep the cause of Allah. (Surah al-Tawbah, 9:92)

People generally react to unexpected incidents very violently. If you hand over a peeled onion to a child, he shouts as soon as he puts it in his mouth and throws it away because he feels uneasiness in his eyes, but the father of the child goes out in the market and buys the onions for the kitchen use. The hardships in life are like that. One runs away from them while the other welcomes them.

The Fourth Question: We have said that Allah is Just, and our misfortunes and sufferings are sometimes for our trial, so that our inner faculties become perfect. Now let us find out what we should do in order to come out successful in our misfortunes. Here also we have to seek guidance from the Holy Qur'an.

Methods of Solving the Misfortunes

(i) To Have a Divine Outlook of the Universe The Holy Qur'an has praised the people who show patience. Since they consider the worldly affairs subservient to Divine control, and when they were in difficulties they say that they are for Allah, and they are only short-lived; they do not demand anything from Him; their coming in this world and all the bounties are from Him alone. They are only His trustees. This world is not their permanent abode; it is a passage for the next world (the Hereafter). On arrival of death they shall return to Him, and shall not be perished. They exist in this world but there will be no change in their existence after death; only a place of their abode will be changed. This type of outlook on Universe prepares the man to face the hardships and difficulties in an appropriate manner. This outlook is reflected by the following Qur'anic verse:

We are the servants of Allah and to Him we shall all return.(Surah al-Baqarah, 2:156)

(ii) Familiarity with the Ways of Allah The Holy Qur'an asks us whether we should like to attain Paradise bearing hardships and making efforts like the other former nations who exercised patience in the extreme state of unpleasantness! Would we think that without experiencing all these things we would attain Paradise though like the people of the former nations, we have not yet experienced the ordeals like hunger, poverty, sickness, earthquakes, etc.! The Prophets as well as the believers only awaited Allah's Mercy to rescue them from all their troubles. The Holy Qur'an assured them of Allah's help to come to them ultimately and says:

Do you think that you will find your way to Paradise without experiencing the kind of suffering others have experienced before you? Distress and afflictions battered them until the Messenger and the believers sadly said, 'When will Allah send help?' Certainly Allah's help is near.(Surah al-Baqarah, 2:214)

This verse of the Holy Qur'an points out to the fact that in the long period of history believers in Allah had to undergo great sufferings. Now that it is our turn to suffer as it is evident that the grinding wheel of time has to repeat its cycle anyway. It is the normal way of history that it has to repeat the events. The Holy Qur'an at a number of places says to the Holy Prophet to look into the condition of such and such groups of people so that they may not get the impression that they are not the only persons to be afflicted by sufferings.

Indeed, if man understands that the afflictions and suffer ings are the result of a process of a general rule, he will be in a better position to accept them and exercise patience. You observe fast during the month of Ramazan without any difficulty because it is commonly done by everybody during that month. But if in other months you have to observe fast, you will find it difficult to do so.

The Holy Qur'an which gives command for observing fasts says that other nations before you also observed fasts.

The knowledge of the past events of history helps man to bear things with patience and similarly the knowledge of the future happenings, too helps to strengthen one's capacity of exercising patience. The Holy Qur'an says:

Prophet Khizr said to Prophet Musa: How can you remain patient with that which you do not fully understand. (Surah al-Kahf, 18:68)

Thus the thing that enhances man's power of exercising patience is the knowledge about the patient people and their method of exercising patience. Knowledge about the patience and steadfastness of the previous people is an effective means to face misfortunes and afflictions. The Holy Qur'an has mentioned number of such things and has cited the examples of patience of the people of former nations. The Prophets of Allah used to say to their adversaries as follows:

We shall bear with patience the hardships you inflict upon us. (Surah Ibrahim, 14:12)

When the magicians, who were called by Fir'aun to humiliate Prophet Musa, realized his righteousness they embraced his faith and despite Fir'aun's threats and intimidations replied as follows:

We cannot choose you in the face of the clear testimony we have received, and over Him who created us. So do what you are determined to do. All that you would do will only be confined to our short-lived life on earth. (Surah Ta Ha, 20 72)

Hence, they meant to tell Fir'aun to do whatever he wanted. They would endure all the misfortunes that he inflicted upon them as they had discovered the right course leading to Paradise and were determined not to give up their stand.

(iii) Depending only on Allah The remembrance of Allah and the belief that He hears our implorations, watches our deeds and solves our problems by rescuing us from afflictions is like looking only at Allah. Allah in the Holy Qur'an says to Prophet Musa and Prophet Harun as follows:

Be not afraid; I am verily with you all the time, and I hear and see. (Surah Ta Ha, 20:46)102

Allah commanded Prophet Nuh: To build the Ark under the supervision and guidance of hisLord. (Surah Hud, 11:37)

As soon as Prophet Nuh started building the Ark, the crowd of the infidels which passed by him made a fun of him and passed sarcastic remarks by saying that the Prophet had turned a carpenter but Prophet Nuh paid no heed to their taunts which became the means of his steadfastness, and reminded him that he was present before Allah and that Allah was supervising his work. Such firm determination and spirit of steadfastness instils a new life in man.

(iv) Concept of Reward and Punishment The fourth thing that inculcates in man the spirit of steadfastness is the concept of reward and punishment because forbearing the hardships in this world ensures a big reward in the Hereafter. The Holy Qur'an gives frequent examples in this regard.

(v) To Seek Help Through Prayers and Patience The fifth thing which makes a man steadfast is to seek help by Prayers, supplications and patience. The following verses of the Holy Qur'an asks us to take the support of prayers and patience:

Help yourselves (in your affairs) with patience and prayers.(Surah al-Baqarah, 2:45)

Believers, help yourselves through patience and prayers. Allah is with those who have patience. (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:153)

In Surah al-A'raf, 7:128, also it is said that we should seek help from Allah.

Besides, the traditions too indicate that in the face of difficulties Imam Ali used to get himself busy in prayers. Prayers bring the small one nearer to the great one and makes the. weakest one the strongest, and creates serenity and satisfaction. The following verse says that remembrance of Allah creates serenity of the heart:

Remembrance of Allah certainly brings comfort to all hearts. (Surah ar-Ra'd, 13: 28)

The gist of this discussion is that Allah is Just and whatever hardships befall us are from Allah; and they are for the purpose of putting us on trial and as already mentioned before, the people who face hardships are divided into four different categories. The course of action which leads us to success has also been stated.

(v) The fifth point is that the doubt about the Justness of Allah arises out of our misgiving and wrong conclusions as without pondering over the thing in its right perceptive we attribute our objections to Allah. As for example we know that death is the ultimate end of man's life and yet we object to Allah as to why such and such man died? Sometimes we assume that this world is an everlasting abode and yet we complain as to why people die of floods, earthquakes, diseases etc.? Then we assume that this world is the place of comfort and we complain as to why we are afflicted with hardships and difficulties.

We are like a man who enters a lecture hall and starts questioning as to why tea and snacks are not available because of one particular thinking, which is a wrong one, it was thought that the hall was meant for a reception function. If we tell him that the hall was meant for delivering lectures he will withdraw his objections and will feel sorry for that. Therefore, we should consider this world as it is. We should know the purpose of our existence and in that case all our objections will be nullified. We must be certain of the fact that this world is not a place of our permanent abode but it is a passage of our life. If we adhere to this conviction then all our objections such as with regard to the dying of people on account of disease, floods, and earthquake etc. will be removed because we have come over here not to live for ever but for departing from here. It is a different matter by what means we happen to depart from here, either through disease, floods or earthquakes etc.

Example: A customer entered a glassware shop where the glasses were arranged in an upside-down position. He looked at them minutely and said the mouth of the glass was closed. He picked up a glass in that condition and remarked that it had not even its bottom. The shopkeeper laughed at this and took the glass from his hand and put it into upright position and said, "Sir, the glass has its bottom as well as the mouth".

In the same way our objections are due to our wrong thinking and defective approach of things. So to say we see all things with coloured glasses. If we put on red glasses on our eyes we will take turnips as beets.

In short, all our objections originate from wrong thinking and incorrect interpretations. First we think that the world is a place of comfort and then we start making objections when we are faced with disappointments. As a matter of fact this world is a place of development and progress. This is a place where we sow the seeds. Obviously such a process involves hard work, hardships and difficulties.

Differences Develop the Society

If we accept some principles we shall realize that our basic differences play an important role in our life. First of all8 man's life is a social life, that is, we are not like self-growing grass which perishes all by itself. We are not born all by ourselves and do not perish all by ourselves without having any relation with somebody else. Another point is the social life cannot function without mutual cooperation and cooperation only comes in the face of differences. It is because a certain man is perfect in a certain profession or field of activity and is weak in another. The difference of capabilities, courage and perfection necessitates the improvement of the society so that one set of people or individuals should help to fulfil the wants and deficiencies of others. It is for that reason that differences give rise to necessities which develop the society.

Difficulties Build up Personalities

The Holy Qur'an says that unpleasant events and accidents in life are the danger signs for man. A life without difficulties and hardship makes man lethargic and pleasure-loving. It is said that if the road is smooth and straight, the driver falls asleep. We have read in the Islamic narrations that Allah afflicts His noble servants with difficulties and hardships.

The Holy Prophets have been subjected to the most trying and severest types of difficulties and their devout followers with hardships of a lesser degree. We read in the tradition that Allah nurtures His servants by afflicting them with difficulties in the same manner in which a mother nurtures her child by suckling. Difficulties not only help to build up man's personality but the experience of the past difficulties also does the same.

We read in the following verses of the Holy Qur'an.

Did He not find you as an orphan and take care of you? Did He not find you perplexed and show you the way? And did He not find you in need and enrich you? So do not oppress the orphans, and do not drive the beggars away, and proclaim the bounties of your Lord. (Surah az-Zuha, 93:6)

Allah considers it good to revive the memory of past difficulties and hardships. The Holy Qur'an stresses that difficulties and hardships are meant for offering supplications and purifying the soul as is evident from the following verses.

We had sent Our guidance to the nations who lived before you and afflicted them with distress and adversity so that they might submit themselves to Allah. ( Surah al-An'am, 6:42 )

In every town in which We sent a Prophet, We tested its inhabitants through distress and adversity so that perhaps they would submit themselves to Us. (Surah al-A'raf, 7:94)

The traditions say that had there been no poverty, diseases and death, no power on earth could subdue man and he would have been proud of his transgression. Really, comfort and luxuries make man without having any purpose and aim of life. Imam Ali says: "The wood obtained from the trees of the forest is comparatively strong". (See: Letter—45, Peak of Eloquence, ISP, 1985)

Imam Hasan Askari says that in a way there is some goodness in misfortunes (Biharul Anwar, vol. 78, p. 374) in the sense that these misfortunes establish a link between Allah and us on the one hand and on the other divert our attention to doing something good. Hardships affect our bodies with the result that our soul is strengthened. As for example the host has to undergo some sort of hardship in treating his guest with genero. sity but by this his personality is developed in attaining the quality of being generous and kind.

There is a tradition which says that hardships and adversities are warning signals to the cruel people. And for the believers they are a means of their trial and their betterment. For the pious and the saints they are a source of their attaining dignity and perfection. (Biharul Anwar, vol. LXXXI, p. 108)1ll

An Example: The following are the three ways of prompting a soldier to work:

(i) When a soldier commits any irregularity he is ordered to do a difficult job by way of punishment.

(ii) Sometimes he is reformed by giving him a strenuous training so as to improve his abilities.

(iii) Sometimes when his rank and status are to be elevated he is sent on leave or is assigned a difficult job so as to justify his promotion to the higher rank.

Hence, suffering is a trial for the believer and on this basis the bounties of Allah are not the proof of one's honour, nobility and virtue, for sometimes the best of pious and devout people are afflicted with misfortunes and adversities so that these people should derive strength to make themselves perfect, because unless sandal-wood is not burnt its scented smell will not be felt. Undergoing such sort of ups and downs in life is the means of gaining perfection for unless metals are not put into a furnace, they are not purified. Unless the soil is turned up with a plough it cannot be worthy of cultivation. Unless the grass is chewed by the teeth of a goat it does not get converted into flesh. Unless mutton is cooked on fire it is not fit to be eaten by human beings so as to become human protoplasm.

Similarly, unless man also suffers hardships and adversities and endures them bravely he cannot attain his spiritual purity and perfection. Our existence is not for the sake of eating and relaxing, for this thing is also common among the animals. What distinguishes us from the animals is the qualities of human attributes that we possess, e.g. the remembrance of Allah by way of worship, fraternity, and the spirit of sacrifice. Obviously we cannot achieve these qualities without undergoing hardships.

Hardships Lead to Inventions

If you are not faced with any difficulty you will not be able to make something new or invent anything. If we had not happened to fall sick, the science of medicine would not have been so developed. If we had not experienced cold and hot weather we would have not been able to invent means to protect ourselves from cold and heat. In some branches of science and tec

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