Holding onto Hope: Navigating Tragedy with Imaan

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In the tumultuous journey of life, where trials and tribulations often test our resolve, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the weight of adversity. 

Now more than ever, Muslims all over the world are feeling this. For some of us, it is despair. For others, it may be a feeling of helplessness. Seeing the senseless, brutal killing of our brothers and sisters in Gaza – and the deafening inaction of the powerful – is a surefire way to feel betrayed, lost and ultimately down about the situation of the believers. 

Yet, and somewhat counter-intuitively, within the depths of our imaan (belief) and deen lies an unwavering beacon of hope, guiding us through the darkest of times and illuminating our path with resilience and strength. 

In this piece, we delve into the profound, foundational teachings of Islam to discover how we can remain steadfast in the face of tragedy, cultivating a spirit of hope that transcends every challenge.

It is not so much that Islam provides tools to deal with what may come. To the contrary, the very existence of these trials and tribulations should be a sign for us that we are of Allah’s chosen, and thus being put through the challenges that make us worthy of the epithet of “believers!” 

Understanding that tests are inevitable – and a sign of Imaan!

Allah says in Surah Al Baqarah: 

“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, ‘Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.’ Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:155-157)

This incredible passage assures us of the surety of tests and tribulations. Another equally powerful verse tells us in Surah Al-Ankabut (29:2-3):

“Do the people think that they will be left to say, ‘We believe‘ and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars.”

And finally, in Surah Al-Imran (3:186) “You will surely be tested in your possessions and in yourselves. And you will surely hear from those who were given the Scripture before you and from those who associate others with Allah much abuse. But if you are patient and fear Allah – indeed, that is of the matters [worthy] of determination.”

These verses serve as a poignant reminder that amidst adversity, our hearts find solace in the remembrance of Allah (SWT) and the promise of tests if we are of those believe. By surrendering ourselves to His divine will and seeking refuge in His mercy, we discover an enduring source of comfort and strength.

Changing our mindset: Why hardship is a part of the “Grand Plan”

So if we know trials and tribulations are promised for the believers, how do we go about changing our mindset in relation to them? If they are a part of life, how do we come to see them as such, and not despair when they arrive?

Indeed, how can we flip this entire situation on its head and actually turn the existence of tests into something we embrace?

In a remarkable hadith, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: ‘How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.’” (Sahih Muslim)

Through the prism of faith, every trial becomes an opportunity for growth and spiritual elevation. By anchoring our hearts in the belief that Allah (SWT) is the Ultimate Planner, we transcend the shackles of despair and embrace adversity as a catalyst for resilience and inner transformation.

This shift in mindset is the thing that can change our perspective in relation to hardship, adversity and tribulations. It can take us from despondency to a unique sort of internal calm which mirrors the internal state of the pious and the prophets: a deep acceptance that whatever comes is from Allah, and our job is to simply navigate it using the tools our deen has given us!

The tools we need to traverse the path of hardships

The core response to hardship is the concept of patience, and a related concept of forbearance.

Taken together, these give us the ability to take hardship in our stride. To accept their place, and to bear them with solemn determination and calmness.

Allah (SWT) orders us in the Qur’an: “O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:153)

In moments of anguish and despair, then, the path to solace lies in cultivating a profound awareness of Allah’s presence in our lives. By nurturing a steadfast connection with our Creator through prayer and patience, we fortify our hearts against the storms of adversity and find solace in His boundless mercy.

In a famous hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The real patience is at the first stroke of a calamity.”

How do we get to this enviable station, though? How do we get to the station of patience and forbearance? 

For this there are some incredible tools at our disposal, sometimes well within reach, that we can tap into and cultivate as believers. 

Even amidst the throes of tragedy, Islam imparts upon us the importance of taking proactive steps towards resolution and positivity. We’ve also been given specific invocations and practices that propel us towards this. 

In the face of adversity, we are called upon to channel our grief and anguish into constructive action, striving to alleviate the suffering of others and sow seeds of compassion and empathy. By embracing the transformative power of service and charity, we emerge from the depths of despair, renewed and invigorated by the healing touch of kindness and benevolence.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said “Give the Sadaqah without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity.” (Tirmidhi)

Giving Sadaqah during a time of hardship shows strong Iman and gratitude to Allah (swt) and It is only Allah (swt) with his infinite mercy that can change a person’s situations. 

Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Allah removes what He wishes and establishes what He wishes, for He has the Mother of Books”. (Surah ar-Ra‘ad, 13:39)

Finally, as mentioned above, there are specific invocations (du’as) that can help in our hours of need. 

The prophet (peace be upon him) advised us a specific du’a to remove anxiety. He taught us to say:

حَسْبِيَ اللَّهُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَهُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ 

Translation: Allah is enough for me. There is no true god but Him, in Him I put my trust, and He is the Lord of the Great Throne. (Repeat seven times.) [Abu Dawud]

This du’a is a reminder that everything in creation is under Allah’s control. Our belief in Him and His divine decree has the ability to soothe our hearts. Once we have put forth the effort for our desired results, we no longer have to worry. 

Another powerful and famous du’a is one that safeguards from anxiety and depression to begin with. 

The prophet (peace be upon him) advised us to say: 

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ الْهَمِّ وَالْحُزْنِ وَالْعَجْزِ وَالْكَسَلِ وَالْبُخْلِ وَالْجُبْنِ وَضَلَعِ الدَّيْنِ وَغَلَبَةِ الرِّجَالِ

“O Allah, I take refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts and from being overpowered by men.” (Al-Bukhari)

“Embracing” hardships, for they never last

It may seem odd – absurd even – to say that hardship can be embraced. Yet many people who have been through difficulties will tell you that the lessons that come from it cannot be matched by lessons that come through ease (or don’t come at all!)

In the tapestry of life, woven with threads of joy and sorrow, faith emerges as our guiding light, illuminating the path to redemption and renewal. Through the prism of Islam, we discover a reservoir of hope that transcends every trial and tribulation, infusing our hearts with resilience and fortitude.

Allah (swt) ultimately tells us in Surah Ash-Sharh (94:5-6) “For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease. Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.”

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said in an incredible hadith “On the Day of Judgement, when the people who have suffered affliction (in this world) are given their rewards, the people who were healthy (in life), will wish that their skins had been cut off with scissors while they were in the world” [At-Tirmidhi 2402].

We may not ever wish hardship upon ourselves. But to embrace its lessons and it’s ultimately, other-worldly promise is something that we should always keep in mind. 

This life is transient, as are its challenges. 

May Allah (swt) give us the wisdom to understand it as such, and to take our hardships in our stride, as a symbol of our commitment to our imaan.


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