Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Happiness and hardships (Happiness: Part 3)

بسم الله و الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

Are you venturing on the path of righteousness but keep falling in ditches along the way? Are you trying to always be grateful for whatever situation Allah decides to place you in but can't understand why you are placed in hardships time and again? Are you trying to improve but feel your efforts to grow are stunted by your circumstances? Are you trying to live the best life you can but can't seem to keep a positive outlook among all the pain that you face?
Does happiness come after hardships are over, or does happiness come because we went through hardships?

…Does a happy life always have to be an easy life? Do hardships cancel out any chance of happiness or are they actually a necessary element in the equation?

When facing sadness and hardships we have all been consoled by the ayah:
إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا
"Truly, with every hardship comes relief (ease)!"(94:6)

This ayah gives solace to the suffering and patience to the persecuted.
“What I'm going through now will end soon, and then I will have relief and ease.”
This is true, because every situation in our life is temporary and passing, the hard times will pass as well as the easy ones. But we think the hardship passing and disappearing is what will make us happy, when we can delete the unhappy event from our mind and move on with our lives! But that is not where the "ease" and arrival of happiness occurs. Sometimes our happiness appears because of the trial the hardship posed. 
The rainbow doesn't come only because the rain and clouds disappeared, the rainbow wouldn't be there in the first place if it had never rained! It appears because of the rain. Similarly sometimes our hardships fall upon us in order to bring us happiness.

But how? How can my hardships make me happy? The idea itself is contradictory!
The Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy opens his most famous book, Anna Karenina, with the infamous first line, “Happy families are all alike, and unhappy families are all unhappy in their own way.” Tolstoy’s novels are known for stating many truths about human nature, some of which we don’t always want to admit to ourselves. But in this case, Tolstoy is mistaken. Because it insinuates that there is only one equation for happiness and that happiness can only be achieved in perfect circumstances set in stone. Happiness is not always alike because we can find happiness no matter what situations we are facing. 

It is a fact of the Dunya that we will all be tested.
وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ بِشَيْءٍ مِنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنْفُسِ 
وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ
الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُمْ مُصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ

“And we shall 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'” (2:155-156)

So we know it’s inevitable to pass through life without hardship, we have also been told in many ahadith that hardships are purifying for believers, that going through hardship removes a portion of our sins, and that when Allah سبحانه وتعالى intends good for someone, He inflicts them with trials. But the way it is described in the Qur’an is revealing indeed. The word مُصِيبَةٌ comes from the verb إصابة which means to “hit a target.” Why is this word used to describe trials and hardships? Because according to Allah's Qadr, (Divine Will) this calamity has struck the exact target it was meant to.
It's commonplace to console those suffering with the phrase "Everything happens for a reason," and of course, everything really does happen for a reason, just like they say.
When you realize that nothing is random and Allah سبحانه وتعالى sends everything to you for a reason, you will be able to handle any hardship, and you will be able to indeed, feel ease after the hardship and during the hardship because you know that Allah has a divine wisdom behind everything. Allah سبحانه وتعالى  sends us reminders, and signs in many forms. It may be a sign to us to rectify our actions, to purify our intentions, to refocus our efforts on worshiping Him alone and seeking help only from Him. 

 لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا
"Allah does not burden any human being with more than he can bear." (2:286)
No parent would throw his child into the ocean if he doesn't know how to swim. If Allah سبحانه وتعالى has placed us in difficulty, it is with the ultimate wisdom that we can handle and overcome such difficulties. And Allah سبحانه وتعالى is above all analogies.

We moan and complain about every hardship that strikes us and the only questions we seem to wonder are "Why is this happening to me?", "Why am I being punished?", "When will this end!?" 
And yet we never seem to ask ourselves, "How can I learn from this trial?", "How can I grow from this suffering?", "How can I improve on myself in my character, skills, and faith to allow myself to handle this situation?"
"Between stimulus and response there is a space…in that space is our power to choose our response. In  our response lies our growth and our freedom." -Viktor Frankl
When we are no longer able to change our situation, we are forced to change ourselves, and this may have been the purpose of our trial all along!

How will we ever know where our weaknesses lie, and be able to rectify our characters if we never face challenges? Can the student advance in his studies and earn his degree without going through difficult tests? Can the athlete earn his gold medal without undergoing exhausting training and pushing himself to his absolute limits? 
Ibn Al-Qayyim said regarding trials: "He makes him drink the medicine of tests and trials from providence according to his situation in order to cure him from deadly diseases, until He purifies him and cleans him and he achieves the most honorable status in the world, that of being a true servant of Allah, and he is given the greatest reward in the Hereafter, that of seeing Allah and being close to Him.” 
وْا وَعَتَوْا وَاللَّهُ سُبْحَانَهُ إِذَا أَرَادَ بِعَبْدٍ خَيْرًا سَقَاهُ دَوَاءً مِنَ الِابْتِلَاءِ وَالِامْتِحَانِ عَلَى قَدْرِ حَالِهِ يَسْتَفْرِغُ بِهِ مِنَ الْأَدْوَاءِ الْمُهْلِكَةِ حَتَّى إِذَا هَذَّبَهُ وَنَقَّاهُ وَصَفَّاهُ أَهَّلَهُ لِأَشْرَفِ مَرَاتِبِ الدُّنْيَا وَهِيَ عُبُودِيَّتُهُ وَأَرْفَعِ ثَوَابِ الْآخِرَةِ وَهُوَ رُؤْيَتُهُ وَقُرْبُهُ
"And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be."

When we are placed in difficult situations, we usually turn to Allah سبحانه وتعالى in dua and ask him to change our situation. But what we don't realize He may have put us in that situation to change us. Perhaps certain trials won’t end until we learn what lessons they were meant to teach, reach the target they were meant to hit.
"Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny." C.S Lewis
And what destiny could be better than one in which Allah gives us the opportunity to gain good deeds by achieving sabr (patience)? 
We may think things are falling apart, when in reality things are really falling into place: they are falling into the place Allah سبحانه وتعالى has chosen.

No one of us is tested more than the other.  You may look at those around you and wonder why the trials you face are so hard while everyone seems to be living lives of ease in comparison.
وَلَا تَتَمَنَّوْا مَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بِهِ بَعْضَكُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ
"Do not covet the favors by which God has exalted some of you above others." (Quran, 4:32)
Know that this is not true, and that you only see a small window of the life someone presents to you, be it a family member, neighbor, or friend, we have no way of knowing the internal or external trials a person faces.
Know that your trials may not look like everyone else’s, and that’s because it was designed specifically for you. We all possess different strengths, and different weaknesses so doesn't it make sense that we will all be tested in different ways.  Allah سبحانه وتعالى created you and indeed, He knows His creation.
وَلَا تَمُدَّنَّ عَيْنَيْكَ إِلَىٰ مَا مَتَّعْنَا بِهِ أَزْوَاجًا مِنْهُمْ زَهْرَةَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا لِنَفْتِنَهُمْ 
فِيهِ ۚ وَرِزْقُ رَبِّكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَىٰ
"Do not strain your eyes with envy regarding the worldly benefits We have bestowed on some among them, for with these We seek to test them, the lawful provision of your Rabb is better and more lasting." (20:131)
Haven't you seen how some plants require abundant sunshine to thrive while others can only grow in the shade? So trust that Allah سبحانه وتعالى 
will place you in the situation where you will grow the best!
Boiling water will soften potatoes but it will also harden eggs, the same circumstances can bring about different effects in different people. 

We always have the freedom to be defined by our reactions, not by our circumstances...And since this is the "Happiness Series," we have to mention that we always have the choice to be happy, even during hardships.  Happiness is knowing how to use what you already have!
You can have all the ingredients in front of you to bake a delicious cake but different methods can lead to different results-realize you have everything you need, but you may not be utilizing them in the right way.

وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ
And seek Allah's assistance through patience and prayer, and most surely it is a hard thing except for the humble ones,

قُلْ لَنْ يُصِيبَنَا إِلَّا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَنَا هُوَ مَوْلَانَا ۚ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ

Say: "Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector": and on Allah let the believers put their trust.

All correct and beneficial knowledge is from the mercy and guidance of Allah, and I apologize for all incorrect information which is an unintentional error only from myself. And Allah knows best.

 والله أعلمُ بالـصـواب

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