During the month of Ramadan, Mahdi Youth Society was privileged with the opportunity to hold an essay competition for the youths of the community. The competition was titled, “In Search of the Silver Linings of Hardship”. This theme was chosen in order to encourage the youth to explore and contextualize the significance of maintaining hope in difficult times. The following text is the winning entry from Age Group #1 consisting of youths aged 13 – 18. We hope you are able to benefit from these insights!

Finding Faith in Trials and Tribulations
By: Rija Jafri (17 years old)

Spiritual growth is increasing faith in Allah, gradually being able to surrender entirely to a will and power that is higher than one’s self; find peace in trusting His divine plan. However, during suffocating moments of trial and tribulation, one is ambushed by a feeling of hopelessness, a destructive emotion with the capacity of tearing apart faith from the seams if the pillars of faith are not cemented. To examine how one’s faith and spirituality can blossom from a pit of hopelessness, one must examine why a believer is placed in a trial, stories of hopelessness in the Quran, and how to utilize the chance to grow. Maintaining and growing in spirituality while suffering through times of difficulty is truly one of the most difficult and necessary aspects of faith.

Placing one in a position of suffering itself is deemed as unjust and wrong, therefore, to understand spiritual growth during times of suffering, it is important to examine rationality and reason within the confines of Shi’ite. The Shia faith states that irrespective to religious commandments there is a place for rational morality; to which God also commits his rulings to (Rizvi, 5). Therefore, commandments of God are not good because they are commanded by God, rather they are commanded by God because they are rationally good. Hence, Shias believe everything is done following reason, including God’s actions. It is rationally illogical for God to do any wrong or injustice, as God himself is not liable to any want, need or compulsion (Rizvi, 7). This raises the question that if God is truly Just and does nothing without reason, then why does He inflict pain and suffering to His believers? What is the rationality of placing one through a struggle of hardship? In the moment of trial, one often asks these questions, the struggle, pain and suffering of those in this world are all within the confines of God’s divine reason; “Verily God does not burden a soul more than its capacity” (Quran 2:286). The reasoning of God goes beyond this scope of temporary life, truly he is All-Knowing, The Wise and Al-Jameel; the Beautiful. With every hardship we face, know that it was written in your Qadr, with an undiminishable beauty, the beauty of Allah is embedded even in your pain (Khan). One may think it is unjust to be placed in a trial; to deal with mental illness, depression, the pain of losingsomeone or being placed in unimaginable circumstances like living in a war-ridden home. Suffering in this world provides an opportunity, via prayer and supplication, to experience God’s justice and mercy and seeking Him out during those moments provides an opportunity to heal rather than continue suffering in constant doubt (Rizvi, 19). And although it seems easy to say, to just have hope and it will be okay, finding faith in Allah while dealing with an overwhelming sadness is one of the biggest tests for a believer. “O mankind, there has to come to you instruction from your Lord and healing for what is in the breasts and guidance and mercy for the believers” (Qur’an 10:57). The Quran is referred to as the healer of the hearts, so even if the pain does not initially go away, hearts are supposed to hurt, because Allah is supposed to heal them (Khan). The Shia disbelief in predestination also plays a role here, as although one is created for more than this world, we are not designed from birth to go to Hell or Heaven, rather we are made and placed in our positions in this world to attain virtues, have our free will given by God tested in positions of trial and then be judged accordingly by Allah (Rizvi, 20). Islam itself is not merely lip service, if one truly believes, their faith will be tested; “Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried?” (Quran 29:2). Our lives are mere trials before the infinite world to exemplify the true justice, mercy and judgement of Allah. Hence we suffer as a result of a trial, placed before us by God. For a believer, the world and all its entities are nothing but a trial of faith, a test of belief in the justice of God. Thus, while being placed in a position of trial, whether it be a personal struggle or an uncontrollable worldwide pandemic, it is important to understand that this is a temporary trial, in a passing world.

Oftentimes dealing with overwhelming sadness for any reason, feels like one is stuck at the bottom of a well with no sign of life or hope ahead. Such as, the story of Prophet Yusuf, who was stuck in a well and engulfed by darkness. Throughout his lifetime, Prophet Yusuf has gone through various difficult tests from Allah and he is a prime example of how to find hope and elevate your faith during times of suffering. He was tested by being separated from his beloved father via his envious brothers, thrown into a well, sold as a slave, then tested with temptation and prison. While analyzing Surah Yusuf one comes across this ayat; “And Allah is predominant over His affair, but most of the people do not know.” (Quran 12:21). This means that we do not know Allah’s wisdom, compassion and His plan for us (ShiraziJa). Often when placed in times of difficulty one loses hope, but as believers, we must believe that things may continue to get worse but Allah is in full control, things happen with his permission. His mercy was all-encompassing even if Yusuf didn’t understand how at the time. This ayat was mentioned before the trials with the King but after being left in a well and sold as a slave (ShiraziJa). It was a chance for him to display his trust, elevate his rank and be a means of God’s mercy, have patience himself before he could enlighten others with mercy by interpreting the King’s dream and preparing for famine. This was all in the plan of Allah, His Rahma is manifested on His terms. Even though Yusuf did not know what was coming, he stayed on the path of Allah and was rewarded greatly. Another example of hope in the ultimate moments of darkness and suffering is seen in the story of Prophet Musa. To begin, Prophet’s Musa’s birth can be seen as a test for his mother. She was to deliver a baby boy during a period where the Pharaoh is murdering every boy to be born. After which her trust in God is tested by letting him go from the comfort of her self, into the Nile (Dar Rah e-Haq). For a moment imagine her position; a terrified mother, who carried Musa in her womb for nine months and after delivering her baby, holding him just for a few moments, before letting him go in an endless river and placing her entire heart in God’s hands. This act of the mother of Musa requires great faith and stability in religion. However, when she quivered in fear, weary and lost, wandering into the Pharaoh’s castle, following the trail of Musa, she was reunited by Allah and allowed to become Musa’s wet nurse, the one who would breastfeed him (Dar Rah e-Haq). The test of faith of Musa’s mother shows how having trust in Allah’s plan even in the darkest moments proves to work out. Another example further in the life of Prophet Musa arises when Allah quite literally illuminates his life. Prophet Musa travels back to Egypt with his family but on a cold night, engulfed with the darkness they lose their path. Wandering in the desert, away from any home, without any sign of humanity, an emotion of fear creeps in and this is when God reveals the biggest hope in Musa’s life via a burning bush. Approaching the burning bush, Musa hears a voice; “Musa, Verity I am Allah, the Lord of the World, (Quran 28:30) I have chosen you as a prophet, so listen to what is revealed to you. I am the Unique God, and there is no god apart from I.” (Quran 20: 13). In literal darkness, in a moment of fear, God gives Musa the good news of this prophethood and His existence, truly the greatest sign of hope and faith for a believer (Dar Rah e-Haq). Therefore, through the stories of Prophet Yusuf and Musa, it is evident that finding hope in moments of darkness is possible and if one is patient with their trust in God, they will be rewarded with goodness.

In the reality of this world, where one is constantly struggling to find hope and a sense of serenity, to push through the next day, how does one cope and find Allah? In moments of anguish and desperation, although we can see nothing beyond an abyss of hopelessness, we are given the chance to turn to our Creator. He is the one who will listen to every worry, complaint and stress, for truly when we are alone and have no one to turn to, who do you turn to but Allah? As Prophet Yakub has elegantly stated, “He said, “I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah” (Quran 12:86). Being vocal, or physically turning to Allah in moments of desperation whether it be by reciting duas, just talking to Him or prostrating in sajdah, in moments of suffering allows you to lay your worries on God, the one who is in charge of everything in this universe from microscopic bacteria to the galaxy above (Al-Musawi). Also, things like exercise, eating the right nutrients, avoiding unhealthy food, getting enough sunlight and sleep, certain natural/herbal remedies and vitamin supplements can make a big difference in how we cope with stress and difficult situations (Inloes). A balanced and healthy lifestyle is important to reach any goal, similar to one of spiritual increase. It is also important to note that some difficulties are not just easily handled by handing them to God, but rather need the help of professionals. Allah has given us all these opportunities as blessings, so we should take advantage of the blessings we have to make our lives easier. Salat al-layl can also help in difficult times. During challenging times, we don’t have a lot of energy for prayer; but at other times, it is a good opportunity to spend more time in prayer (Inloes). Although it may seem like a bittersweet positive, moments of hopelessness, when struggling with hardships provides a believer with a chance to reconnect and rekindle a relationship with God, as we know He will be there even if no one else is. It also serves as a wake-up call, a reevaluation of life causes self-reflection to realize that this life is not going to last forever.

In conclusion, suffering in this world is a trial of faith for the believers and surely good things will come out of moments of despair as seen in the stories of Prophet Yusuf and Musa. Overall, being placed in hardship gives a believer the chance to flourish and turn to their Creator. For a believer, God has said “Verily with hardship comes ease” (Quran 94:6). So surely, in moments of difficulty, there will be an end, and one must always remember that even if it does not seem that it will ever get better, a moment of relief will come and that is promised by the Creator.