There’s an interesting phenomenon that frequent fliers often witness, which is that when a plane hits turbulence, people start to pray. These people normally might be completely irreligious, but it’s like an instinct kicks in at that moment. They say there are no atheists in foxholes, and this is just one manifestation of that. But what happens when everything’s back to normal, and the ride is smooth again?
“When harm touches the human being, he calls on Us while lying on his side, or sitting, or standing. Then when We get rid of the problem for him, he walks around like he wasn’t calling on Us during the time of difficulty that touched him. That’s how we beautify, for those who go beyond limits, the things that they do” (Qur’an 10:12).
It’s like that friend that everyone’s had at some point. You’re there for them during tough times, and when things get better, they leave you as if you never helped them out. To you, it might seem like their behavior demonstrates the pinnacle of ingratitude, but isn’t that what we, as human beings, often do in our relationship with God?
We develop a certain attitude and mindset over the course of our lives, which is that things should happen our way. We feel entitled, like Allah owes us something (instead of the other way around). We tend to complain about hardships as if they’re completely unexpected, and think that Allah is somehow being unfair to us. We feel like He has messed up somehow, because things aren’t going exactly as planned. Or maybe He is just being cruel. Why else would you lose your job, or get sick, or lose a loved one?
Allah wants us to come closer to Him through that hardship by reminding ourselves of our utter dependency on Him, and how everything in this life is temporary. No loss in this life is ultimate loss, and no pain in this life is permanent pain.
But this shouldn’t actually come as a surprise to us, because Allah has already told us in the Qur’an: “We will definitely test you with fear, deprivation, loss of wealth, your own lives, and property. Congratulate those who patiently persevere: those who, whenever a hardship hits them, say, ‘There is no doubt that we belong to Allah, and we’ll definitely return to Him.’ Those are the ones who have blessings and mercy coming down on them from their Master, and they’re the ones who are rightly guided” (Qur’an 2:155-157).
When going through times of difficulty, we start to think, “Doesn’t He care? Didn’t He hear my du’as? Doesn’t He see my tears, and hear me desperately calling on Him? What did I do to deserve this?” But Allah wants us to come closer to Him through that hardship by reminding us of our utter dependency on Him, and how everything in this life is temporary. No loss in this life is ultimate loss, and no pain in this life is permanent pain. It’s all just a test, until we go back to Allah (swt) and He compensates His believing slaves with that which no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has ever imagined [Sahih Muslim]. This imperfect world can’t ever hold what you deserve- that’s all with Him. But while you’re here, strengthen your relationship with Allah during times of ease, and He’ll help you through your times of difficulty.
“Be sure that there’s something waiting for you, after much patience, to astonish you to a degree that you forget the bitterness of the pain.” – Ali ibn abi Talib (ra)