In a hadith of the Prophet (which mean):
“Wondrous is the affair of the believer as there is good for him in every matter, and this is not true for anyone but the believer. If he is pleased, then he thanks Allah and there is good for him. If he is harmed, then he shows patience and there is good for him.” [Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim].
Based on this hadith, we understand that Allah bestows upon the believers a special trait. This is because, no matter the test that is inflicted upon a believer – be it a blessing or a trial – he will strive to understand and appreciate the wisdom (hikmah) behind it. In other words, he will always seek the silver lining and what is positive from the situation. Every blessing is accepted with gratitude, and every musibah or problem is faced with patience or sabr – that is the character of a believer (mukmin).
When we discuss about sabr, we cannot deny the importance of studying the lives of the Prophets (Anbiya’) for they were those who faced all sorts of tests from Allah. Among them, Prophet Yusuf, whose story of patience is often mentioned. In fact, the Quran affirms his patience as a sign and an example for those who wish to emulate. Allah says:
Meaning: “Certainly were there in Joseph (Yusuf) and his brothers signs for those who ask.” [Al-Quran, sirah Yusuf, verse 7].
In the story of Prophet Yusuf, we learn that he was tested by Allah through consecutive tests. It started with the hostility between some of his siblings towards him because they were jealous of their father’s affection towards Prophet Yusuf. The Quran describes how they threw him into a dry well. After he managed to escape from the well, he was then tested when he worked as a helper in the home of a governor. Even after he was taken out from the well, the tests that befell him continued and even increased in intensity. This includes the temptations that tried to lure him to committing sins, and the false allegations made against him.
The story of Prophet Yusuf teaches us the true meaning of being tested, and also of patience (sabr). At times when a person is tested by Allah, some may complain and whine, and some may even blame fate and so on. Some may also assume that they are tested because Allah is not pleased with them and does not love them. Jemaah, even the prophets whom Allah loved dearly, were tested.
In fact, Prophet Yusuf was tested with such major challenges, yet, he continued to be firm in his faith, resilient, and faced the tests with patience and in a firm belief that Allah knows best. Allah’s tests for a person do not mean that the person is despised, in fact, it could mean the complete opposite. At times, a person is tested even though he is the most beloved servant of Allah. There are those who are tested because these challenges are kaffarah or an expiation of their past sins. Let us look at a hadith of our beloved Prophet Muhammad that was recorded by Imam Bukhari:
Meaning: “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.” [Hadith narrated by Imam Bukhari].
We now understand the wisdom behind Allah’s tests. The question that follows is how can one practise patience when faced with challenges? How can one develop resilience? There are two lessons that I would suggest to all: First: As taught by Prophet Muhammad in a hadith narrated by Imam Muslim
Meaning: “Look at those who are beneath you and do not look at those who are above you, for it is more suitable that you should not consider as less the blessing of Allah.” [Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim].
Hence, when we feel that the tests Allah has given to us are too heavy and we are unable to shoulder it, then look around and think of those whom Allah has tested with even greater challenges. In doing so, we will be grateful to Allah or the blessings He has showered upon us. We will also realise that despite the fact that the test we are facing is hard, there are many other blessings that Allah continues to bestow us with.
Secondly: Patience and consistency (Istiqamah) in having taqwa will lead to good results. Let us look back at the story of Prophet Yusuf, whom after some time, was shown the way out by Allah and he eventually achieved victory. He was made an important person who was in a position of power and leadership. In fact, it is by Allah’s decree that he reunited with his siblings who asked for his help because their country was facing a major drought. Allah described how their reunion in verse 90 of surah Yusuf:
Meaning: They said, “Are you indeed Yusuf [Joseph]?” He said “I am Yusuf [Joseph], and this is my brother. Allah has certainly favoured us. Indeed, he who fears Allah and is patient, then indeed, Allah does not allow to be lost the reward of those who do good.” [Al-Quran, sirah Yusuf, verse 90].
In this world, one will not be able to fulfil their hopes and dreams, nor realise one’s ambitions unless one has patience. Anyone who is patient will eventually succeed, and the opposite holds true as well. Think about it, if a farmer does not wait patiently for his seeds to grow and ripen for harvest, then he is unable to reap what he has sown. If an entrepreneur is impatient when facing losses, then he will not be successful. And so, it is with patience that those who are successful are able to achieve success in this world.