Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried?
Trial By Design
Trials are in this world by design. Nothing happens without the permission of Allah . We have no control over the actions of people around the world, be they people who share our faith or not. What we can control is our personal reactions to the situations that Allah decrees for us to experience. In fact it is our individual reactions to the circumstances that Allah places us in that we will be judged by in the Hereafter.
Sometimes the tests we face are personal tests, in which each one of us is left to handle and react within our personal capacity in the best way. These are the small tests that we encounter on a daily basis. Whether it be a small fender bender, a scratch on your car or anything else that you had no possible way of avoiding, your job as a believer is to learn how to respond. The ability to respond in the best way possible is not easy to learn. But for those who are told from the beginning by Allah that, “you will be tested”, their reaction should be quite different. This is coupled by the fact that we have a Sunnah or a way to follow — the way of a Prophet ﷺ who was the best of responders to the tests that Allah placed him in.
So let’s set the record straight. We believe in Allah and we believe that He tests those who He loves. We are thus held responsible not for the circumstances that we are placed in, but rather for the way we react to those circumstances. Lastly, yet most importantly we are blessed with a living example of how to respond to these tests, the Prophet ﷺ.
Now we have to ask ourselves: what do we do? Ask yourself what did the Prophet ﷺ do when a hard situation came upon him? How did he cope with difficulties? He turned to Allah in supplication and in humility. He took the hardship as an opportunity to gain nearness to Allah. This is seen throughout his life, yet especially after he returned from the city of Taif. Completely rejected, he ﷺ collapsed in a garden outside the city and cried this prayer to Allah.
“Oh Allah, I complain to you about my weakness, my lowness in the sight of people, my lack of planning. To whom will you turn me over? Who will you give power over me?”
The Prophet ﷺ then crying to Allah said, “Oh Allah if you are not upset with me, then I care not”. This was the reaction, the response of our Prophet ﷺ. Compare this to our response to the calamities that befall our ummah and ourselves. We choose to focus on the collective response before the personal individual response. Without doubt both are equally important, however change begins with the parts before the whole. We will never be punished by Allah for responding to a difficulty the way the Prophet ﷺ did. In fact the opposite is true, we will be rewarded greatly by Allah if our reaction and response resembles that of His Beloved. His response began with internal reflection and rectification before everything else.
We must truly understand that if we hold the Prophet ﷺ to be the example of balance, then the more we follow that example the more we too become examples of that balance. Responsible, balanced responses are what the world currently lacks. We too can lose balance and go to extremes when we stop responding the way the Beloved Prophet responded and when we use our own minds and opinions. Indeed the actions of Isis are a response in of themselves too. But is it a Prophetic response? By no means.
Are you in the Circle of Influence or in the Circle of Concern
At the heart of Islam lies a concept which molds a healthy frame of mind. This same concept was beautifully articulated by Stephen Covey in his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey speaks about Circles of Influence and Circles of Concern. He says that foolish and unproductive people are those who spend all of their time in “Circles of concerns” like global poverty, pollution, the national debt etc. Whereas productive people spend their time and effort in the “circle of influence”. Meaning those things that they actually have the ability to change.
This truth is found in a fundamental tradition of the Prophet ﷺ, “A beautiful aspect of your Islam is that you leave those things that don’t concern you”. In other words focus on the things in life that you can actually change, and if there is one thing that each and everyone of us can change, its our own selves and the way we respond to hardships.
“No calamity afflicts the earth or yourself except that it is written in a book (preordained) before it comes into existence، That is indeed easy for Allah. This is so, so that you do not grieve over what has missed you nor become arrogant because of what you have received..” [57:22-23]
Imam Mikaeel Ahmed Smith currently serves as a resident scholar at the Islamic Society of Annapolis and full-time instructor at the Al Rahman Seminary at the Islamic Society of Baltimore. He grew up in a deeply spiritual Christian home in Buffalo, New York. At the age of 18, he embraced Islam after reading the Qur’an and the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Within a year after his shahadah, Imam Mikaeel enrolled at the Dar ul-Uloom al-Madania in Buffalo, NY, where he learned to read Arabic and memorized the Qur’an. In 2008, he traveled overseas to study Arabic at the Jami’ah Abu Noor in Damascus, Syria. Upon his return, he continued studying the Islamic sciences at the Dar ul-Uloom al-Madania, where he completed the Alim program and earned his Bachelors in Islamic Studies in 2010. In 2012, he completed his studies of the Sihah Sitta (six most authentic collections of Prophetic traditions) and Qur’anic Tafseer (commentary), earning his Masters in Islamic Studies at the Dar ul-Uloom Canada in Chatham, Ontario. Imam Mikaeel is passionate about the meeting the needs of Muslim converts, building Islamic literacy among youth, and striving for social justice. He shares a love for books and athletics.