Sakinah | Shaykh Ahsan Hanif

Tranquillity through Adversity

Finding peace and tranquillity in life is a major human dream and desire. The earliest philosophers spoke about finding inner peace and happiness, and today still, the self-help industry is worth billions of dollars. All of this comes back to the human need to find tranquillity. Spirituality is also a reflection of people’s desire to find tranquillity. At some level, most people know that inner peace is not found in money, power or fame alone. There is something deeper which is needed.

The search for that ‘something deeper’ is what consumes many, including Muslims. Often, we think that inner peace and tranquillity arise from a set of idyllic circumstances. It is when we have everything in order, as we would like, in terms of family, income, career etc. that we think tranquillity is achieved. However, when we analyse the Qur’anic teachings, we find something different. The word for tranquillity, ‘sakīnah’ is mentioned six times in the Qur’an in four different stories, but each time it is cited, it is in the context of adversity and difficulty.

It is as if the Qur’an is telling us that tranquillity is not attained when times are easy and there are no troubles or hardships. Rather, it is acquired when we go through trial and tribulation. It is during these turbulent and tumultuous times when we stay the course, strong in our faith, close to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), that He endows our hearts with inner peace and tranquillity. Let us look at these five instances in the Qur’an and their contexts.

The first time sakīnah is mentioned in the Qur’an is in Sūrah al-Baqarah, in the story of David and Goliath. The context and setting of this story is one of extreme hardship and adversity. The Children of Israel were experiencing oppression. Many of them had been killed. They were constantly defending themselves against the tyranny of Jālūt or Goliath. During these trying times, the Children of Israel asked their Prophet to appoint a king from amongst them. He did so, choosing Ṭālūt or Saul. Saul was not from their nobility or elite. Rather, he was an average man from amongst them. Immediately they were upset with this appointment.

It is at this time when they must make the difficult decision of accepting this appointment, swallowing their pride and accepting Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) decision that the word tranquillity is used. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “Indeed, a sign of his kingship is that the chest will come to you in which tranquillity from your Lord…”[1] For those who obeyed and followed Saul including a young man by the name of Dāwūd or David, they would be rewarded with victory over Goliath.

The second story in which tranquillity is used is the migration of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) from Makkah to Madinah. The story is very familiar to us. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) are fleeing the Makkan bounty hunters and seek refuge in a cave for a number of nights. The Makkans are searching the mountain and come extremely close to the cave. Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) observes that if one of them was to simply look down towards their feet, they would see them in the cave.

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It is at this time that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) replies that they are not alone, but that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is with them. Tranquillity is having the calmness to know what pleases Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), especially at the most difficult of times, when standards and ethics are often forgotten. It is the peaceful heart not being shaken by events but remaining steadfast in its faith and mission to obey Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “If you do not aid the Prophet – Allah has already aided them when those who disbelieved had driven him out as one of two, when they were in the cave and he said to his companion, ‘Do not grieve; indeed, Allah is with us.’ And Allah sent down His tranquillity upon him…’”[2]

The third story is so important and contains so many lessons that the word tranquillity is used in it three times, all in the same chapter. In Sūrah al-Fatḥ, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) speaks about the Treaty of Ḥudaybiyyah. In the year 6 AH, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) along with some 1,400 Companions raḍyAllāhu 'anhum (may Allāh be pleased with them) decided to proceed to Makkah for pilgrimage. They were in the ritual state of iḥrām and carried no weapons or armour for battle. They were heading into enemy territory. They had no defence and little to stop the Makkans from simply attacking them.

The fact that the Companions raḍyAllāhu 'anhum (may Allāh be pleased with them) so readily accepted this command of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) shows their obedience and love. Women and children also accompanied this delegation. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) alludes to this, “It is He who sent down tranquillity into the hearts of the believers that they would increase in faith along with their faith.”[3]

The Muslims were stopped at a place called Ḥudaybiyyah. There, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) sent ‘Uthmān raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) to Makkah as an ambassador to negotiate with the Makkan chiefs. In his absence, a rumour reached the Muslims that ‘Uthmān has been killed. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) took an oath of allegiance from the Muslims that they would avenge ‘Uthmān. Remember, they were not prepared for battle. Yet such was their devotion to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that they would have gone to battle in that state. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “Certainly was Allah pleased with the believers when they pledged allegiance to you, under the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down tranquillity upon them…”.[4]

Eventually a treaty would be agreed. The terms of the treaty were heavily biased against the Muslims. Even when it came to writing up the treaty, the Quraysh representatives objected to Allah being described as al-Raḥmān and al-Raḥīm. They also objected to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) being described as the Messenger of Allah. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “When those who disbelieved had put into their hearts rage – the rage of ignorance. But Allah sent down His tranquillity upon His Messenger and upon the believers…”.[5] The terms were especially difficult for the Muslims to accept. Yet they did so. As a result, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) described the treaty as a victory.

The final story in which tranquillity is mentioned in the Qur’an is the Battle of Ḥunayn. Taking place after the Conquest of Makkah, Ḥunayn was the first time in a battle that the Muslims has superior numbers. Some of the Companions commented on this saying that on that day they would not be defeated due to a lack of men. However, as the battle began, the Muslims were scattered and their ranks sent into disarray.

It was only when the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) called the Companions to regroup around him that they were able to turn the battle around and record a victory. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “Allah has already given you victory in many regions and on the day of Ḥunayn, when your great number pleased you, but it did not avail you at all, and the earth was confining for you with its vastness; then you turned back, fleeing. Then Allah sent down His tranquillity upon His Messenger and upon the believers…”.[6]

It is amazing how throughout the Qur’an, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) always twins tranquillity with adversity, as if it one is not realised without the other. We know life is full of tests and hardships. These trials are not the antithesis of inner peace and happiness; they are a stepping stone to actualising them. Use your tests to remember Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), follow His pleasure and come closer to Him, and Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will cause tranquillity to descend upon you.

[1] 2:248.

[2] 9:40

[3] 48:4.

[4] 48:18.

[5] 48:26.

[6] 9:25-26.

4 / View Comments

4 responses to “Sakinah | Shaykh Ahsan Hanif”

  1. Aisha says:

    Fantastic article. Absolutely amazing.
    Please write more often.

  2. Usman says:

    A great article that ignites my mind to reflect on Allah’s creation of dichotomy. Light and dark. Good and evil. Hot and cold. Positive and negative. Wet and dry. Male and Female. Pain and comfort. Happiness and sadness. Etc … And the topic of this piece – tranquility and adversity.

    The wisdom behind everything created “in pairs” is that one has to experience one to understand the other. If one doesn’t experience adversity than one cannot appreciate tranquility. Suffering is a necessary component of the human experience to understand gratefulness (Shukr)

  3. aronno says:

    Excellent one! Masha Allah.

  4. Umm Yusuf says:

    MaashaAllah very very beneficial a lot of lessons to take from. JazakaAllahu khayran yaa sheikh

    By the way Sheikh you thought us the tafseer of surah Kahf at an Al Maghreb class and ever since, this surah is been my companion. May Allah reward you for all your efforts

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