The Two Great Bounties of Sabr and Shukr
Allah Ta‘ala has created this world as an abode of trial and tribulation. In this earthly abode, a believer will be faced with various situations and conditions. Some situations will be in accordance to his expectation and desire, while others will be against his temperament and nature. At different times during his life, a believer will be tested with health and sickness, wealth and poverty, and prosperity and adversity. Allah Ta‘ala says in the Qur’aan Majeed, “He (Allah Ta‘ala) is the One who created death and life so that He may test you (and see) as to which of you is better in his actions.” (Surah Mulk v. 2)
In the face of these changing conditions, Allah Ta‘ala wishes to see whether the believer remains loyal and faithful to Allah Ta‘ala, and leads a life of obedience and submission to Him, or he is affected by situations and overcome by changing conditions, thereby causing him to disobey Allah Ta‘ala.
Hazrat Suhaib (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) reports that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “How astonishing is the condition of a believer! There is only good for him in every situation, and this (goodness) is exclusive for a believer. If prosperity and favorable conditions prevail over him, he expresses gratitude, and this is good for him. And if adversity and unfavorable conditions befall him, he adopts sabr (patience), and this is good for him.” (Saheeh Muslim #2999)
Making Shukr in Ease and Exercising Sabr in Adversity
When a servant is blessed with wealth and bounties, then Allah Ta‘ala tests him to see whether he makes shukr and is grateful to Allah Ta‘ala through utilizing these bounties in accordance to the pleasure of Allah Ta‘ala. When a servant is tested with difficult conditions in regard to his health or wealth, then Allah Ta‘ala tests him to see whether he makes sabr and is pleased with the decree of Allah Ta‘ala, remaining loyal to Him at all times.
The true test of a servant’s love for Allah Ta‘ala will manifest at the time when Allah Ta‘ala tests His servant with difficulty, and despite finding himself totally helpless and overwhelmed by hardship, he remains loyal to Allah Ta‘ala. Such a servant will pass the test of love.
Generally, people regard wealth and prosperity to be a bounty from Allah Ta‘ala, and they regard tests and difficulties to be a calamity. However, hardships and tests are also a great blessing and bounty from Allah Ta‘ala, as they give the servant the opportunity to exercise sabr through which one will acquire immense rewards and make tremendous progress in the Hereafter.
Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “When Allah Ta‘ala wishes to bless a servant with a high rank that has been decreed for him (in Jannah), but the servant is unable to reach this high rank through his deeds and efforts, then Allah Ta‘ala brings about tests in his life and body, wealth, or his children. Allah Ta‘ala then blesses him with the taufeeq of sabr and enables him to exercise patience over this test, until Allah Ta‘ala causes him to reach the rank which Allah Ta‘ala had decreed for him.” (Sunan Abu Dawood #3090)
Making Dua for Ease
Nevertheless, though sabr is also a great bounty from Allah Ta‘ala, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) has taught us that we should not make dua for sabr, as this is in reality is asking Allah Ta‘ala to test us with difficulties, and it is possible that we will not manage to pass the test of sabr in the face of these hardships. Hence, one should rather make dua to Allah Ta‘ala to bless him with aafiyah (ease and comfort).
It is reported that on one occasion, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) overheard a Sahaabi who was making dua saying, “O Allah! I beseech You to bless me with sabr!” Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) corrected the Sahaabi and said, “You are asking Allah Ta‘ala for tests and difficulties! Rather, ask Allah Ta‘ala for aafiyah!” (Sunan Tirmizi #3527)
Those whom Allah Ta‘ala loves the most – He tests them the most in order for them to acquire His greatest proximity and attain the highest ranks in the Hereafter. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “Those who will be tested with the greatest of tests will be the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus salaam), then those who are closest to them in rank, then those who follow thereafter.” (Majma’uz Zawaa’id #3740)
Incident of Hazrat Urwah bin Zubair (radhiyallahu ‘anhu)
Below is an incident of a great Taabi’ee, Hazrat Urwah bin Zubair (rahimahullah), which highlights the high level of sabr which he exercised in the face of a great tragedy:
On one occasion, Hazrat Urwah bin Zubair (rahimahullah) was on a journey to meet Waleed bin Abdil Malik when a sore developed on his leg. After some time, the sore spread, leading to his leg becoming infected. When Hazrat Urwah (rahimahullah) eventually reached Waleed, he asked him to have his infected leg amputated. Waleed thus summoned the doctor who instructed Hazrat Urwah (rahimahullah) to take a sedative so that he would be able to amputate the leg while Hazrat Urwah (rahimahullah) was asleep.
However, Hazrat Urwah (rahimahullah) refused to take the sedative saying, “Go ahead and amputate. I cannot imagine how a person can ever consume something which will cause him to be negligent and unaware of Allah Ta‘ala.” The doctor therefore placed the blade on his leg halfway down the shin, and began to cut.
Such was the patience of Hazrat Urwah (rahimahullah) that those who were around him at the time later mentioned that he did not utter even one remark of complaint! Rather, the most they heard from him was an occasional hiss of pain. After the leg of Hazrat Urwah (rahimahullah was amputated and was placed in the tray (to be taken away and buried), he looked it at and expressed gratitude saying, “Only Allah Ta‘ala and I know that I never used this leg to walk towards His disobedience.”
It is also reported that while Hazrat Urwah (rahimahullah) was traveling to visit Waleed, he suffered a second calamity where his son, Muhammed, fell from the roof of the stable and was trampled to death by the animals.
After undergoing these two severe calamities, suffering the loss of his son and his leg, Hazrat Urwah (rahimahullah) addressed Allah Ta‘ala saying, “O Allah! I had seven sons. You took only one son and left me with six sons! O Allah! I had four limbs. You took only one limb and left me with three limbs! I take an oath in Your name! If You take something away from a person, You also leave with him (that which will suffice him), and if You test a person, You also grant him comfort.”
Furthermore, some narrations have mentioned that Hazrat Urwah (rahimahullah), despite undergoing the amputation, did not leave out his recitation of one quarter of the Qur’aan Majeed in tahajjud salaah that night!
After Hazrat Urwah (rahimahullah) returned from the journey, Hazrat Isa bin Talhah (rahimahullah), a great Taabi’ee and Aalim, came to visit him. When he entered, Hazrat Urwah (rahimahullah) instructed one of his sons to lift his kurta so that Hazrat Isa (rahimahullah) may see his amputation. On seeing the amputation, Hazrat Isa (rahimahullah) addressed Hazrat Urwah (rahimahullah) by his kunyah (filial title) saying, “O Abu Abdillah! We do not need you to wrestle or race, (for which you require a leg,) and Allah Ta‘ala has left with you that which we all need from you – your deep understanding and profound knowledge of deen.” Hearing this, Hazrat Urwah (rahimahullah) said to him, “No person has consoled me over the loss of my leg in the manner you have consoled me.” (Tahzeebul Kamaal vol. 20 pg. 19-21 and Taareekhul Islam pg. 427)
How Should a Believer View a Test?
It is reported that Hazrat Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) once mentioned, “Whenever any calamity afflicted me, I found three great bounties from Allah Ta‘ala contained in it (which were a means for me to thank Allah Ta‘ala). The first bounty (for which I am grateful to Allah Ta‘ala) is that the calamity occurred in my dunya – not in my deen. The second bounty (for which I am grateful to Allah Ta‘ala) is that the calamity could have been far more severe (yet out of His mercy, Allah Ta‘ala did not make it very severe). The third bounty (for which I am grateful to Allah Ta‘ala) is that Allah Ta‘ala has made this an opportunity to bestow me with immense reward in the Hereafter.” (Safwat-us-Tafaaseer 1/95)