Understanding Difficulties According to the Quran

Life is full of challenges and difficulties. It consists of different events that result in various feelings and emotions. Marriage, divorce, birth, death, success, failure, wealth, poverty, health, and sickness. Every human without exception experiences some kind of challenge.

No one in this world is absolutely problem free, it is just the nature of life. Some people may not have financial problems, but they may have family problems. Others might have financial struggles but have strong families and good health.

The Quran explains:

We have created man into toil (90:4)

How are we to understand and deal with these challenges?

The Quran emphasizes that both difficulty and ease are not indications of God’s anger or love.

As for man, when his Lord tries him by giving him honor and blessings, then he says (puffed up): “My Lord has honored me.” But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, “My Lord has humiliated me.” No, but you indeed do not honor the orphan. (89:15-17)

Empty people often value themselves based on their net worth or some material possession, but this is very superficial because they are valuing themselves based on something external such as wealth and not based on who they are as a person.

Pharaoh thought of himself as better than Moses:

Am I not better than this (Moses), who is a detestable wretched and can scarcely express himself clearly? Then why are not gold bracelets bestowed on him, or why don’t angels accompany him in procession? (43:52-53)

However, the Quran explains that sometimes wealth can be a source of punishment.

And it is not your wealth, nor your children that bring you nearer to Us, but only he (will please Us) who believes and does righteous deeds; for such (people), there will be a double reward for what they did, and they will reside in the high dwellings (of Paradise), in peace and security. (34:37)

And let not their wealth and their children impress you. Allah only intends to punish them through them in this world and that their souls should depart [at death] while they are disbelievers. (9:85)

The love of desirable things is made alluring for men- women, children, gold and silver treasures piled up high, horses with fine markings, livestock, and farmland- these may be the joys of this life, but God has the best place to return to. Say, ‘Would you like me to tell you of things that are better than all of these? Their Lord will give those who are mindful of God Gardens graced with flowing streams, where they will stay with pure spouses and God’s good pleasure – God is fully aware of His servants. (3:14-15)

These verses indicate that having and not having is not a sign of God’s love. One may have a life full of challenges, poverty, and sickness.

However, it is ultimately God’s pleasure that is most important and the source of true happiness and peace. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affairs are good and this is not for no one except the believer. If something of good/happiness befalls him he is grateful and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him he is patient and that is good for him. (Sahih Muslim)

This changes the believer’s outlook on life. Something might be harmful, but he views it as a temporary difficulty and transforms it into an eternal blessing. By being patient when is he or she is afflicted with something, they know that this affliction is actually good in the end.

You may dislike something although it is good for you, or like something although it is bad for you: God knows, and you do not know. (2:216)

Ultimately, everyone is challenged in life at some level. We are all equal in that regard and no one can escape both having and not having in some respect. Where we differ is in our attitude and perception of these events.

The Quran reshapes the human mind to not view wealth, fame, and materialistic luxury as sources of happiness and God’s pleasure. Rather, they can, in fact, lead to misery and sadness. Happiness is found in the attitude of being pleased with God’s decree and being near to Him.

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