If you have read the Quran attentively, you may have been puzzled by this verse. Do you not see that ships sail through the sea by the favor of Allah that He may show you of His signs? Indeed in that are signs for everyone patient and grateful. (Luqman 31) Imagine someone who is already patient and grateful, in what would such «signs» be useful to him ? Isn’t he patient already ? What does it mean to be patient, by the way ? It simply means suffering again and again, being tried again and again. What does it mean to be grateful ? It simply means that whatever happens to you, that won’t affect your love for God. So why would you need such signs ? The answer may perhaps lie in another verse : —those who are patient and who put their trust in their Lord. (An-Nahl-42) But why should one care about having trust in God if one is already patient, no matter what happens, and grateful, no matter what happens ? The answer to this second question may lie in the verse: To give sight and as a reminder to every servant who turns frequently (to Allah). (Qaf 8) What does it mean to be (عَبْدٍ مُّنِيبٍ ‘abd muneeb) ? (translated as penitent servant, servant (of God) willing to turn to Him in contrition, bondman who inclines, always begs His pardon)…) I opted for «servant who turns frequently (to Allah)», because it says it all. This simply means having an uninterrupted relationship with God, it means clinging to God in bad times (patient) and in good times (grateful). This (عَبْدٍ مُّنِيبٍ ‘abd muneeb) is moved by just a little beauty which would not move millions of people, knowing that the One Who made little beauty made the Sublime Beauty, Heaven, and the One Who deprived him of so many things can grant him much better things : "If Allah knoweth any good in your hearts He will give you better than that which hath been taken from you, and will forgive you. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." (Al-Anfal : 70) In other words, those people (who are already patient, grateful, who turn frequently to Allah, those who are patient and who put their trust in their Lord) are cordially invited to hope for something much, much better than they have already. Usually, few people attain to this level of faith before a certain age. What could a person beyond fifty or sixty of age hope for ? The answer may lie in these verses: And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and there was beneath it a treasure for them, and their father had been righteous. So your Lord intended that they reach maturity and extract their treasure, as a mercy from your Lord. And I did it not of my own accord. That is the interpretation of that about which you could not have patience." (Al-Kahf 82) Normally, a parent would love to live on till his kids are grown up and married, etc. This man here does not live that long. His kids are left orphan. True, their father left them with a treasure, but they won’t get it right away. Well, this anecdote is told in the course of a series of anecdotes meant to show believers that even a prophet cannot totally grasp the meaning of everything done by God. In this story Moses represents us. Killing an innocent child is a crime. But when you know God’s purpose you change your mind. The problem is, we can’t always know the purpose of God. And mankind have not been given of knowledge except a little." Verse (17:85) When a mother loses her little child, how can she know that God is going to give her a better one ? Our little minds would ask : «Why doesn’t God give us the good thing right away ?» Even people who are patient, grateful… may ask such questions at some point of the process, but as they mature faithwise they stop asking questions. They stop caring about their future or the future of their kids. They put their whole trust in God. And that’s a problem. If you have «blind» trust in God, that means you will not fear anything; and if you don’t fear anything, you may not implore God when you are in trouble. And that’s not good in the sight of God. And your Lord says, "Call upon Me; I will respond to you." Indeed, those who disdain My worship will enter Hell [rendered] contemptible. (Ghafir 60) Call upon your Lord in humility and privately; indeed, He does not like transgressors. ( Al-A'raf 55) Then why, when Our punishment came to them, did they not humble themselves? But their hearts became hardened, and Satan made attractive to them that which they were doing. (Al-An'am 43) And cause not corruption upon the earth after its reformation. And invoke Him in fear and aspiration. Indeed, the mercy of Allah is near to the doers of good. ( Al-A'raf 56) Indeed, they used to hasten to good deeds and supplicate Us in hope and fear, and they were to Us humbly submissive. (Al-Anbya 90) Even if you believe, personally, that you could do without marriage, for example, you have to implore God to help you get married. Even if you are spiritually and emotionally prepared to live as a homeless person, you have to implore God to help you get a permanent shelter. But you have to implore Him in fear and aspiration and in hope and fear. That means you have to have an uninterrupted relationship with God. And be not like those who forgot Allah , so He made them forget themselves. Those are the defiantly disobedient. (Al-Hashr 19) You have to be a (عَبْدٍ مُّنِيبٍ ‘abd muneeb) , a servant who turns frequently (to Allah). That’s why you’ll be put in situations where you have to suffer (so that you show that you are patient) and in situations where you can enjoy your life (while being grateful). You have to be of —those who are patient and who put their trust in their Lord. (An-Nahl-42)
God does not praise «the successful», who seemingly get what they want independently of their faith. Because if God wants to give you something (a good job, a beautiful partner, a splendid home, nice kids, fame…), He will create the conditions for you to get that thing. And you will get the impression that it’s all the fruit of your own efforts. You did it wholly on your own. A good believer too can have that impression until he/she is tried with adversity. "And if Allah were to enlarge the provision for His slaves they would surely rebel in the earth, but He sendeth down by measure as He willeth. Lo! He is Informed, a Seer of His bondmen." (Ash-Shura : 27) “Whatever of good befalleth thee (O man) it is from Allah, and whatever of ill befalleth thee it is from thyself.” (An-Nisaa : 79) “And whatever of comfort ye enjoy, it is from Allah. Then, when misfortune reacheth you, unto Him ye cry for help.” (An-Nahl : 53) "Lo! Allah wrongeth not mankind in aught; but mankind wrong themselves." (Yunus : 44)
Now imagine you got a good job after a long period of unemployment, or you got married after a long period of waiting. Probably the first thing you’d think of is to show that off. You want other people to know what you’re worth. And when things go badly, what do you do ? You would try to hide from people. But how long will you hide from people ? People will end up knowing that you are jobless, that you are single, that you are suffering. People will end up showing you their true faces. They will show you what you are worth in their eyes. You will feel small, unworthy. You’ll realize that you are worth what you have, what you possess. And God ? Well, He is watching you. He wants you to know who is the sadistic ? And you’ll end up knowing who is the sadistic. You will see how the people you thought good friends will react to your misery. You will see how members of your beloved family will react to your unending unemployment. You will see how people will let you down when you need them most. And when you are stuck, when you realize what you are worth in the sight of people, when you become "certain that there is no refuge from Allah except in Him" (At-Tawbah 118), God will show you what you are worth in the sight of Him. That loan you thought you could never pay back, God will help you pay it back. That woman you thought she would never marry you, God will help you marry her or someone much better than her. Those people who let you down will become jealous of you. That’s why you implore God. A humiliation ? So be it ! But how do you feel if God gives you what you want when you have tried out all possible means, when you have knocked at all doors, when all people around you have let you down ? How do you feel when you have the money again to buy what you couldn’t buy a year ago, or to go to places you couldn’t show up your face six months ago ? Isn’t He worth imploring ? Isn’t it worth being patient and grateful for the sake of Him ? See why one should have an uninterrupted relationship with God ? God alone knows what you are worth. And there came a company of travelers; then they sent their water drawer, and he let down his bucket. He said, "Good news! Here is a boy." And they concealed him, [taking Joseph] as merchandise; and Allah was knowing of what they did. And they sold him for a reduced price –a few dirhams– and they were, concerning him, of those content with little. (Yusuf 19-20) For those travelers Joseph/Yusuf was but a little child like any other child ; how could know that he would become king ? When you go on the street with a clean jacket and clean trousers, who will know that there’s no money in your pockets ? Because you don’t beg, people will think you are self-sufficient. So nobody will come forward to help you even if you are overladen with debts and probably cannot even afford your day’s food. An ignorant [person] would think them self-sufficient because of their restraint, but you will know them by their [characteristic] sign. They do not ask people persistently [or at all]. (Al-Baqara : 273) But God knows what you are going through. He knows that you are patient for the sake of Him. And He likes to see you going on the street like a normal person –as if you were rich. In fact, you are rich in your heart. For God you are a special person. For you, your relationship with God is special too. You think of God and He thinks of you. Other people think of themselves and of worldly things only. You are not impressed by what other people got. You don’t care who has what. You are not amazed at other people’s achievements. But you respect everybody. You wish good to everybody. And you wish to be a normal person « like everybdy ». Other people are in a hurry to get everything in this world ; they want to get something at age 20, another thing at age 30, another thing at age 40, another thing at age 50… But you already broke down the barriers between this world and the Hereafter. You dont really worry if you don’t get all that before you die. But you do everything you possibly can to achieve as much as other people, as if you’re going to live for ever, and you implore your Lord in fear and aspiration and in hope and fear , and thank Him when He gives you what you want. You always bear in mind the Word of God, Who says :
And We have certainly established you upon the earth and made for you therein ways of livelihood. Little are you grateful. (al-araf : 10)
Do they distribute the mercy of your Lord? It is We who have apportioned among them their livelihood in the life of this world and have raised some of them above others in degrees [of rank] that they may make use of one another for service. But the mercy of your Lord is better than whatever they accumulate. (Az-Zukhruf : 32)
Whoever should desire the immediate - We hasten for him from it what We will to whom We intend. Then We have made for him Hell, which he will [enter to] burn, censured and banished. But whoever desires the Hereafter and exerts the effort due to it while he is a believer - it is those whose effort is ever appreciated [by Allah ]. To each [category] We extend - to these and to those - from the gift of your Lord. And never has the gift of your Lord been restricted. Look how We have favored [in provision] some of them over others. But the Hereafter is greater in degrees [of difference] and greater in distinction. (al-Israa : 18-21)
And God would like to give you what you want. "Whoso desireth the reward of the world, (let him know that) with Allah is the reward of the world and the Hereafter. Allah is ever Hearer, Seer." (An-Nisaa : 134) And when you get what you want, without breaking your relationaship with your Lord, you will still be considered as a successful person. But God wants you to see beyond your personal success. Just as there were people who did not know that you were going through a hard time, there arecertainly other people now who are in the same situation and you probably do not know about them because they look alright when they go out on the street. Now that you have the means you ought to give a thought to those people.
Having an uninterrupted relationship with God means, among other things, that you read the Quran, the Word of God. But you also read concrete translations of the Quran. Of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) Aysha said « he was a Quran walking on the ground. » The Prophet implemented 100 % of the Quran. There were people before, during and after the Prophet’s time who realized in different degrees the Word of God. The Quran names a few, human books are full of stories of hundreds of people who tried to implement the Word of God in the best possible way. When you read about such people, what do you learn ? Well, many of these people found themselves in need of basic things. They tried everything they possibly could to get those basic things –all to no avail. They were finally convinced that there was nothing the matter with their personalities, or intelligence, or talent or physical ability to get work, for example, and therefore be able to acquire what they needed. They were convinced that their problem had to do with Fate. They not only believed, but knew absolutely that it’s Allah who gives power to whom He pleases and takes it away from whom He pleases and it’s Him who exalts whom He pleases and abases whom He pleases and that He is the Possessor of power over all things and that He gives sustenance to whom He pleases without measure. They knew that without Allah they were nothing. So they turned to Allah for help. They prayed and cried. They begged Allah and they got what they wanted. Each time they were tried like this and begged Allah like this, they drew a little bit nearer to Allah. And they knew that it’s Allah Himself who will or will not bring you close to Him. With time, such people became ashamed to beg Allah for worldly things. If they were given the whole world, that would mean little to them. Some of them said even Paradise wouldn’t make them amply gratified unless Allah was satisfied with them. But at the same time, they believed and knew and had absolutely no doubt that if Allah brings you close to Him, you will get better than what you want in this world and what you can never imagine in the other world. They saw with their own eyes or heard true stories of people who became successful in this world only after tasting poverty and becoming friends of Allah. They knew the (material and moral) worth of having trust in Allah.
Now most people trust the Government, not Allah. They trust the companies or businesses they’re in, not Allah. They trust their bank accounts or real estate, not Allah. Well, many governments are finding it increasingly harder to meet people’s needs (jobs, healthcare, education…). Instead of “begging Allah”, some people chose to revolt and topple rulers and bring down regimes. They want, they said, to have their Fate in their own hands.
We all love the world. Who would not like to live happily with a loving spouse and lovely children in a splendid home? It would be great if you had a steady job, a partner that you love, a house of your own and children at an early age. But life is not only a steady job; it's not only a good partner; it's not only a house of one's own; it's not only begetting children at an early age. Life is, above all, a feeling. Will you be happy with your job? Will you be happy with your partner? Will you feel at home in your house? Will your children be as successful as you?
What would you feel when you hear that someone has won a lottery jackpot, 200 million euros or so? I don’t like to be rude, but I daresay I know the answer. When a coin falls to the floor and you hear the jingle of the coin, you forget all about all things, at least for a fraction of a second, even if you have a healthy sum in an account and tons of gold. That’s human. If you see, for the first time, a friend, a colleague or even a sibling wearing a stunning piece of clothing, driving a nice car or walking hand in hand with a beautiful person, chances are you’ll feel kind of slight pain in your breast. That’s jealousy and that’s human. It’s that jealousy that fills up our heads with tons of existential questions.
In my country, we often hear business people, economic analysts, and even government officials, say that if tens of thousands of our youth can’t find work it’s because their training is inadequate for business. People with degrees in Islamic Studies, History & Geography, Arabic language, Philosophy, etc., have nothing to do in the business world. They only wasted their time at Faculty. Business wants competent people. It wants engineers, managers, specialized technicians, etc. If you have a degree in the Arabic language, why don’t you be a poet? You’d do well to sell potato chips to kids in front of schools by day and write poetry and love stories at night.
So what to do? Will you study what business wants so that business will be pleased with you? Will you sell chips by day and write poetry at night? Will you join sit-ins in front of Government buildings to pressure the Government to find you a job? Will you wait for economic recovery or better economic growth? Will you use heroin or cocaine to forget all about these problems? Will you turn to religion? Can you wait more and be steadfast when religion asks you to do so? Can you decide for yourself ? Can you defy all people around you? Can you trust yourself? Do you trust yourself in the first place?
Sometimes we know all this and yet we make as if we have never heard of it. We behave as if we were the masters of our lives. Instead of seeking God's pleasure, we want God to please us with good things. And if God does "please" us with good things, do we give thanks to Him? Not all men do this. But men are not all ungrateful. "And if We cause man to taste some mercy from Us and afterward withdraw it from him, lo! he is despairing, thankless. And if We cause him to taste grace after some misfortune that had befallen him, he saith: The ills have gone from me. Lo! he is exultant, boastful; Save those who persevere and do good works. Theirs will be forgiveness and a great reward." (Hud : 9-11) What could such a reward be ? Can God answer all my prayers ?
You may ask that very question yourself. And the answer you get –if you truly are a believer– is this: "Every soul must taste of death, and We try you with evil and with good, for ordeal. And unto Us ye will be returned." (Al-Anbiyaa : 35) This means that God may try you with evil just as He may try you with good. So no wonder some men will be poor all their lives, and some men will be disabled all their lives. Being poor or disabled may mean a lower social status, but in God's sight there's no difference between poor and rich, abled and disabled. They are all God's bondmen, but they are tried with different things. A good deed from a rich, healthy man is the same as a good deed from a poor, disabled man. Idem for ill deeds. It is, therefore, God only Who decides who should be poor and who should be rich. "Is it they who apportion their Lord's mercy? We have apportioned among them their livelihood in the life of the world, and raised some of them above others in rank that some of them may take labor from others; and the mercy of thy Lord is better than (the wealth) that they amass. And were it not that mankind would have become one community, We might well have appointed, for those who disbelieve in the Beneficent, roofs of silver for their houses and stairs (of silver) whereby to mount, And for their houses doors (of silver) and couches of silver whereon to recline, And ornaments of gold. Yet all that would have been but a provision of the life of the world. And the Hereafter with your Lord would have been for those who keep from evil." (Az-Zukhruf : 32-35)
Does this mean, though, that a poor man should accept his state of poverty as something fated for him and not try to improve his living conditions? No! On the contrary, a poor man should try again and again and never despair of God's mercy, and never consider himself as doomed to remain poor all his life. The Quran says : « No person knows what he will earn tomorrow, and no person knows in what land he will die. » Luqman : 34 »
God made us to serve one another: you and I will never be able to return the favour to our parents, not only the tenth of it –nor our children will be able to return the favour to us even if they look after us in our old age better than the best nurse in the world. We all pay the favour forward. Couldn't that be possible with just anybody else? Why should we always expect thanks for what we do? Yes, it is painful to be treated unkindly by someone we gave so much kindness, especially if that person is a family member or a close friend. The pain varies according to each person's faith in oneself, but it can be devastating. A person with a strong psyche can more easily overcome the pain of being treated ungratefully, because experience taught him/her that somebody else, to whom he/she had never done any kindness, did 'compensate' him/her subsequently with an unexpected kindness. Whether you believe or not in God, He will send you, one day or another, somebody that will give you that unexpected kindness. Because "Allah loves not the perfidious and the ungrateful". (22:38) And that has to do with trust in God.
One source of our unhappiness is our anxiety about the future. How long will I keep my job in this time of crisis? What about my children? How will I be able to give them the appropriate education if I lose my job? Horrible nightmares. Childless people are anxious, too. Who will look after me when I grow old? I don’t have any social security, will I have anybody to feed me when I grow too old to work? It all has to do with trust in God.
When you think about these fragile people we see on the street (beggars, homeless people, prostitutes…), you realize how weak Man can become after all his strength and power. Hence, the importance of FAITH. For some people Faith is the weapon of the weak, the treasure of the destitute, the refuge for the mentally ill, the easy solution for people with small minds… God is seen by some as the last resort, the very last to think of when we are stuck. Why not make Him the first to think of when we are alright so that He would think of us when we need Him most? Why don’t we listen to Him when He says: “2.152. Therefore remember Me, I will remember you." ? Why don’t we acknowledge that, whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not, God is always with us or against us. Take one example: the rain. The good rain after long droughts, it’s God. The terrible floods, it’s Him too. Very often He does that because of…our sins. Why don’t we just return to Him? Why do we always rush to psychics, to drugs, to I don’t know what? Anything but God is only an aspirin. Ask the thousands of religious millionaires in this and other Muslim and non-Muslim countries who would never save their money in interest-based banks, because they fear more for their relationship with God than for their money, which could go and come back their way. These religious millionaires are not fiction. They’re as real as you and me. Type ‘Islamic banks/finance’ in your search engine and you’ll learn more about them. Ask those millionaires, they’ll tell you: your belief in God will only strengthen your psyche and guide you to the right decisions. “64.11. No calamity befalleth save by Allah's leave. And whosoever believeth in Allah, He guideth his heart. And Allah is Knower of all things ." But then you have to be serious. Why should you be so anxious about the future if you prepare for it right now? You can’t save money to prepare for the future? O.K. Why don’t you do good to others now so that God will send you the right people who will do you good at the time of need? If you are childless with no social security, why don’t you try out ‘informal adoption’ and do it, NOW, for the sake of God? You could take care of a poor child/a poor family, not necessarily helping them financially. You could only be a good, faithful friend who always has the right, soothing words. You could volunteer during your free time to help others in any informal way. If you do that for the sake of God, this is what He says: “We suffer not the reward of one whose work is goodly to be lost." (18.30) Simply put, God will reward you for the good you do. So why be so anxious about the future if you believe that God is the God of the past, of the present and of the future? Why be so anxious if you believe in the Word of God? You know what, people who really believe in God, people of knowledge, wouldn’t care whether they are employed or unemployed, rich or poor, married or unmarried, in good health or sickly; they believe that they won’t die and leave this world before they get all that God decreed for them; they believe they will get only the material things God decreed for them, no more no less; they believe they won’t live longer than God decreed for them; they believe that what happens to other people may happen to them too, but God will help them cope with the pain and misfortune when they befall them and give them a good reward for their patience… And yet these people (of knowledge) are just as ambitious, if not more, as anybody else, and far less anxious than many, many people. These people (of knowledge) are not afraid of illness or extreme poverty, because they are not ashamed to implore God for help, and when they get that help, after very, very hard work (or after long suffering), they thank God for it.
"Say: The evil and the good are not alike even though the plenty of the evil attract thee. So be mindful of your duty to Allah, O men of understanding, that ye may succeed." (Al-Maidah : 100) "Allah enlargeth livelihood for whom He will, and straiteneth (it for whom He will); and they rejoice in the life of the world, whereas the life of the world is but brief comfort as compared with the Hereafter." (Ar-Ra'd : 26) "Then withdraw (O Muhammad) from him who fleeth from Our remembrance and desireth but the life of the world. Such is their sum of knowledge. Lo! thy Lord is best aware of him who strayeth, and He is best aware of him who goeth right." (An-Najm : 29-30)
Recently, we Muslims around the world celebrated Eed al-Adha. Did everybody enjoy eed in the same way? Well, many people did sacrifice a sheep but couldn’t eat from its meat simply because they are ill. Other people, with healthy stomachs and bodies, couldn’t afford a sheep for eed. Too expensive for them. Who should envy the other : one who can’t eat from his sheep or one who can’t buy a sheep in the first place?
Sweet potato may be good per se. but it may be better if it’s one among other ingredients in a dish. Red pepper, or capsicum, may be 'bad' per se, but it could be fine as one ingredient. Instead of looking at one ingredient, look at the end dish. Instead of looking at beauty, money, health, etc., each one separately, look at the whole picture, at the whole of what God gave you out of His bounty.
The problem is, feelings and emotions are sometimes stronger than knowledge and convictions. It’s not easy for anybody to deal with the feeling that his boss or superior is less qualified than him. It’s not easy for a handsome man to understand why his beautiful beloved should marry an ugly man. It’s not easy for a black woman to understand why she should be black, or for a successful engineer to understand why his only son should be handicapped.
In God’s eyes there’s no difference between a black woman and a white woman, between a handsome man and an ugly man, between a successful engineer and a street vendor, between a disabled person and an able-bodied person. They all have souls. They are all judged on the basis of their deeds: good deeds and bad deeds. Being black, ugly or disabled –that’s ‘the first creation’ "We mete out death among you, and We are not to be outrun, That We may transfigure you and make you what ye know not. And verily ye know the first creation. Why, then, do ye not reflect?" (Al-Waqi'a : 60-62) "No soul knoweth what is kept hid for them of joy, as a reward for what they used to do." (As-Sajda : 17)
Being content with what you have does not mean you shouldn’t be ambitious. So instead of looking on God as a foe who is always foiling your plans, you'd rather look on Him as a friend who knows better what is good and what is bad for you. "And if Allah were to enlarge the provision for His slaves they would surely rebel in the earth, but He sendeth down by measure as He willeth. Lo! He is Informed, a Seer of His bondmen." (Ash-Shura : 27) “Whatever of good befalleth thee (O man) it is from Allah, and whatever of ill befalleth thee it is from thyself.” (An-Nisaa : 79) “And whatever of comfort ye enjoy, it is from Allah. Then, when misfortune reacheth you, unto Him ye cry for help.” (An-Nahl : 53) "Lo! Allah wrongeth not mankind in aught; but mankind wrong themselves." (Yunus : 44)
"O mankind! Ye are the poor in your relation to Allah. And Allah! He is the Absolute, the Owner of Praise. If He will, He can be rid of you and bring (instead of you) some new creation. That is not a hard thing for Allah." (Fatir : 15-17) “O mankind! There hath come unto you an exhortation from your Lord, a balm for that which is in the breasts, a guidance and a mercy for believers.” (Yunus : 57)
"Say: O Allah! Owner of Sovereignty! Thou givest sovereignty unto whom Thou wilt, and Thou withdrawest sovereignty from whom Thou wilt. Thou exaltest whom Thou wilt and Thou abasest whom Thou wilt. In Thy hand is the good. Lo! Thou art Able to do all things. Thou causest the night to pass into the day, and Thou causest the day to pass into the night. And Thou bringest forth the living from the dead, and Thou bringest forth the dead from the living. And Thou givest sustenance to whom Thou choosest, without stint." (Al-imran : 26-27)
Another fact is that a believer can have quite the same problems as a disbeliever. A believer, too, can fall ill. "And when I sicken , then He healeth me" (Ash-Shu'araa : 80)
A believer, too, can be poor. "Whoso (of the guardians) is rich, let him abstain generously (from taking of the property of orphans); and whoso is poor let him take thereof in reason (for his guardianship)."(An-Nisaa : 6)
A believer, too, can undergo financial difficulties.
"And if the debtor is in straitened circumstances, then (let there be) postponement to (the time of) ease; and that ye remit the debt as alms giving would be better for you if ye did but know." (Al-Baqara : 280)
A believer, too, can have a family problem. "If a woman feareth ill treatment from her husband, or desertion, it is no sin for them twain if they make terms of peace between themselves. Peace is better. But greed hath been made present in the minds (of men). If ye do good and keep from evil, Lo! Allah is ever Informed of what ye do. Ye will not be able to deal equally between (your) wives, however much ye wish (to do so): But turn not altogether away (from one), leaving her as in suspense. If ye do good and keep from evil, lo! Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. But if they separate, Allah will compensate each out of His abundance. Allah is ever All Embracing, All Knowing." (An-Nisaa : 128-130)
A believer, too, can have difficulty getting married.
"And let those who cannot find a match keep chaste till Allah give them independence by His grace." (An-Nur : 33)
A believer can suffer a lot of things. "And surely We shall try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and crops" (Al-Baqara : 155)
A believer, too, can lose hope. "And when We cause mankind to taste of mercy they rejoice therein; but if an evil thing befall them as the consequence of their own deeds, lo! they are in despair! See they not that Allah enlargeth the provision for whom He will, and straiteneth (it for whom He will). Lo! herein indeed are portents for folk who believe." (Ar-Rum : 36-37)
So what's the difference between a believer and a disbeliever in this respect? God says: "If ye are suffering, lo! they suffer even as ye suffer and ye hope from Allah that for which they cannot hope. Allah is ever Knower, Wise." (An-Nisaa : 104)
It's a fact that (some) disbelievers do suffer as (some) believers do, but while a believer is supposed to link the life of the world to the Hereafter, a disbeliever seeks comfort in this world only--without relying on any deity whatsoever, following his own lust and desires, assuming that his success in this life would depend only on his own physical and mental capabilities. While a believer seeks success in both this life and the Hereafter, a disbeliever concentrates all his intellectual efforts and energy on the life of the world, believing that this is the wisest way to deal with one's life. While a disbeliever does not follow any Holy Book, save his own desires, a believer is constantly reminded that there's another life awaiting him and that he should prepare for it.
Disbelievers say: "Doth he promise you that you, when ye are dead and have become dust and bones, will (again) be brought forth? Begone, begone, with that which ye are promised! There is naught but our life of the world; we die and we live, and we shall not be raised (again)." (Al-Muminun : 35-37)
God says: "O ye who believe! Observe your duty to Allah. And let every soul look to that which it sendeth on before for the morrow. And observe your duty to Allah! Lo! Allah is informed of what ye do." (Al-Hashr : 18)
Our problem is that we –today's Muslims– tend not to recognize these facts, because we have been brought up within a system that dinned into us that "if you work hard, you will succeed". We tend to ignore lessons from the past.
Why don't we remember, for instance, that before this faith –Islam– became so powerful, so widespread, when it was still a naissant faith in the midst of a harsh environment, the first believers who embraced it had suffered so much; they were subjected to torture, blockades, starvation, humiliation, but they resisted and remained stoic, and carried the faith in their hearts and on their shoulders until it became the Faith of great empires that stretched east and westward and has now become the fastest-growing religion in the greatest country on earth, America? Those early believers, too, asked the same questions you and I asked when they felt too weak to bear any more hardship, and here's the reply they got: "Or think ye that ye will enter Paradise while yet there hath not come unto you the like of (that which came to) those who passed away before you? Affliction and adversity befell them, they were shaken as with earthquake, till the messenger (of Allah) and those who believed along with him said: When cometh Allah's help? Now surely Allah's help is nigh." (Al-Baqara : 214)
If you had a smooth life –full of joy and bliss, with no sufferings, no worries– you wouldn't probably ask yourself such existentialist questions. But now that you've asked them, you have got closer to meditating about your very existence. You would think of how you came into being out of nothing, of how God –by giving you life– gave you a chance to live in perfect happiness in Paradise–if only you were patient until the ordeal was over! So if you really want to be one of those who will lead an eternal, happy life in Paradise, you have to bear the sufferings that have been afflicted on you in this world (and which will be over, anyway). Paradise has a price, and if you want to go to Paradise you have to pay that price, and the price is patience. "And We have appointed some of you a test for others: Will ye be steadfast? And thy Lord is ever Seer." (Al-Furqan : 20) "O mankind! Lo! the promise of Allah is true. So let not the life of the world beguile you, and let not the (avowed) beguiler beguile you with regard to Allah." (Fatir : 5) "The devil promiseth you destitution and enjoineth on you lewdness. But Allah promiseth you forgiveness from Himself with bounty. Allah is All Embracing, All Knowing." (Al-Baqara : 268)
If you think you're steadfast already, then think again! "And of His portents are the ships, like banners on the sea; If He will He calmeth the wind so that they keep still upon its surface. Lo! herein verily are signs for every steadfast grateful (heart)." (Ash-Shura : 32-33) "O ye who believe! Endure, outdo all others in endurance, be ready, and observe your duty to Allah, in order that ye may succeed." (Al-i'Imran : 200) See? You have to "outdo all others in endurance"! You know why? Well, .... "And of mankind is he who would sell himself, seeking the pleasure of Allah; and Allah hath compassion on (His) bondmen." (Al-Baqara : 207) "O ye who believe! Seek help in steadfastness, and prayer. Lo! Allah is with the steadfast." (Al-Baqara : 153)
There are two kinds of patience: 1) positive patience, which means working hard in order to attain one's aim and enduring hardship; 2) negative patience, that is, waiting with crossed arms and lamenting one's lot. As a believer, you have to have both ambition and patience, because they will allow you to have a better vision of things.