If you’re in a state of difficulty, tribulation or restriction that is affecting your inner peace and making you think you’re not blessed, then you should read this.
We all want to be ‘blessed’, right? When we’re pleased with someone, we say “God bless you.” When people ask us to make dua for them, we say “May Allah bless you.” But have we asked ourselves what a blessing really is? What does it mean to be blessed?
Sometimes, we take this word for granted and miss the incredibly beautiful depth and meanings that are embedded in the state of being “blessed”. In this article, we will reflect more on what being blessed really means; to refine our understanding of our circumstances, ourselves and our surroundings.
Afflicted but thankful: food for thought
To start with, I’d like to share this anecdote I came across about a righteous man. As funny and seemingly strange as it appeared, I found it worth reflecting on.
This man was bald, blind, a leper and had paralyzed hands and feet. Nevertheless, he was so content and at peace with himself that he used to constantly make this dua:
“All praise is due to Allah who saved me from that which He has afflicted others, and blessed me greatly over many of those whom He has created.”
While making this dua, a man passing by him asked:
“Saved you from what, man? You’re bald, blind, a leper and paralyzed! So, saved you from what?”
The man replied:
“How could you say that? Allah has given me a tongue that is in constant remembrance of Him, a heart that is in constant gratitude towards Him and a body that is in constant patience over its afflictions“
Suddenly, this righteous man put the matter in perspective for the questioner and anyone who wishes to contemplate deeply, genuinely and sincerely on the true meaning of blessings.
What comes to your mind when you hear the word blessings? Many of us get an image of material possessions or material physical aspects or worldly goods in our minds when we hear this word.
However, Allah says:
“And whatever thing you [people] have been given – it is [only for] the enjoyment of worldly life and its adornment. And what is with Allah is better and more lasting; so will you not use reason?” [Qur’an: Chapter 28, Verse 60]
He also says:
“Indeed, We have made that which is on the earth adornment for it that We may test them [as to] which of them is best in deed.“[Qur’an: Chapter 18, Verse 7]
Blessings are a test
Contemplating on Qur’anic verses and Prophetic ahadith establishes one fact about blessings clearly: they are a test.
Being healthy, wealthy or popular in and of themselves are not necessarily the ultimate success. Losing them, also, is not the ultimate failure.
Blessings may be a means that absorb people in their worldly life, divert them away from the remembrance of Allah or make them greedy in pursuit of more or in constant worry over the loss of that which they have been given. In this case, are they really a blessing?
Similarly, true affliction is also not necessarily a disease or loss of wealth and status, because these same conditions may be the spark which directs people to seek Allah more passionately and constantly so that they deepen their bond, connection and reliance on Him .
Allah says in Surat Al-Fajr:
“And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, “My Lord has honored me.” But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, “My Lord has humiliated me.” No!” [Qur’an: Chapter 89, Verses 15-17]
The verses clearly indicate that there is one common element in blessings and hardships: they are both a trial; reinforcing the fact that what may look like good fortune from the outside is not necessarily the source of success and vice versa.
The Prophet so eloquently explained that:
“Richness is not having many possessions, but richness is being content with oneself.” [at-Tirmidhi]
This is what the righteous man we spoke about in the beginning understood, that’s why he was at peace, content and even grateful because he had been truly blessed – with wisdom:
“…and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding.” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 269]
Blessings and spiritual growth
A deep understanding of the meaning of blessings is directly connected to your spirituality. Why?
Not having a deeper understanding of what blessings are might actually hinder people’s connection with Allah .
We all face difficulties, ups, downs and failures and we might be surrounded with calamities. Some people might then think that they’re not ‘blessed’. Some people think that being ‘blessed’ means that one has to be rich, happy, healthy and with no problems. If those conditions are not met, one might feel cursed, unworthy or fall into a state of depression, confusion, or even worse, rebellion against the Creator .
Spiritual growth, accordingly, has to do with perceiving things correctly. The spirit is a gift from Allah , its Creator. When we grow spiritually, we grow towards the Source of our spirits, nearer to Him, and not away from Him ! Growing spiritually is easier when one has a proper perception and understanding of the Creator . So, the negative or inadequate perception of Allah or of the nature of this life’s trials could hold back our spiritual growth.
Does Allah stop loving us when He withholds?
Allah is full of love for and towards His Creation (mankind). One of His names is “Al Wadud” (The Most Loving).
Allah says in Surat Al-Baqarah:
“It is He who created for you all of that which is on the earth….” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 29]
Everything on earth is created for you. The sun, the moon, the earth, the mountains, the fruits, etc.; everything is created for you to use and/or reflect on, but you are created for Him !
What does this mean?
Allah says in Surat ad-Dhariyat:
“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” [Qur’an: Chapter 51, Verse 56]
If the entire purpose of our life is to worship Allah , such worship cannot be restricted to the hurried prayers we offer everyday, but a level of worship that necessitates a deeper bond and connection. The word for prayer in Arabic (sala) is similar to the word (sela), which means connection. When you connect with someone, you get to know them more, you get to know them better and you get an opportunity to develop deep love for them, right?
Allah wants us to love Him. In times of difficulty or restriction, we should not turn our back on Him thinking He doesn’t love us anymore. Love doesn’t mean that you always shower the other with blessings that are constituted of material, tangible presents. Love is much deeper. Love and commitment entail sticking to the other in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer. Right? Isn’t this what those in love vow to one another when they declare their commitment?
So, if you are one of those people who thinks that Allah doesn’t love you just because you’re in a state of tribulation or because you feel you’re not “blessed” enough, it’s time to change your perspective of being blessed to the right one. Facing some sort of trial or difficulty might in fact carry in its folds far better and deeper lessons and blessings that you wouldn’t have learned or earned otherwise.
The incredible blessing: patience
Allow your eyes, minds and hearts to contemplate deeply and carefully on this hadith of the Prophet :
Some people from the Ansar asked Allah’s Messenger (to give them something) and he gave to every one of them who asked him until all that he had was finished. When everything was finished and he had spent all that was in his hand, he said to them:
‘“(Know) that if I have any wealth, I will not withhold it from you (to keep for somebody else); And (know) that he who refrains from begging others (or doing prohibited deeds), Allah will make him contented and not in need of others; and he who remains patient, Allah will bestow patience upon him, and he who is satisfied with what he has, Allah will make him self-sufficient. And there is no blessing better and vast (you may be given) than patience.” [Sahih Al Bukhari]
Some people might look at this and think, “Patience? Really? What do I do with that? Where do I cash it?”
If you have the same thoughts, then hold on and think deeply.
Why is patience the best blessing?
1. Patience keeps you in the company of Allah in this world
Unlike blessings that can be consumed and completely used up in this worldly life, patience is a limitless gift that allows you to remain in the company of Allah , relying on Him alone in this life and growing more intimately connected to Him. Allah specifically assures us that He will be in the company of the patient and reward them immeasurably:
“O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 153]
“…and be patient. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” [Qur’an: Chapter 8, Verse 46]
“…Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account.” [Qur’an: Chapter 39, Verse 10]
So, patience gives you an opportunity to connect and bond deeply with Allah , while other blessings could take you away from Him .
2. Patience helps you reach Al-Firdaus
Just like being patient keeps you in Allah’s company in this world, you will remain closely in His company in the Hereafter; and that is the ultimate goal! We all ultimately aspire for our eternal home in paradise. Prophet Muhammad said that if we were to ask for paradise, we should ask for its highest level: Al-Firdaus Al-A’la. Why?
“Al-Firdaus is the highest of Paradise and its most expansive, and above that is the Throne of Ar-Rahman (the Most Merciful), and from it the rivers of Paradise are made to flow forth. So when you ask Allah, ask Him for Al-Firdaus” [at-Tirmidhi]
So, this paradise, Al-Firdaus, is the closest to the Creator, Ar-Rahman, and if you want to earn an eternal closeness to Him, shouldn’t you be working on initiating and deepening this relationship here first?
“Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while Allah has not yet made evident those of you who struggle in His cause and made evident those who are patient?” [Qur’an: Chapter 3, Verse 142]
3. Patience earns you limitless reward
Now that we’ve understood that when you are patient you’re in fact in the company of Allah Himself, consider anything else you think is an outward blessing. Do they have an end? Health, wealth, success, beauty, popularity, etc. Are they limitless? No, they have their own limits. On the other hand, patience earns you the company of Allah , who said:
“Everyone upon the earth will perish, and there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” [Qur’an: Chapter 55, Verse 26]
Everything will perish, except your Exalted Companion who is The Ever-Living, The Ever-Lasting, The Owner of the Kingdom. Everything you might have attached yourself to will vanish, except Him. And patience gives you an opportunity to really cling on to Him, The King of All Kings.
Isn’t this a vast and expansive blessing?
Lesson: The message here, my brothers and sisters, is that if you are in a state of difficulty that has no other solution but for you to be patient and turn to Allah , then don’t panic. Know that you have been given an opportunity to acquire a state of the highest and most eternal form of blessings. So, don’t panic. It will be over. Sooner or later it will be over, and if you really attained patience through it, then you have in fact been given an opportunity for a never-ending reward, in sha Allah!
Live between patience and gratitude
To live contentedly in this life, you must be in one of two conditions:
- a state of shukr (gratitude towards Allah) for whatever good you have been given, or
- a state of patience over whatever affliction you think you’re in
We will all experience both conditions. We all will experience some sort of affliction and some sort of prosperity. Neither one of those conditions mean you’re ultimately successful, and neither one of those conditions mean you’re ultimately doomed. Allah has already made that clear to us:
“In order that you not despair over what has eluded you and not exult [in pride] over what He has given you. And Allah does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful.” [Qur’an: Chapter 57, Verse 23]
True success is to be truly grateful when gratefulness is due because this shows you’re mindful of Allah and not heedless of Him, and to be patient when patience is due because this means you’re still mindful of Allah and hopeful of Him and trust His immense power and ability to get you out of whatever you’re in, and to reward you for it here and in the Hereafter for eternity.
The key is to remember what the beautiful Prophet said:
“How wonderful is the case of a believer; there is good for him in everything and this applies only to a believer. If prosperity attends him, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him; and if adversity befalls him, he endures it patiently and that is better for him.” [Muslim]
Why does this apply exclusively to the believer? Because the believer knows that this life is ultimately about knowing and connecting with Allah . Discovering and understanding Allah’s Majesty, Power, Grace and all His beautiful attributes takes more than a lifetime! He has given us a lifetime to get to know Him and love Him, and we will take this bond with us to the next life for eternity.
That’s the whole point of this temporary life: so we must not be overly happy over whatever good we have or overly sad about whatever we don’t have. If we get fixated on the material world ignoring the fact that this world is ending and we are all going to die with nothing of this material world in our hands; where then are the blessings and what then have we earned?
- Next time you ask Allah to ‘bless’ you or someone else, think sincerely about what you’re saying. Ask for true and eternal blessings. Ask Allah to give us wisdom because this will help us face the inevitable ups and downs of life gracefully. Ask Him to give us patience when patience is due and to help us be thankful when thankfulness is due because really, that is the true blessing!
- If you’re in a state of tribulation, learn how to deal with difficulties better.
Stay tuned for the next parts of this series that will reexamine the way we perceive and deal with problems, as well as explore ways of sharing and celebrating blessings with others.
What does being blessed mean to you? How do you find peace and contentment? Share your thoughts as we journey together on this reflective series In sha Allah.