Dealing with Hardships
The story of Hajar that we discussed in the first part helped us see how patience is essential in dealing with and overcoming hardships. But patience is not a popular thing!
Some people might think: “why do I have to be patient in the first place? Why can’t matters just get resolved immediately? Isn’t this easy for Allah to do? Why can’t He do it now? Why the suffering? Why does He have to put me through this?”
There are many ways to respond to those questions, but for some reason, I got reminded of “The Marshmallow Experiment.”
Many of us are familiar with this popular experiment on self-control and delay of gratifications.
If you don’t know it: basically researchers in this series of experiments studied the behaviors of some children aged 4-5 years old.
The children were brought individually into a private room and one marshmallow was placed in front of them. The researcher told the children that he is going to leave the room and come back. If they didn’t eat the marshmallow until he comes back, they will get another one.
So, immediate gratification equals one marshmallow. Patience (delaying gratification) equals double the reward.
The results were fascinating.
Some children gave up and ate the marshmallow immediately. Some were patient for a little while, then gave up and ate the marshmallows. And a few were patient despite the temptations; they restrained themselves and were rightfully granted double the reward.
Interestingly enough, the researchers followed the children 40 years later to examine how they performed in life, and reported that the latter group that managed to delay gratification were found to be the most successful and the better achievers overall in life.
In a sense, patience was linked to success on the short run (getting two marshmallows) and on the long run (overall success and better achievement in life.)
Allah is The All Knowing Most Wise, and this is what He wants to teach us!
“O you who have believed, be patient and endure and remain stationed and fear Allah that you may be successful.” (3: 200)
And He says:
“Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account.”(39:10)
The researchers promised the children just another marshmallow. Allah is promising to give whatever we please without account.
He is teaching us discipline and true success. If we are patient, we don’t give up and we control ourselves against all those angry, evil, frustrated thoughts and inclinations, we will end up being successful here and in the hereafter for eternity.
You know, one can only imagine some of the thoughts that went on those kids’ minds while waiting… “Why can’t he just give me the other marshmallow now? Why do I have to wait? Is it too big for him to give me that little piece of candy? Does he have to make me suffer? What kind of an adult is that? Is this merciful? Maybe there is no other marshmallow and this tangible one right in front of me is all there is? Is there any evidence that there will be another marshmallow?”
Maybe these are not the kids’ thoughts but our thoughts when we don’t get what we want immediately, or when we have to struggle and go through some hardship.
But Subhan’Allah, researchers have found that “Success in nearly every field requires you to ignore doing something easier in favor of doing something harder,” (40 Years of Stanford Research…).
Yes, it’s difficult to wait. But think about it. All the things you want or are praying for are essentially temporary and will have to come to an end. The minute we go to our graves, they’ll be gone. Allah can give us what we want sooner or later. But He is doing us a greater favor. He is giving us what’s better and more eternal. He is teaching us deep faith, trust and real success…
We all know this ayah very well:
“Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” (Qur’an 8: 46)
We read it all the time. But this is not something to take lightly.
When Allah takes away something we want, He is giving us space to get to know Him while we wait.
Imagine you placing an order for an item you want online. Then you get a call saying, “We received your order. We are processing it. While you wait, would you like to come spend some time with The King?”
Spend some time with The King!
That’s what Allah says:
“…Seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” (Qur’an 2: 153)
What’s prayer? It’s spending time with The King of Kings, The Owner of the Heavens and the Earth and everything therein.
Yes your item will be delivered, and by the way, it might break, or you might not like it that much after all, or it might get boring, end or be a source of frustration for you eventually… But you’ll get it or get something better even. Meanwhile, would you like to spend some time in the company of the King? The Source of Mercy, Source of Peace, Source of Beauty, Source of Love,
The Eternal, The Ever-living…
“Everyone upon the earth will perish, and there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an 55: 26)
We have a chance to build a relationship with The Owner of Majesty and Honor. Isn’t this an eternal investment?
Allah said, “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (Qur’an 51: 56)
This worship means to deeply know, connect with and commit to Him. Hardships could actually be an opportunity to actualize our purpose of creation. It’s through tough times that you get to know the true nature of people, right?
But an essential point to remember here is to work on our trust in Allah. Can you have a successful, durable and loving relationship that isn’t built on trust?
Allah needs us to trust Him. He is testing this trust. This is a foundation of true faith.
One of the most dangerous things about hardships is that people could lose all sense of trust, hope, gratitude and positivity.
They might start generalizing and magnifying matters in a way that makes them see no hope, expect no hope, resent and give up on everything.
This is exactly where Satan wants us to be: the state of utter ingratitude.
“[Satan] said, “Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful [to You].” (Qur’an 7: 17)
See what he says, “*You* have put me in error.”
Does it sound familiar? Sometimes we too tend to direct similar thoughts at Allah Glorified and Exalted…“You have put me in this difficulty. You want my pain. You forced me to sin and give up. You didn’t give me what I want.”
Projecting anger at someone else instead of self-reflection, learning, growing and dealing maturely with issues is a major psychological problem.
Allah showed us in the Qur’an how Satan wasn’t patient to see Allah’s wisdom in His command of prostrating to Adam. Satan gave up easily, projected anger at Allah, showed ingratitude and promised to tempt others to also adopt this mentality of ingratitude, “and You will not find most of them grateful to [You].”
But when we reflect on our situations, yes we may be going through some hardship and difficulty. But to be fair and have a healthy outlook at life, we need to see the greater picture.
Allah has also given us a lot, He has given us what we didn’t expect or ask for.
“It is He who created for you all of that which is on the earth.” (Qur’an 2: 29)
From the minute we were in our mothers’ wombs, He is The One who was taking care of us and feeding us before she was even able to do so. We were born and we found someone conditioned to show us love and mercy. We were weak and He made us grow, learn and toughen up. He has shown us beauty, He has given us foods and drinks, beautiful places to see and beautiful people to know, kindness, mercy, love, excitement….
“And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful.” (Qur’an 14: 34)
There is no way that we haven’t seen any goodness ever from the minute we were born until today. Right?
The problem is that some people are tempted to think “There is no goodness in this world. It is all pain all the time all around. There is no hope. Nothing good has ever happened to us.”
This leads to losing hope and trust in Allah and resorting to immediate gratifications even if they be wrong, harmful or sinful.
The opposite of that, is what Allah taught us through the example of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him), for example.
Note in the verses below how when faced with difficulty, Ibrahim kept listing the favors of Allah upon him saying it is Allah …
“Who created me, and He [it is who] guides me. And it is He who feeds me and gives me drink. And when I am ill, it is He who cures me. And who will cause me to die and then bring me to life. And who I aspire that He will forgive me my sin on the Day of Recompense.” “My Lord, grant me authority and join me with the righteous. And grant me a reputation of honor among later generations. And place me among the inheritors of the Garden of Pleasure. And forgive my father. Indeed, he has been of those astray. And do not disgrace me on the Day they are [all] resurrected – The Day when there will not benefit [anyone] wealth or children. But only one who comes to Allah with a sound heart.” (Qur’an 26:78-89]
Beautiful words and beautiful heart!
It is inspiring how Ibrahim mixed gratitude, faith, hope and asking for more all in the same dua… How can this not be answered?
And here we are praising his mention, just like he asked “And grant me a reputation of honor among later generations”…
Being in a difficulty is not a shame. Tests are not meant to dishonor or humiliate us. Allah is teaching us deep human lessons, all the while, He is omitting our sins, forgiving our shortcomings, raising our ranks and maximizing our rewards…beyond any account.
For many of those who watched a video of the experiment, it was funny seeing those kids who didn’t even want to listen to the fact that there could be more reward, or those who were patient for just a little while, then gave up and ate the marshmallow.
Couldn’t they have waited just a little longer…?
It was also really inspiring and praiseworthy to see those kids who endured and were finally granted double the reward.
If those kids managed to be patient for a second piece of candy, can’t we wait for what’s better and more eternal?
“So be patient. Indeed, the promise of Allah is truth. And let them not disquiet you who are not certain [in faith].” (Qur’an 30: 60)
O Allah, praise belongs to You; You are the light of the heavens and the earth. And praise belongs to You; You are the Sustainer of the heavens and the earth. And praise belongs to You; You are the Lord of the heavens and the earth and whoever is in them. You are the Truth, and Your words are true. Your promise is true, and the meeting with You is true. The Garden is true and the Fire is true and the Hour is true. O Allah, I submit to You and I accept You and I trust in You and I turn to You and I argue by You and I summon to You for judgement. You are my god – there is none worthy of worship but You.
Written by Dina Mohamed Basoiny