The tribulation that the servant is afflicted with affects one of four things: himself – either by death or by something less than that; his property; his honour; or his family and those beloved to him. The severest of these is tribulation in oneself.
It is well known that everybody will die and the goal of the believer is that he be martyred in the cause of Allah for that is the most noble of death and the easiest. The martyr will feel the pain of death as if it were but the bite of a flea. Hence, whoever thinks martyrdom to be a tribulation greater than that of death on one’s bed is ignorant. Indeed martyrdom is the easiest form of death, the most noble and exalted; the one who flees from it thinks that through his fleeing his lifespan will increase but Allah has proved this notion false,
“Say: ‘Flight will not benefit you if you try to run away from death or being killed. Then you will enjoin only a short respite” (al-Ahzab 33:16)
Here Allah, Exalted is He, informs us that running away from martyrdom is of no benefit, and even if it were of benefit, that benefit would only be slight for the one fleeing must die, hence this person has missed out on a great deal of good in order to acquire something very slight. Then Allah says,
“Say: ‘Who is going to shield you from Allah if He desires evil for you or desires mercy for you?’ They will find no one to protect or help them besides Allah.” (al-Ahzab 33:17)
This person ran away from death thinking it would be bad for him, but Allah informs him that there is no one who could shield him from Allah, were He to have desired evil for him; indeed he could be fleeing from martyrdom and fall into something much greater.
The same applies to the tribulation of wealth, honour and in body. Whoever is miserly and does not spend in the cause Allah, Allah will take that wealth away from him or restrict it such that he spends it in ways that neither benefit his life in this world nor the Hereafter. If the person hoards wealth, Allah would prevent him from taking pleasure from it, and after his death it will merely be passed on to someone else; hence he will bear its sin and the inheritor will feel the joy of acquiring it. The same applies to one who prefers not to employ his body, weary it and fatigue it many times over, in other than His cause and good pleasure. This is something that man knows though practical experience.
Abu Hazim said, “The one who does not fear Allah, in trying to benefit from his dealing with people, will never attain anything greater than that attained by the one who does fear Allah in his trying to perfect taqwa.’
Consider the case of Ibis, he refused to prostrate to Adam thinking that by doing so he was submitting to him and humiliating himself. He sought to ennoble himself but Allah caused him to become the most despicable creation, a servant to the sinners and transgressors among the progeny of Adam. Consider also the case of the idol-worshippers, they haughtily refused to follow a human Messenger and worship one God, Glorious is He, and instead chose to worship gods made of stone!
The same applies to everyone who refuses to humble himself before Allah, or use what he has in order to please Him, or exert his energies in obedience to Him; inevitably he will humble himself before something that is incomparable to Allah and spend his wealth and energies in trying to please it – by way of punishment. Some of the Salaf would say, ‘Whoever refuses to lift a step in coming to the aid of his brother, Allah will cause him to lift many steps in disobeying Him.’
Now in order to complete this discussion, we will mention the actual goal that is desired of one; all that has preceded is merely a means to attaining this goal. The goal is the love of Allah, Glorious is He, taking comfort and solace with Him. This is the essence of the religion and essence of ones deeds and desires. Cognisance of Allah, knowledge of His Names, Attributes and Actions are from the greatest of objectives; worshipping Him is the most noble deed; praising Him through His Names and Attributes and glorifying Him is the most noble speech; and all of this constitutes the foundation of the upright and sound religion, the religion of Ibrahim, peace be upon him,. Allah, Exalted is He, says to His Messenger,
“Follow the religion of Ibrahim, a man of pure and natural belief. He was not of the polytheists.” (an-Nahl 16:123)
The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, would advise his Companions to say upon awakening,
“We have awoken upon the pure natural way of Islam; upon the statement of sincerity; the religion of our Prophet, Muhammad, the religion of our father, Ibrahim, the devout Muslim who was not of the polytheists.”
This is the reality behind the testification that none has the right to be worshipped save Allah, it is upon this that the religion of Islam is constructed, this is the religion of all the Prophets and Messengers and there is no other religion which Allah will accept.
“If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted of him and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers.” (Ali Imran 3:85)
Trials and Tribulations: Wisdom and Benefits (Note that this extract is taken from Aid for the Yearning One in Resisting Shaytan) Imam ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah Pages 52-56