The Arabic word for sadness or grief is ‘gham’ – derived from the word ‘ghaamama’ (cloud). Although there’s no apparent relationship between sadness and a cloud, there is a hidden one. Just like a cloud blocks sunshine from lighting up the earth, so too sadness and grief act as a stumbling block, hindering man’s positive outlook and performance.
Just like a cloud blocks sunshine from lighting up the earth, so too sadness and grief act as a stumbling block, hindering man’s positive outlook and performance.
It’s natural that when a person is happy and everything is going according to their whims and desires and their own wishful thinking, their performance is at its peak. But when they are tested, challenged, or calamity strikes, they become pessimistic, make excuses, and aren’t able to give a good performance.
The real test lies in giving a good performance despite being in stress and crisis! Despite failing exams over and over again. Despite having a fight with a fellow colleague or spouse, or even losing a loved one.
Once a person develops this quality, they become distinguished from other human beings who succumb to grief and sadness to the extreme where it overwhelms them and overcomes their everyday life. It makes a person a true leader.
The Prophet said: “When Allah desires good for someone, He tries him with hardships.” 1
He also said, “Whatever befalls a Muslim of exhaustion, illness, worry, grief, nuisance or trouble, even though it may be no more than a prick of a thorn, earns him forgiveness by Allah of some of his sins.” 2
A Muslim may be tested by all sorts of difficulties like sickness, lack of income, disobedience from his children, etc. In fact, the afflictions that may beset a person are incalculable. This is the point that the Prophet was stressing when he mentioned fatigue, illness, anxiety, sorrow, harm, or sadness.
All of these afflictions, if endured patiently by the believer, are a means of attaining Allah’s forgiveness as well as His reward. Each and every one of us is being tested by Allah. He tests us all in different ways. We should not blindly assume that the difficulties we face in life are punishments or signs that Allah is displeased with us. Likewise, we should never construe the success and pleasures that others enjoy as signs that Allah is pleased with them or that they are privileged. Sometimes, the opposite could be true.
Sadness should never make us give up on our dreams, our vision, and our true moral values we stand upon. It should never make us diminish our will-power and hope, neither should it shut us down completely. The examples of the lives of various Prophets mentioned in the Glorious Quran give us several lessons to sustain our vision, purpose and performance despite being in crisis.
Prophet Muhammad said: “The Prophets were the most severely tested of people.” 3
Noah was teased the most, yet he kept on preaching for 950 years. Ibrahim was thrown into the fire but it never shattered him. Yousuf was sold as a slave, sent to jail for years even though he was innocent, but it didn’t change his moral values and ethics that he stood upon (unlike innocent prisoners today who become revengeful towards society after they are freed).
The last and the final Messenger of Allah himself had to see a lot in his life: from the loss of his beloved uncle to the loss of his baby son Ibrahim, to individual persecutions and social boycott. Yet, it never made him weak. Rather, it made him a more powerful and prominent leader.
Sickness, weakness, and poverty are among the common trials of life, but a discerning mind can often find wisdom in their existence. The life of this world should not be considered in isolation. No assessment of life will be balanced unless it is considered in connection with the Hereafter – with the fact that our ultimate return is to our Lord.
This is what gives contentment and composure to the heart of the believer, and acceptance of what must be endured in this life.
It is only this consideration that provides a balanced view of life, and through which, understanding of what takes place in the world becomes evident we gain the correct perspective.