What is the story of prophet job? What happened to the prophet Job?
The Prophet whose Profound Contemplation Turned Him into The Stone of Patience
JOB -peace be upon him-
Job (as) was of the lineage of Jacob’s (as) brother, Esau. He lived around Damascus, and had very few followers.
Through the prayers of his great uncle Isaac (as), the Almighty blessed Job (as) with a lot of wealth and many children. He owned a vast land with a lot of livestock and had many servants to help him. He always helped the poor, orphans and widows, and would not eat unless there was a poor person on the dinner table. Job (as) took great delight in offering guests things Allah (jj) had given him.
Job (as) began life a wealthy man, fell poor and weak in the middle stages; but later received all that he had lost, thanks to a patience that has become legendary. The Almighty praises him as:
“We indeed found Job to be patient. What an excellent servant! He was truly penitent.” (Sad, 38: 44)
Job (as) was sent to the people in the region of Damascus. The Qur’an describes him as a prophet who received divine revelation:
“We have indeed revealed to you as We revealed to Noah and the prophets after him, and as We revealed to Abraham and Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, Jesus and Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon. And We gave David the Psalms.” (Al-Nisa, 4: 163)
“And We gave him Isaac and Jacob and guided each of them. And Noah, We had guided before; and from his offspring, David and Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses and Aaron. And so We reward the virtuous.” (Al-An’am, 6: 84)
The Test, Patience and Reward
As part of a test, Allah (jj) took everything Job (as) had, one by one, from his children to his wealth. Afterward, Job (as) also became stricken with a severe illness. Yet, through reliance and submission to Allah (jj), he showed patience in the face of all these tribulations and resigned to divine will.
In the end, his legendary patience and submission became etched in history as an example to humankind.
Job (as) underwent these tests during his years as prophet. The reason for all the things he went through, was Satan. He could not stomach Job’s (as) virtue; so disguised as a human, he went around saying to people:
“It is easy to be a good man, when basking in abundance and wealth. You should wait and see how he conducts himself in hard times.”
The devil was relentlessly trying to tarnish Job’s (as) reputation.
To disclose Job’s (as) level of reliance and submission to the public, the Almighty thereupon made him undergo a number of tribulations.
When the Almighty willed to test Job (as), He first took his wealth. A flood destroyed his sheep, while a wind obliterated his crops. The devil, disguised as a shepherd, quickly ran to Job (as), thinking of capitalizing on the opportunity. In tears, he said:
“Job, you cannot imagine the disaster that has just happened! Allah has destroyed everything you have!”
Job (as) was untroubled. He calmly thanked the Lord and said:
“It was my Lord who had given me everything I owned. And now, He has taken it. He is the True Owner. He gives if He wants and takes if He wants!”
These words and attitude were enough to leave the devil devastated.
Not long after, an earthquake killed Job’s (as) children as they were studying. This time, the devil came to Job (as) wailing; and to incite the prophet to rebel, he remarked:
“Look, Job! God has destroyed your home with a quake. He took all your children from you. If only you could have heard their screams. It was unbearable!” The devil recounted the incident in such moving manner that it burst open the mercy in Job’s (as) heart and brought him to tears. Yet, just like before, he showed patience and resigned to divine will.
The devil was left empty-handed and furious. He was just about to say something else, when Job (as) interrupted him, saying:
“You wretch! You are the devil and you are trying to provoke me against my Lord! Know that my children were a trust…and their Owner has now retaken them! It is He who gives and He who takes; so, why should I feel hurt? I am a servant who thanks his Lord under all circumstances!”
Aziz Mahmud Hudayi gives beautiful voice to how the righteous are fully resigned to the Lord:
It is You who gives, You who takes and You who makes,
Only that which You gave, and that is all that we have
Anas ibn Malik (ra) recounts the following:
“My stepfather Abu Talha had lost one of his sons. He was outside at the time. When his wife Umm Sulaym saw that his son had died, she washed and enshrouded him, and lied him down at a corner of the house. Meanwhile, Abu Talha returned.
‘Is the child feeling any better?’ he asked.
‘He is a lot calmer now’, she said. ‘I am hoping he is having a good rest now!’
The next morning, Abu Talha woke up and took a bath. Just as he was about to step outside, his wife stopped him and let him know that his son had passed away. Abu Talha walked out in grief. He went next to the Prophet (saw) and prayed with him. Afterwards, he spoke about what had happened. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
‘I am hoping that Allah the Almighty has blessed that night for your family!’” (Bukhari, Janaiz, 42; Adab, 116)
This incident goes to show Umm Sulaym’s intelligence, piety and submission to Allah (jj). It also wonderfully explains how one’s parents, children, wealth and everything around him are trusts, which their Owner takes back when He wishes. It is as if Umm Sulaym was telling her husband:
“Our child has been recalled by the Power who gave him to us in the first place. In just a short while, we will reunite with him in the Hereafter. Do not be sad or raise your voice! Be pleased with the Lord’s will!”
Not long after, the Almighty in fact gave them another child. The Prophet (saw) personally named him Abdullah.
Finally, the Almighty gave Job (as) an illness, whose name the Qur’an does not reveal. His sickness became so severe that people no longer came to see him. Only his compassionate wife Rahimah kept by his side and saw to his needs. She also worked to earned them both a living. She did all this with love.
Never for once did Job (as) complain about his sickness. He sought refuge in his Lord, kept patient and continued thanking Him. With a prophet’s elegance, he ascribed his illness and weariness to the devil. The Qur’an recounts:
“And remember Our servant Job. When he called out to his Lord, ‘The devil has visited on me hardship and torment.” (Sad, 38: 41)
That is because, jealous of Job’s (as) conduct, Satan wanted to pester him. Yet, Job (as) was immovably conscious and resigned to the fact that everything came from Allah (jj).
Satan had failed to distance Job (as) from the Lord. So, this time, he directed his whispers to the townsfolk.
“Do not help Job (as) through Rahimah, unless you want to contract his disease! In fact, remove him from your town!”
The people were tricked. They threatened Rahimah, telling her to:
“Get out this town, the both of you! We will otherwise stone you both to death!”
Without any other option, Rahimah carried Job (as) on her back out of town. They settled outside of the area. Rahimah laid out a bed for Job (as) out of sand and placed a rock under his head as pillow. She then built a small hut and loyally continued caring for her husband.
Even in this condition, the patient Job (as) still kept on giving advice to those who passed by.
For a living, Rahimah was making strings and selling them to the women of the town. One day she told her husband:
“You are a prophet! Why don’t you pray to Allah for health and ask Him to cure your illness?”
“How many years did I spend healthy?” Job (as) asked.
“80 years”, she replied.
“I would be embarrassed, Rahimah, to complain to my Lord before my time of illness equals my time of health. We are happy when Allah gives. Why should we not be patient when He tests?”
Like the Qur’an, the Prophet (saw) also heaps praise on Job’s (as) remarkable patience:
“Job was the kindest, most patient and restrained among all men.” (Ibn Abi Shaybah, Musannaf, III, 201)
Job was (as) unshakably content with the Lord. It is as if the below poem was written about him:
Whatever comes from You is fine
Whether a rose or a spine
A fur coat or a shroud
Your fire is fine so is your light
After failing to deceive Job (as), the devil this time turned his attention to his wife, Rahimah. He kept confronting her, trying to beguile her with tricks. Each time, Rahimah would inform her husband of what the devil was up to; and he would warn:
“That is Satan trying to deceive you. It is trying to separate you from me, so ignore him!”
Rahimah was from Joseph’s (as) lineage, and carried a glimpse of his beauty. There was no woman in the area more beautiful than her. So, the devil confronted her one day, in the guise of a handsome man.
“I have never seen a woman so beautiful”, he said. “I am from the village over there; and there is no counting my wealth!”
Rahimah took refuge in the Lord and said:
“I am the wife of Prophet Job (as), who is ill. I take care of him. And I cannot look at anyone else other than him!” She then walked off.
On returning home, she told Job (as) what had happened. He became irritated and said:
“Did I not already tell you to ignore him? I will surely strike you with 100 lashes once I regain my health!”
Job’s (as) condition was getting worse by the day. It was now keeping him from fulfilling his responsibilities as prophet. So, he raised his hands to the Almighty; and from the bottom of his heart, prayed for his health:
“And Job, when he called out to his Lord, ‘I am surely stricken with distress, and You are the most Merciful of the merciful.” (Al-Anbiya, 21: 83)
Interpretations of the Qur’an have listed a number of reason as to why Job (as) prayed that way:
Imam Jafar Al-Sadiq says, “When the period of tribulation stretched out, Satan said to Job (as), ‘Prostrate to me if you want to be cured from your illness!’ Job’s (as) heart became heavy and remarked, ‘My illness does not bother me; the persistence of my enemy does!’ That is when he told his Lord that he was ‘stricken with distress.’”
One narration suggests that a few people who had believed in Job (as) remarked, “If he really had any goodness in him, he would not have been in this condition!” These words had hurt Job (as).
According to another narration, it got to a point where Rahimah began selling her clothes for food. When Job (as) found out, he became very upset and decided to pray for a cure.
It is also said that Jibril (as) visited Job (as) and advised him, “The Almighty has many tribulations in His treasure. You cannot endure them. Just ask for your wellbeing!”
A man one day entered the Prophet’s (saw) mosque and asked a few questions about Job (as). The Prophet (saw) cried and said:
“I promise by Allah that Job did not complain or moan over the tribulation. But he was stricken for seven years, seven months and seven nights. He wanted to offer prayer standing up but he could not. And when he saw that he could not serve the Lord as well as wanted to, he said, ‘I am surely stricken with distress!’”
While Job (as) sounds as though he is complaining, he is, in fact, making a genuine plea. To complain, is to whine to other people. Turning to Allah (jj) is never a complaint. Jacob (as) had also felt an immense agony from being separated from his son Joseph (as); and as the Qur’an recounts, he prayed:
“He said, ‘I complain of my anguish and grief only to Allah. And I know from Allah what you do not.” (Yusuf, 12: 86)
Cure from Illness
Rahimah had set out in search for food, when Jibril (as) appeared by Job’s (as) side and delivered the Almighty’s message, which said:
“Job! I heaped trouble on you and you remained patient. And now, I will return your health and wealth!”
This was followed by the command:
“Stomp your foot on the ground; and there you have a cooling bath and drink.” (Sad, 38: 42)
In line with the divine order, Job (as) stomped his foot on the ground. A spring of water sprouted. With it, he took a bath; and miraculously, he was cured of all inner and outer ailments.
Another narration suggests that when Job (as) stomped on the ground, it burst forth two springs of water, one cold and the other hot. He drank from first and washed himself with the other.
The command ‘…stomp your foot on the ground!’ is also striking in that even in a miracle, a servant is asked to make a personal effort. This means that person must not just make do with a prayer but also show some effort. One must also fulfil the conditions of prayer. This command is similar to how Mary is ordered to “…shake the trunk of the palm tree!” (Maryam, 19: 25). It also evokes the verse:
“To Him rises the good word, and He elevates righteous conduct.” (Fatir, 35: 10)
As a result of his sincere and mannerly turn to the Lord, Job’s (as) had his prayer accepted and the gates of healing, mercy and grace opened. The Qur’an says:
“So We answered his prayer and removed his distress. And We gave him back his family along with others like them, as a mercy from Us, and a memory for the devout.” (Al-Anbiya, 21: 84)
Job (as) was once again healthy. And with the order of the Almighty, Jibril (as) placed a crown on his head and dressed him in beautiful clothes. The cloud of grace rolled above and showered on him specks of gold.
Our Prophet (saw) has said:
“As Job bathed in the miraculous water, a horde of golden grasshoppers fell in front of him. Job immediately began collecting them inside his shirt. The Almighty then said:
‘Job! Do you not see that I have already made you rich by returning your wealth?’
Job replied, ‘Yes, my Lord! You have made me rich. Yet, I always stand in need of Your treasures of goodness and grace. So, I accept anything that comes from You. You are the One giving; how can I refuse?’” (Bukhari, Ghusl, 20; Anbiya, 20; Nasai, Ghusl, 7)
Meanwhile, Rahimah had returned from the town and she could not recognize Job (as). Assuming he had gone missing, she ran to the fields, wailing. Job (as) called out to her.
“Who are you looking for?” he asked.
“I had a spouse, he was ill. He was my treasure. And after all that I have gone through, I have now lost him!” she replied.
“Who was he?” he asked.
“He was the patient Job. In his healthy times, he looked like you.” she explained.
“I am Job, Rahima”, he said. “Allah has once again given me health.”
They both cried from joy and thanked the Lord.
Job (as) had now regained his youth and vigor. The Almighty also gave him more children and wealth than before:
“And We gave back his family to him along with others like them, as a mercy from Us and a memory for those with intellect.” (Sad, 38: 43)
Ultimately, Job (as) reunited with his family, who had been scattered, and received blessings greater than he ever had.
On the first morning after regaining his health, Job (as) heaved a sigh. He was asked why, to which he responded:
“At every dawn, I used to hear a voice ask, ‘How are you feeling our patient?’ But this morning, I did not hear that voice ask me how I was. That is why I am crying.”
Job (as) had pledged to cane his wife with 100 lashes over a mistake she had made. Yet, his wife had sacrificed a lot for him. Allah (jj), therefore, showed mercy and informed Job (as) that he could fulfil his vow by instead hitting her once with a bundle of 100 wheat stems:
“We told him, ‘Take a bundle in your hand and then strike your wife with it, but do not break your oath.’ Indeed, We found him to be patient. What an excellent servant! He was truly penitent.” (Sad, 38: 44)
Islamic law refers to this as ‘Job’s concession (rukhsah)’. As the verse does not specify what exactly this bundle was, it has also been given other meanings, such as the need to form a community.
“Indeed We found Job to be patient.
What an excellent servant! He was truly penitent.” (Sad, 38: 44)
Masiwa, in other words, all beings apart from Allah (jj), are created in such a way that they abide by a hierarchy from the simplest to the most perfect. At the top of this hierarchy, is man, as he is a being with a share of all the Lord’s attributes and who, therefore, embodies and unites all opposites in his existence. Simpler put, the human being is endowed with a contrasting tendency towards both good and evil. In the Almighty’s divine essence, these opposites rest calmly, in a way we cannot understand. Yet, in man, they are in eternal conflict.
If man uses his willpower to develop the positive tendencies in his being and cleanses his heart until the good within triumphs over evil, he will get closer to the Lord. Hearts able to do so, experience the excitement and delight of a person who has reached the beloved at the end of a long and arduous journey. This way, the distance between Allah (jj) and the servant shortens, and life on earth no longer constitutes an exile (ghurbah). Although the most deep-seated pains caused by being distant from Allah (jj) still persist in the mind, they slowly begin to fade. Even the sorrows of the human condition piled on top of these fundamental pains, are no longer felt, due to the zest and joy of being together with the Lord. All pain and anguish relating to the world, are virtually numbed.
At this stage, these pains begin to be conceived as blessings from the Lord and, therefore, transform to joy. This joy inundates the soul, and, at times, even encompasses the body. A glaring example is when Ali (kw) had an arrow from his leg removed during ritual prayer, a time when one is nearest to the Lord.
By cleansing the heart and refining the soul, the understanding also moves up a level, which allows it to break free from slavery to material and devote itself to the Real. In every event witnessed, man becomes aware of the chain of causes that lead all the way to the first. And once the mind matures enough, it becomes conscious of the Creator of all causes (musabbibu’l-asbab). That is when man reaches a sensitivity expressed in the poem:
Whatever comes from You is fine
Whether a rose or a spine
At this level, the eyes of the heart open and the person no longer ascribes any importance to means and causes. He strives to become annihilated in the Real and Ultimate cause and Artisan, the Almighty Creator. Those who fall short of this level are stuck dwelling on one of the causes that lie on the way. Like Leyla, these causes are like hooks that that often reel the person away from the Lord.
The great Yunus Emre, who overcame the barriers of the ego and the world, gives wonderful voice to the stages of the heart and how he lost himself in the Lord:
Sufis need company
Brothers need eternity
Majnun needs Leyla, to be
I need You and only You
The most inspiring means to reach this level of maturity, are troubles that come with pain. Hence, as indicated by a number of hadith, among all people, it is prophets who suffer the most troubles. The reason for this is that prophets are living examples for believers. Their duty requires them to be close to the Lord; and troubles that test their bond with the Lord provide the basis of this closeness. Prophets display a patience beyond imagination, only because they do not allow their souls to be dragged into the traps of excess joy or sorrow. They instead remain content (rida) and, embody its natural outcomes, patience (sabr) and reliance (tawakkul).
Abu Said al Khudri (ra) had visited the Prophet (saw) when he was ill and personally witnessed the amount of pain he was going through. He recounts:
“I placed my hand on the Prophet (saw) and I could feel his fever through the quilt.
‘You have very high fever, Messenger of Allah’, I said.
‘Prophets are like that’, he said. ‘We are given troubles in spades but also rewards in equal measure.’
‘Messenger of Allah’, I asked. ‘Who among people endure the most trouble?’
‘Prophets’, he said.
‘After them?’ I asked.
‘The righteous’, he replied, before adding:
‘Some among them are tested with such great poverty that they have nothing to cover up with except for a cloak. But they celebrate trouble, just as you celebrate wealth!’” (Ibn Majah, Fitan, 23)
Thus, it is wrong to be pleased with events that bring joy, while being displeased with others that bring sorrow. Yet, it is very difficult get rid of this human shortcoming, unless man climbs the peak of spiritual maturity. If Jacob (as) was able to bury his pain and longing for his son Joseph (as) and say ‘I best be patient’, it was only thanks to the exceptional maturity he had as prophet. He really did not open up about his situation to anyone except for Allah (jj). In the end, his longing transformed into a reunion.
It is narrated that the Prophet (saw) once asked Jibril (as):
“How great was Jacob’s (as) longing for Joseph?”
He replied, “As great as that of seventy mothers who had lost their children.”
“Then how much are his rewards?” asked the Prophet (saw).
“As great as the rewards of seventy martyrs”, replied Jibril (as), “…for he did not think bad of Allah even for a moment.” (Suyuti, Al-Durru’l-Mansur, IV, 570).
Although troubles and grief may appear as obstacles to a happy life, they are not. For those content with everything that comes from Allah (jj) and know how to be patient, they could be gateways to a much greater joy.
Rumi (qs) says it concisely:
“The hand of grief shakes off yellow leaves from the branch of the heart. They are replaced by leaves of joy, greener and more elegant.”
Grief, troubles and pain are the most powerful means to enrich the spirit, as they weaken the ego. This is why people of heart, who are tasked with showing people the way, always pass through the mill of a painful experience. Pain’s greatest profit is love. Poet Fuzuli has, therefore, said:
Acquaint me, oh Lord, with the grief of love
Don’t spare me from even a drop of it
For saints, grief and joy are twins. They well know why man is given these; and, therefore, they are always resigned. Poet Dertli, (Turkish for ‘distressed’) beautifully puts his distress into words:
We are roasted by a fire love has lit
Two eyes flowing with tears from a split
A rubble of a home razed and now built
Who cares if we are to now stand or tilt
In fact, after they were defeated by Moses’ (as) staff, the magicians had exclaimed:
“We believe in the Lord of Moses and Aaron!”
The Pharaoh threatened them, saying, “I will cut your hands and feet on opposite ends and crucify you on date trunks! I will make you taste the severest of all deaths!”
The magicians responded, “Your action cannot harm us! We will return to our Lord, anyway!” They challenged the threat by reminding the foolish Pharaoh that pains in this life come, go and ultimately end, while the spiritual joy of attaining the great truth minimizes worldly troubles and renders them unimportant.
The magicians had first set out to compete with a prophet of great rank. However, once they grasped the truth, they ecstatically affirmed him; and with an immense excitement of faith, they preferred to drink from the glass of martyrdom. They challenged all troubles related to the world and set out on a journey towards eternity, fully resigned to divine will. Thus, a tyranny that appeared like torture, became the means of an endless gain. They joined the righteous, for whom grief that comes from the Lord, is joy.
Just like Satan, the Pharaoh yielded to his pride and continued denying a truth that was plain to see. Rumi (qs) offers the following to depict the conditions of those stubbornly bogged down in denial:
“If you look closely, no one denies just for the sake of denying. It is perhaps he wants to destroy his rival out of jealousy or make himself look greater.”
For the righteous, a single trouble on the path of the Lord is a thousand times better than the joys and festivities of this world of illusion. They keep their hands off things common people strive for. Rumi (qs) goes on to say:
“What is a blessing for commoners, is grief for saints. The public must go through pain and discomfort to see the difference between both.”
It is impossible to find a word, sound or an expression to explain the ‘rank of contentment’ which saints enjoy. This the stage one becomes annihilated in the Lord. It comes with an entirely different spiritual pleasure, full of mysteries shut off to those who are not in the knowhow.
In fact, during the severest days of Job’s (as) illness, his wife Rahimah had asked:
“You are a prophet! Why don’t you pray to Allah for health and ask Him to cure your illness?”
And Job (as) had inquired, “How many years did I spend healthy?”
And when she said, “80 years”, he replied:
“I would be embarrassed, Rahimah, to complain to my Lord before my time of illness equals my time of health. We are happy when Allah gives. Why should we not be patient when He tests? I am pleased with my Lord.”
Job’s (as) conduct also illustrates the most beautiful example of being content with divine will. Despite all the troubles brought by his illness, to avoid sounding like he was groaning, and instead, show a patience proper to being content, Job (as) was ashamed to even complain to the Almighty and ask for health. Following his wife’s persistent requests, all he said in the way of a plea, was:
“You are the most Merciful of the merciful!”
The Almighty then took away all his troubles and cured him, to leave behind a memory for all those who persevere in servanthood. As a result of his patience, gratitude, submission and divine love, Job (as) regained his health and vigor.
Job’s (as) patience and contentment are perfect examples especially for dervishes who have entered the path of the Lord.
The troubles and pain the Prophet (saw) suffered in Taif served as basis for the journey of Miraj, which no other human being will ever experience.
Also, the conduct of Abraham (as), who Allah (jj) declared as His Friend (Khalilullah), exemplifies a rather different kind of devotion and submission to the Lord.
Just before he was thrown into the fire, Jibril (as) came to him and asked:
“Do you need anything?”
“I do need something”, Abraham (as) said, “but not from you!”
He then further asked, “Who has given fire the power burn?”
In the end, Abraham’s (as) intense love of Allah (jj) turned the fire into a garden. He was a prophet in whom the mysteries of divine names had become manifest, and who, as a result, had become annihilated in the Truth.
For those lost in the Truth, anything that comes from Allah (jj), whether joy or grief, is means for spiritual promotion. For them, all troubles are blessings. Just like Abraham (as), they desist from even using Jibril (as) as means for relief. They are already honored by Allah (jj). They are no different than butterflies that annihilate themselves while trying to get closer to the light.
Yet, it would be arrogant and immodest for a person to expect the same and assume a fire will not burn just because it did not burn Abraham (as). All that would await the person, is destruction.
Rumi (qs) explains:
“There is such a thing as entering the fire in the path of the Lord. But first look at yourself to see if you carry the attribute of Abraham. For the fire recognizes that, not you!”
Thus, it is dangerous and ignorant to hold oneself in the same light as those who have greater spiritual rank. What we need to do is take our precautions, resort to the available means and depend on the Lord for a result.
The Prophet (saw) has said:
“If you want to know your rank in the eyes of Allah, look at the rank Allah has in your eyes. For the Almighty demotes a servant to the rank the servant has demoted Him!” (Hakim, Mustadrak, I, 672/1820)
Below is a wonderful example:
It is narrated that the Prophet (saw) asked Harithah (ra):
“How did you make it to the morning?”
“As a true believer”, he said.
“Every reality has a proof, Harithah”, the Prophet (saw) said. “What is the proof that your faith is real?”
“Messenger of Allah…after I started abstaining from the world, my days turned waterless and my nights sleepless. It was like I could vividly see my Lord’s Throne…and it is like I can see the dwellers of paradise visiting each other, and the dwellers of hell cursing at one another!”
The Prophet (saw) then said:
“That should do, Harithah! Protect your condition! You are a man Allah has enlightened!” (Haythami, Majmau’z-Zawaid, I, 57)
Regarding him, the Prophet (saw) has also said:
“Anyone who wishes to see a man whose heart Allah has enlightened should look at Harithah.” (Ibn Hajar, Al-Isabah, I 289)
This is what the Qur’an defines as:
“Allah is pleased with them, and they are pleased with Him.” (Al-Bayyinah, 98: 8)
Just like Solomon (as), these pious servants pray:
“My Lord! Inspire me to give thanks for Your blessing with which You have blessed me and my parents, and that I may do righteous deeds which may please You. And admit me, by Your mercy, among Your righteous servants.” (Al-Naml, 27: 19)
The Almighty declares:
“And among people is he who sells his soul seeking the pleasure of Allah. And Allah is most Kind to His servants.” (Al-Baqarah, 2: 207)
The reason behind the revelation of this verse, is highly significant:
Suhayb Al-Rumi (ra) had set out of Mecca, during the Hegira, to join the Prophet (saw) in Medina. As soon as he left, however, he was pursued by a group of pagans. When Suhayb (as) saw he was being followed, he dismounted his camel, placed an arrow in his bow and took position. When the pagans appeared in the distance, he called out:
“Quraysh! You well know that I am your best archer. By the time you get to me, I will empty all the arrows in my bag, then take out my sword and fight until it breaks in my hand. Only then will you be able to do with me as you wish. But if you want, I can tell you the spot in Mecca where I have left all my money. In return, you will let me go on my way!” The pagans accepted the offer. (Ibn Jawzi, Zadu’l-Masir, I, Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, I, 260-261)
Without wasting time, Suhayb (as) then rode forth. Meanwhile in Medina, the Almighty had revealed the verse to the Prophet (saw). When Suhayb (as) arrived, he said:
“May your trade be profitable, Suhayb!”
Suhayb (ra) replied, “Messenger of Allah! Only Jibril (as) could have told you the news, since no one else could!” (Hakim, Mustadrak, v. III, p. 450-452)
The Qur’an states:
“But the faithful men and women are comrades of one another. They bid what is right, forbid what is wrong, maintain the prayer, give the alms, and obey Allah and His Prophet. It is they to whom Allah will soon grant His mercy. Allah is indeed the Mighty, the Wise.” (Al-Tawbah, 9: 71)
“Allah has promised the faithful men and women, gardens with streams running beneath them, for them to remain forever; and good dwellings in the Gardens of Eden. Yet, Allah’s pleasure is greater than all these. That is the great success.” (Al-Tawbah, 9: 72)
All these rewards are promised to those with faith of the highest kind, and who are devoted to serving both the Creator and creation. But for the Almighty to be pleased with the servant, however little, is unimaginably greater than all the rewards of paradise put together. That is because Allah (jj) is the source of all joy, honour and greatness.
The Almighty praises His devout servants who donate only to seek His pleasure:
“Those who spend their wealth to seek Allah’s pleasure and confirm their faith, are like a garden on a hillside. The downpour strikes it, whereupon it brings forth its fruit twofold. And if it is not a downpour that strikes it, then it is a shower. And Allah sees best what you do.” (Al-Baqarah, 2: 265)
“Those who are patient for the sake of their Lord’s pleasure, maintain the prayer, spend out of what We have provided them, secretly and openly, and repel evil with good…for them is the reward of the ultimate abode.” (Al-Ra’d, 13: 22)
The highest rank man can ever reach is to gain Allah’s (jj) pleasure. And this itself is the reward for being pleased with Allah (jj).
Every time Omar ibn Abdulaziz was asked what he liked, he would say:
“My joy lies with my destiny. I love whatever God decides!”
The Qur’an says:
“Allah will say, ‘This is the day honesty will benefit the honest. For them there will be gardens with streams running beneath, for them to remain there forever. Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him. That is the great success.” (Al-Maidah, 5: 119)
It is narrated that the Almighty will ask the dwellers of paradise:
“Are you content? Are you happy?”
They will reply, “How can we not be happy, our Lord! You have graced us with a blessing You have graced no other!” The Almighty will then declare:
“I will grant you something even greater!”
“What can be greater, our Lord?” they will inquire.
Allah (jj) will say, “I will be pleased with You and never get angry with you, ever!” (Bukhari, Riqaq, 51; Muslim, Jannah, 9)
Contentment is the final fruit of love. A servant whose heart is filled with love, embraces everything that comes from his Lord. Even if the lover feels the pain, he is so pleased with it that he can even crave for more. This is to accept a passing pain for the endless rewards it will bring. Shaqiq Balkhi in fact says:
“A person who knows the reward of distress does not wish to be saved from it!”
It is like how a sick person does not mind the bitter taste of medicine, if it means he will be cured. Some patients even willingly undergo highly risky operations.
As high a level as it is for a servant to be content with the Lord, it is even higher for the Lord to be content with him. Allah’s (jj) pleasure is greater than the rewards of paradise. At this level, love takes a person inside a realm where he feels no pain. While those unable to love cannot know how even this feels, lovers experience states far more extraordinary than we have just explained.
Despite all this, there is also another aspect:
One should never pray for tribulation just because it comes with great rewards. A person may not be able to judge the amount of burden he can carry and may end up being crushed under the weight. If it comes from the Lord, however, one must rest assured that Allah (jj) never burdens a servant with more weight than he can carry.
A man by the name of Can Baba had become so enamored with divine love that he raised his hands and prayed:
“My Lord! I have no pleasure other than You! Test me however You wish!”
He later underwent a major trouble. It was only when he became old and frail that he felt deep regret. He would go in front of elementary schools and ask every kid he saw:
“Pray to Allah so that He cures this dishonest old man!”
It is also incorrect to understand contentment as accepting sin and corrupting activities. It is the biggest ignorance to be content with rebellion, sinning and denial. The divine warnings against it are too many to count. One of them declares:
“The faithful should not leave the faithful take the faithless as allies.” (Al-i Imran, 3: 28)
In other words, contentment does not imply silence to evil people or action.
A look at the lives of saints shows that they owe their immense spiritual maturity to a host of troubles, griefs and pain.
Also striking is how the great Bahauddin Naqshiband was tasked by his master Emir Kulal to serve people, treat sick and wounded animals people avoided, and clean the streets for seven years. He fulfilled all these tasks with great devotion. Ultimately, his troubles and ordeals took him to spiritual ranks beyond imagination. The below poem gives an indication of the modesty and self-denial that got him there:
The world is wheat, I am hay
Everyone is good, it is I who is bad
In light of this, Rumi (qs) says:
“Ordeal and suffering are the only ways to break free from slavery to sin.”
Yet, if even these are not enough cause an awakening, the claws of their own egos will destroy the lovers of the world who reap joy from following their desires. According to saints, this destruction is the real suffering.
For everlasting joy, one must not be tricked by the world’s passing appeals and deceitful calls. The Prophet’s (saw) wife Hafsa (ra) recounts something that explains his attitude towards the world:
“We used to fold a rug in two and lay it under him as a bed. Once we had folded it in four; and he could not wake up that night to pray. He then inquired what had been laid under him, and asked us to next time fold the rug in two, as usual. He became uncomfortable with us spending time for his comfort.” (Tirmidhi, Shamail, p. 154)
The path to getting close to the Lord runs through love. Lovers have to take kindly to things that come from the beloved. Lovers always carry the beloved in their hearts and on the tips of their tongues. Likewise, hearts that wish to indulge in the pleasures of faith, sustain the remembrance of the Lord. While standing, sitting or lying down, they reflect on the subtle wisdoms behind the creation of the heavens and earth, and say:
“Our Lord! You have not created this in vain! Immaculate are You! Save us from the punishment of the Fire.” (Al-i Imran, 3: 191)
In turn, to every servant pleased with Him, Allah (jj) will say:
“Return to your Lord, pleased, pleasing! Enter among My servants. And enter My paradise!” (Al-Fajr, 89: 28-30)
The Lord rewards them with eternal blessings and honors them with His Beauty (Jamal).
Lord! Admit us among the servants of Yours, with true reliance and submission, who have obtained Your pleasure!
. The Qur’an does not mention the name of the illness, as the moral of the experience is not the illness itself, but Job’s (as) patience and resignation to the will of Allah (jj).
. See, Qurtubi, Tafsir, XI, 323, 327.