Mere Adherence to Islam Does Not Lead to Victory
In some of its verses the Noble Qur'an gives the good news of victory and superior power to Muslims while reminding them that these advantages will not come easily: the Divine good tidings will come true only when the people act awaringly in accordance with their duties. Sincere faith is fruitful when coupled with character. Hence those who separate faith from works their hopes of success will never be fulfilled. It is action and effort which rescue one from the valley of loss and failure.
O believers, if you help God He will assist you and make your feet steady. 47:7
During the Battle of Uhud the Muslims had to face a catastrophic setback for disobeying the Prophet's orders by leaving their positions for the sake of collecting the spoils of war. As a result of this unexpected setback their morale was shaken for they imagined that it was sufficient for them to be Muslims in order to overcome all hostile elements and that they would never face defeat and failure. "Why should we have been defeated and made to suffer at the hands of God's enemies. Why should have our belongings been plundered by them"? they thought. Such thoughts intensely demoralised them. In order to enlighten and console them and make them abandon their unrealistic notions God shows them the way to overcome their hardships:
You shall surely be tried in your possessions and your selves, and you shall hear from those who were given the Book before you, and from those who are idolaters, much hurt; but if you are patient and Godwary, surely that is true constancy. 3:186
In this verse hardship and the loss of life and property are considered one of the aspects of Divine testing. Men of faith, like all other people, are exposed to undesirable events in the course of this life. This way God tests all His servants. However, the men of faith have such fortitude in face of adversity that their fear and loss of morale are changed into steadfastness and security. Faith leads them to overcome fear and despair, making individuals used to sacrifice and fortitude and thus purifying their hearts, spirits and feelings.
Do you think any man can find true happiness elsewhere than in his natural state; and when you try to spare him all suffering, are you not taking him out of his natural state? Indeed I maintain that to enjoy great happiness he must experience slight ills; such is his nature. Too much bodily prosperity corrupts the morals. A man who knows no suffering would he incapable of tenderness towards his fellow-creatures and ignorant of the joys of pity; he would be hard hearted, unsocial, a very monster among men ...
They (spoiled children) are used to find everything give way to them; what a painful surprise to enter society and meet with opposition on every side, to be crushed beneath the weight or a universe which they expected to score at will.... Sharp experience teaches them that they have realised neither their position nor their strength. As they cannot do everything, they think they can do nothing. They are daunted by unexpected obstacles, degraded by the scorn of men; they become base, cowardly, and deceitful, and fall as far below their true level as they formerly soared above it. 7
Patience does not mean waiting for fate to solve the problems or surrendering to the tyranny of hardship. One must be careful to note this point so that one correctly understands the role of Divine ordainment in progress and prosperity or fall and misfortune. The Divine law concerning victory is that it is to be attained by effort and steadfastness. This is the indubitable duty associated with faith. God announces the good news of victory that comes as a result of its observance in these words:
O believers be patient and vie you in patience, be steadfast, fear God, haply so will you prosper. 3:200
In this verse the people are reminded that they ought to be forbearing and steadfast in the face of injustice, oppression, dictatorship, and deviance and misguidance on others' part and strive collectively to overcome the problems of their society. They should keep a vigilant eye over their dangerous enemies and stop infiltration of the aliens firmly and patiently. It is the duty of godly men to confront the aggressors with power, fight the enemy, and to avoid every kind of disgrace and abasement. They have the duty before God to observe piety and God-fearing in all their activities so that their efforts attain fruition. That is because it is only in the shadow of piety that one can implement the Divine commands in the best possible manner never forgetting one's duties under any condition whatsoever. External pressures may at times make one deviate towards the right or the left, but piety and sincerity of intention produce a balanced and desirable harmony in his soul.
A European scholar writes:
Tragedies and unpleasant incidents make a training ground of piety and moral merit. hardships bring wisdom and awareness to the mind and rectify one's sense of judgement. They also restrain a person from hedonism, immorality, and sin. God, who governs the world of being with His perfect wisdom and compassion, has sent these hardships and difficulties into the world directing them especially at good and wise men so that they may learn the way of attaining true ease and prosperity and habituate themselves to patience, fortitude and forbearance in hardships and so as to bring them to the gates of glory and pride.
No one is more unfortunate than him who has never faced adversity and hardship. The real character of such a person who has not undergone any test remains unknown. The merits which arc congenital and part of one's nature have no value or worth before God. God rewards man only for merits which, are acquired through effort and endeavour and are manifested in action. 8
7. Rousseau, Emily, pp. 100-103
8. Amuel Smiles, Akhlaq e Samuel, vol. 2 p 209
Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"
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