Encountering trials and tribulations is an inevitable reality for all humans. God states in the Holy Quran, “We created the human being from the union of sperm and egg to test him. We gave him hearing and vision. We showed him the right path whether he would be grateful or ungrateful.”1 God puts us through trials to test us in terms of how we deal with difficult situations. The way we tackle these difficulties will perhaps determine the strength of our faith and prove our virtue.

During the blessed month of Rajab, we commemorate the tragedy of a remarkable personality, Imam Musa al-Kadhim (p). He suffered immense difficulties during his life, but his patience during such adversity is an incredible lesson for all of us. Imam al-Kadhim’s  isolation in the dungeons of Baghdad is a heartbreaking episode of early Islamic history. However, through his patience and trust in God, he was able to continue his effort to spread the message of Islam and create a moral framework by which we should all live.

The Quran Outlines Trials

The Quran outlines the different types of trials and tribulations that people must face. In these verses, God virtually gives us the answers to the examination of life. God says, “We shall test you through fear, hunger, loss of life, property, and crops. (Muhammad), give glad news to the people who have patience.”2 These types of challenges test our faith. If one of the trials from the verse were to happen to us tomorrow, how would we deal with it? Would we lose hope and give up, or would we be even more hopeful?

Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p) says, “Indeed, the believer undergoes trial in proportion to his good deeds. So, one whose faith is sound and whose deeds are good, his trials are also more severe. That is indeed because God Almighty did not make this world a place for rewarding the believer and punishing the unbeliever. And one whose faith is feeble and whose (good) deeds are few faces fewer tribulations. Verily, tribulations hasten towards the believer with greater speed than rainwater towards the earth’s depths.”3

As we see from the Quran and the lives of the infallibles, the most virtuous people are those who demonstrate the most patience. Life is about turning our hearts towards God in obedience, and encountering trials and tribulations often brings us to our knees and cultivates such patience. God explains the qualities of those who have patience by stating, “And in difficulty say, ‘We are the servants of God, and to Him we shall all return.’ It is they who will receive blessings and mercy from God and who follow the right guidance.”4 Those who are successful when going through a trial are those who have made the Creator the focal point of their lives. Looking at the life Imam al-Kadhim (p), we find some of the greatest examples in terms of using patience to deal with misfortunes.

Imam Musa al-Kadhim (p)

Imam Musa al-Kadhim (p) was born on the seventh of the month of Safar 128 A.H. He became the imam at the age of twenty after his father, Imam al-Sadiq (p), was poisoned by Mansur al-Dawaniqi, the Abbasid caliph, on the twenty-fifth of Shawwal 148 A.H. Like his fathers, Imam al-Kadhim (p) gained popularity due to his knowledge, generosity, and ethics. Harun al-Rashid, the Abbasid caliph at the time, heard many times that the Imam (p) was trying to start a revolution against him. Harun went to Medina, arrested Imam al-Kadhim (p), and put him in a prison in Basra. Later he was transported to Baghdad, under the vigilant eye of the caliph.

While in prison for upwards of twenty years, Imam al-Kadhim (p) made God the focal point of his life despite the difficult situations of his imprisonment. He famously said, while he was in prison, “Oh God, You know that I used to ask You to give me free time so that I may worship You. Oh God, You have done that. Praise be to You.”5

Furthermore, Harun tried to ruin the Imam’s (p) reputation by attempting to seduce him with a slave girl in his prison cell. He commanded a very beautiful slave girl to take on the task of bringing food and drinks to the Imam (p). They thought that no matter what kind of man the Imam (p) was, he would most definitely look at the girl, since he had been in prison for a very long time. Sometime after that, Harun and his men learned that the slave girl had been in a state of worship since she began the job. She had become the follower of the Imam (p). They came and asked her, “What is the matter?” She replied, “When I saw this man, I understood what I am and realized that I have committed many sins and faults in my life. I think that I should now stay only in a state of repentance.”6

Even though the Imam (p) lived most of his life in harsh conditions in the prisons of Harun, his patience and devotion to God allowed him to still spread the message of Islam through means that only God can create.

How to Tackle Difficulties When They Arise

When facing misfortunes, there are many things we can do to get through them successfully. Some of these include the following:

  1. Ask God to remove our difficulties and give us the patience to bear them. For instance, Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p) has narrated “The Supplication for the Removal of Worries (Dua 54)” in Al-sahifah al-sajjadiyyah, which we may recite when encountering trials and tribulations.
  2. Talk to someone who can offer help and support. The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) and his family were so loved by their communities because people felt comfortable approaching them and seeking their advice in all matters, including difficulties. For example, “[One day, a man known as] Sufwan was present in the company of Imam Jafar al-Sadiq [p] when a citizen of Mecca arrived, extremely distressed about something. He sat beside the Imam [p] and described his problem in detail. It was a financial problem gone awry due to mismanagement by both parties. The Imam [p] immediately ordered Sufwan to go with the believer and help him solve his problem. Sufwan did as he was asked and solved the problem with the wisdom and resources God had blessed him with. When he returned, the Imam [p] asked him, ‘What happened?’ ‘The Almighty solved the problem.’”7
  3. Give charity. Giving charity has the potential prevent misfortunes. The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) states, “Charity pushes away calamities.”8

1. The Holy Quran 76:2-3.
2. The Holy Quran 2:155.
3. Shaykh Al-Kulayni, Usul al-kafi, vol. 2, p. 259, h. 29.
4. The Holy Quran 2:156-157
5. Shaykh al-Mufid, Kitab al-irshad, vol. 2, p. 240.
6. Murtadha Mutahhari, A Survey into the Lives of the Infallible Imams, ABWA Publishing and Printing Center.
7. Shaykh Al-Kulayni, Usul al-kafi, vol. 2, p.198, h. 9.
8. Muhammad Al-Rayshahri, Mizan al-hikma, vol. 2, , p. 1595.

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