It is inevitable that we will all feel pain at some point in our lives, however minor it may be. It can be physical, emotional or psychological. Whether it’s your knee that’s bruised or your ego, everyone of us has felt it. When you were a child, you would cry when you were distressed. As adults, we may not cry when we feel physical pain, however it doesn’t mean that it hurts any less. The age old question – Why is there suffering in the world? – has often been on people’s minds as they struggle to reconcile their ideas about love, peace and humanity. As Muslims, we know that pain and suffering are inevitable parts of life and tests for man.
“And surely We will test you with something of fear and hunger and loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good news to the patient ones.” (Al-Baqarah :155)
Although we are aware of this and understand that our true purpose in life is to worship Allah [SWT], many of us still struggle when we are faced with some kind of injury or painful experience.
Recently, as I was pouring some cold water, I failed to notice that I put my arm on the lever for the hot water too. Now for most of us, as soon as we feel hot water on us we will inevitably move our hand. However, although I felt the water on me, I could also feel the cold water at the same time, so I didn’t acknowledge the hot sensation as quickly as I would have normally. I just thought that the cold water was very cold. It wasn’t until I felt a shock of pain as I scalded myself, that I realised what was happening. It may seem like a strange thing to not notice, however it really did take the severe pain for me to realise that I was indeed burning myself. As the pain tore through me, and I moved my hand away, I suddenly understood something so simple yet so profound. Without pain, how would we know that we were hurting or damaging ourselves?
If we didn’t have such a sophisticated and highly sensitive nervous system that alerted us to painful experiences, we might scald ourselves to the point where the skin comes off and becomes damaged, which can lead to greater pain and further damage to one’s body. Pain is in fact a beneficial and indeed necessary part of being a human. Through pain we remove ourselves from harmful situations.
There is a condition called Congenital Analgesia, where people do not feel physical pain at all. This may seem like a dream come true – to not feel any physical pain when you have a paper cut or you stub your toe. However the downsides of this are much more severe. If you do not feel pain, you may not get the treatment your body needs, or you may ignore a potentially life threatening injury as there is no sense of urgency through feeling pain (or you may continue with an action that is actually harming you). Allah [SWT] tells us in the Qur’an:
“…it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you, and Allah knows, while you do not know.” (Al-Baqarah :216)
There may be many situations or occasions in our life where we feel pain and sadness. However if we are patient and keep in mind that what we are going through is better for us in the long term even if we cannot see the immediate benefit, we will reap the rewards insha Allah. Just as physical pain alerts us to the immediate danger, any kind of suffering may be a way for us to re-evaluate ourselves and our actions. Allah [SWT] sends us trials and tests for different reasons. If through these tests and trials we are saved from a greater harm which would affect our iman and our Akhirah, then it is a blessing.
Of course there are other benefits of feeling pain, such as expiation of sin, Allah [SWT] knows best. Even if we do not understand the reason why something has happened, as Muslims we should always aim to be patient and to thank Allah [SWT].
On the authority of Suhaib (RA) he said: The Prophet [SAW] said: “Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affair is good and this is not for no one except the believer. If something of good/happiness befalls him he is grateful and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him he is patient and that is good for him.” (Muslim)
May Allah [SWT] bless us all with the patience to deal with all of life’s tests. Amin
Umm Hafsah is a teacher from the UK, currently living and working in the Middle East.