When distress befalls man he supplicates to Us [lying] on his side, sitting, or standing; but when We remove his distress, he passes on as if he had never supplicated Us concerning the distress that had befallen him. Thus that which they do is made fair seeming to the extravagant ones.
– (Sura Yunus, 10:12)
Human beings can be very fickle, one moment all good and virtuous and the other moment hard hearted and oblivious. The vacillation between these Jekyll and Hyde personalities is created by an inner response to different outer circumstances. When a human being goes through hard times, he has needs that are not met. These unfulfilled needs create a void in the heart. It brings about humility as the human being becomes painfully aware of his own weakness and insignificance. The hardship and bitterness he goes through are like a fire that melts his heart. The veils created by love of the world, sins, attachments etc. are removed, revealing his natural, innermost instincts. He seeks help from God and remembers Him continuously thereby achieving a closeness to God. Difficulties are thus efficient means of cleaning up the human heart, and letting the natural self shine through. Imam Ali (a) says: Do not dread poverty and ordeals, for surely gold is tested by the fire and the believer is tested through ordeals.
As soon as the need is met however, the veil slips on again. He now feels needless and becomes arrogant. It is as though he never needed God. Allah says about such a person: Surely man becomes rebellious, when he considers himself without need (96:6) This state of forgetfulness or heedlessness is known as Ghaflat, and is a dangerous mental attitude that prevents a person from focusing on God and the Hereafter. Believers are therefore wary of comfort and ease as the effect on their spirituality is often negative. Imam Musa al-Kazim (a) says: You will not be believers until you consider difficulties as blessings and comfort as an affliction, because patience at the time of difficulties is greater than heedlessness at the time of comfort.
Points to Ponder
1) In this verse the human being is referred to as insan. The holy Quran uses three different terms for the human being; insan, bashar and Bani Adam. Whenever God uses the word insan, He talks about the different qualities of the human being; Indeed insan is most unfair and ungrateful (14:34), and insan is over hasty (17:11). But it is the same insan about whom Allah says: We certainly created insan in the best of forms (95:4), and [He] taught insan what he did not know (96:5) Positive and negative qualities of the human being are juxtaposed to show how he has the potential to go either way.
2) The three positions of the human being that are described in this verse; lying down, sitting, and standing, refer to the common positions of the human being. Whatever position he is in, he will continuously remember and pray for help. It is as though he cannot stop thinking about it. It seems strange that such desperation is so quickly forgotten, revealing how shallow and disloyal the human being can be.
It is interesting to compare this verse with verse 3:191 which talks of the people of understanding who remember Allah at all times: Those who remember Allah standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth . . . Here the same positions are mentioned but with a reversal in order. These people remember Allah in ease as well as in difficulty and their continuous thoughts of Allah do not stem from any desperation.
3) The human being not only is heedless but also does not regard this heedlessness as wrong. It is made fair seeming to him. His nafs and Shaytan justify it to him. Allah says; Shaytan made fair seeming to them what they had been doing (6:43) This is one of the tactics of Shaytan and is a dangerous ploy where the human being actually is deluded into thinking he is doing good while his action is completely wrong.
Ayatullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi (ed.), Tafsire Namune
Agha Muhsin Qara’ati Kashani, Tafsire Noor
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