Quranic Reflection No 661. Āyat 29:2 – The Heat of Hardship


أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُوا أَن يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ

Do people think that they will be left alone on saying: ‘We believe’, and that they will not be tested? 

(Sūrat Al- ‘Ankabūt, No. 29, Āyat 2)

At times in the Holy Quran, Allah ‘azza wajall asks us certain questions which act as a guide for us. These questions bring our focus to an aspect of reality which we already know within ourselves. One such verse is the above verse from Sūrat al- ‘Ankabūt. Here, Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā asks, “Does man think that a simple verbal claim of belief will suffice and that he will be left alone thereafter?” This points to the fact that claims are not always in line with reality.  When we ponder upon this question, we realize that the faith which only exists upon one’s tongue does not have the same value or effect as the faith which exists in one’s heart and is subsequently manifested both on the tongue as well as in action.

The words used in this Quranic question indicate the type of test which awaits those who profess faith. The word ‘yaftanūn’ comes from the root word fa-ta-na. This word is used to describe the process of placing impure gold in very hot temperatures so that the gold becomes purified. The process of refining gold ever since the time of the ancient Egyptians required that the impure gold be heated by fire multiple times. There is a purpose behind each heating of the impure substance and the intensity of the heat; the heat is never given without reason.  Thus, this verse tells us that mankind will be tested the way that gold is purified.

This has also been mentioned in a clear narration from Imam Mūsā al-Kāzim ‘alayhis-salām where he explains the above verse and explicitly says that mankind will be tested once they profess faith in the way that gold is purified. [al-Kāfī, v 1, p 370]

From the words of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and by understanding the process of how gold is refined, we can better understand that the various hardships we face in this world are purposeful, and the intensity of the testing is there to purify the claim we have of possessing faith. We will be placed in the heat of the hardships in this world multiple times until we reach a state of purity in faith.

This verse can create a particular worldview for us regarding how we view difficulties in our daily life. Such a worldview would allow us to have our aim set at self-purification whenever we face hardships. Every difficulty that comes into our life is a cleansing that removes a level of impurity. Once that is removed the next ones comes to remove more impurity. The process thus continues, until the gold – or the hidden potential of the human being – emerges. To achieve perfection and become ‘golden’ we must face these difficulties.

We pray that Allah blesses us with a correct understanding and outlook towards hardships in life so that we can benefit from them to attain His proximity. In these days when our brothers and sisters in Palestine are suffering unbearable difficulties, we ask Allah to relive them from their suffering and to bless those martyred from amongst them with the highest of positions in the hereafter.

Sources: ‘Allāmah Syed Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsir al-Mīzān.