Reflection No. 161 on Q 10:12 – Attitude in difficulties and in ease

وَإِذَا مَسَّ الْإِنْسَانَ الضُّرُّ دَعَانَا لِجَنْبِهِ أَوْ قَاعِدًا أَوْ قَائِمًا فَلَمَّا كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُ ضُرَّهُ مَرَّ كَأَنْ لَمْ يَدْعُنَا إِلَىٰ ضُرٍّ مَسَّهُ
Wa-idhā massal-insānadh-dhurru da‘āna li-janbihi aw qā‘idan aw qā’iman falammā kashafnā ‘anhudhurrahū marra ka-al-lam yad‘unā ilā dhurri massah
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, as though he had never called on Us on account of an affliction that touched him
(Sūrat Yūnus, No. 10, Āyat 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 inner responses to different circumstances. When a human goes through hard times, he has needs that are not met. He is humbled by the inability to fulfill his need and becomes painfully aware of his own weakness, helplessness and insignificance. 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 achieves a closeness to the Creator.

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 or His help. Allah says about such a person: Surely man becomes rebellious, when he considers himself without need (Q 96:6) This state of forgetfulness or heedlessness is known as ghaflah, and is a dangerous mental attitude that prevents a person from focusing on God and the Hereafter.

Difficulties are thus efficient means of cleaning up the human heart, and letting the natural self, shine through. Imam Hasan al-‘Askarī (a) says: Every single ordeal contains a favor from Allah that encompasses it (Mizānul Hikmah, H. 896). Believers, unlike non-believers and hypocrites, are therefore wary of comfort and ease as the effect on their spiritually is often negative. Imam Mūsā al-Kāzim (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 (Mizānul Hikmah, H. 895).

Remind yourself of this Qur’anic verse often and test yourself in times of difficulty and in times of ease. Does your inner condition fluctuate according to your outer circumstances? The ideal is for it to be the same and constant, and that can happen if you are alert and stop the veils from slipping back on.

Sources: Āytaullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Muhammad Rayshahrī, Mizānul Hikmah, online version accessed at on May 15, 2014.