Reflection No. 283 on Q 9:126 – Reflecting on the past year

أَوَلَا يَرَوْنَ أَنَّهُمْ يُفْتَنُونَ فِي كُلِّ عَامٍ مَّرَّةً أَوْ مَرَّتَيْنِ ثُمَّ لَا يَتُوبُونَ وَلَا هُمْ يَذَّكَّرُونَ
Awalā yarawna annahum yuftanūna fī kulli ‘āmin marratan aw marratayn thumma lā yatūbūna walā hum yadhdhakkarūn
Do they not see that they are tried once or twice every year, yet they neither repent nor do they take admonition?
(Sūratut Tawba, No.9, Āyat 12)

At the end of Sūratut Tawba Almighty Allah identifies the qualities that distinguish the hypocrites from the believers. In the above verse Allah says that though they were tested once or twice during the year, it did not make them return to Him. This verse is an indication that a human being is tested during the year. A believer becomes more heedful and turns to God through tests. Thus the year serves to increase his status in the eyes of God. A hypocrite however makes no such gains in the year. He goes through the test, suffers the pain involved, but it does not benefit him in his spiritual status.

The following are some points to ponder over in this verse:
1. The word yuftanūna is used for gold that is placed in the fire to melt away all the impurities.
2. Being tested once or twice signifies being tested once or more, not necessarily only two times maximum.
3. God makes human beings go through major tests one or more times each year.
4. The goal of the tests is to make them turn towards Him and be mindful of the true meaning of life
5. God wants to give chances to the human being to achieve closeness to Him.
6. Not learning from such tests is the mark of the hypocrites.
7. Hypocrisy creates a hard heartedness that makes man unable to respond appropriately to life situations.

Each year the believer progresses closer to God through these tests he goes through. Each year he matures and becomes more conscious of the transiency of the world and the urgent need to prepare for the eventual return to God. If the year does not bring such progress then it has been a lost opportunity. As Allah says in Sūratul ‘Asr: By the Time, indeed man is in a loss. Except those who believe and do good deeds, and enjoin one another to [follow] the truth and enjoin one another to patience. (Al-‘Asr, 103:1-3)

It is not only each year that we must see progress, but even each day. Imam al-Kāzim (a) says: Whoever makes two of his days the same has been cheated. And whoever’s second day is worse than the first is deprived of the mercy of God. And whoever does not see progress in himself then he is in a loss. And the one who is in a loss, death is better for him than life. (Bihārul Anwār, v. 78, p. 327, H.5)

As we reach the end of the Islamic year 1437 AH we must reflect on the past year and analyze our progress. What were our tests and how did we fare? Did we, as the Āyat says, turn to God and become mindful? We must be wary of letting our tests diminish our faith and spirituality, and make us turn away from Him. That would be a lost opportunity and is the way of the hypocrites.

Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh;
Āyatullāh Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān;