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Life Challenges as Tools for Spiritual Purification
Dr Farhad Shafti

Every person experiences occasions during his or her life time where he or she is suffering, struggling, worrying or mourning or is under pressure in some other way due to circumstances. In most cases, the pressure starts at a point, reaches its peak and then gradually starts to get lighter and then perishes. If we consider the start of this process to be point A and the end of it to be point B, what is really happening is that the person is carrying this pressure along from point A to point B. What we are trying to explain here can be best described and illustrated with a typical example of such a journey from point A to B:

Zayd is diagnosed with a disorder of his blood system on Monday (this is point A). He has given a blood test and is now waiting for the results that are expected in about a month’s time (that will be point B). No matter what Zayd does and how he takes this, he needs to take a journey from point A to point B. Now, Zayd can do this in two ways:

1. Zayd has started the journey from A to B. He is extremely worried. Every day, and in fact, every hour he imagines being diagnosed with the most terrible disease that could ruin his life and all his ambitions. He sometimes tries to forget it and think positively but many times, he just loses it. He sometimes thinks optimistically and sometimes pessimistically but in both cases, the basis of his thoughts and the evidence and assumptions he bases them on are not that reliable.

2. Zayd is smiling. He is happy and honoured to be given an opportunity to challenge his soul and use the occasion to become a stronger believer. He puts all his trust in God, not meaning that he is sure that God will cause all the tests to return negative (although he prays for that to happen), but meaning that he is sure that whatever happens to him, God has intended it for him and that, it is for his best, even if he cannot fully understand it. He prays more, reads the Qur’an more and tries to make his relationship with his Lord stronger in these days where he needs more of His help and support. He is using the opportunity to recognize the weaknesses in his belief and personality and to try to tackle them with the help of God. In the process he also becomes a role model of faith for his closest ones.

Zayd in both the above scenarios will eventually reach point B. However, what is important is not what he finds at point B, but what he gained or lost in the journey from points A to B.

Zayd in the first scenario is damaging his nerves, is allowing himself to suffer more than he was supposed to suffer and in the process, he also makes his near and dear ones worried and nervous. When he reaches point B, from a spiritual point of view, he is at best the same Zayd but one with less energy and nerves. If the test comes back positive, that may prove to be the breaking point for him.

Zayd in the second scenario has a totally different perspective in his sight. To him, this is a journey that is supposed to improve his spirit; the blood test and the wait is only the outer face of this journey. When he reaches point B, he is not the same Zayd; he is a better Zayd from a spiritual point of view because he has successfully managed to complete the challenge. If the test comes back positive, that will simply be the start of a new challenge for him, and a new journey from a point A to a point B.

Zayd in the first scenario is literally frustrating his soul and nerves in each of the A to B journeys.

Zayd in the second scenario is using these A to B journeys as a ladder for his spiritual advancement.

Zayd in the first scenario is a servant of his own emotions that in turn are servants of ad hoc events and circumstances of life.

Zayd in the second scenario is a servant of his Lord, therefore, all events and circumstances serve him in his endeavour to serve God.

Zayd in the first scenario has lost his way.

Zayd in the second scenario is on the path of spiritual purification (tazkiyah).

The above is only an example. As stated at the start of the article, any type of pressure can be a journey from A to B. Working hard to get good results for exams, going through a period of unemployment, tolerating difficult family circumstances, struggling to make ends meet, not knowing where to live and settle and many other examples that we see in our own lives or the lives of those around us, are all instances of making a journey from point A to point B. 

It is for us to decide how we make that journey.



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