By Zainab Habib
When faced with adverse circumstances in life or some misfortune, it is common for us to console ourselves with the fact that ‘everything that happens, happens for the best’. In my opinion, this statement, unless really understood, can become too much of a generalization and may actually stand in the way of our accepting the responsibility for our mistakes and bad decisions.
We may be confusing this statement with the fact that everything that happens, happens with the will of Allah; but again, we may have not quite understood what this means. The will of Allah here means His Universal Will which allows things to happen, evil to exist, and even people to do wrongdoing and make wrong decisions, because this is all part of His Universal scheme of things. However Allah has a Legal Will which wants humans to do the right things which please Him and when one does this, one is fulfilling both His Universal Will as well as His Legal Will. One should be clear in the difference between these two wills. When any trouble or adversity befalls us, it is this very Universal Will that Allah is referring to when He tells us in the Holy Quran:
“No kind of calamity can occur, except by the leave of God.” (64;11).
So one may well ask: “Why me?” There could be 2 reasons; one that it is as a test for us to see how we will respond to that adversity and second that it is a consequence of our wrongdoing. We have been told in the Quran:
“It is not God who wrongs them, but they wrong their own souls.” (9;70)
This message has been repeated time and again in the Quran and Allah also tells us:
“Whatever misfortune happens to you, is because of the things your hands have wrought.”(42;30).
Similarly, in a Hadith Qudsi, Allah tells us:
“O My servants, it is but your deeds that I reckon up for you and then recompense you for it, so let him who finds good, praise Allah and let him who finds other than that blame no one but himself.”
So when we are faced with adverse circumstances, we should be taking a good look at our own deeds to see if there is something that we have done for which these adverse circumstances could be a punishment or a warning to alert us. Allah tells us in the Quran :
“And indeed We will make them taste of the Penalty of this (life) prior to the supreme Penalty, in order that they may (repent and ) return.” (32;21)
This is the time for introspection and irrespective of whether we are able to comprehend the cause or not, Istighfar- seeking forgiveness and turning to Allah in repentance is the best course of action. Regarding Istighfar, the Prophet (SAW) said:
“If anyone continuously asks pardon, Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress and a relief from every anxiety and will provide for him from where he did not reckon.” (Abu Dawood)
Misfortune can also be a trial to see how we will react and whether we will learn from it. It could also be part of Allah’s wisdom in building our character, reinforcing our faith and bringing us closer to Him. Without doubt, prosperity and happy circumstances tend to make many people forget Allah, whereas adversity provides us with the opportunity to turn to Him. Unfortunately, not all of us fall into the category of believers that have been mentioned in the hadith where the Prophet (SAW) said:
“How remarkable is the case of the believer! There is good for him in everything, but this is not the case for anyone except for the believer. When the believer receives any good, he is thankful to Allah, and gets a reward. And when some misfortune befalls him, he endures it patiently, for which he is (also) rewarded.”(Muslim)
So it is only in the case of a true believer that one can confidently say: “Everything that happens, happens for the best.”
Reviewing the causes of our misfortunes is also very useful in the sense, that if we have made some bad decisions along the way, we will not be tempted to repeat them. The most important thing is to take a lesson from the adverse situation and get on with our life, rather than dwelling on it and becoming negative. Particularly dangerous is the ‘if’ situation, so beautifully told to us by our Prophet (SAW) and the remedy he gives us for it:
“If anything (in the form of trouble) comes to you, don’t say, ‘If I had not done that, such and such thing would not have happened,’ but say, ‘Allah has ordained it so, and whatever He pleases He does’ [Qaddarallaahu wa maashaa’a fa‘al] because ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ open the door for Satan.”(Muslim)
If one can use adversities, failures, wrong decisions etc. constructively and to strengthen our faith and come closer to Allah, then and only then, one will be able to say that ‘everything that happens, happens for the best.’ As for ‘the best’, in terms of worldly benefit, this is something we will never be able to figure out; so rather than trying to do so, we are better off just having the belief that whatever happens is part of Allah’s plan and He has a specific purpose for it.