Some days ago I listened to a pastor as he preached in the Korope (minivan) I boarded as I went to work. He got my attention with his insistence that by just believing (accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour), one would be protected from evil, as in, basically have a good life.
I usually feel that this type of prosperity or semi-prosperity preaching is not at the core of Christianity. I mean at a point in its history , Christianity was a religion of martyrs. Apostles, Saints, Church Fathers number in their hundreds as they went happily to face their martyrdom. Until it became imperial, it went through its share of state persecution especially from the Romans. But, this is not the case thereafter. Especially in Africa where it has become a get-rich-quick scheme more often than not.
This aside, the deeper issue to me is, this phenomenon of assuming that with faith you won’t have earthly problems again. This is also preached by our Jalabi clerics (marabouts) , they say to people: “we’ve got this special prayer, you do it, you ain’t gonna have problems again”.
And perhaps at a deeper level , this is what we all feel. In one way or the other, When we become Muslims or get more serious with the faith , there’s a silent feeling that problems should go away.
This is one of the factors leading to (or may lead to) atheism; when you assume faith must translate into Earthly happiness, you’ll become disappointed to the marrows when trials and tribulations come around. Especially on the Christian model , particularly SOME brands of evangelical Christianity, which has adopted an unconditionally-loving, all-good-God. Something akin to sugar-candy deity. This isn’t what Islam preaches.
Islam is categorically blunt about the nature of this World. It is not a place of permanent happiness, neither of sadness. An observation of scripture and reality strongly suggests that happiness be preponderant albeit often interspersed with periods of sadness.
وَتِلۡكَ ٱلۡأَیَّامُ نُدَاوِلُهَا بَیۡنَ ٱلنَّاسِ
Thus do We alternate these days of varying conditions among people.
Coming to faith doesn’t guarantee a life devoid of trials :
أَحَسِبَ ٱلنَّاسُ أَن یُتۡرَكُوۤا۟ أَن یَقُولُوۤا۟ ءَامَنَّا وَهُمۡ لَا یُفۡتَنُونَ﴾
Do people think they’ll be left alone without trials just because they said we have believed ?
In fact the Qur’an categorically states:
وَنَبۡلُوكُم بِٱلشَّرِّ وَٱلۡخَیۡرِ فِتۡنَةࣰۖ
We will test you with good and and evil
If this wasn’t clear enough, the Qur’an lists out the different forms of sadness we would encounter :
وَلَنَبۡلُوَنَّكُم بِشَیۡءࣲ مِّنَ ٱلۡخَوۡفِ وَٱلۡجُوعِ وَنَقۡصࣲ مِّنَ ٱلۡأَمۡوَ ٰلِ وَٱلۡأَنفُسِ وَٱلثَّمَرَ ٰتِۗ وَبَشِّرِ ٱلصَّـٰبِرِینَ
We will test you with a bit of fear , hunger , loss of wealth , loved ones and farm produce
To make it clearer, the Qur’an let us know that material wealth and happiness are not indicative of spiritual well being. Allah even tells us that material wealth is given to some to punish them by preventing them from repentance. The story of Fir’awn ( Pharaoh) and Qaarun (Korah) is right there in our memories of tafsir sessions or history of the Prophets classes.
To drive the point home Allah says:
فَلَمَّا نَسُوا۟ مَا ذُكِّرُوا۟ بِهِۦ فَتَحۡنَا عَلَیۡهِمۡ أَبۡوَ ٰبَ كُلِّ شَیۡءٍ حَتَّىٰۤ إِذَا فَرِحُوا۟ بِمَاۤ أُوتُوۤا۟ أَخَذۡنَـٰهُم بَغۡتَةࣰ فَإِذَا هُم مُّبۡلِسُونَ
Then, when they disregarded what they were reminded of, We opened for them the gates of all things. Until, when they delighted in what they were given, We seized them suddenly; and at once, they were in despair.
That should do.
What the Qur’an tells us is that what we experience as evil is only apparent , such , ultimately, has good for us. Not only in the Hereafter but in this World. However we may be unable to apprehend this, given our limitation by both time and space.
Note the story of Khidr and Musa and see that for every perceived evil, there was incomparable good, earthly and heavenly. And do not forget Khidr’s remark right at the beginning of their journey:
وَكَیۡفَ تَصۡبِرُ عَلَىٰ مَا لَمۡ تُحِطۡ بِهِۦ خُبۡرࣰا
How will you be patient with things you lack knowledge of ?
Your pain doesn’t mean there’s no greater wisdom. This is why the books of aqeedah will include patience as a subject matter to in creedal issues. Without patience and acceptance of Divine will, faith rest on shaky foundations. The problem of suffering is more an emotional problem than an intellectual one.
Allah says :
Give glad tidings to the patient.
Everyone will have their share of tests in this world. The most important thing is to build our faith to the able to weather the storm of Dunya tribulations. After all, we own neither our life nor our ultimate end. We simply submit to the Owner
ٱلَّذِینَ إِذَاۤ أَصَـٰبَتۡهُم مُّصِیبَةࣱ قَالُوۤا۟ إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّاۤ إِلَیۡهِ رَ ٰجِعُونَ﴾
Those who, when a calamity afflicts them, say, “To God we belong, and to Him we will return.”
To assume faith prevents you from Earthly trials is not scriptural nor does it align with the reality of a world having its share of suffering and misery.
Such a world, one free from suffering, exists. But not here.
Let us pray that we are not afflicted with that which is beyond the capacity of our Eeman.