Facing difficult times is undoubtedly one common thread among all of humanity. We see different shades of it, and every individual perceives such moments differently and reacts in their own way. Certain reactions are unfathomable to others. Some perhaps are condemnable. And indeed, some are most admirable. It is good to hypothesize upon what one may do when one finds oneself in a specific dilemma. The majority of us would like to think we may be calm, collected, and even take the moral high road, but the reality is that this is much harder than we think, and often we are filled with regret for acting too hastily with little thought for consequence. Forgiveness, patience, and trust in God are features of those who truly understand what it means to be steadfast in the face of adversity. Though they are hard to come by, history has seen one such man, the Holy Prophet (sa).
The Holy founder of Islam faced trials and adversity to an immeasurable degree. He faced difficulties inflicted both by human cruelty and by nature itself throughout his life. Upon declaring the glad tidings of his prophethood as revealed by Allah the Almighty, the people of Makkah were quick to pre-emptively attack him and his character, believing his prophethood and the new religion of Islam to be a threat to their polytheistic beliefs and social order.
Difficulties began at a very young age for Prophet Muhammad (sa). His father passed away before his birth, and at the age of six, his mother also passed away and he was left to be raised by his grandfather. However, at the age of eight, heartbreak would strike again as his grandfather passed away too (). Such was the life of the Holy Prophet (sa), who faced much pain even as a child, but even then, he displayed immense courage and patience. Despite experiencing instability in his upbringing due to so many bereavements, he grew to be a well-adjusted man known for his noble character, honesty, and justice. So much so that he was known as Al-Amin (the Trustworthy) and As-Sadiq (the Truthful) amongst the Makkans.
Yet despite his noble character, many were quick to persecute him and his followers. It is also a key point to note that the Prophet’s (sa) trials were not simply fleeting; one such example is the three-year boycott led by the Quraish tribe, which saw an economic and social boycott of the Muslims in Makkah. To face such hatred and its manifestations in such forms that led to difficulties including poverty and starvation, yet remain steadfast in his faith in God is indeed a lesson to be learned by each individual. His hope, steadfastness, and trust in God have implications for even those who may not believe in a Supreme Being. His faith in God prevented retaliation which could have easily led to societal discord had he been an ordinary man and not a man of God. Steadfastness in the belief in God is not only beneficial for the believer, but it is indeed a way to protect societal harmony and peace.
Indeed, protecting societal peace is at the heart of the Islamic credo. The very word ‘Islam’ means peace. Thus, the concept of Islam cannot be separated from the idea of practicing steadfastness, as it is only steadfastness which protects peace in society. This was beautifully explained by the Holy Prophet (sa) in the following narration: “Sufyan ibn Abdullah relates, I asked the Messenger of Allah, tell me something about Islam which should enable me to dispense with having to ask anyone else. He said, ‘Affirm I believe in Allah and then be steadfast’” ().
It becomes clear that steadfastness is the attestation of faith, and therefore, it is the mark of not only a true believer, but also a citizen who is genuinely interested in progressing peace in society, as a devout Muslim should be. This saying of the Holy Prophet (sa) reminds us that declaring one’s belief in a single God and being steadfast are the purpose of Islam, that is to justify the very word Islam: peace.
Speaking of commitment of the Holy Prophet (sa) to steadfastness as the hallmark of a true believer, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) says: “Observe how the high morals of the Holy Prophet (sa) were demonstrated at painful times and in triumph. Had the Holy Prophet (sa) not gone through tribulations, what could we now say about his high morals! No doubt that tribulations of true believers are seen as tribulations by others, but true believers do not deem them as tribulations. It is important for a man to stay firm on his sincere repentance and realize that repentance will give him a new lease of life. If you wish to experience the fruits of repentance, then realize your repentance with your practice. When a gardener sows a sapling, he waters it to make it grow. So likewise, faith is a sapling that is nurtured by practice. Therefore, practice is essential for faith. If there is no practice with faith, the sapling will wilt away and will be lifeless” ().
It is important to remember the trials faced by those before us in times like this. One such incident, which shows the importance of patience, is the incident of Taif where the people persecuted the Holy Prophet (sa) and his companion Zaid. As narrated by Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrulla Khan (ra), a prominent jurist and first Foreign Minister of Pakistan: “They started pelting him and Zaid with stones and went on reviling them for a distance of three miles beyond the city. Blood flowed from both legs of the Holy Prophet, and Zaid, endeavouring to shield him, was wounded in the head. The mob did not desist until they had chased them across the sandy plain to the foot of the surrounding hills. There, wearied and mortified, he took refuge in one of the numerous orchards, and rested under a vine. After a little, composed and reassured, the Holy Prophet betook himself to Prayer and made the following supplication: ‘Lord, I make my complaint unto Thee of my helplessness and frailty, and my insignificance before mankind. Thou art Lord of the poor and feeble, and Thou art my Lord. Into whose hands wilt Thou abandon me? Into the hands of strangers that beset me roundabout, or of the enemy Thou hast given the mastery over me at home? If Thy wrath be not upon me, I have no concern; but rather Thy favour is the more wide unto me. I seek refuge in the light of Thy countenance. It is Thine to chase away the darkness, and to bestow peace, both in this world and the next; let not Thy wrath alight upon me, nor Thy indignation. It is Thine to show anger until Thou art pleased, and there is no other power nor any resource but in Thee’” ().
Indeed, a beautiful prayer and plea that requires absolute and firm faith in God is thus taught to us. It reminds us that if the Holy Prophet (sa) may find solace in such beautiful words after a most heart-breaking incident, we can indeed rely on such beautiful words in our own times of difficulty. It is straightforward to think of how we may behave in hypothetical situations, but seeing the example of someone genuinely having faced the worst the world has shown of itself and yet remaining peaceful, forgiving, and indeed steadfast in the face of adversity, each and every individual can hope to be a shadow of this gracious man’s ways.
1 Ḥazrat Mirza Bashir Aḥmad, M. A. (ra), The Life & Character of the Seal of Prophets (sa), Volume I, pp 119
2 Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, Gardens of the Righteous, (London, UK: Curzon Press, Ltd. 2006) Chapter 8, On Perseverance, number 85 pp. 26
3 Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Tafseer Hazrat Masih-e-Mau’ood (as), (Qadian, India, Nazarat Nashr-o-Isha’at Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya, 2004) Vol. II, pp. 222
4 Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, “Muhammad: Seal of the Prophets,”, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London,1980. https://www.alislam.org/book/muhammad-seal-prophets/steadfastness/ [Accessed: February 4, 2022]
Last modified: March 2022