"[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed - and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving." (67:2)
Look around you. Some people have no food. Others have no electricity. Others are sleeping on the ground. Some parents lost their young kids. Business lost huge sums of money. Many people are drowning in debt. Some cannot leave the hospital bed. And the hardships continue.
Calamities, trials, and tribulations are an integral part of this life. As Muslims, we should understand some of the wisdom behind calamities. Since we always strive to a comfortable life, we should even go further to learn about how to cure calamities and how to prevent them in the first place.
A Small Peek
First and foremost, we should know that this life is nothing but a test for us. A hardship is only another test. It is only another phase. In academics, we cannot expect to go to an exam and find only easy questions. The same applies to this life. God tests us with blessings and also tests us with hardships.
Another thing to recognize is that God has created us, and He knows us better than ourselves. God will not test us with something that we cannot handle or do not have the readiness to learn how to handle. He even taught us through the Qur'an and His representatives on Earth how to approach all types of tests – the easy and the hard ones.
Apart from being tests, hardships and calamities are to be viewed as reminders. They sometimes remind us of who we are as humans. They remind us of returning to God. They remind us of the Hereafter. Sometimes, as we are diving deep into this materialistic world, we tend to forget about the spiritualistic side of life. A calamity serves as a wake-up call.
One important reminder that calamities serve are sins. When we commit sins, Allah sometimes punishes us for what we have done. This calamity therefore pushes us towards repentance and fixing our ways.
Knowing that we are vulnerable to a calamity or hardship at any time, we should work on preventing it from happening. And if God forbid, it happens, we should do our best to cure it.
Allah has given us the opportunity to prevent and cure calamities (in accordance to the will of Allah).
Refraining from committing sins is one of the very important ways to prevent calamities. Islam has warned us against the consequences of some actions. For example, Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) says, "Singing [causes] hypocrisy and causes poverty." (Wasail al-Shia) Another example is interest. Allah says, "Give up what remains [due to you] of interest, if you should be believers, and if you do not, then be informed of a war [against you] from Allah and His Messenger." (2:278-279)
By leading a righteous life, one can avoid the wrath of Allah. This is of course just one way that helps in preventing calamities. Repentance before the punishment can also help prevent a calamity from occurring. Consider the story of the people of Prophet Yunus (peace be upon him). The punishment was decided upon to occur on a specific date. However, the scholar Rubeel, who remained in the city after Prophet Yunus left to the sea, had advised the people to return to Allah and repent. They did that with pure intentions. Allah prevented the punishment from occurring.
Imam Ali (peace be upon him) in Du'a Kumail emphasizes that point when he says, "O Allah, forgive me those sins that bring down calamity."
In addition to avoiding sins, there are a few other actions that Islam has encouraged to help drive away calamities. For example, Imam Sadiq says, "Charity repels away the confirmed calamity." (Wasail al-Shia)
Therefore, giving charity, no matter how small the amount is, can help protect us and prevent hardships. This narration encourages giving charity multiple times as opposed to waiting until the end of the month or a certain occasion to give charity. Both are good, but more acts of charity, even if the overall amount is the same, will help protect against calamities.
Many of the hardships the people suffer include losing the blessings they had. Some people go blind or become poor. In such cases, the blessings were there, but then they were gone. One way to help keep the blessings from Allah is to continuously thank Him. In the Quran, Allah says, "[i]f you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]." (14:7)
These are some of the many ways that we can utilize to help not only prevent calamities, but also grow on a personal, social, and spiritual level.